In all honesty, I wasn’t keen on breastfeeding at first. I really didn’t want little ones hanging off my boobies all the time. To my pre-motherhood mind this seemed uncomfortable and invasive. I wasn’t even breastfed as a kid, and I turned out just fine. So to me, fed was all that mattered. But hubby was a little more insistent on breastfeeding. As I mentioned in my post on cloth diapering, we had the opposite feelings about cloth diapering. We made a bargain that I would try breastfeeding if he would try cloth diapering. So, it was with this mindset that I embarked on my breastfeeding journey. I told hubby, my goal was to nurse for two weeks and pump after that for as long as that worked out.
To prepare for my breastfeeding journey, I called my insurance company to see what pump they would provide to me. As it turned out, the only thing they would cover was a single manual pump. With twins, this just wasn’t to cut it, so I took to the internet with my frustrations. A wonderful fellow TTC momma reached out to me and offered up her used double electric Medela Freestyle pump and accessories for free! I was truly humbled ya’ll and gladly accepted it.
Hubby and I also attended a breastfeeding class offered by the hospital prior to having the girls. Thinking back, I honestly can’t remember what we learned in the class, except that we came away from the class thinking my nipples were small (compared to all the boobs we saw on the demonstration videos), and I might need extra assistance for latching lol! (Thankfully these concerns were unfounded.)
Then the girls arrived!
Breastfeeding in the hospital was a complete blur. I was there for four days post-partum, of which Brooklyn spent three in the NICU. About two hours after delivery (C-section), I was able to hold Blakely, who got to stay with us. She latched instantly. It was around two in the morning at this point. The hospital instructed us to feed every two to three hours, and I had to track how long she fed, so I set an alarm for five am and slept for a couple of hours, then got up, fed her and repeated the cycle.
In the morning, around eleven, I was finally able to be wheeled to the NICU to see Brooklyn. She was perfectly fine, but was being monitored for her breathing scare at delivery. The NICU had already given her a pacifier and formula. And even though we were told she was just staying the night for observation, the new NICU staff told us she would be here for multiple days because they had to wean her off the IV fluids they had hooked her up to. After explaining to them that I wanted to breastfeed her not use formula we made a plan where I would come every three hours to do so.
Breastfeeding Brooklyn was a challenge. I would spend up to thirty minutes trying to get her to latch. If I did get her to latch, she had to eat for at least fifteen minutes or else the nurses would supplement her with formula. Brad and I weren’t thrilled (we had a lot of difficulties with the hospital, but I have chosen to block out my disappointments and frustrations) but we did what we had to go get her weaned off the IVs to come be with us.
Over the next several days the blurry cycle of feeding Blakely (upwards of 45 minutes), then stumbling down to the NICU to feed Brooklyn (also upwards of 45 mins), then rest for a little over an hour and repeat continued. I was a zombie. I literally was an unshowered hot mess just wearing a bathrobe wandering the hospital floors post C-Section at all hours of the day and night to accomplish this.
I remember once that I went to go feed Brooklyn, and the nurse forgot about me and had given her a formula bottle instead. I was frustrated with the situation and balled my eyes out in the hall outside the NICU, mostly because I felt like they were doing everything to ruin my chance at breastfeeding. I had heard from so many sources about avoiding pacifiers and bottles at all costs in the first few weeks to avoid “nipple confusion.” I am not sure if either of those contributed to her initial struggles to latch, but in the grand scheme of things, these warnings about nipple confusion were unfounded in our situation.
As the days passed, the hospital staff became concerned with how much milk Blakely was getting too. She was losing weight as typically happens in the first few days, but was also not having many wet diapers. After I fed her, I squeezed out extra colostrum under their watchful eye to also give her via syringe. I tried using the hospital electric pump, but nothing came out. The lactation consultants were not staffed while I was there, so I just continued to get mismatched advice from OB nurses. I just pressed on. She was feeding and content, and I had heard it always took several days for milk to come in, so I wasn’t as concerned. We finally conceded to a couple of formula feeds as well to ease their concerns. By this point, our number one goal was just to get out of there. On the afternoon of the third day, Brooklyn was able to join us. Due to miscommunication with NICU staff we had to stay and extra day, but finally on the fourth day we were able to go home!
