Was it me or was it the twins who did the sucking at breastfeeding? Maybe both. After surviving one adoption, several miscarriages, fifteen rounds of fertility treatment, hellish high-risk twin pregnancy, bedrest with a toddler, and almost dying from postpartum hemorrhage, I certainly knew better than to expect breastfeeding would smoothly. It sucked, both literally and figuratively.
I read every book I was supposed to read on the topic of breastfeeding twins. I underlined so many sections of my La Leche League multiples book that my husband asked me if perhaps I should consider underlining only things I didn’t want to remember. I tried to be prepared simply by adding post-it notes of information in my brain, but I knew I would have to wing it when the twins arrived. I couldn’t have been more right. Who would win when this twin momma faced off against all the books she read?
The books say: Breastfeed immediately after birth, or within 60 minutes after a C-section. That should be enough time to get you all stitched up and ready to go.
Twin mom says: Breastfeeding is impossible in the ICU while you’re knocked out.
The books say: Frequent breastfeeding will teach your body to double or triple the amount of milk you need for multiples.
Twin mom says: Almost dying and getting blood transfusions messes with the body’s ability to produce milk.
The books say: Feed each twin separately at first, to teach proper latching techniques. Tandem nursing can wait.
Twin mom says: No problem. Tandem nursing can definitely wait.
The books say: Avoid bottles and pacifiers during the hospital stay to establish proper nursing.
Twin mom says: You don’t have a say when you’re knocked out in the ICU.
The books say: When you begin to tandem feed, the double-football hold will work the best.
Twin mom says: WHATEVER. You totally need substantial boobage to pull off the double-football hold, because you’ve got to have boobs that actually flop around. Not all of us are so endowed, even with the milk! Why didn’t any book talk about THAT?!
Winner: Nobody. Certainly not my boobs.
The books say: Your milk will come in within three to four days after birth.
Twin mom says: Be a rebel! Mine didn’t come in until the eleventh day after birth, which was the latest my lactation consultant had ever seen.
Winner: Twin Mom!
The books say: The best way to help a baby learn to nurse is skin-to-skin contact.
Twin mom says: It’s hard to do when I was so bruised, battered, and patched up from all the ways they saved my life. I wanted nothing more than to put my babies inside my hospital gown, but I was too mutilated from all the procedures they performed on me. I came home from the hospital with a walker, a lot of bandages and bruises, and a physical therapist.
Winner: Nobody. Certainly not my babies.
The books say: Within the first two weeks after birthing twins, be sure to pump and/or feed every 2-3 hours to teach your body to establish and double the milk supply.
Twin mom says: No problem. I will never sleep again anyway. I will never not be holding a baby again anyway.
Winner: The books.
The books say: Rent a hospital grade pump for multiples. You need a pro to suck out enough milk for twins.
Twin mom says: NOBODY TOLD ME HOW MUCH PUMPING SUCKS (literally and figuratively! I had no idea how bad it would feel and how much I would hate it. I had no idea how long it would take. I had no idea how much my toddler would misbehave when he knew I was attached to those tubes and completely immobilized.
Winner: My toddler.
The books say: Tandem breastfeeding is harder with fraternal twins than identical twins, because they only share 50% of their DNA. They will have different hunger cues, feeding patterns, and body clocks.
Twin mom says: Ain’t that the truth. My fraternal twins were opposites in the womb, and they were opposites while breastfeeding. One was a pro; the other had feeding difficulties – including allergies, reflux, and nipple confusion.
Winner: The books. Or maybe the one twin who was good at nursing.
The books say: Tandem breastfeeding is the best choice for twins.
Twin mom says: Um, nobody told me how MUCH I WOULD HATE TANDEM NURSING. It was almost impossible to position the babies even with another adult present. How do I get the second baby latched on after I already had one attached to my boob? (When I was alone, I would try to position the second baby on the couch beside me, and hoist him up by his jammies with my one free arm. If he was wearing snap jammies, he would fall out of them. I quickly switched to zip-up jammies.) Nursing two at once felt overwhelming and, I hate to say, a little creepy. They finished eating at different times, so what was I supposed to do when one baby had to burp and one was still attached? And how do I care for a needy two-year-old while I am completely immobilized by two nursing babies? What do I do when the toddler gets into the knife drawer? Do I pull the babies off or do I try to stand up with two of them attached? I guarantee I would either fall down or lose the latch. What about my (adopted) son’s jealousy while I was nursing both babies? I had to deal with some major adoptive momma guilt there. I did not have the answers to these questions. I gave up and nursed them separately.
The books say: Alternating bottle-feeding and breast-feeding is not recommended. It creates more work, and less milk production.
Twin mom says: Too bad. I never made enough milk, despite every effort. We finally established a system where I would breastfeed one twin, supported by a Boppy and one of my arms, while, with my other arm, I bottle-fed the other twin, supported beside me on the couch with a Boppy. This also enabled me to leap off the couch, if needed, to help my toddler not die.
Winner: Twin mom! And my toddler.
The books say: Breastfeed for at least a year.
Twin mom says: My goal was one day at a time. I made it to just under seven months. I figured that counted as a year in my Twin World! By that time, I was about to crack from having 1-2 hours of sleep from my non-synchronized, non-tandem night feedings. Also, my poor-at-nursing-twin was completely off the breast and only drinking pumped milk anyway. It was time to sleep-train them. I couldn’t let them “cry it out” while nursing. We dried it up, cried it out, and started sleeping. (PS, The last time I breastfed my last twin, I was listening to “The Last Time” by The Rolling Stones: “Well this could be the last time, This could be the last time, Maybe the last time, I don’t know, oh no, oh no.”)
Winner: Twin Mom! I did what was best for MY FAMILY! (“My family”, of course, refers to me not
The books say: Any amount of breast milk is good for the babies.
Twin mom says: Ain’t that the truth. I never made enough milk for twins, despite visiting several lactation consultants, pumping with a hospital grade pump, reading every book, and trying every home remedy. I had to supplement with formula from the very beginning. I was happy to give them immunities, even if I couldn’t make them full.
The moral of this story is that books are great, but twin mommas are better!
Related post: 10 Reasons It’s Awesome Having Twins