I had a lot of questions when I found out that I was pregnant with twins, none of which was whether or not I could breastfeed. I did a lot of Internet searches, which led me to buying a nursing pillow designed to tandem breast feed twins. All of my preparation did not prepare me for the reality of feeding two babies, both who had poor suck reflexes.
After my babies were born, I quickly understood that tandem nursing twins was going to take time to figure out. Getting the hang of feeding one was easy, when I could get her to latch on. My babies were born at 36 weeks 5 days gestation, and while neither had time in the NICU, they were both tiny and not good at nursing. I started using a breast pump the day after my babies were born and continued to use it every day, multiple times a day, for almost 3 months. I know I would not have been successful at breastfeeding if I had not had a pump available. Neither baby could get enough nourishment while eating directly from the breast, as they would both tire, and fall asleep before their stomachs were truly full
Our pediatrician was not nearly as supportive of my breastfeeding as I felt she should have been. I went into each appointment feeling really good, only to leave feeling horrible, and depressed. Our first month with the babies was spent at the doctor’s office getting them weighed, the doctor kept giving me formula samples because my kids were not gaining as fast as she thought they should, she wanted one of them to be on weight gaining formula. I agreed to use the formula with extra calories, but did not agree to use it as she instructed. She wanted me to quit breastfeeding, and use only the formula. I decided that I would continue to breastfeed, but would supplement every other feeding with the formula after the one baby had been on the breast. At the same time, I started supplementing with pumped milk after every feeding, as well, since the babies were much better at eating from a bottle, and did not tire out before getting the calories they needed. To ensure that my milk supply did not drop, I made sure that my breast pump got a very good work out after most feedings. After a few days of using formula after every other feeding, I decided that I could go to every third feeding. At our next weigh in, my child on formula had gained more weight than she needed. The other baby, who was receiving pumped milk after feedings, had gained exactly what our pediatrician was looking for. That was the first appointment that I left feeling good. I decided from there on out I was going to do what I thought was best for my children as long as I could tell they were thriving. I was instructed to continue feeding with the formula at every feeding. I never used formula again. Instead, I made sure that they got time on the breast, pumped milk in a bottle during the day, and only bottles at night. The bottle of milk was all they needed to continue gaining weight. At our next weigh in the doctor commented on how well the formula was working and told me to continue using it; I neglected to tell her that I had stopped the formula.
We continued to feed both girls out of a bottle at night, and straight from the breast during the day until they were almost 3 months old. At 3 months both decided on the exact same night, and same feeding that they were done with bottles. They were breastfeeding well by that point, and I was tired of not sleeping. To ensure that my supply met their demands, I was pumping after every bottle feeding at night. It was not uncommon for me to get 20 or 30 minutes of sleep in between each feeding session. I was exhausted, though I’m a stubborn person, and knew that I could get through the lack of sleep if I just gave it time. I was getting a little more sleep by the time my twins decided to stop taking bottles, and I was still grateful for the break in midnight pumping sessions. I was able to tandem nurse them by that point, while they still woke often to eat, our nights started to go much better.
Poor latch, slow weight gain, and refusal of bottles were not the only obstacles I faced while breastfeeding. Both kids were spitting up a lot after feedings, their skin was dry with patches of eczema, and they periodically had green bowel movements. Knowing that dairy intolerance’s ran in my family, I quickly realized that I would need to cut dairy out of my diet. I had cut dairy out of my diet once before, so I knew to read all labels as there are dairy products in so many foods. Thankfully, dairy was the culprit, so I didn’t have to look for another food item to eliminate.
I introduced sippy cups with breast milk when they were around 5 months old, as they would no longer drink from a bottle. While they wouldn’t take a lot from the sippy, they would take some which allowed me to leave them for short periods of time without worrying if they were hungry. My kids continued to get most of their calories from breast milk until they were about 13 months old; they loved to breastfeed. We offered them a wide variety of foods that they enjoyed, but they didn’t like anything as much as my milk. I had people asking me often when I planned on weaning them, however I had no plans to wean. The girls were happy nursing, and I was happy to nurse them.
We had changed pediatricians by this time. At every appointment she would ask if they were still breastfeeding, as well as if they were sleeping through the night yet. At every appointment I told her no, but instead of making me feel bad, she would ask if I was okay with that, and moved on. She offered encouragement at each appointment after I would tell her that I was okay with them nursing at night and throughout the day. At 16 months, both kids slept through the night for the first time without waking to nurse, and that was the end of our night nursing. I have to admit that by that time I was more than ready to be done with nursing them at night. Letting them decide they were done made it a smooth transition for all of us. The end of our nursing relationship was closer than I thought.
I personally had not decided when I would stop nursing, I was willing to let them self wean as long as I was still happy nursing them. Just before 19 months, both children self weaned, I was sad. I could still hold and cuddle them, but I missed the nursing bond. I missed watching them tease each other as they tandem nursed, I missed their acrobatic moves and most of all, I missed those nursing smiles. While I missed all of that, I would be dishonest if I didn’t also say that I quickly got over my sadness. I still missed parts of nursing bond, but my children and I were able to fill that time with other amazing activities.