Once we got home, things turned around. While Brooklyn was still struggling latching, I was able to tandem feed them using My Brest Friend Twin Nursing Pillow (a lifesaver!) and get them on a much better schedule. I also tried my pump that night and got my first bit of real milk; a full ounce! And the girls were gaining weight when we visited the pediatrician, and he was much more on board and supportive of breastfeeding.
We came home from the hospital with a handful of the tiny 60 ml formula bottles, and a couple of nights in the first days I gave them one of those and pumped instead to save my sanity. At the end of the first week at home, I hit a major milestone with my breastfeeding journey, I had pumped enough milk during the day (I pumped after every feed) to cover all of the feedings at night! From that day forward, all of their night feeds were with the bottle. They slept a lot a longer on the bottle feeds, and I got to sleep a lot longer on them too.
My routine from that milestone until I went back to work went like this. We had the breast pump permanently set up at the recliner in the living room. I used the same flanges for the whole day wiping with wipes between uses and washed them at the end of the day. I would sit on the couch with the Brest Friend twin nursing pillow with a Boppy Lounger on each side, tandem nurse the girls (I found I much preferred nursing to pumping, a surprise from my original expectations) and then slide them off the pillow onto the loungers. Then I would untrap myself from the nursing pillow and pump. At the night feeds we gave them bottles, and I would pump immediately after. So all my milk starting from the first night feed until right before bed, I kept in the fridge and then portioned out into the nighttime bottles ahead of time. Usually I had an ounce or two extra that I poured into a Milkies freezer tray.
I went back to work when the girls were six weeks old. The weekend before I went back to work, hubby and I did a small weekend getaway in Gatlinburg, while my parents watched the girls (this might sound crazy but I highly recommend for you and hubby’s sanity, especially before they hit the aware and fun stage, because its a lot harder for me to leave them now). I remember I had stashed over 100 ounces by that point and pumped 52 ounces each day that we were gone (it was my first time pumping exclusively as opposed to nursing). By Monday, I had enough milk saved up to portion out bottles for while I was away and during the night (leaving just two feedings in the evening to be a nursing feed) for two days ahead.
Once I went back to work, I started a new phase in my breastfeeding journey, which lasted from six weeks to six months. I quickly learned pumping enough milk for the twins was a lot harder than nursing them all day. As the weeks went on back at work, my daily pump totals dropped from 52 ounces down to 50 down to 48 down to 46 and my girls’ milk needs started going up (at their height my girls combined were drinking 64 ounces a day). I started to look for milk production boosting techniques. I did everything I could to keep up! I had become obsessed with ensuring that I could exclusively breastfeed the girls. Hours upon hours of my day, I was glued to my breast pump. I posted the following post to Instagram when I finally hit the six month mark, and I think it sums up this phase perfectly.
“I really am so excited to be able to post this [six months] badge! I never thought breastfeeding would mean as much as it has to me. And I am beyond grateful that I have been able to be the sole provider of nutrition for my girls for six whole months! So here is my long rambling on breastfeeding. It has been so much work ya’ll!!! I post pictures of my pumped milk, and while it may look impressive, its really just enough for the next day or two. I want ya’ll to know it’s not as easy as it may come across. I literally use every trick for boosting supply to keep up with these two and always have just enough on hand. I pump well past milk coming out, massage, pump again, then hand express every last drop. I have power pumping sessions late into the night. I drink literal tons of Gatorade (my PCP even commented on my electrolytes from a recent blood test). I eat lactation baked goods. I take lactation supplements. I time my nursing and pumps to maximize output. I have spreadsheets dedicated to tracking how its going. It’s so much easier when I am home with them because they get more than enough EBF but pumping to keep up when I’m at work is a challenge. I have to build a small stash on the weekend to carry me through the week. I somehow have made it this far but in the last couple of weeks my supply has dipped, and I am not sure how much longer I can hold on to being exclusive breastmilk.”
Meanwhile, my husband had become fed up with breastfeeding. He saw how stressful and difficult it was. For my sake, he asked me to stop. But I was persistent (see how the tables turned!).
Like I hinted at in my post above, six months was the end of exclusive breastmilk. I went on a two-night, forty-mile backpacking trip with my dad just before the girls hit six months, and my supply never recovered. That was probably the craziest thing I did for breastfeeding. I actually carried a cooler with ten pounds of dry ice on the hike with me, hand pumped breastmilk as I was hiking and carried it all home with me for the girls!
