If you try to breastfeed your twins, you won't make it long.' Or my all time favorite, 'You can't breastfeed twins. It's NOT possible.' These are the tales that new and expecting mothers of multiples (M.O.Ms) are often told. And to top it off, finding the information and support on a topic like breastfeeding positions for twins can be tougher than the journey itself. When it comes to the topic of breastfeeding twins, it hits such a big chord for me. There is no manual for parenting, so I can't 'turn to page 17 to find the magic answer on 'How to Calm Two Screaming Babies at Once'.' It just doesn't work like that. But with the right tools like proper breastfeeding positions and a good network of support which addresses breastfeeding positions for twins, you can find ways to make your parenting experiences a little more enjoyable and less stressful.
I knew even before I delivered the girls that I wanted to exclusively offer them breastmilk, and also pump so that Dad could enjoy feeding time too. And I was sure it was possible. 2 boobs 2 babies right? The problem was that in the beginning I didn't know anyone who had experienced breastfeeding twins, or even knew about it. And the fact that I personally did not know ANYTHING about proper breastfeeding positions for twins didn't really help either. All I knew was that I HAD to do it! Despite the several breastfeeding classes I took while pregnant, I felt like I was not prepared for this at all, or aware of, the adventure that was ahead of me. When the girls were born I dived in head first, eyes closed, and hoped for the best.
So, how did we make it to 21 months and counting you may ask? Here are 5 things I learned about breastfeeding twins along the way that I wish I would have known earlier:
1. Find a good support system!
It's my personal opinion that no matter how many children you have, or how old they are, support is something that you can always use and benefit from.
Postpartum support plays a HUGE role for not only moms but for the family as well. Some people don't realize that partners too can benefit from both giving and receiving breastfeeding support, and in turn, this can make life a whole lot easier on everyone. (Especially when you are busy learning to adapt to your new roles as parents AND getting to know your new (or 2) bundles of joy). So partners, this is for you: don't be scared to pitch in and help your partner achieve proper breastfeeding positions. YOU can help be the 'make not break' in giving your baby what they need most to thrive and encouraging the sense of attachment that they depend on.
Moms, make sure that you assert yourself when receiving information and guidance on breastfeeding positions! Go with your gut. If something doesn't sound right, look into it for yourself. If I would have listened to everything I was told, I would not have made it even a few hours into breastfeeding, or parented in the ways that felt natural to me. Do your own research, get a second opinion, consult with other like minded moms, and most of all trust your instincts. Don't ever feel like you have to settle because of what somebody told you.
2. Pumping is tricky
One thing that I had ingrained in my head from the first day was that my pump needed to be my 5th appendage. What they didn't tell me is that (unless it's for medical reasons), it is not really necessary. When I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to pump so that Dad wouldn't miss out on the feedings, but I didn't expect for it to take over my life. Looking back I realize there are a lot of things I could have done differently to be more successful with breastfeeding, and the main thing I wish I would have not worried about so much about down the road is pumping.
True, pumping is a great for working moms, overcoming medical obstacles, or including partners in feeding time, but it's not necessarily a must. Instead, spend that time focusing on building supply and encouraging milk production through skin to skin contact, nursing on demand, and bonding with your baby. Be sure to consult with a specialist to see what will work best for you. Pumping is often suggested for M.O.M.s for various reasons, and only you and your expert can ensure you are doing what is best for YOUR babies!
3. Nurse as often and for as long as needed
The only thing I really learned about breastfeeding before I started is that it is all about supply and demand. The more you tell your body you need, the more it will produce. The best way to signal to your body you need more is to keep your breasts empty, and the best way to empty them is to keep feeding your nurslings when they are hungry. A few months into breastfeeding, I learned that you shouldn't worry about how long they stay latched on, or how 'much' they have consumed as much as you worry about the fullness of your breasts and baby's wet diaper count. (Growth spurts are a great example of how feedings and intake can vary.)
