Friday, 23 January 2015

Breastfeeding twins - my experience so far

by Bex

Breastfeeding two babies has been difficult but oh so worth it.  I feel so proud to be able to say I have now exclusively breast fed the twins for 10 weeks and counting.

Skin to skin breastfeeding Priya on day one. 

I know that not everyone is lucky enough to be able to breastfeed and some simply choose not to.  I can also easily see why some people might have to or want to give up, it takes sheer determination to be able to continue in some cases and had we not been able to get Kal's tongue tie fixed so quickly, I'm pretty sure I couldn't have kept going!  After a few days I couldn't imagine feeding them for weeks never mind months!  I'd always hoped I'd be able to manage to breastfeed them for at least 6 months but I was trying to be realistic and not put too much pressure on myself if I found it too hard.  I felt so disappointed when I thought I might not manage but I knew Nik would support me whatever happened and it wasn't worth making myself upset and stressed if I couldn't do it.

I know people who haven't been as lucky as me and really wanted to breastfeed but couldn't for various reasons and despite some serious effort in some cases.  I was very lucky in that I had lots of support to help me keep going when I found it tough and we found a solution to my pain.  Not only had I prepared Nik by asking him to help me try to keep going as long as it wasn't making me and/or the babies stressed and miserable (basically by not making it easy for me to give up and encouraging me in what I was doing) but I also had some great help from the midwives and a very good 'Breast Friends' volunteer in hospital as well as from the midwives in the birthing centre we had a couple of nights in post-discharge before going home.  (I have to say one of the midwives squeezing my nipple trying to express colostrum on the first day to make sure the twins were getting enough was pretty horrendous but there was another midwife who was extremely helpful and she was much more effective and less painful at hand expressing for me while I learned what to do.)

Priya feeding less than 2 hours after she was born

Priya receiving some expressed colostrum on day 1

 Feeding Kal while Priya waits, then feeding Priya while I have dinner - day 1

Feeding Kal - day 1

On day 4 (Friday) when my milk started coming in and I had the hormonal surge people had warned me causes the (usually day 3) blues, I was really struggling.  It was very frustrating as I'd been told by more than one midwife that the twins' latch looked perfect after I was shown how to help them on day one.  Despite this, my nipples ended up cracked and bleeding after being mangled by Kal due to his tongue tie (which was only slight but made a huge difference to his ability to feed properly!) and I was dreading the next feeding time.  I knew I couldn't do it and I asked for help.  I received it.  Nik was supportive and helped me not to feel like a failure.  I called Roz in floods of tears and she told me how she'd had a similar crying fit during a hard time in the early days and she offered advice and empathy as well as giving me hope that it should get easier as it had for her.  And finally the midwife fetched the breastfeeding support volunteer and we came up with a plan.

As for the emotional side of things, I was a mess in the morning!  We were dealing with Kal at one point and waiting for some help from the midwife and Priya was crying.  When we picked her up she had an actual tear!  Her first tear and I felt SO guilty!  I burst into tears thinking she'd thought we'd abandoned her as she'd been crying (not just noisy cries it turned out but actual tears!!) for a couple of minutes before I could pick her up.  It was horrendous!  (Obviously there have been many more tears since and I just have to tell myself that there's only one of me and two of them so despite my best efforts, sometimes one will have to cry for longer than if there were just one of them but it doesn't help with the guilt and heart wrenching when I see those tears!)

Feeding Priya - 3 days old

I was so concerned about switching to a bottle (of either expressed milk or formula) on just day 4, well before breastfeeding was established but they reassured me that it is not as much of an issue as is made out and that it certainly wouldn't mean I couldn't get the babies back on the breast.  They brought me a breast pump and showed me how to use it.  Initially I continued feeding Priya and we gave Kal the expressed colostrum/milk but my nipples were still painful and bleeding so we decided I'd rest the boobs completely for a few days to allow healing and only feed the babies expressed milk from a syringe/bottle.  I felt better pretty quickly just knowing there was a plan and it wasn't necessarily the end of the breastfeeding.  I was discharged the next day (Saturday) and we went to Crowborough Birthing centre where they also fetched me a breast pump and did all the sterilising for us!

Feeding Priya - day 4

They also helped me to get Priya back on the breast two days later as I was scared by this point that it was still going to be painful but luckily it was fine and I could see how it could work.  If we'd gone home without stopping at the birthing centre for those two extra nights I'm not sure I would have managed to get back to breastfeeding so easily.  They also sorted me out an appointment asap to fix Kalyan's tongue tie on the Tuesday.  Luckily for me, we had no problems with his latch once that was sorted and after those few days of expressing while my nipples healed, I was able to start feeding both twins back on the boobs again.

Feeding Priya - day 4 - she just loves to wave her hands around!

I have still had some pain since then, either due to the excessive amount of time I have a tiny person suckling on each breast, particularly during growth spurts when they are just hungry All. The. Time, or as a result of someone chomping down a bit too hard in overexcitement to get fed!  It's never been bad enough that I've had to stop although I did rest a nipple for a day or so if one became too sore and just pumped that side instead.  Expressing has definitely been a life saver from this respect as well as helping my milk supply.  I am SO glad I bought a breast pump before the twins arrived as we were given a loan of one in the hospital but I was having to pump every time I fed Priya while Kal was exiled from the boob for making them bleed (poor thing, totally not his fault) and knowing I had my own ready at home made it much less stressful than if we had to go about finding one when we were discharged.

