Breastfeeing Twins Part 2: The Meltdown

After I started producing more than enough milk for the girls and both girls had excellent mouth positioning on the BreastFlow bottles, I was certain that it would only be a matter of days before they’d transition back to the breast. At each feeding from the time we left the hospital on Monday until Saturday, I tried both girls on the breast for five minutes as I had been instructed. They would lick me if we could manage to keep them awake, but that could hardly be called success. I was doing everything that I had been instructed to do, why couldn’t we get this breastfeeding thing to work?!

At just about all of the night feedings Saturday night/Sunday morning, I cried in sleep deprivation and helplessness. I had been so strong in feeding them formula in the beginning, but they were a week old now. I just knew they should be latching! Surely there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t feed my girls from the source of their food. I was frustrated. Frustrated that I was “failing” at breastfeeding. Frustrated that I had to pump after every feeding; my arm muscles were killing me from holding those breast shields against my chest for so long. Most of all I was frustrated and terribly jealous that my sweet and helpful husband could go back to bed after feeding the girls while I had to pump for 15 minutes after he started snoring!!

I called that morning at 9 am to make an appointment with lactation at 12. Linda, the lactation consultant on duty that day, asked me how old they were in gestational weeks; I replied 37 and 4 days. She didn’t seem hopeful or encouraging after that comment, but she agreed to see us.

Derek and I loaded up the Double Snap and Go. Babies, diaper bag, expressed breast milk bottles, and my best friend: the breast pump. Safely in the lactation office we started with Bronwyn since she was the better sucker at the hospital. We stripped the little lady to wake her, weighed her, and agreed to feed football hold so Linda could help Bronwyn latch easier. It was the same as usual: no luck. We didn’t even finish the feed and weigh. It was obvious that she was unable to get anything. I held back tears.

Linda took Bronwyn and evaluated her sucking and said that I would be lucky to get her to successfully nurse by two months. At that point, she passed me a tissue. I needed it.

Next came Aeralind, but Linda held out little hope for her. It was much the same story. Knowing how distraught I was, she unwrapped two sizes of nipple shields. One fit me better and the other fit their tiny mouths better. We tried again. No luck. Nipple shields are nice because they simulated the bottle nipple that the girls were used to and made latching easier, but at the same time the girls had to be strong enough to suck the milk out of the silicone. Aeralind was not strong enough. Linda handed me some more tissues and gave me an encouraging I’m-proud-of-you type pep talk. She reevaluated our feeding plan that Danielle had made for us and changed it to try the girls at the breast once a day. In a strange way I was relieved, but still I was disappointed.

I wiped my eyes again. Derek started bottle feeding Bronwyn, Linda took Aeralind, and I made out with the breast pump as usual.

The next day I went out and purchased a Easy Expression Hands Free Pumping Bra. For me, that was a turning point. First, with the purchase I admitted that I would be pumping for a long time. Second, I was able to start feeding one of the twins at the same time as I pumped. That allowed me to get a whole extra hour of sleep every night! Not listening to Derek snore while I pumped made me that much less prone to a meltdown.

Over the course of the next two weeks I met my first obstacle to expressing breast milk successfully: the dreaded plugged duct. Apparently a pumping mother is much more prone to these than a nursing mother. For me the plugged duct presented with no pain. I just noticed a very hard spot in the left breast. Thinking that was odd, I read the little pamphlet the hospital sent home on the first two months breastfeeding and diagnosed myself. I applied a heating pad and massaged the heck out of the lump: 2 such sessions later it was gone. Getting rid of the plugged duct hurt much more than the plugged duct itself hurt.

I had two more plugged ducts on that side during those two weeks. The last was the worst. The heating pad and massaging in a hot shower did nothing but actually make the plugged duct hurt. I ended up massaging like crazy with my breast in a bowl of hot water. Finally, the plug surfaced but that side has never recovered on the milk supply front.

Week 3 ended with me solely expressing and my last week of full time helpers. I looked forward to Week 4 with apprehension about being alone for the first time. I knew I could not stay in the house alone for the whole week, so I planned one solo outing for that week. A trip to St. Francis’s Breastfeeding Support Group….