Thursday, March 19, 2015

Breastfeeding Twins - An Interview

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah, a mom from my local LLL, who breastfeeds her twins. They are almost 20 months and still going strong. Wow, how amazing! Deborah didn't plan on having a caesarean section, but developed HELPP (a severe form of preeclampsia) one day shy of 39 weeks. With one baby transverse and the other breech, it was decided that delivering via c-section was the safest thing for everyone. Many women think that having a c-section will reduce their odds of successful breastfeeding, but Deborah proves that wrong. She shares some information that is helpful whether you are breastfeeding multiples or just one nursling. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and story, Deborah!

Q: Many moms think they can't breastfeed with multiples, but you're proof that's not true. Tell me what it's like nursing twins?
A: I think the best statement for breastfeeding multiples is to be flexible and open to change. As they grow their needs change, and being flexible and open to change makes things much less stressful. I exclusively breastfed my twins and my two older children. I remember while pregnant my own mother asking me if I was planning to breastfeed. When I answered yes, she was astonished and asked how I would be able to do that. I just said "Luckily God blessed me with two boobs for two babies!" This is how I breastfed - I would switch breasts with babies. If Baby A fed on the left breast, then the next time Baby A ate, I would switch that baby to the right breast and vice versa with Baby B.

Q: How did you maintain good supply?
A: I wasn't really focused on milk supply, per se. I made sure (along with my husband) that I ate and drank plenty of fluids. Also, I nurse on demand and allow the twins to nurse until they are done. As long as they were growing as expected, I left the stress of trying to figure out if I was producing enough milk for others to worry about. As a mom with newborn twins, a two year old, and a fourteen year old, I had enough to be concerned about. So if an issue presented itself, then that would have been dealt with. Now every momma has something that they are concerned with and even though, for me, this was not a concern, there were many other things that did come up as concerns. Concerns go with the parenting territory and what is easy for one may be hard for another. This is why we need each other for support and help!

Q: We all know that we can reach a point of feeling touched out. What do you do when you have two babies who need to nurse and you just want some alone time?
A: Many times I have to assess what is really wrong with me. Why am I cranky, upset, or spent? I had to build a short list of things to check off to help me quickly determine what my issue(s) may be so I can be available for these babies that don't know anything about what momma might need. Short checklist - When did I eat? When did I have something to drink? Am I still sleepy? If I am irritated, when did I start feeling this way, because that timeframe is where the trigger is and what about the circumstance irritated me. I give myself permission to not solve the problems at that time but if I at least know what the problem is, I am able to give myself and my babies a little more needed grace because I know what the problem is and that I may not be able to address once I have taken care of the babies.

Q: What is the most difficult and most rewarding thing about breastfeeding two babies?
A: I think the most difficult thing about breastfeeding two babies has been when we are out in public and they are nursing multiple times back to back. You know they are nursing for more than just eating, but sometimes it is hard to address those needs in that situation when it's both of them at the same time. I usually have to tell myself to focus on baby and not on other things going on so that I don't get stressed because most times, the babies are just sleepy, teething, or not feeling well. So when I focus on them and figure out the issue, the situation is easier to deal with.
The most rewarding thing is having that alone time with them. Gazing at them while they nurse, sometimes to sleep, snuggling and cuddling, because once they are on the move they don't slow down for long. Plus, it is such a short amount of time when you look at it in the grand scheme of things that it reminds you to slooooow down and enjoy the moment!

Q: What advice can you give to moms wanting to nurse twins?
A: The advice I would give is to determine what your true "goal" is; don't worry about a length of time; don't worry if everything is perfect; and enjoy the time, because it is only a moment in time. If your children live to be 80 years old and you nursed them for 1 year, that time is so small in comparison.  Make sure you surround yourself with as many supportive people as possible. Build your breastfeeding support network prior to your babies arriving. Attend LLL meetings, get in contact with a local lactation consultant, join a mom's group or playgroup, determine which family members are supportive and have them around in the early days. Most times, whether a mom of multiples or a singleton, most breastfeeding issues or questions come after visitors are gone, in the middle of the night, or some seemingly inconvenient time. If you have these relationships already established, you will be more comfortable calling on these people during these times. Most times they can help bring a stressful situation to a place where you can see yourself through it.

