Exclusively Pumping for Twins: The Hardest 7 Months of My Life
The moment my husband, Jake, and I found out we were having twins, I knew most of our plans were out the window. Jake needed a new vehicle, we would need more baby gear than we initially thought, and we had to be prepared for possible bed rest for me, and NICU time for the boys.
One thing I never thought I would struggle with was breastfeeding. I knew I would succeed at it. I looked forward to it, and couldn’t wait to share those moments with my boys.
My boys were born March 25, 2014. We made it to 36 weeks and 2 days. My pregnancy was not an easy one and it ended with two months of bed rest.
The boys were born via planned c-section. Baby A, Barrett, came out screaming with a full head of hair, while Baby B, Keefer, came out grunting and bald. The NICU doctor that was in the delivery room with us told us that Barrett was perfect and could stay with us, but that Keefer needed to go to the NICU for his lungs.
I had mentally prepared myself for both babies to need the NICU but I felt odd about having one with us while the other was by himself, without any of us.
Exclusively Pumping for Twins
As the doctor stitched me up, Barrett and Jake began doing skin to skin in the recovery room, and I was mentally preparing myself to begin my beautiful, breastfeeding journey! As soon as I was wheeled into the recovery room, the nurse took Barrett from Jake and laid him on my chest. This was it, things were real now, I was a mom! A mom about to breastfeed for the first time!
What happened next was not what I expected. The nurse grabbed my boob, squeezed it a couple of times while simultaneously grabbing Barrett’s head and putting his mouth on my nipple. It seemed odd, but it worked. The little guy was barely an hour old and we were breastfeeding! At that point, I knew I had it made, and that the three of us would have a storybook breastfeeding journey.
Boy, do I wish someone would have called BS on that. Shortly after we got to the maternity ward our night nurses came to visit us. They helped with putting Barrett to my breast some more, showed Jake some tricks to help, and then left the room for about five minutes. They returned with this thing on wheels and a whole bag of goodies. Exclusively Pumping for Twins
Next thing I know, they’re hooking me up to a breast pump. I knew I’d be pumping, as I work full time, but I didn’t expect to be pumping so soon. They reminded me that I needed to pump for Keefer and that we needed to measure Barrett’s intake as much as possible because he was only 5 lbs and they needed to make sure he was getting enough.
What an odd sensation pumping is. I was happy to do it, really I was. It became a game to me. I wanted to get as much as I could to Keefer in the NICU because I thought that somehow my breast milk would make him better so he could come home!
Keefer wasn’t allowed any food for the first few days of his life. Heck, we couldn’t even hold the kid. My heart would break every time I would sit with him in that NICU. If I talked to him, he’d get worked up and his oxygen levels would drop.
I needed to pump a lot. He needed every drop of breast milk he could get. Barrett, Jake, and I spent four days in the hospital. I spent a lot of time working with the lactation consultants, trying to get the hang of breastfeeding, because somehow we weren’t doing it anymore. I was using a nipple shield, we were finger feeding, we were setting up weird contraptions with the nipple shield and some tubing to try and help Barrett get the hang of it. Exclusively Pumping for Twins
I would spend two hours trying to breastfeed and pump, only to start it all over again in an hour. I eventually started to lose my mind. It was exhausting. I tried breastfeeding and then pumped every three hours like clockwork.
I had to get my supply up as much as I could. I was feeding two babies! I ate oatmeal, I ate lactation cookies, I sniffed Barrett’s head constantly, and I would stare at pictures of my sweet little Keefer.
I eventually mastered the art of trying to breastfeed Barrett, then bottle feeding him some Neosure while pumping. In the beginning, I didn’t have a hands-free bra. I had a flimsy nursing bra that I tried to use to hold my flanges in place, and boy was that bad news bears. The flanges would always pop off, the bottles would tip and milk would go everywhere!
Then I tried to use my knees to hold them up, which was even worse. I lost a lot of milk in those early days, and it always made me cry! The hands-free pumping bra is one of the best inventions out there.
During the day my mom or mother-in-law would come and help me. I stuck with the same routine but they would feed Barrett so I could lock myself in my room and pump my little heart out.
Quickly, I realized how much it sucked! It was lonely and boring. It also gave me way too much time with my thoughts. I cried a lot in those early days.
Keefer spent 21 days in the NICU. It was a long time and I worried about him constantly. I felt like it was my fault and that I hadn’t done enough to keep him in the womb longer. Those first days/weeks/months of twin motherhood are terribly hard.
We eventually got the call that Keefer would be coming home. I was so excited! I was finally going to have my entire family together. I was determined that we would get the whole breastfeeding thing down and I wouldn’t have to pump constantly anymore.
Again, I was wrong. Every feeding took two hours. That two hours encompassed trying to breastfeed, having to pump, feed bottles, and wash everything. Then I’d be back at it in an hour. No one was getting sleep; my entire family was miserable.
I had joined a breastfeeding group on Facebook and one day someone started talking about EPing (exclusively pumping). I didn’t know it could be done but I joined a Facebook group on it and, after discussing with Jake, we decided that I would be an exclusive pumper.
