Sometimes we make choices as a mother that we are determined to stick to, no matter what. One of these choices was about breastfeeding. This is the story of how far I was willing to go, to do so.
I was walking the halls of a health & science tradeshow my last company had sent me to, when I came across a 60×40 poster that presented the research findings of a breastfeeding versus formula study. I thought to myself ‘what are the chances?’ See, I was already pregnant at the time, although my employer didn’t know it yet. Standing before my eyes, was a life size list of benefits associated with breastfeeding, and right there and then I decided I would breastfeed my twins.
I took a class on breastfeeding that was offered at the local Babies’R’Us, but of course this was a very basic class that really didn’t address the challenges of breastfeeding twins. It was more about proper latching techniques. It seemed straightforward enough I thought. Ah yes, ignorance is bliss.
Fast forward to Friday, September 11, 2015, the day my sweet twinkies were born via a hellish c-section. I didn’t see them until 5 hours after they were born because my body had gone into shock, I had lost a lot of blood and I was out for a while. Once my babies were put in my arms, it was complete love at first sight, and a bit of intimidation. I still couldn’t believe they were here!
FIRST BREASTFEEDING LESSONS
Someone asked me if I wanted to give them formula. I declined and reminded them I wanted to nurse my twins. I asked for a nurse to show me how to do so , because of course, I had pretty much forgotten all I had learned in that basic class.
She raised the bed up and propped up some pillows on one side, and placed Ian first in my arms, and proceeded to show me the right angle and position for optimal latching, and what a good latch looked like.
Let me tell you, latching is so much fun! Yes, I’m being sarcastic. It took a few tries to get it. Not just for babies, but for mamma too, especially how to correct a bad latch. The one thing i did remember from my basic breastfeeding class was that proper latching technique makes all the difference between a painful experience versus a bearable and eventually pain-free nursing experience. It really does!
I don’t know if it was the fact that I was still out of it and on meds, or having a nurse there to assist me with correcting latches, or feeling that hormonal high from having my twins there with me, but at the time, nursing didn’t seem so hard. I felt so accomplished! I asked the nurse to show me how to tandem feed them, which is basically when you place each baby on each breast and feed them at the same time. We tried it on the bed which for some reason felt awkward. Was it the fact that my ‘tatas’ were exposed to family and hospital staff? Not at all. I honestly could have cared less, they had seen much worse already! No, the awkwardness was in the position of the babies, and the bed seemed to constrict how well they were angled. So I painstakingly, slowly moved to the chair.
There I was, propped up on the chair, gloriously topless, a pillow on each arm, a baby on each breast furiously chomping away. Do you want to know what it felt like? Two piranhas gnawing at your boobs. Newborn gums are no joke! Yes, at first it was painful. Especially so because I wouldn’t bother to fix their latches if the nurse wasn’t around. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, my little piranhas were clamped on so tight, they didn’t want to let go. But, i was in such a state of hormonal high, it didn’t really phase me, I could handle it. I felt so proud of myself. Here I was, feeding my babies.
THEY ARE STILL HUNGRY!
An hour later, they were crying again, and I thought ‘OMG, I have to feed them every hour?!’ I knew nothing of breastfeeding then, just some articles i had read here and there. Never even thought to read an actual book on it. In fact, I hadn’t read any parenting books. I was totally winging it. I remember my mother saying “it’s like they are still hungry!” Stupidly, I responded with “oh, I read up on this, it’s cluster feeding, they must be going through a growth spurt.” Yep, I said that. Hello?! They were just born that day, how could they be going through a growth spurt?! Like I said, clueless.
This went on for 3 days, where pretty much every hour or every couple of hours, my twinkies would cry wanting to feed, and each time they furiously chomped away. All those days I kept asking for a nurse to show me how to use a breast pump. For some reason or another, it didn’t happen until Sunday, when my twins were 3 days old. That moment is forever stamped in my mind and in my heart. After the nurse showed me how to use the pump and instructed me to do it for 15 minutes, I sat there anxiously looking at the bottles hooked to my breasts. Not a single drop was coming out. Not one. I was starting to freak out. After 15 minutes, the nurse came around, and still, nothing. Not a single drop of anything.
