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.

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