Kal having some expressed milk at home - day 8
He used to love holding his face!

Besides the initial issues with severe pain and just the general discomfort while the nipples get used to their function, the other thing which could have been difficult is just the time it takes to feed the babies.  Although I had managed to successfully tandem feed them a few times right from the beginning, it wasn't easy to get them latched on and Nik had to help each time as well as lots of bolstering with pillows.

Tandem feeding the twins on day 3, gosh they were so teenie!

It's only now they are a bit bigger and we're all more used to it that I am confident latching them with one hand and I'm using the breastfeeding pillow (I was worried it would be too uncomfortable at first following my section) which has made life a whole lot easier and freed up a lot of time between feeds!  Given that it takes about an hour for a full feed (including nappy change so about 45 minutes really), if I wasn't able to tandem feed I would be left with very little time to sleep between night feeds and hardly any time to feed myself during the day!  Not only has it saved time but it also enables me to feed them hands free!  I often support them with my hands anyway as I love to stroke them behind their ears while they feed but it means I can use my phone or the remote control, take a drink or even eat over them if I need to (which I often do!) and of course, take photos of them!

The first time using the twin feeding pillow.

I bought the Harmony Duo twin feeding pillow and highly recommend it!  Now that I've healed following my section, it's very comfortable.

You can see how it supports them in just the right place.

It also works well as a rest for the twins once we've finished feeding.  Sometimes I just let them snooze there rather than disturb them, it also makes it easier for me to entertain both of them at once when they're awake as it's difficult to hold them both at once while also being able to see their faces.

Priya loves to stretch, regardless of where her brother's face is ;)

Although I have frequently fed the twins in public, I do feed them one at a time when out and about.  I obviously don't use the pillow in public as it's a) too bulky to take anywhere and b) I'm not THAT confident that I'd get both boobs out at once.  I am happy to say I am much less self conscious now than I thought I'd be and it was quite nerve wracking the first time (on day 8, after Kal had his tongue tie fixed we had a coffee in the WRVS cafe in the hospital and I fed him there) but I've never had any horrible stares or bad comments.  Of course I am prepared with my reaction if I ever do but I think it would have been hard initially to actually stand up for myself if I did encounter any negativity.  I'm hoping that such incidences that I have read about in the media are actually few and far between as it's certainly been my experience that I've had people come and tell me the twins are beautiful while I'm feeding one of them, without batting an eyelid about the fact I am breastfeeding, which is as it should be in my opinion.

So far I have also fed them in two local pubs and a cafe, Asda, Sainsbury's, Yo Sushi, an Italian restaurant, Costa and Ikea.  If I couldn't feed them in public I'd never be able to go anywhere for more than 30 minutes for fear of screaming babies.  I prefer feeding them at home because it's more comfortable on my sofa with the twin pillow but I love the freedom I have being able to just leave the house and not have to worry about when I need to get home or lugging bottles around with me and having to plan how much milk to take or where I might be able to heat it.  Being able to just sit down anywhere and feed my babies is just fab!

Out for dinner with Nik & his parents at the Crow & Gate - 16 days old

In Yo Sushi with Nik - 8 weeks old

In Otello with Nik, my parents and my brother - 
Although I've mostly been with people whom I know would back me up if I faced any negativity, I'm now confident enough to nurse in public on my own as I had to in Costa when Nik had gone for a Christmas present for someone while I rested and ate after we registered the twins' birth.  Priya decided she was hungry too!  My confidence is definitely helped by thinking of Anna saying she had a breastfeeding in public face, I can imagine her glare were anyone to dare challenge her.

Other than the freedom it gives us being able to get out and about with ease, I just love feeding the babies.  The noises they make, the satisfied faces when they're done, the way they gently grasp or hug my boob while they eat (and Priya's Jazz Hands below!), the way they sometimes hold hands while feeding together... it's just magical!  I didn't realise quite how many photos I had taken of them feeding but I'm glad I did, despite our difficulties, they are all happy memories for me.

Jazz Hands - day 4, during my blood transfusion

Priya on day 2 - SO teenie in comparison to the boob!!

Kalyan on day 2

Kalyan on day 2 again - skin to skin

I just love the eye contact although they still often close their eyes when feeding - 8 days old
Kalyan - 12 days old
Feeding the twins one at a time - 16 days old

Getting used to the feeding pillow with tired eyes - 5 weeks old, boob box in the background!
It gets awfully hot with both babies against me so I often just wear vests when feeding at home.

Holding hands for the first time - 5 weeks old
6 weeks old

Feeding on Christmas Day :)
6 weeks old

Holding hands on boxing day - 6 weeks old

I'm SO lucky!!!


Another Bun said...

Oh my goodness, just too much cuteness in these pictures! Making me v broody for wee bun to arrive :) you're amazing - you should be very proud of all your efforts

Kirsty | A Safe Mooring said...

I love you for posting these pictures! They've put a huge smile on my face.

Lynky said...

Hey, you forgot about Marks & Spencer! Love the post, well done.

Emma R said...

Beautiful photos and a great achievement breastfeeding them both!

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