Q: In the early weeks of no head control, what advice/tips do you have for tandem positioning?
A: The things that helped me were a wide rocking recliner, pillows, and a twin breastfeeding pillow. I spent many nursing sessions in the recliner. I would cradle one twin in my arm, then lay the other on a pillow that rested on the recliner's arm. If I nursed on the couch, I would nurse them using the twin breastfeeding pillow in a football hold. If I were nursing in the bed, I usually added a couple pillows to help me and the babies get comfortable. I would also add that for night nursing, having a dimmer switch for your lamp is essential. You don't have to have extremely bright light, but enough to see what's going on and to make any adjustments. The dim light keeps you and the babies from "waking up" completely and is less disruptive.

Q: What was most comfortable for you - couch, floor, recliner, etc?
A: The recliner was the most comfortable as long as I had an extra pillow. I could cradle one baby in my arm and nurse the other while they laid on the pillow on the arm rest. It left an available hand/arm for adjusting, drinking water, stroking baby's face, etc.

Q: If you nursed simultaneously, what advice do you have for keeping them on the same schedule? If you nursed separately, what worked for you?
A: I did both as I nursed on demand. I think the advice I would give for those that nurse separately is to consider nursing simultaneously at night, at least so that as a parent you are able to get as much sleep as possible while nursing both babies. Nighttime nursing twins separately was lots of lost sleep as one would wake up and by the time I was done nursing and putting that baby back to sleep, the other would wake up. The caveat to that is my twins have two different sleeping patterns, and even when I nursed them at the same time, one would notoriously still nurse at a different time later. So I guess I would say as before, remember to be flexible because what works for one mama/baby may or may not work for the next mama/baby.

Q: One mom asks "I did A LOT of nursing in the car when we were out and about in the early weeks. Is that even possible with twins and how do you manage?"
A: I nursed wherever I was. I rarely made a beeline to my car for nursing. The thing I found out in the early days of being out and about was that, for me, it was easier to nurse them separately because when I nursed them together in public, I felt like all eyes were on me even if they were just sideways looks. Those thoughts made me extremely uncomfortable and nursing in public uncomfortable. So instead of waiting for the twins to realize they were hungry, I would just somewhat anticipate when they might be ready to nurse and initiate the nursing, then nurse the next twin. Because they weren't at the point of "needing" to nurse, it was easier for the other baby to "wait their turn" or be distracted by the world around them.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Adventure 2.0

Early in the morning on February 15th, after weeks of prodromal labor and wishing she would arrive, she did. She came fast and furious and is absolutely perfect. C2 was born in three pushes with the help of my amazing husband, a nurse who I was reluctant to have at first but ended up being one of the best labor nurses I have ever met and my OB who I don't know how to have babies without. The birth story itself is for another time and place but I will just say that it could not have been more perfect.

Once she was born and placed on my chest, aside from a brief pause so I could visit the loo, my amazing 7 pound 9 ounce princess stayed on my chest and nursed for about 2 hours after she was born and remained there snuggling for another hour or so before they weighed, measured, footprinted and otherwise processed our new addition. This labor and delivery were so much different than the 11 hours of pitocin, continuous fluids and for the most part being bedridden in labor with my son to then be draped and put in stirrups for delivery. This delivery was so much less traumatic on me since I had fewer interventions and less traumatic on my daughter for all sorts of reasons, including her being in a better position than my son was during his delivery. I really believe that all of this contributed to me having a better supply and establishing a better breastfeeding relationship with her right off the bat than I had with my son.
Remember when I said that I was fairly certain I made skim milk with my first? Guess what - full fat, full force this time around. My son was a few weeks earlier and about 3/4 lb smaller than my daughter. He was constantly on the breast and never....ever slept. The princess eats, gains and sleeps! She was discharged from the hospital weighing just shy of 6 oz less than birth weight and was back up to her original weight before she was two weeks old!

