Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Adventures in Breastfeeding Twins

I'm finally getting around to writing a post about breastfeeding Vivienne and Miles.  That has definitely been the biggest challenge for me so far.

I started pumping in the Recovery room after the babies were born.  The hospital let us use a hospital-grade breast pump (an Ameda elite).  Of course, in the beginning, it was just colostrum, so we were only getting a few droplets at a time.

Vivienne was finally brought to our room around 4 o'clock that day (she had to be in the Special Care Nursery for 4 hours of observation) and I could breastfeed her for the first time.  She was a voracious eater from the beginning, but she has a very small mouth, unfortunately.  In addition, our pediatricians noticed that she had pretty serious tongue tie, preventing her from being able to stick her tongue out and get a proper latch.

Miles was brought to our room the next night around 9 or 10 PM after spending about 36 hours in the Special Care Nursery.  I nursed him a couple times in the nursery while a nurse watched his breathing.  Then we were allowed to bring him back to our room after getting the all clear.  He also eats like a champ.  But he also had a slight tongue tie that was also affecting his latch.

At the hospital and in the first week at home, we used something called an SNS (Supplemental Nursing System).  It's basically a small, plastic container for the milk or formula with a little tube that the babies can suck from while they are breastfeeding.  Using the SNS, the babies can take in more volume in the same amount of time on the breast.  At the hospital and the first day home, we used formula in the SNS.  Then we switched to using my expressed breast milk, because I was pumping more than enough.  After a week or so of using the SNS, we stopped using it altogether because the babies seemed to be gaining good weight with the breastfeeding sessions alone.  I was thankful to not use the SNS any longer, because it was difficult to get the tubes to stay in the babies' mouths, and sometimes the plastic container would leak all over me.

The unfortunate thing about the babies' tongue tie (coupled with Vivienne's small mouth) is that it makes me very, very sore.  After we had their frenectomies on July 23, their latches improved dramatically.  But by that point, I was already very sore, so it has been a long road to recovery.  I'm still dealing with the soreness today, and I'm hoping that it goes away soon.  I hate cringing every time I know that the babies need to eat (and they eat very frequently - anywhere from every hour to every three hours).  Plus, with feeding twins, I'm using both sides all the time, so my body never gets a break.

In the beginning, I was also pumping after every single feeding, including all the night-time feedings.  That is a lot of pumping.  I was pumping at least 8-10 times a day for anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes.  We rented an Ameda elite to use at home for the first month.  I'll probably use a smaller pump after we have to return this one.

Our pediatrician's office has a wonderful lactation consultant, Ann Conlon-Smith, who has been extremely helpful for us.  She checks the babies latches, measures how much they get when they breastfeed (using a scale) and helps us know how much to pump.  She definitely gives us a lot of confidence in what we're doing.  At our last appointment, she said that we are the poster children for breastfeeding twins.  That made me feel great, considering that we're always questioning whether we're doing the right things for the babies.  We have only given them bottles on a handful of occasions (on a few nights to give me an extra 2 hours of sleep and a couple times with the vitamin D), and the rest of them time they mostly tandem breastfeed, which is quite a sight (no pictures included of that!).

We're also renting a baby scale from Ann.  We weigh the babies before and after they eat.  That way, we can calculate exactly how much milk the babies each get every time they breastfeed.  They have gotten as much as 2.8 oz in a single session.  It's usually closer to the 1.5 oz mark, though, for an average feeding.

Luckily, we haven't had any issues with milk supply, which is a common issue with twins.  In addition to all their feedings, I'm able to pump about 3 oz per 15 minute pumping session (at least 3 to 5 times a day).  We're at the point now where we're freezing the milk.  I'm still not sure how we're going to use all this frozen milk, considering that we don't give them bottles now.  Our inventory is growing and we don't currently use it for anything.  I suppose we could use it someday, though.  My milk will adjust itself as the babies grow and as their needs change, though, so I don't think we would want to try to give them this milk after a month or so, because they would have different dietary needs at that point.

Breastfeeding twins has been the most difficult part of being a twin mommy so far.  It definitely takes its toll on my body.  At the same time, it's an experience that I wouldn't trade for the world.    I love feeling such a closeness with each of the babies while they nurse, and I'm thankful that we have been able to make it this far.  I think my body will adapt soon (hopefully the pain will subside), and we can continue to breastfeed them successfully.


  1. Thanks for writing down the details! I guess I am getting enough milk all along, since I would get between 2 to 4 oz each time, and I pump every 2~4 hours throughout the day (not any more since they drink from the tap all day now).They would nurse and get off for 15 minutes and want to eat again - you are not alone!

  2. I'm with you - it's tough to cringe when it's time for them to eat, but sore nipples really hurt! I will be glad when our twins are a little older/bigger and my body is used to this. Speaking of...two crying babies await. Good luck!