Wait, you’re actually nursing them?
I’m lucky enough to have had success with a singleton who exclusively breastfed for a year. So when I found out I was having twins, I naturally assumed I could at least try to do it again. Everywhere I go, people assume that I formula feed or supplement the twins. Once they get over the shock of finding out that yes, it is possible to actually feed two babies without remaining perpetually naked from the waist up or being the prize dairy cow at the state fair, the questions start. Do you feed both at the same time? Do you feed one from a bottle and one from your boob? What do you do when you’re at work? Wow! I couldn’t even make enough for one; You’re Supermom (that word makes me cringe)!
Yes, sometimes I feed both at the same time. I usually do it when I’m strapped for time or extra tired in the middle of the night, and I want them to go back to sleep faster. But sometimes, I want to have a few moments to bond separately, so I feed them separately. As they get older, wigglier, and bitey (yay), I’m feeding separately more often.
Breastfeeding twins is a supply and demand relationship, just like it is with a single baby. If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be women that successfully breastfeed triplets (Yes! They exist!) or even quads. Our success is the result of a lot of Googling, advice both solicited and unsolicited, and trial and error. During our first few days home, the pediatrician put us in “supply boot camp” to make sure I could get to where I needed to be: for 36 hours, I nursed every three hours around the clock, then pumped, and then immediately bottle fed the pumped milk. It was exhausting, but we haven’t had a true supply issue since. The few times I needed to up my supply, I would increase feedings from every three hours to every two, and I’d add an extra pump session per day until I saw results, which usually happens within 36 hours. Think of it as you would a cluster feed or growth spurt where the baby lets you know what it needs by demanding more.
How the cow earns her living
During my frantic Google sessions soon after finding out about the twins, I found that there were communities of women online that successfully breastfed twins. What I couldn’t find were helpful resources for or many full time working moms who successfully did it. Despite the lack of information, I put my genetic gift of stubbornness to good use. I employed the tips and tricks I learned from nursing my son, and I got creative when I needed to.
I work eight hour days, so the girls get bottles when I’m away. I try to nurse them when I’m home in order to get the snuggle time in. I pump three to four times a day at work for 10-15 minutes, and again around 10pm before bed. I am extremely lucky to have a supervisor who breastfed three kids for a year, and a manager whose wife did the same. Part of my job is field inspections, so I have pumped in the men’s bathroom of an oil and gas platform, on a ferry, and countless hours in a car. I make it work. When I was home on maternity leave, I froze a stash of two weeks worth for the times I have unexpected supply dips, bad pumping days, or I forget my milk in the work fridge overnight (this happens a lot). Right now I pump enough to supply the girls what they need for the next day, I don’t use too much of my frozen stash, and I’m not putting anything new away.
All of this is not to say it isn’t hard. It is. The time investment is large. For the first few weeks, my husband was a burping and diaper changing robot so I could make sure the girls had established latches and lengthy feeds. I’m currently battling painful milk blisters which cause blocked ducts. I’ve been breastfeeding a total of 17 months of my life, and until three weeks ago, I’d never had those before. But to me, it’s worth it for the health benefits to all three of us and the financial benefit to our family. One year of formula for a single baby is estimated at $1300 per year. It just makes sense to us to keep going as long as my body will let me.
What I’d tell people who want to try
The piece of advice I give to anyone wanting to breastfeed? Start Small. Try for a goal of one day. If you make it, extend it to two. From there, try for four. Then a week, and so on. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the process, and if you don’t set lofty goals, you won’t beat yourself up as much if you don’t achieve them. Anything, I repeat, anything, you can manage is awesome, whether it is two feedings in the hospital or two years. Everyone has different circumstances and for that reason, it’s not right to pass judgement on those who don’t or can’t.
Invest in these things: a double electric pump, lanolin, good breast pads, a good nursing pillow (I used the MyBrestFriend in the early days, but now I mostly use the Boppy), and good nursing bras (my favorite are made by Bravado).
My house, my space. If you come to my house, be prepared for me to nurse or pump in front of you. I will do my best to cover or block your view of any nip slips, but I’m not retreating to the bedroom every time the girls are hungry. Don’t like it? Don’t come over. So far, this hasn’t deterred any visitors, by the way.
Due to the fact that tandem feeding the girls is like trying to put straight jackets on spider monkeys, I don’t do it in public. I’m a modest gal, and while I support anyone who can just pop one of the ladies out without hesitation, I’ve never been that confident. Keeping my son covered to nurse in public was interesting enough!
My cousin breastfed twins and she passed on a really great tip: pump in the car on the way to events. That way, you can feed the babies once you’re there. You can participate instead of spending half the time hidden away, and other people can feed them. Double bonus! I got a car charger for my pump at a consignment sale for $2, and it was an amazing investment.
Talk to the people around you whose support you will need – your partner, your family, your employer. There will be a time when each of you will get frustrated during the process, so good communication is really helpful to work through these times.
Finally, be gentle with yourself. A bump in the road doesn’t mean failure. Only you can make the best decision for you and your family. If you need to quit to save your sanity? Do it. If you need to keep on going because it’s something you feel you’re awesome at? Press on.
Either way, you’re a great mom!