Breast Is Best…but is it Realistic for Me?
I remember pumping for the first time the day after the girls were born more than eight weeks early. I had already planned on renting a hospital grade pump, might’ve been my mothers intuition telling me to do so. It was a good thing that the Toronto hospital where I delivered offered the same pump that I was planning to rent. Tip: Mommies who plan to pump, hospital grade pumps are recommended in order to BRING IN your milk i.e. if your baby/babies are born early without the ability to suck and latch (as ours were), the ones you can purchase in stores are for maintaining your milk supply. Another tip: Shoppers Home Health has the best rental rates for the Medela Symphony breast pump approx. $85/month. I returned my pump just shy of five months and the price was still lower than having purchased the Medela pump I had my eye on in stores.
At first I had such an amazing amount of milk pumped that my husband had to go out and buy a chest freezer to store it in our basement! Keep in mind however, that even though I was pumping for two, they were only taking about 10 ml’s each at this point, basically a third of an ounce.
As time went on I remember looking in the NICU fridge and thinking…how do these other moms have so much more than I do in the fridge? Oh right, I’m pumping for two!
I think it’s important to keep in mind that you should never compare yourself to other moms or your babies to other babies. It’s easier said than done but the point of this blog is to instil the fact that you need to do what works for you and what’s best for your baby/babies.
Before leaving the NICU the girls latched, it wasn’t a long or strong latch but they were only four weeks old and really still weren’t due to arrive for another four weeks. I was thrilled and extremely emotional, so much in fact that I cried when I had to leave them that night. It was a new kind of bond that I had never experienced before.
As the days went on the girls would latch more and more, but it was always a roller coaster, some days their latch was strong, some days it was weak. Either way, they were latching, the nurses and doctors were happy and after five weeks they were heading home with us, that’s a whole other blog!
Feeds were and continued to be no quick feat. Some nights it would take me three hours to feed them with help from my mother in law, my husband, my mom you name it, if the help was offered, I took it! Mom’s of multiples, if anyone offers help, take it! Believe me, you’ll need it.
The girls left the NICU on a four hour feeding schedule which consisted of 20-25 minutes of them latching, all the while keeping them in just a diaper or onesie to stimulate them as they would get very sleepy doing all of that sucking. After latching they would then need a top up of expressed breast milk from the bottle.
Basically my day went as follows: diaper change, feed the girls with help; I would breastfeed one, then pass her off to whoever was helping me for the top off, then repeat with the 2nd and then I would top her off. After feeding, burping and settling them down it was my turn to pump for about 20 minutes after every single feed…hence the importance of a strong pump. I grabbed an hour or two of sleep if I was lucky and repeat!
This was the routine for the two months that followed leaving the NICU and my mother slept here more than in her own bed, to which I will be forever grateful. I truly don’t know how I could have done it on my own. Preemies need a special amount of care and extra time and patience when it comes to everything, especially feeds.
Once the girls started eating more I had an emotional night when I realized that I wasn’t able to supply enough for their needs and would have to substitute some of their top ups with formula. I cried when I came to the realization but the most important thing is my girls and their health and gaining weight is important no matter what it takes.
I did EVERYTHING I could possible do to ‘up’ my supply to meet the demands of two thriving babies: at first taking Blessed Thistle and Fenugreek, napping as often as possible, drinking close to 100 oz of water a day, eating oatmeal, having two lactation consultants come and offer me help and support and taking Domperidone to increase my supply and Lecithin to thin out my milk (I’ve been prone to blocked ducts…19 at last count!).
So many mommies out there have congratulated me on lasting as long as I did with breastfeeding, pumping and topping up. They tell me they’ve never known a twin mom to go as long as I have. It was just something that was very important to me, especially ever since that bonding moment mentioned above in the NICU so many weeks ago.
Feeding has been an extremely emotional experience. Having to rely on family and friends to help you juggle your babies especially during feeds is very difficult. I appreciate the help to no end, but I wished I could manage it on my own.
I had a long talk with my husband, it was a conversation that had been brought up numerous times…do I continue breastfeeding or switch to just formula? I know that our girls will take a bottle or breast and the formula they’ve been on has worked well for them so no issues there. So what’s the issue? I’m the issue. Can I let go of the breastfeeding connection? Do I have to entirely? I need to be able to do this on my own and I’m not producing enough to just rely on the breast and I would always need help juggling.
I’m proud that I lasted more than three months of breastfeeding each feed and I know the girls have benefited from it. I made the decision to cut down my pumps to one or two a day as well as cutting down on the amount of breastfeeds.
My hope when writing this blog was to be able to breastfeed with top ups just once a day, right before bed and then formula feed the rest of them, but I had heard from many that it’s all or nothing when it comes to breastfeeding. Once your body knows it doesn’t need to produce, it stops. I’ve prepared myself for either scenario. Fingers crossed.
Update: since writing this blog I managed to continue with breast and bottle top up’s for two feeds a day until the six month mark! I’m beyond ecstatic that my body adjusted to the changes and didn’t dry up completely. My lactation consultant told me to go for it and that I should definitely be able to breastfeed twice a day if that’s what I wanted to do and she was right!
I now have a great system where I put the girls in their bouncers to bottle feed and when it’s a breast feed they’re now strong enough to tandem feed on my huge twin breastfeeding pillow. I no longer rely on family and friends to help me juggle the feeds, I’m now able to do it on my own but anytime I’m offered a hand I gladly accept.