Uniquely Fed: An Honest Look at the Realities of Breastfeeding, Part Three – Real Breastfeeding Stories, Vol. 2
Welcome to Vol. 2 of the Real Breastfeeding Stories part of Uniquely Fed – where I share real stories, from real moms with you!!
If you’re just joining me here, don’t miss the stories shared in Vol. 1!
You can also sign-up to receive an update each time I add to the Uniquely Fed series!
Let’s keep our celebration of motherhood going with these stories – all about nursing multiples!
Volume 2 – Angie, Katie, Marianne, and Melanie
Click on the links (or images) to read today’s stories:
My breastfeeding story is an example of the fact that life doesn’t always go the way we plan or expect it to go. We then have to make the best of things as they are.
I found out I was carrying triplets at 24 weeks. I spent the next 10 weeks on hospital bedrest, and then delivered healthy babies via C-section at 34 weeks. The babies spent their first 12 days of life in the NICU before coming home.
Since our triplets were born prematurely, I knew that they would really benefit from any amount of their mama’s milk they could get. Using a pump that I rented from the hospital, I was able to supplement our babies’ formula with my own milk. I would also make attempts to actually breastfeed, but preemies have an especially difficult time latching on and coordinating their sucking/swallowing/breathing. None of my attempts at breastfeeding seemed to work, so I gave up trying and just continued pumping even though I never produced large amounts of milk.
There were a number of factors that explain why breastfeeding never really worked for me. As a first time mom with no prior breastfeeding experience, I wasn’t confident in my ability to produce enough milk – especially for three babies! The depression that started about five weeks into my 10-week stay on hospital bedrest continued postpartum and affected my desire to eat. And, eating plenty of healthy food is necessary for milk production! Additionally, taking care of three infants around the clock left me pretty exhausted. So after about six weeks, I decided that I needed more rest and returned the rented breast pump.
I believe that breastfeeding is the ideal way to go, and even though that didn’t work out for us, I’m glad I was able to give my babies what I could. If you’re finding that breastfeeding isn’t working out the way you’d expected, make the best of your available options and know that everything will be fine! “Do your best and forget the rest!”
Find more encouragement from Angie on her blog, www.SimpleHealthyMom.com, where she writes about faith, family and health!
When I found out we were having twins there was complete shock. Obviously. We were going for kid #4 so getting a bonus kid altered our plans a bit. New house, new car seats, new car. But one plan didn’t change – my plan to breastfeed.
I had nursed our other children for 13 months, 15 months, and 13 months. In fact I weaned our daughter just a matter of days before getting the positive test for the twins. I was passionate about nursing and knew just about every trick in the book for increasing supply, getting rid of clogged ducts, and surviving those endless growth-spurt feedings.
But twins. Two babies. Two bellies to fill. Two mouths to latch. Two schedules to manage. I knew I needed to expand my knowledge and support system. Thankfully a friend had four-year-old twins at the time and I knew she had nursed them so I decided to pick her brain. I also poured over articles online about keeping up a supply while tandem nursing and how to manage the needs of two babies at once.
At 37 weeks they were born just over two hours apart (and on either side of midnight – two birthdays, yay!) and were willing to nurse immediately. But they were little at only 5lb 9oz and 5lb 7oz so they had trouble staying latched and sucking made them incredibly tired. Plus their sugars were low. The doctors and nurses decided we needed to use a supplemental nursing system (SNS) to increase the amount of calories they were getting during a feeding without more effort on their part.
The nurses brought us bottles of ready-made formula, syringes, and long, flexible tubes. They showed us how to carefully insert the tubes into the corners of the babies’ mouths once they were latched and how to dispense the formula. We had to keep track of how much formula they took at each feeding along with how long they nursed, number of dirty diapers, and how long they were sleeping. As if we didn’t have enough to keep track of while trying to recover and adjust to twins!
We weren’t fans of buying the formula because once opened, it was only good for an hour. Over a dollar per bottle and we were throwing 90% of the formula away. This went completely against our frugal nature, plus we had never done formula before so we had no idea if there was a better way. But our babies were clearly worth it so we kept on keeping on.
I had a visit with the lactation consultant a few days after being discharged and after seeing how little the twins were transferring from the breast and how tired it made them, the nurse asked that we keep supplementing. We were hoping for a release from the extra work and money but no such luck.
At one week old, we saw the pediatrician for a check up. The babies were still very jaundiced so we were prescribed the glow blankets to use at home. Their weight was going up but he wanted us to continue using the SNS. I finally asked something I should have asked back in the hospital.
“Can I pump and use the extra breastmilk in the SNS?” “Well of course. And that should help the jaundice clear up a bit faster.”
Seriously? This whole week we’ve been shelling out money on formula that we’ve mostly been dumping down the drain and instead I could have been pumping and feeding them that? Ugh!
I went home and immediately started pumping. We got the boys on a great schedule of sleeping and eating together during the day so I wasn’t constantly feeding or rocking. I could feed them, lay them down, then pump. By their two week appointment we were told they could quit the SNS and be solely breastfed. Yes!
We only recently weaned earlier this year. After a bumpy and frustrating start we made it to twenty-eight months. Twenty-eight months of tandem feedings, babies holding hands while nursing, fights over which kid gets which side, and attempts at tandem nursing while sleeping.
Now that I’m on the other side of this twin nursing journey I’ve got a few pieces of advice:
- Come up with some plans ahead of time. Do you want to exclusively breastfeed or would you rather supplement? Do you want to tandem nurse or give each baby solo time?
- Be ready for your plans to change if needed. I wasn’t prepared to be given formula for the twins so I didn’t think to ask questions or come up with other options. Come up with alternatives to your ideal plans and what you need to do to be prepared.
