Feeding twins has been a fascinating journey to me. I could write forever about the experience but for now I thought I would write a little about their first form of nourishment…breastfeeding.
My journey started with NICU babies. My twins were born at 29 weeks, 5 days. I started pumping for them 2 hours after giving birth. I threw up as the medication from the emergency c-section had not warn off at that point. I cried from the pain that the pump caused me. I cried because I wanted to hold and nurse my babies. I cried because I didn’t know if they would live. And then, as the liquid gold came out, I cried tears of joy. This is not the way I had hoped things would go…but I had two babies that were alive and this was my start to nourishing them. I quickly turned my attitude around and got on board with putting their needs over my dreams.
As the weeks went by, the twins grew stronger and bigger. At 32 weeks gestation Wesley latched on for the first time. I will never forget that moment…I remember thinking “wow! I am actually nursing a baby!!!! Wes was the smaller of the twins but he was also the stronger one (it is often that way I am told). He was a speedy drinker…100 mL in 12 minutes the first time! It was unheard of. Over the coming days, NICU nurses came to watch him eat in awe of the 3 pound baby that was drinking so efficiently. You may wonder how we knew how much he drinking. You weigh the baby with only a diaper on and hold all the wires up as best possible. Then you nurse them and weigh them again after. The difference in weight is the amount they drank. Even if they have peed or pooped in the diaper during the feed, you leave it all in place for the final weight as it was in them before it came out so it all counts.
My other son, Clay, on the other hand was a LAZY drinker!!!! He would only nurse from one breast – “the slow flow one” as we called it for weeks. And he drank 15-20 ml in 15-20 minutes. He would suck and sit and suck and sit. His alarms went off constantly with “A’s and B’s” (apnea and bradycardia). It just wasn’t for him. But we persevered and slowly but surely he did eventually nurse well. He always took longer than his brother (and still is the slower eater to this day), but it didn’t matter to me what speed he ate at, as long as he was eating!
Nursing twins in the NICU is a little different process than nursing babies at home. First of all, they have wires attached to them. Secondly, their lips go blue and the alarms sound quite often as they desat and need time to sit up and re-oxygenate their blood. And last but not least, you have to pump ALL THE TIME! I longed to just hold the baby I had nursed, but instead I had to nurse one, nurse the next, then pump. This is to keep up supply for when they are older. Don’t get me wrong…I felt incredibly blessed to be doing this as I know my journey could have been so different. But at the same time, it was not what I had dreamed of.
At 37 weeks gestation we headed home. Both boys were drinking from the boob and the bottle which was nice. I was terrified to introduce the bottle, but I was so glad that I had when my husband could offer warmed breastmilk to one during night time feeds while I nursed the other. I found it easier to nurse one and the pump then nurse both and then pump. I would have never slept if I did that. Also, Clay preferred the bottle until he was about 3 months old because it was easier. I still nursed him as often as I could, but knew the bottle was more efficient for him at night.
For the most part, the boys drank at different paces and preferred different schedules during daytime hours until they were about 6 months old, then they settled into a similar routine. Everyone told me to get them on the same schedule right away, but it never failed that if I forced one to eat when the other one did we would end up with refluxed milk everywhere!!! Because they had been tube fed at the start, their esophageal sphincter was super weak and milk came back up very easily. For anyone who has pumped milk you know that you desperately want it all to stay down!!! It just wasn’t worth it to force them into a schedule that wasn’t their own. Moral of the story here…twins are VERY different from each other and have their own needs and wants. It was important to me to treat them as individuals right from the start in all areas, including feeding.
Eventually I dropped the pumping after daytime feeds, as they were drinking more and were on the move more so time wise it wasn’t practical to always pump. I stopped pumping altogether when they were 18 months and they both stopped nursing just before turning 2. I was 20 weeks pregnant with their little brother at that point and my milk was drying up on them.
I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to nurse two babies at once. The nourishment and immunological factors were very important to me but it went beyond that. The bonding time was significant too. At some point, I will write about the different experience I had nursing a singleton…which came only 18 weeks after the twins weaned themselves 🙂
One other piece I want to touch on is nutrition for moms who are nursing twins. You need to eat and drink every time you pump. Time is limited to care for yourself so eating and sleeping need to be two of your top priorities. It can be hard at times to take the time to do these things, but if you don’t eat, then the quantity of your breastmilk could suffer. Aiming for many small meals/snacks filled with complex carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, and sources of antioxidants is crucial. Healthy fats are important for the babies’ brain and eye development and it is the main nutrient that can be altered in breastmilk by your diet. For night feeds, having something at your bedside, or in the nursery, or ready in the kitchen is nice. I liked muffins and bananas because they were quiet to eat and filling. You can just grab it and head back to bed.
If you are currently pregnant with multiples, have one or more babies in the NICU, or nursing multiples of any age and have further questions about my journey, please feel free to email anytime! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.