Six months to nine months was my next phase in my breastfeeding journey. It looked very similar to the previous phase except I pumped roughly forty ounces per day (and still nursed the girls once in the evenings) and the girls started eating solid foods too. At this stage however, especially since we did baby led weaning, their need for milk did not decrease, so every couple of days we would supplement with a formula bottle.
At nine months I got my first post-partum period. With it my supply tanked. So nine months to twelve months entered my last phase in my breastfeeding journey. I think after that I was pumping 24 ounces a day down to 4 ounces a day. It was the stage of slow decline, but also of slowly regaining my freedom. Finally in this stage I stopped caring as much about the state of affairs of my breastfeeding. It was what it was. I stopped the insanity routine of trying to keep up. Hubby stopped bugging me about it. I still pumped (and nursed occasionally but not every day anymore), but I didn’t do anything fancy or crazy. When there wasn’t enough, we gave a bottle of formula.
Whereas breastmilk was the norm and formula was the exception in the six to nine months phase, in the nine to twelve months phased, it switched to formula being the norm and breastmilk being the exception. I found some incredible deals in a local buy/sell/trade group and was able to stockpile unused formula that would carry me through one year.
Also, during these months, the girls interest in the boobs started to decline. I think because they were always mainly bottle fed since I had to go back to work so early and we always did bottles at night, there wasn’t a huge attachment to mommy’s boobs at this point. They also started to eat a lot more in these months and there were many times when Blakely just refused to drink more than an ounce or two of milk.
By eleven months, I was down to pumping once a day. It didn’t matter whether I pumped once or a dozen times at that point, because I produced the same amount. It was so freeing. I didn’t have to wake up early anymore to pump before work. I didn’t have to rush lunch breaks so I could pump at work. I didn’t have to stay up late at night to pump either. I cannot even describe to you how amazing this feeling was! So many times, I have wanted to sleep in a few extra minutes then panicked that I would be super late to work only to realize that I actually could sleep in those extra minute because I didn’t need to pump.
In the week leading up to the girl’s first birthday, I was super busy with decorations. I remember waking up one morning thinking that I hadn’t pumped the night before. And then the next day I realized that I didn’t pump the last night either. And then a whole week passed, and I hadn’t pumped at all. My husband was away on a business trip that week. Sometime the next week after their birthday, he asked me if I was still pumping. I just casually said, “No,” and that literally was it. Moments later we were talking about something else. No discussion, no huge hurrah, no sobbing. It just was. And I love that. I think the slow decline really helped me move past the breastfeeding stage.
We started the girls on whole milk in sippy cups. Surprisingly, we have had no troubles with getting them to drink it. They just eat their three meals with us and drink milk at them and that’s it. We offer them milk in a sippy before bed, and they hardly touch it. Just like big girls! And so we’ve entered a new stage in our journey.
Looking back, I wish I hadn’t have put so much pressure on myself in those struggling months. But at the same time, I always give everything I’ve got to everything I do, so I doubt I would have done it any other way.
It’s funny how the story of my journey shortens as the months continue. I am sure other breastfeeding mommas can relate. It seems like such a big deal in the beginning (and I guess it is since eating is such a big component of baby’s early life), but as your baby grows, it’s importance becomes less and less. At this point, I don’t even have to track how ounces of whole milk my girls are getting, which is crazy since I used to stress so much about ounces per hour per boob produced. We have so many other things to focus on like walking and learning to talk and exploring the world.
So super long story short…
– I surprised myself with how much I would love breastfeeding and become attached to it.
– Don’t panic in the early days about nipple confusion and delay in your supply coming in.
– Breastfeeding twins is a lot of work, but doable. It’s even harder if you go back to work, so don’t feel like a failure if you can’t keep up. Our bodies aren’t designed to work like that.
– In the grand scheme of things it’s importance is very short lived. Focus on it while it is important, but don’t stress about it.
– Just like all aspects of babies growing, there will come a time when it is done. Cherish it, but know that there are other important and exciting things to take it’s place.
– I didn’t mention earlier but I will definitely cherish nursing sessions with my girls! From Brooklyn obsessively trying to latch to my boob, to Blakely waving her arms like a crazy girl and hitting Brooklyn while tandem nursing to them crawling over to me and nursing in crazy positions when they were older.
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