When the girls were born, we were put on nursing restrictions due to their size and prematurity. They were at risk to burn more calories holding their latch then they got from their milk, so pumping wasn't an option for me. I wish that I would have known as soon as their restrictions were lifted that I need to worry more about waiting until THEY were finished (which could take over an hour!) and less about how long they nursed or pumping after feedings. Most importantly, I wish I would have understood more about how my body is naturally equipped and prepared to nourish my girls before I started to supplement formula. (But we'll save that story for another day.)
4. Eat (healthy), Drink (water), and Be Merry!
Breastfeeding moms are advised to consume at least 500 extra calories a day, but what's more important than how many calories you eat is WHAT you eat. It is rumored that you burn approximately 22 calories per ounce of milk you pump, so keep that in mind as you eat. It is important to follow a proper breastfeeding diet with good fats (avocado, nuts, coconut oil) and high in protein. You want to find ways to keep your body full of nutrients for your baby, and natural energy sources for yourself and mood. A great cheat to kill 2 birds with 1 stone is to eat fruits and veggies that have a high water content so you can hydrate while you eat! It is crucial for you as a breastfeeding mom to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Feed it when it's hungry, drink water when you're thirsty, rest when you are tired.
Drinking an excessive amount of water won't necessarily increase your supply, but staying well hydrated will help keep your supply flowing. I found always having water handy really helps me stay on top of my intake, so I keep a few water bottles stashed around the house, in the car, the diaper bag, etc. It is also important to keep in mind how active you are on a daily basis because that contributes to how quickly you expend your calories, water, and energy. (My two cents? You just had a baby! Relax and enjoy yourselves before you blink and are helping them move out for college.)
5. Take care of yourself!
When you have a baby, or two, it is inevitable that you will go through some changes (and in more ways than one). No matter what the new mommy life throws your way, don't forget about yourself. You now have to care for somebody who relies solely on others for survival and it can get overwhelming and stressful, making it easy to forget about your needs. Ask for help if you need it! Don't worry if you can't get to the chores, you have children! The mess isn't going anywhere, but your sweet babies will change a little everyday and you don't want to miss that!
I have found that the best way to keep my babies happy is to take keep myself happy. I was never able to exclusively breastfeed, and that caused me SO much stress and guilt, but my take on it was 'Some is better than none, and I am doing my best. And I'm ok with my best not 'being enough' for myself. Because to my girls, I seem to be more than enough.' I saw no point in beating myself up over something I was always working on improving (supply). Most importantly it wasn't fair for the girls to be stuck catching the emotional consequences of my stress and guilt. I mean either way they were full and happy and we were still thriving and bonding, so all was not lost right? The MOST important thing for me is that after almost 2 years later of the stress, tears, several close calls to the end, sticking to my gut, and giving it more than my all, I am STILL able to proudly call myself a badass breastfeeder!
I feel like I have been through it all when it comes to breastfeeding. From latch issues to supply issues, lack of information to wetnursing for a friend, and everything in between, my journey has been a source of joy, tears, and has definitely caused some stress in my adventures as a new mom, but not for one second would I change it for anything the world. Being able to share the intimate bonding experience AND nourish my babies with the best thing that I can provide them to grow and thrive has been beyond fulfilling.
Even though I greatly miss the 'itty bitty suckling days,' being able to rest assured that my, often times picky, toddlers are still receiving the nutrients and antibodies that their growing brains and bodies needs is more than enough to keep me invested in our nursing relationship. Not to mention that the boobies are my secret weapon. I have no earthly idea how else I am supposed to calm the toddler meltdowns, or even catch a few extra minutes of sleep in the mornings. As with many things in development, breastfeeding is not something that becomes magically unnecessary after a certain age, but rather something that will be different for everybody. The best thing to do, is RELAX and ENJOY. Find a good show on Netflix and feed your baby and yourself. Sprinkle in some light housework between feedings and during naptimes, but don't stress it. The more relaxed you are, the easier things will fall into place. Follow your babies lead, and equip yourself with enough tools to take the edge off, and the milkies will flow. Will it be easy? Probably not. Will it be worth it? Absolutely!
Also read more about: FAQs on Breastfeeding