March 20th marks the first official day of spring. Which also meant, as my husband pointed out, that this day was the spring equinox meaning the Earth’s axis is “just so” and the sun’s rays are hitting the equator in such a way that you can easily balance an egg on a table…or something like that. Of course we had to see this for ourselves and, can you believe it? He was right. Except he was not (which he admitted after the fact), the whole egg on the table thing is actually a myth. It’s no easier to balance an egg on a table on the day of the equinox as it is any other day – but still, it looks pretty cool to see an egg balancing upright on a table.
Speaking of balance, I have a baby for each boob. How’s that for balance? All joking aside, I do have to say I am pretty proud of the fact that breastfeeding two little people is going so well, at least for now. I’m not completely out of the woods yet, but my milk supply has met the demand and my girls are gaining weight as they should. Don’t get me wrong, breastfeeding two at once is not easy, it is a colossal commitment and there have most definitely been moments where I wondered “why am I still doing this?” But then I focus on my goals and remember why I made this decision.
I absolutely loved breastfeeding my older singleton and did so for sixteen months. I only stopped when we discovered I was pregnant with twins. In my experience, it’s an amazing mother/baby bonding exercise and – let’s be honest – you can’t beat the calorie burning factor. I have been lucky enough to have already lost 30 of the 50 pounds I gained during my pregnancy and, it sure is nice to be able to fill out a blouse for a change. Oh yeah, and it’s really, really healthy for our babies.
So what does it take to breastfeed twins in the early weeks after delivery? Well, I am no expert but have been successful so far. Aside from a lot of dedication and patience, here is what has worked for me and my girls:
1. Initiate breastfeeding as soon after their birth as possible. I began nursing my girls within an hour of their delivery. Of course there are always situations that can arise which might prevent this from happening, but if you can, try to nurse your babies within three hours of their birth. They say the most important time to begin breastfeeding and establish a milk supply are the first seventy-two hours after delivery, so do what you can to set that off on the right foot, which may also include pumping if your babies are in the NICU.
2. Room in with the babies at the hospital. Again, this might not be possible if your babies are in the NICU (and that is okay, there are many, many success stories of women who successfully breastfed their NICU twins) but if you are able to, room in with the babies and do not opt to have the nurses take them to he nursery overnight. As I previously mentioned, the first seventy-two hours are extremely critical to successfully nursing your twins and having your babies at your side, ready to nurse on demand (or every two hours at least) will help to initiate that and greatly increase your chances for success.
3. Start tandem breastfeeding from the beginning. I was very fortunate enough to give birth in a very pro-breastfeeding hospital. Unless you tell them otherwise, it is assumed you will breastfeed and they do not supplement with formula or give pacifiers and lactation consultants were readily available to assist me. My lactation consultant suggested that I start tandem nursing from the get-go and I am thankful that I took this advice. Now, my girls feed at the same time almost every time. If one wakes up hungry, I wake the other and feed them together. This is a huge time and sanity saver.
4. Invest in a good quality twin nursing pillow. I have the Double Blessing Nursing Pillow and it is, by far, a lifesaver. I packed it in my hospital bag and it made positioning the twins and nursing both at once so much easier. (Side note: I prefer to nurse both of my girls with the football hold).
5. Start logging feedings/diapers/sleep times. I bought a journal, but after a few weeks I found it extremely annoying and learned about the Baby Connect App for my smart phone. It is SO amazing, very user friendly and is totally customizable. I keep track of each individual baby’s feedings, bowel movements, wet diapers and sleep habits. This has been so helpful for me, especially for tracking which baby was on what boob, (I switch them every feeding to ensure a balance in the milk supply) and tracking diaper output, which is the only actual way for a nursing mom to know if her babies are getting enough to eat. When you are nursing two at the same time it is incredibly easy to get confused (remember, you are mostly likely sleep deprived and there are two of them to keep track of) so just keep a log of it. Trust me.
6. Feed both babies every two hours, around the clock. This is where things will get very difficult. For the first few weeks, in order to initiate a milk supply, it was suggested that I feed the girls every two hours no matter what. Occasionally I have let them go three hours between feedings, usually at night – but the general schedule is to feed them every two hours. It’s a lot of work and doesn’t leave a lot of “me” time in between feedings.
7. Be prepared for pain, lots of it. The lactation consultant I met with at the hospital told me to “accept no pain” and, if I did feel discomfort, to re-position the baby/ies to ensure a proper latch. Well, that is much easier said than done when you have a baby attached to each boob. I am convinced that, no matter what, the first few weeks of breastfeeding involves some level of pain. For me, it was the same with my singleton and after a couple of weeks my nipples “broke in” and got used to the constant stimulation. Like breaking in a new pair of shoes, the first couple wears might result in a blister or two, but before you know it – your feet adjust and you will walk with little pain. Yes, I just compared my twins to a new pair of shoes.
8. Get support. This is very important. I would not be able to do this if not for my husband and my mom. Because we had a toddler at home at the time of the twins birth, the our schedule didn’t allow for too much time to tend to her. Of course my singleton and I have our special “us” times during the day, and story time at night is always reserved for the two of us. If you plan to nurse every two hours around the clock, like I did, you will NEED help, lots of it and any that is available, on the home front to care for any other little ones. Luckily I almost always have my mom and my husband around to help divide and conquer the chores. It also helps to have someone that can be on call to get you water/food or the remote while you are nursing your twins. Not to mention when you start tandem breastfeeding, you will need help positioning the babies and ensuring proper latch. It most definitely helps if your partner can be on diaper duty so you can focus on feeding and getting into the correct position. Tandem nursing requires a tremendous amount of preparation.
9. Stay well hydrated. I am constantly drinking water, coconut water, and Mother’s Milk Tea like they are going out of style. I also take Motherlove More Milk Plus, a herbal supplement which is supposed to aid and boost milk supply. FYI- it has a horrible taste. It is hard to say Whether or not it has helped me with my milk supply, but I don’t think it has hurt. Hydration, on the other hand, does effect your milk supply so keep drinking.
10. Co-sleep. I know, this is very controversial. Many doctors and pediatricians do not advocate co-sleeping. Like anything, there are many advocates of this practice, but it is a personal decision and I went with MY mommy instincts in this instance and I am glad I did. It worked for us, though my comfort in bed at night is sacrificed. We do not plan on co-sleeping for much longer, but for the first weeks I found it very helpful. The way I sleep more or less is sitting up with our babies placed on their backs on the nursing pillow always ready to feed when the time comes. It’s much easier for us all this way and we all get a little more sleep at night.
11. Try to stay positive and focused. There will be times when you will want to throw in the towel and give up. At times, you will feel discouraged, frustrated, and possibly even angry. There will be times when it will seem so much easier to let someone bottle feed the babies while you take a nap. When your nipples hurt so much that you will flinch and scowl in pain upon latching. Trust me, it DOES get better and easier. Try to remember that this time in the trenches will be a thing of the past in a few weeks and this will one day be a distant memory.
Brittany Meyers is a happy (and still shocked) mom of “three under three” who lives on a sailboat in the Caribbean with her husband and three daughters. She writes about their adventures in life (and parenting) while afloat at www.windtraveler.net
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