I'm not saying all of this to boast or to get atta-girls on the birth, my supply or even my wonderful daughter. I am saying all of this because it is NIGHT AND DAY from one child to the next. I suffered with slow weight gain, jaundice, low supply, pumping, supplementing with pumped milk daily and the lack of sleep with my son, plus the post partum anxiety and depression for months after. By the grace of God, we haven't had to deal with any of that this time around. To the mothers who had awful breastfeeding experiences with the first child and are debating giving it a go for another round: please do. Please don't be discouraged by the rough patches that come with being a first time mom, a first time nurser and all of the things that come along with it. Please don't decide to deny your second child the most amazing gift of your milk, snuggles and the things that go along with it because you are afraid of having the same experience the second time around. I can tell you that I haven't and I am so grateful. I'm not giving any sort of guarantee, but there is hope, I promise.

I kind of wondered what I was going to write about this time around. I thought I was going to have the same issues but I'm definitely not. In the year to come, I hope to write on tandem feeding, over supply, diet, returning to work and whatever else comes our way.

I'm truly looking forward to sharing the second chapter of my Adventure with you all.

Til next time mamas - 
Keep Calm and Nurse On

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Letter to My Sister

I love being pregnant. This second time around has been even more joyous because my sister is pregnant, too. We've been best friends for nearly 29 years and have shared so many milestones with each other. So far this one is probably my favorite.

Even though you and I don't share that kind of history, we have both experienced the fears and hopes that are part of anticipating motherhood. I'm hoping you'll hear my heart in this letter and tuck away the bits that resonate with you.

Dear sister,

I've been ruminating on so many things that it's difficult to sort through them and find words that are as cogent as the way they seem when they are just thoughts in my head. I will do my best though.

I remember so vividly the day you called me to tell me your big news...and the day I called to tell you mine. Lots of "aghhh!" and "oh my word" and "I am SO EXCITED!" And in the months that followed there was lots of "What do you think about..." and "What did you guys do for..." Your firsts have often followed mine, but the exciting thing about this first is that it's not just my footsteps you can use as a guide. You are being ushered into an ancient legacy, one much bigger than the sisterhood we share. Women the world over have experienced this anticipation and though each of our experiences is unique, they are all the same, too. It's a beautiful gift, one I know you thank God for daily. It's also an enormous responsibility, one that can seem heavy at times. You have so much on your mind these days; there are a few things I want you to know.

You think about labor and delivery being just around the corner. I know how strong you are. No matter what happens, I have complete faith that you will kill it in that delivery room while the rest of us wait outside, praying and cheering you on. Natural birth, medications, c-section, will come out the other side as a mother and none of it will matter.

You think about what you'll need as you sift through gifts and check off your list. Pack your bag. All the other sorting and organizing is nice to have finished, but not a necessity. Be sure to slow down these last few weeks and savor some alone time with your husband, some alone time with yourself, and relish the ability to run into Kroger for 2 minutes to grab a gallon of milk.

You think about the hard seasons you've seen me and other moms go through, especially at the beginning. I know the stories of raw nipples and sleepless nights can seem intimidating, but those tough days are temporary and far outnumbered by days full of joy. In anticipation of the challenges you may face, I promise to tell everyone that if they truly love you, they will bring you food. Tuck away this little gem and this one...they are two of the most helpful resources that kept me sane in those chaotic moments when I doubted myself. It felt like such a relief to know I wasn't alone...that what our new little family was experiencing was normal.

You think about whether you will be a good mom. I know without a doubt the kind of mom you'll be. You're an enthusiastic aunt, a genius game player, a compassionate listener, an affectionate friend. You see people's problems as an opportunity to love them better. Your best qualities will be just what your little guy needs to learn about the way he should go, and your shortcomings will be an opportunity for all of you to grow.

You think about the love you know now...the love of your creator, your husband, your family, your friends. Just wait. I know the feeling you'll experience when you meet your sweet baby will help you understand true love better. Like a friend told me once, it's Big Love.

You think about the unknowns, the big decisions, the uncertainty ahead. I know that you are blessed to have a steady and supportive husband and many loving friends. Surround yourself with people who know you well and respect your goals and dreams, whether they are about breastfeeding, parenting, nutrition, etc. I want you to know that I am here, too. I am ready to listen, to pray, to advise, or simply just be with you whenever you need me, as only a sister can.

Sister power 4 lyfe.

Love you,