As national breastfeeding week comes to a close I wanted to share our own breastfeeding story, something I haven’t shared before. Being over fours years out now from the throes of being a new twin mother I have very fond memories of when it was just the three of us, the twins head to head on my lap, cocooned together.
I can’t show a photo of our feeds as more often than not I had next to no clothing up top and I am sure the social media platforms would take the images down !! So I think this picture sums up our journey quite well, note the ample bottles of water, maltesers, blurry tired mother, a remote close to hand and my yellow friend, aka the double pump.
When I realised we were expecting twins and there was a higher risk of them delivering prematurely I was determined to breastfeed them. I hadn’t really thought much about breastfeeding before I was pregnant, truth be told, but there was always that line about colostrum floating around in my head, the liquid gold that is the superfood for your newborn babies. I’ve read that up to sixty percent of your babies immunisation can come from those first few sticky drops your breasts produce and with the twins arriving at just over thirty-five weeks,despite being poorly after birth I was determined to feed, as was the lactation consultant and we managed to squeeze a few drops from my boobs( my dignity was already gone at that stage!) and off she went down to NICU with that precious liquid to the twins. So yes there you have it, my babies first encounter with my milk did not come from my breasts but it was syringed into their mouths, in fact their sugar levels dropped after birth and a very teary decision was made to give them some formula until I was well enough to get down to them.
Fast forward a few hours and my babies were learning to suckle, they were under five pounds each, teeny and tiring easily on the boob and falling off their latch and so now I was adding pumping into the equation. Nonetheless we found our rhythm of feeding off the breast and drinking pumped milk from a bottle. It helped that I had a huge team of support and this was key to keeping me going. My husband of course was amazing and I was glad he got to feed the twins with a bottle as I do feel dads miss out when they don’t have that one on one time with their babies. Later on it meant that I was able to get a block of sleep during the night ,which was crucial to me continuing feeding when he went back to work. From the lactation consultant at the hospital who was with me from the get go, to some of the NICU team ( I say some because one nurse did try to get me to dump the breastfeeding) being so positive and encouraging and helping me get through the pain that I did unfortunately feel at times , to great friends on the end of the web and phone who guided me through nipple shields, cold compresses, nipple creams. You name it they recommended it and most importantly I knew there were other women there to support me when I felt like giving up.
When we came home that support didn’t wain, I want to be truthful about my feeding so I will say that I was in pain a lot of the time due to latch issues and did end up fighting a nasty bout of cracked nipples and then mastitis, I remember crying with clenched teeth through some feeds, my breasts burning and feeling like a failure, if it was not for the lactation consultant( provided free by the hospital) who visited me and my friends (one in particular who has since become a Cuidiu consultant and is an amazingly positive breastfeeding advocate who fully gets how hard it can be for some) I would not have continued on after a very hard week. Surround yourself and ask for help everywhere you can, join groups on safe social media platforms and get knowledge before you begin feeding, that makes a huge difference. Feeding multiples is more of a challenge, but not something to fear once you have people there should you need help.
I set myself a goal of six months of feeding/pumping , some call it combination feeding, and we settled into our routine of me feeding and my husband helping with feeds. Some things I heard at the start were against swapping between boob and bottle but once we got over latch issues in the early days the twins took to swapping so please don’t feel it can’t be done because it can. Topping up with pumped milk is hard work I won’t lie but it can be done. To be honest given a feeding cycle of twins in the early stages was every three hours, by the time all that was done it would take half of that time so having my husbands support on some feeds was key to me feeding for six months. I was never brave enough to fully master feeding out and about in public, but was quite happy to time what I wanted to do within our routine, or if I really wanted to spend a little longer out and about that’s where the pumped milk came in handy. Six months to me meant that I was giving them all of me for those first precious months of their lives, I was protecting them against diseases and reduction of common illnesses. During these first few months my little girl began having problems with allergies, it turns out even though I don’t drink milk it was discovered she had cow’s milk protein intolerance and my little boy developed very bad reflux . Both were recommended medications and whilst I had naturally felt my breastfeeding journey was coming to an end as at six months because of lack of sleep ,having given it my all from my own body, taking medical recommendations of a cmpi friendly prescribed formula for my daughter and son our time was up.
Would I have continued feeding after the six month mark, I don’t know to be honest, I absolutely loved feeding the twins, but as they got older I found it got harder. We had some medical issues and I felt my job of giving them as good a start as I could, was complete. I admire anyone feeding long-term and have many friends who have successfully fed multiples well over the year mark and single babies well into the toddler years. Some might call the way I fed ,combination feeding and that’s fine with me, they got all of me ,whether it was from my body or from a bottle, who really cares. I never really took notice as I was too consumed staring down at two little heads as they lay in my lap with their rosebud lips turned up at the corners, eyes closed in a contented sleep.
For any expectant multiple mother wanting to feed or exploring the possibilities, find local support if you don’t have friends who have fed. Seek out the lactation consultants in the hospital and let your PHN know you want to reach out to others in your locality for support. I know some counties appear to be better supported than others so online is also a good resource for support and of course your partner is hopefully there to help when you need. Be kind to yourself, first and foremost, if things don’t go as expected, acknowledge what you have done and remember you have literally grown two humans and given them life, YOU need to be strong for your babies, remember that xx