This post isn’t going to be for everyone. I’m about to document my experience nursing the twins for those of you who are there now and want to see how someone else did it. Or maybe you are just interested in how I did it. Or maybe you don’t give a shit in which case, thanks for reading this far and have a great day.
Let’s first agree that parenting is not a competitive sport. I don’t think breast feeding makes you a better parent. These are philosophies that worked for me and the great thing about life is that you get to change your mind and learn as you go. You can apply 100%, 30% or 0% of what I say – it’s all about what gets you through the day. Just know you aren’t alone. Between J, my mom, my sisters, my in-laws and my grandma “we” were able to set up a routine, manage all the gear and tackle the night feeds. This time was a blur for me yet I remember so much of it because “we” did it together. It takes a village – and my village played a key role. (Thanks guys)
Thinking back to those first months brings up feelings and emotions of fear and confusion. I realize now that I nursed purely to see if I could. The benefits of breast feeding were important to me, as was getting to bond with the twins, but the challenge of “can I do this” is what really motivated me for 13 months. It helped me to have daily goals during those first few months and nursing became my focus. I didn’t always enjoy it. It was painful and frustrating and hard. IT IS SO DAMN HARD. But it kept me moving forward and gave me a clear focus during a foggy time. The mantra was simple: feed the babies, pump to feed the babies.
I would nurse each baby for 30-40 mins followed by 30 mins of pumping. Quick math – that’s 1.5 hours for each feed that I would then repeat in another 1.5 hours (feeding every 3 hours). This happened all day and all night for the first 6-7 months. I used nipple shields and a syringe (filled with breast milk) with an IV tube that we would either tape to our fingers to feed or run through the nipple shield to trick/remind the babes that I was the source. The pumped milk (and we’re talking 30 mls sometimes) would either be used in the syringes or given in bottles during the night feeds so I could solely pump between 100-200 mls at a time. I charted each feed to see the progress and because I couldn’t keep track otherwise. I tandem fed and would need help attaching baby #2 but could then manage the feeds on my own.
Once the babies were about 3 months and were too long to tandem feed comfortably I fed one at a time – each got their own boob which alternated feed to feed. I fed and pumped at 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, 8pm (bedtime and feed) and 11pm. We occasionally supplemented with formula during the night feeds (2am, 5am) if I didn’t have enough expressed milk while I pumped. After some hesitation and at the advice of our lactation consultant, I took Domperidone – which is a drug that helps promote lactation. It definitely helped get my milk flowing.
Around month 7 we introduced foods under the “baby led weaning” method although I just called it feeding them real food. Instead of mashing avocado, sweet potato or bananas, we just cut them into small pieces and let them feed themselves. First we introduced this at breakfast, then after a few weeks at lunch and then finally for dinner until we were alternating between nursing and eating food at mealtime.
Around this time I also started using the E.A.S.Y method (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You time). I found their example schedules to be lifesavers. I was also given great advice by a my friend Samantha: young babies should sleep every 2 hours (Thanks Sam). Combined with all of this knowledge I had a routine that worked for me and kept the twins together. Note: I believe a routine is they key with twins so you don’t always have 1 awake or aren’t feeding 1 constantly. You have to be forgiving and flexible with yourself but the sooner you can get a rhythm going to sooner you get sanity. Notice I say RHYTHM, not SCHEDULE. It is important to be flexible but having an idea of how your day looks allows you to be as prepared as possible.
I had no idea what I was getting into when I started breast feeding. I didn’t realize it would require my full attention 24/7 for MONTHS or that it would be as mentally draining as it was. I also didn’t realize how much help I would need to keep it going. You think the delivery and the lack of sleep is what’s going to break you… but it’s what you face on the journey that is the real challenge and I guess in the end – the adventure.