28 Sep Breastfeeding: Tips for Success
by Meta Baron
Meta and her husband are proud parents of twin boys. She nursed them both and wrote this article at the time to encourage moms of multiples. Actually it’s great advice for all moms. Enjoy!
Position: Comfort is critical. Your back needs support. You also need to have the babies elevated high enough so you don’t bend over them. I found a twin pillow (horseshoe shape that wraps around your waist) best. I often doubled two of these pillows (I’m quite tall). Pillows stuffed behind your lower back also help to support your spine.
Helper: At first, nothing is as appreciated as the helper who passes you baby #2. I needed help to lift that second baby (so the first would not roll off the pillow!). A helper can assist with making minor adjustments that make all the difference to your comfort, ensuring a good latch, adding back support, and much encouragement (read: praise).
Furniture: I found a love-seat or couch worked best when they were little. This gave me good back support. My second choice was a double or queen size bed (So I had space to reach for the second baby without fear of dropping the first). I often hung my legs over the side to avoid back strain. Ergonomics are important! If on the couch, I used a bouncy chair or car seat to support twin 2, and this helped me to reach for the second twin when home alone. When the babies were more than 4 months I found couches difficult – because the twins would push with their legs against the furniture. After 4 months I moved to the floor. I often sat cross-legged and nursed the twins in a variety of positions. By then their necks are stronger and you can experiment with side by side (both sets of legs to the left, one head on the other’s body). This was my favourite position. For starters, I used football hold.
C-section: I wish I had known the problems associated with C-sections. I learned that breastfeeding causes the release of oxytocin resulting in contractions of the uterus. I found this to be very painful due to the recent surgery and later scar adhesions. It was so painful for several weeks/months that I nearly quit breastfeeding. Lifting the twins was strenuous and breastfeeding painful initially (in the abdominal area).
Resources: Have pictures, pamphlets, books handy when breastfeeding. I could only grasp how diagrams worked with babies in hand. Health unit nurse, midwives, post-partum doulas, LaLeche League, and twin mums can visit you at home and help with breastfeeding tips. Keep any written information on breastfeeding long after you have it figured out – there will be some new challenge – like engorged breasts or a blocked duct – and those guides will help you to problem-solve. Remember, you don’t need to know it all at the start – just have the resources handy for when you need them.
Replenish fluids: Have a sports bottle with water within reach at all times.
Raspberry tea: Purchase at homeopathic or natural foods stores. A doula told me of this tea to increase milk production. I doubted her. I tried it and became a fountain of milk within hours (Plus drinking the tea helps you to relax).
Both or separate feedings? At night I generally nursed one at a time for fear of dropping the second with exhaustion. I nursed in bed on my side so we could both doze off. Occasionally I resorted to “stacking” the twins and feeding on my side (if both were crying, I was alone, and desperate). In the daytime, I “twin fed” but it was much easier when my mum or husband were there to help lift the second twin onto the pillow and assist with positioning.
Flying Solo: Home alone and breastfeeding twins is challenging. I found during the first 4 months a padded floor mat served as a wonderful place to lay them down and transfer twins while positioning. Feedings were every 2 hours (or closer to 1.5 hours) and lasted 10 to 30 minutes. With diaper changes and trying to entertain them I had little time to myself (maybe 20 minutes out of every 2 hours without diapers, nursing or crying!). Working on the floor was easier sometimes for nursing, diaper changes, and entertainment.
Relaxation: I never realized how important it is to be relaxed for the milk to come in and nursing to go smoothly. So it’s important to eat well (have someone fix lunches, bring meals, prepare snacks), drink plenty fluids (stock up on fruit juices, Gatorade, water), and find time for sleep. Nap when babies nap if possible (do not do the laundry, dishes, and write thank you notes) – I never napped and I now realize what a difference even 20 minutes of sleep can make! Get help so you are not doing it all yourself at night (I did it all and lost too much weight). Set the mood with calm music, or the TV (keep the remote handy), or dim lights, or whatever helps you to feel comfortable. Baths, massage, sleep (naps or more than 2-3 hour stretch at night), an evening out with your partner – all are important for you to be able to breastfeed. Practice breathing exercises, meditation, positive thoughts – whatever lets you drift and relax during feedings.
Supplementation: A delicate issue. Some of my “twin mum” connections supplemented and encouraged me to experiment with this. I felt so guilty because our hospitalization was a terrible experience – I felt breastfeeding was the only thing I could give my babies. I was determined to succeed at this. But it was exhausting. My advice is that you have a marriage, couple of children, self to sustain (and a larger family unit with other children possibly) – twins need to fit into this larger scheme. If supplementing with formula allows you to have a break for one feeding (so you can sleep) or allows you to function without complete exhaustion (by extending the duration between feedings from 1.5 or 2 hours to 3 or 4 hours), then no one has the right to judge you. It’s about finding a way to give your babies the best and ensuring that mum is well. I tried: (a) skipping one feeding with a bottle of formula, (b) breastfeeding for 10 minutes followed by 5 minutes of formula (4 oz breast, 4 oz bottle, or early on 2 oz each). In the end I returned to exclusively breast milk. For me, this was the most convenient, least complicated, and rewarding strategy. But it’s not for everyone. And as a mum of twins – you need to do what works for you and your family.
