Before my twins were born, I never thought much about how I am going to feed them. Breastfeeding was the most obvious choice for me, especially after I successfully breastfed my first daughter for 18 months. I was a lucky mother who didn’t experience any pain, had plenty of milk and had a newborn that latched on easily. Since my experience with her was so smooth, I assumed it would be the same with my twin girls.
As you might have already read, the girls were born early and at first they were only getting their nutrition through a tube that went straight into their stomach. There was not much I could do for them at that time –visit them daily and pump breast milk. When the twins were two weeks old, the nurses started giving them the bottle with some breast milk in it. The girls would drink a bit and the rest was still supplied through a tube. When the twins were three weeks old, I was allowed to try breastfeeding them but for no longer than 5 minutes so they don’t get too tired.
After five weeks in the hospital, we were sent home. The nurses showed me how to tandem feed the twins at the same, wished me luck, and assured me that I will be exclusively breastfeeding in a couple of week. At home I learned quickly that tandem breastfeeding wasn’t going to work for me. One of the girls was a good eater – she latched on and drank continuously. Her sister, however, twisted and turned, and wiggled, unlatching every few minutes. I tried feeding them one at a time and even bought a scale to track how much the girls consumed. Well, it was not much and I still had to give them the bottle and the end. Suddenly, a perfect twins feeding schedule that we inherited from a German hospital was under a threat of becoming a chaos. Feeding each of the girls separately and pumping after took all of my time and was just a little overwhelming for me.
So I reverted back to the comfort of pumping and giving the bottle with expressed breast milk. I always fed them at the same time and in no time we were back on a perfect four-hour feeding routine. Exclusively pumping for the girls had other benefits – most important it gave me more freedom and flexibility. I was producing plenty of milk for them, it was free, so if needed I could sneak out of the house to do other stuff, for example, with my older daughter. I was even able to ski for a half day once. One thing I noticed when bottle-feeding the twins, that they would wake up from their naps happy and cooing. They also patiently waited till we warm up their bottles. My older daughter who was exclusively breastfed would always wake up screamingly crying. I could not even imagine not putting her to the breast as soon as she was awake, making her wait a few minutes. At the time I thought it was a norm, but I was happy to discover there was another way. The twins started sleeping from 8 pm till 4 am – a longer stretch of time at night – when they were two month old (adjusted age).
At the beginning I would still breastfeed each of the girls once a day for stimulation and bonding when I knew their father could take care of feeding the second baby. When we were both at home, we’d each hold and feed one of them, giving us one-on-one bonding time. When I was alone or at night, when their dad and I took turns feeding the twins, we would put them in their cars seats. Thankfully, I was able to produce more than enough milk for both of them in the early months and I was able to freeze quite a bit.
Below are some tips for a mother who wants to succeed exclusively pumping
- Relax and find something else to do while you are pumping. If you look at your watch and constantly check those bottles to see how much you’re producing, your pumping sessions will be from hell. I always read a book, or browsed something on a computer. I also work from home so I was able to spend some of my most focused working hours while pumping.
- Take care of yourself: try to get as much sleep as the twins would allow, stay hydrated and eat enough, and also eat the milk supply boosting foods. Oatmeal and nuts of any sort are perfect for boosting your milk supply. So how about some apples with almond butter for a snack and some oatmeal with blueberries for breakfast?
- Fenugreek tablets. I didn’t take any supplements because I had enough milk as is. But many swear by the magic properties of fenugreek to noticeably increase their milk supply. Consult your doctor before taking any supplements while breastfeeding.
- Make sure you have a good, hospital-grade pump. I used Medela and it worked well for me.
- More demand for milk means more supply. The more you pump, the more you produce, so in the first two months, when the girls were still in the hospital, I would wake up and pump every four hours and would store that up as extra. You are establishing your milk supply at the beginning so it is important to empty out your breasts at regular intervals during these first few months.
- Don’t waste any milk. Anything extra I’d store in a fridge and when I had a good amount, put it in a freezer bag and freeze it. Breast milk stays good in the freezer for up to six months and up to three days in the fridge.
How to Make Time for Pumping
My biggest challenge was finding time to pump. Pumping hands-free with a special bra didn’t work for me because I couldn’t get a good fit. So I had to sit down for 20 minutes several times a day – which meant I did it mostly when the girls were asleep, and it took a lot of my free time. It seemed all I did was pump, feed, and wash everything, only to get finished and start the whole cycle over again. Some moms get creative and pump anywhere – driving in a car, while feeding the twins– I didn’t get there.
I was able to pump and feed the girls for nine months. I fed them breast milk only until they were five month old. After that I started supplementing with solids and formula once a day. If breastfeeding you twins is not quite working for you, I encourage you to give pumping and feeding a bottle a try. The babies will get all the precious nutrients from the breast milk and you will be able to save some money on formula.