I started crying hysterically when it dawned on me that my babies had been starving this entire time. No wonder every hour they cried, and no wonder they were so furious when they did breastfeed. The nurse and my husband tried to comfort me. The nurse explained this is why I had been asked if I wanted to give them formula, because apparently with a c-section your milk doesn’t come in for a while, sometimes up to 5 days. In my case, it took much longer. No one had explained that part to me. I felt so terribly guilty. They were only 3 days old, and already, I was failing them as a mother.
Because of this, they had lost a lot of weight, and we were told we may not be able to take them home if we didn’t get their weight back up within the next 2 days. They were born at 6lbs and 5lbs15oz, but by Sunday they had gone down to 5lbs. I was devastated. We were told we had a couple of options. We could either feed them formula with bottles, or if I was still set on breastfeeding, then we could feed them with a tiny syringe as they were breastfeeding. I opted for the latter. I know, I’m crazy like that.
HOW FAR I WAS WILLING TO GO
We were shown how to do this. This was a team effort, and I don’t know how I would have done it without my husband. Every 3 hours, my husband would wash and get the feeding tubes ready and insert one into each baby’s mouth while they latched on, pressing the syringe ever so slowly so they would think they were breastfeeding and learning how to do so until my milk came in. I honestly don’t know how my marriage survived that period. In my sleep deprived state, my impatient psycho self would come out and rage at my husband if he didn’t get the tube in right the first few times (which was the case almost each time, because guess what? He was tired too), the process was long enough as it was, feeding them ever so slowly with that damn tiny syringe.
By Tuesday, our twins’ weights had gone back up, and we were told we could leave the hospital. We were nervous to leave. Okay, more like downright scared. After all, we were giving up nursing assistance and the hospital’s ‘safety net.’ But mostly, we were excited to go home with our sons. My breastfeeding journey was underway. I just had never expected that it would start that way.
I breastfed my newborns with tiny formula-filled syringes every 3 hours, day and night, just so my breast milk would come in. 4 days in, my mother kept saying “you’re never going to produce milk, it’s been a long time already. And if it does come in, you probably won’t produce enough milk for both babies. Why don’t you just feed them formula with a bottle? Wouldn’t it be easier?”
I suppose I could have given up. Yes, it would have been easier in the short-term, but honestly, in the long-term, I saw formula feeding as more work. Why would I want to get 2 bottles ready on top of changing 2 sets of diapers every 3 hours for months, when I could just plop a baby on each boob? Not to mention the fact that breast milk is free. Formula, not so much! More importantly, I just kept thinking my twinkles would benefit from a wealth of vitamins, the right nutritional content, and antibodies that they could only get from my milk.
I stuck to my guns, I just knew deep down my body could produce milk, and would produce enough for the both of them. After all, I had carried twins at the age of 43. If my body could do that, it could produce milk, surely! Thankfully, I was right. After 2 weeks of that painstaking tiny formula-filled syringe breastfeeding torture, my milk finally came in. I felt so triumphant, it was the best feeling in the world because my body could finally feed my babies.
IT’S WORTH IT
I have been doing so until now, although we are down to one breastfeeding session a day. I suspect the day will come soon when it will end, and I know I will be sad when it does. I never thought I would make it this far. My goal at first had been to make it to 3 months, then I thought, ‘hey I made it this far, let’s see if I can keep going to 6 months.’ Then it was ‘let’s make it to their first birthday.’
And here we are, 19 months in. If someone had told me I would be nursing this long, I would have laughed at them. At first, it was more about doing the best I could for them. But soon, I found out how powerful nursing can be; for nourishment, for soothing and especially for healing. And with all of that, you get this amazing bonding experience. The first 2 weeks were truly the hardest, but by week 4, it got easier and it was a pain-free experience.
So yes, you can breastfeed twins. If there are no medical issues, and you are willing to be tortured for a little bit, it can be done. The secret really is in the latch, and a hefty dose of determination and grit. Breastfeeding can be hard at first, but it’s worth it. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have done it this long.