Returning to paid work and the pump: The dreaded pump. I bought a $300 pump. It was brutal. The machine was never as efficient as breastfeeding. It took 30 minutes to get 4-6 oz, and then 10 minutes to feed the bottle to the baby. But it was necessary so I could leave the twins to return to work. I felt like a cow hooked up to the machine. Invest in a good quality pump. Manuals and cheap electronics are not worth the discomfort and frustration. If you pump, make yourself comfortable and have photos of the babies and other cues to help you imagine they are at the breast (flaky perhaps, but this stimulates milk let-down).
Premature twins: My babies arrived at term, but my best friend’s twins arrived 6 weeks early and never developed the sucking reflex. It was hard work pumping and pouring that precious milk into those babies. She says it was worth it but at a price to her health (She was exhausted and relatives criticized her efforts rather than supporting her). If you have premature babies and challenges with breastfeeding contact support agencies for help (LaLeche league, local Health Unit, Multiple Births Canada, breastfeeding buddies organized through health unit or prenatal classes), family, friends, hire a doula – but surround yourself with people who can come to your home and give you the support and encouragement you need. If breastfeeding does not work (and there may be many reasons) do not judge yourself harshly. Babies will thrive on formula and you can still bond with cuddles.
Time and Patience. It takes time to get the hang of breastfeeding. I told my midwife: “This was the hardest thing I have ever done.” Have patience. IT WILL COME! You are all three learning.
Milestones: At first I found it painful, difficult, frustrating, anxiety-producing. Suddenly at 6 weeks, I could do this. At three months, I was a pro with multiple positions. By 6 months I thoroughly enjoyed breastfeeding. Know that with time, breastfeeding twins will seem completely natural (and you’ll wonder at the inefficiency of women with singletons who must juggle from breast to breast to keep chest proportions balanced).
Tag: Tag your bra with a safety pin or piece of ribbon to remember who fed which side last. Rotate babies with each feeding (one of mine had the suction power of a Power Vacuum). Okay, truthfully, I was too busy to follow this piece of advice. When you find your breasts growing uneven, switch babies around on the next feeding. You will balance out quickly!
Experimentation: Master one position at a time, then experiment. Preferences will change with time of day, and stage of development of the twins. Everyone is different. Find your own style.
Supervision: My twins held hands during early feedings. Later they pounded each other and poked eyes (interrupting feedings to shout “EYE!” while poking the other in the eye). As they grow, they become more active and this raises new challenges for breastfeeding two little ones at once.
One vs. two: I tried feeding both at once, then one at a time. I became exhausted with continuous feeding rotations, but I’ve met other twin mums who preferred to feed one at a time. I think it’s a bit industrial, factory-style to feed two at once, but I found it was the only way for me to manage any time to myself (for a shower or food). Not always the most intimate of occasions, but it got the job done!
Laugh: You need a sense of humor to breastfeed twins. Laughing helps you relax. Be gentle to yourself and your babies. It’s wonderful when they laugh too and smile up at you. Laughing also helps visitors (family and friends) who find the sight of twin breastfeeding uncomfortable.
Weaning: Keep in mind that while volume increases, frequency of feedings declines over the months, making breastfeeding more manageable. I introduced solid foods at four months. At 12 months, I wondered if it was time to think about fully weaning (cessation of breastfeeding) – when both boys leaped to their knees and delivered an enthusiastic round of applause as I entered the room with my blouse undone! At 18 months, I was still breastfeeding two times per day while working full-time outside the home. I’m not superwoman – it just gets so much easier with time. Trust this.
Positive Reinforcement: Surround yourself with people who will encourage breastfeeding. The only way for a mum of twins to do this is with plenty love, encouragement, and determination. But it is more than possible and so rewarding. Enjoy your twins!
Multiple Births Canada provides great articles, resources, tips and links to women who are expecting or already have multiple births.
YOUR INPUT ON THE SUBJECT:
Would you have a tip to add? Send it in. Here are some ideas from readers:
Try to ALWAYS have breast milk frozen in your freezer, or keep formula in your cupboard just in case. I am personally “against” using formula ever, so I always keep frozen breast milk on hand. The reason for this, emergencies. I had a kidney stone pass when my seventh baby was 3 months old….I had to be RUSHED in an ambulance to the hospital. There was NO time to be stopping at the store for formula, I had to go right away. At the time we thought it was a burst appendix. Anyhow, I was so thankful that I had about 20 bottles of breast milk in my deep freeze. My mother in law was able to come over quickly and take over the house, including the baby’s feeding while I was able to concentrate on other things and not worry if my baby was starving! Then when I came home from the hospital I was on such strong drugs that I was not able to breast feed either, and all the milk I had in me had to be pumped and thrown out. The best time to prepare this, when your baby is about a week old and you are very engorged, pump it all out and deep freeze it. Good so you don’t get mastitis, and good in case of kidney stone emergencies !!!! –Melinda
Dr. Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC, is the director of the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic and Institute in Toronto, Ontario, a world-famous resource for breastfeeding mothers. The website Breastfeeding Inc. has a wealth of information on breastfeeding, including answers to many specific questions and wonderfully helpful video clips. For desperate problems, they can also ship a DVD on breastfeeding or arrange to contact you.I found this website extremely helpful for myself and hope it will benefit you. – Meg F.