- Have a great support system. My husband was awesome and made sure pump parts were cleaned, my water was filled, and snacks were close by for when I needed to nurse. It was frequently a time-consuming activity and having him encouraging me and doing what he could to make life easier was invaluable. Even having friends that would cheer me on when they asked how nursing was going made it that much easier to keep going.
About Katie: Katie is married to Micah and mom to five kids between ages 8 and 2. She blogs at My Joy in Chaos where she shares tips on managing everyday life plus faith-filled inspiration for loving that life – chaos and all.
As a first-time Mom of boy/girl twins, I had planned to exclusively breastfeed for their entire first year. Beyond that plan, while I was pregnant, I didn’t really give breastfeeding too much thought. My cousin, who is also a twin Mom, gave me the twin feeding pillow that she used when tandem feeding her two boys. Upon receiving this gift, I just assumed that I would use this magical pillow when my babies were hungry and all would be right with the world. I also bought a breast pump and supplies that I could use when I had to go back to work after my maternity leave was over.
Like with any first-time Mom, my babies’ birth and my hospital stay was a whirlwind. Doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, and family members rotated in and out of my room. Although my twins were of solid birth weights and thankfully did not need time in the NICU, they were still newborns. As a new Mom, I instantly felt pressure on all fronts and learning how to be their food source was definitely at the top of the list.
In the hospital, the nurses helped me get both babies into position to tandem feed. Each time they helped position the babies, they successfully latched and fed. However, when I got home, tandem feeding was impossible for me to master. I would get one twin to latch and then work on getting the second to latch. Once the second twin latched, the first twin would unlatch. After repeated failed attempts and two unhappy, hungry twins, I realized that I was unable to successfully tandem feed my twins.
This was a big problem because in order to get any sleep at all, it’s necessary to get your twins on the same feeding schedule or you’ll literally be feeding one at all times. So I pulled out the breast pump a lot earlier than I had planned and, although I did nurse each twin a few times per week alone, I primarily became an exclusive pumper. It was not my plan but in the end I was happy that I was providing them the breastmilk they needed.
My supply overall was decent, however, with two hungry babies to feed, I never was able to even open my freezer bags to store milk. They drank every single drop that I provided. I also did not succeed in feeding them breastmilk exclusively. I would pump one feeding ahead and they would each drink a bottle of breast milk and then a small bottle of formula to supplement. At the end of the day, I was happy that I provided them breastmilk for virtually all feedings. I knew that I was doing the best that I could and was happy that they were never going hungry.
I nursed my twins for 6 1/2 months. I really wished I could have done more. I was on maternity leave for 4 months but pumping at work and transporting that milk home during my lunch break became too difficult in my sleep-deprived state. Overall I am proud of my accomplishment and know that I did all that I could for my babies. They are 2 1/2 now and thriving.
My advice to new Moms is to have a plan going in but to realize that every Mom and every baby are different. Never be afraid to change your plan to accommodate the needs of your child. There is no shame in formula. Have it on hand just in case. If you need it, you’ll be happy that you have it. Use it to supplement like I did or even use it exclusively if in the end breastfeeding does not work for you and your baby. All you can give is your best and that is always good enough, Mama.
About Marianne: A Mommy of twins working in Marketing Communications who loves everything creative from singing to writing to cooking and crafts. Started The Misadventures of a Working Mama blog (or The Marv Mis for short) to connect with other Moms who love to share tips and laugh through the struggles of all that is Mommy! You can find her at www.themarvmis.com, @themarvmis on Twitter, and on Facebook.
I feel like there is really no way to be fully prepared for the breastfeeding experience, just like there is no way to fully prepare for being a first-time parent. You don’t know how it is going to go. But, I do think that you can try to free yourself from the guilt before it happens. And I say try, because as mommies, some level of guilt always exists.
One of the worst nights was about a week after my daughter was born. She was a challenging infant, lots of crying and being new to breastfeeding did not help. We had not slept at all and I had developed a sort of sleep deprived apnea, my hormones were going haywire, there was an accident in our bed so we had to change the sheets, and getting her to latch took at least 20 painful minutes only for her to want to feed again an hour later! All to say that eventually (2 months later!), my daughter and I got it and fell into a rhythm, however my supply was always on the low side.
When my husband and I found out we were going to have twin boys, breastfeeding was at the forefront of my mind among a million other things. On one hand, I thought, “Hey! I’ve done this before. And for 8 months, I got this!” But I also knew that every experience is different with pregnancy and children, plus this was TWINS! With my daughter, I really stressed out about it; reading everything I could find, seeing a handful of consultants, drinking the teas, taking the pills, eating the cookies, pumping after every feeding….it was TOO much. I knew I did not want to do that again.
I made my peace with it. I told myself that if it ever got to a stressful point, I would release myself from it. And I made sure that my husband knew, in case I couldn’t see outside of the situation at the time. We made it to 5 months with supplementing until the boys started to notice when the other was feeding (tandem was too overwhelming) and I made the decision to stop. I made the decision. Having the mindset that it was in my control and it was my decision whether or not to keep going helped me to not feel the guilt when I stopped. And being reassured that all would be okay in the world and my boys would be fine regardless definitely helped too.
So moms, be kind to yourselves. Give yourself some slack. You more than deserve that!
About Melanie: Melanie lives in sunny Southern California with her husband, 4-year-old daughter and twin 11-month-old boys. She loves being challenged to create things that have inspired her, planning parties for her friends and families, and finding meaningful and personal ways to decorate her home, most of which can be seen in her blog, A Peace of Creativity.
I hope you enjoyed reading these stories and that you feel encouraged if your journey looks like one of these! Stay tuned for more stories in tomorrow’s post.
Are you a mama of multiples? What has your breastfeeding journey been like? Let me know in the comments?