Breastfeeding Twins Part 1: a Tale from the Trenches

I’ve come across a startling lack of frank information on breastfeeding twins. Sure there’s a bunch of theory-based information (one of the best being Mothering Multiples by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada), but I have not found many tales from the trenches.

I’ve spent two weeks backpacking, a week kayaking the coast, I’ve trained for rock climbing competitions, run over a 10 miles, and I graduated college with a 3.9 GPA. But quite frankly, breastfeeding these two is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. This is my tale from the trenches almost 8 weeks in. I hope it will benefit others.

Aeralind and Bronwyn were born healthy at 36 weeks and 2 days. Neither required a NICU stay and both tiny 5lb babies rode in my bed with me to my room. I was beyond ecstatic that they were with me and, despite being in recovery for massive surgery, I attempted my first breast feeding about 1 hour after their birth. I’d read all the good books and even taken a class at the hospital. I knew exactly how to position them and how to make a “nipple sandwich” to stick in their little mouths. Aeralind was super eager and so I got her on (or so I thought) and then a little while later Bronwyn had her chance. The nurse took their blood sugar three different times that night and each time they “passed”. A few hours after that first feed, I had Derek help me get them tandem feeding. I felt wonderful feeding those little girls and so proud of my body. I thought I totally had everything under control.

The next morning I met Danielle the sweetest and sassiest lactation consultant at St. Francis. She was totally impressed with how well I could position them, but she was far less than impressed with the girls’ ability to latch. After several tries to get a better mouth positioning for the girls, she evaluated their sucking. Let’s just say their sucking… well, sucked. They had almost no suction power, their little tongues were all over the place, and Aeralind practically had to have her tongue pried off of the roof of her mouth just for Danielle to stick her finger in there. All was not well as I had assumed.

Danielle spearheaded our plan of attack. She immediately wheeled in my new best friend: the Breast Pump. I was to pump for 15 minutes every 3 hours (or every time we fed the girls). My first pumping produced about 4 cc of colostrum. Next Danielle whipped out the formula (GASP!). We couldn’t let them starve just because they couldn’t manage to latch and suck. With two curved tip syringes, Danielle halved the colostrum and sucked up enough formula to make 15 cc (1/2 an oz). She taught my husband and I to put our fingers in the girls mouths upside down, while simultaneously using the other hand to press the formula mix into the girl’s mouth.

I was excited that the girls were being properly fed, but I was disheartened and utterly exhausted from feeding them the night before and having my vitals being taken every time I fell asleep. Danielle put a sign on my door that no one was to disturb me and she urged us to let the nursery take and feed the babies that night. That was my last good night of sleep.

I attempted to latch the girls all of the following day (Sunday) and upon their failure to succeed each time, we fed them whatever colostrum I had pumped mixed with formula in a syringe. At 3 am that Monday morning I awoke and could feel my breasts doubling in size by the minute; my milk was coming in.

On Monday we were to be released from the hospital; Danielle had mentioned that she would prefer if we went home feeding them from a breast or a bottle rather than the syringes. Jennie was the lactation consultant on duty of that day. She was also the woman who had taught the breastfeeding class we had attended. Jennie was so tenderhearted and kind as she helped me mourn my hopes of having them on the breast before we went home; the girls were just not ready. Derek brought our bottles from home before we were discharged. I had registered for the BreastFlow bottles from First Years and Jennie was pretty impressed with the way the bottles made the girls open their mouths wide. We went home prepared to bottle feed.

The girls had to be woken every 3 hours to be fed. Preemies sleep all the time. Derek and I literally had to set the alarm clock to wake us up in order to feed them. It was pure torture. Then we had to strip the girls naked to wake them and if all else failed we had to place a cold wet wash cloth on their tummies just to rouse them enough to eat! At one of the middle of the night feedings Aeralind just could not manage to suck out of the BreastFlow bottle. Since it mimicked the difficulty of getting milk from a breast, she was having a hard time managing to get the milk out. We had to syringe feed her the rest of her meal.

At the pumping session following that crazy feeding, I suddenly filled both 2 oz jars I had been pumping into. That was the last feeding where the girls received formula. Finally! More than enough milk for each baby! After that I was pumping up to 6 oz per feeding and freezing away milk like crazy. Once again, I was encouraged that I would be able to do this and I was sure the girls would latch on at any moment now that all that good stuff was flowing.

All this occurred before the sun set on Aeralind and Bronwyn’s fourth day of life.