I don’t regret the decision at all. I wanted to give my boys breast milk and formula wasn’t an option for me due to cost. All the breast milk the boys drank had to be fortified with Neosure until they were six months old. Exclusively Pumping for Twins
One tub of Neosure was over $20! If we had fed them straight Neosure, one tub would have lasted us a day and a half. The thought of spending that much money on formula made me sick, especially when I knew I was fully capable of making milk for them for free.
TWINIVERSITY TIP: Make sure to call your medical insurance if your child is put on a special formula. They may cover part or all of the cost.
(When I weaned off of pumping and Neosure and we started using regular formula, we were able to buy Sam’s Club brand — a much cheaper alternative — and have it shipped to the house for free.) Exclusively Pumping for Twins
I had a great support system, my family, my in-laws, friends, co-workers. They really rallied behind me. I can’t thank them all enough for that, but my time as an EPer was the hardest and loneliest time of my life. Every 3 hours during the day for about 45 minutes I was locked away by myself in our bedroom. People would be over visiting and, no matter what was going on, I was leaving the party to go sit and pump.
We had no life. We planned everything around my three-hour pumping schedule. If we wanted to go out to eat, we had to leave as soon as I finished pumping. If we wanted to go to a friend’s house, we would leave our house at a pumping time so I could pump in the car, then I’d go away to whatever room was designated for pumping, leave the group, go pump and come back. We’d then have to leave at my next scheduled pumping time so I could pump in the car on the way home.
My husband and I enjoy camping but with exclusively pumping for twins it was just not something I could see us doing. I couldn’t figure out the logistics of how I’d be able to keep the pump parts clean and the milk at the right temperature. I sent Jake off on his own to camp, while staying home alone with two very small babies.
I changed companies when the boys were four months old. At my job I had when they were born, everyone was super supportive, and would talk to me while I pumped, which I loved! They didn’t have a designated space for me to pump, so I did it behind a fake wall next to the computer used for clocking in and out. People would hang out on the other side of the wall and chat with me. It was wonderful! Exclusively Pumping for Twins
Then I started at my new job. On the first day, I didn’t get to pump at all, which was very upsetting as I was still very strict with pumping every three hours. The next day I was forthright and informed them I would need to pump. That’s when they showed me the pumping “room”. It was the computer server closet.
I had to lock myself in it and all it had was a wooden chair, some cardboard boxes, and the computer servers. Some of the people were less understanding of the whole process. Some people were downright rude. I sat and cried a lot in that server room. [Click here to read more about the law that requires break times and break rooms for at-work pumping mothers]
Around this time, I started to hear about Freemies. They are flanges with collection bottles self-contained in a boob shape so you can put them in your bra, leave your shirt on, and have it look like an instant boob job! It’s a way to pump without having your breasts out for the world to see.
I was intrigued by them and was willing to try anything to get my life back. I ordered them and patiently awaited for their arrival. When they finally got to our house, I couldn’t wait to give them a test drive. They were amazing. Freemies are the best thing in the world for a pumping mom. What a lifesaver they were for me! Exclusively Pumping for Twins
I share an office with my boss and she had successfully breastfed her children and was very sweet and supportive of my pumping. When I told her about my Freemies she told me she didn’t mind if I sat in the office and pumped while I worked. Heck, she was cool with it when I was still using the horns.
Some people were uncomfortable with it so we had to put a note on the door when I was pumping. Most people ignored the note and would come in the office anyway. Some knew what was going on, but a majority of people had no idea.
Then I started getting braver with my Freemies. I started using them when we would visit family or friends. I remember sitting outside at my aunt and uncle’s house for a meal and my cousin getting my pump hooked up to an extension cord so I could remain outside with the family. It was so nice to feel like a part of life again.
I made it 7 months with exclusively pumping. My goal was for 1 year but 7 months was the right time for our family. It was the hardest 7 months of my life. I was adjusting to motherhood, working full time, trying to do some housework (not much though), and pumping like crazy. Exclusively Pumping for Twins
I look back on the beginning of my pumping journey and what it did to me. I’m a people person — my parents have been told my whole life that I’m a social butterfly. Exclusively pumping for twins put me in an uncomfortable spot in my life, one that I’m OK not going back to. I still wish I would have been successful at breastfeeding, but I’m proud of what I was able to do for my boys. It’s not a perfect story but it’s our story, and it’s beautiful.
Amy Borden lives in Central PA with her husband Jake, 14-month-old fraternal twins, Barrett and Keefer, and their hound dog Bleu — it’s fancy because it’s spelled like the cheese! Her education is in Marine Biology, but she started out her career mixing poo and thought she had gotten away from poo when she got a promotion. Then life threw twins at her and the poo in her life doubled! Her life motto these days is, “Fake it till you make it!” and she feels like she’s doing a pretty great job at faking it!
Related Articles – Exclusively Pumping for Twins: The Hardest 7 Months of My Life