Tuesday, September 6, 2011

breastfeeding beginnings.

I never really intended for this blog to be an outlet for the nitty gritty mama stuff like breastfeeding or its challenges, but in my own experience of searching, searching, searching the web for advice and info about exclusively breastfeeding twins and how to do it, I figured I would put myself out there in case it might help another twin mama along. We need each other.

Breastfeeding is hard. I do admit, I was pretty uppity about it before I had the babies and would get frustrated when I would hear moms say, "I couldn't breastfeed." Yeah, that's rude, and I know it. But now I get it. It's demanding. It hurts if you aren't doing it right. It can hurt if you are doing it right. It hurts when your milk starts to refill just minutes after finishing a feeding (nobody ever told me that!) And having an oversupply problem can be just as physically frustrating as an undersupply. There are so many moments that I wanted to just throw in the towel and say, "I just can't do it anymore." or even, "I just don't want to do it anymore."

So now instead of being irritated, I want to be as encouraging as I can to mamas and say, "You CAN do it! It will take all that you have, and a little more, and a little more after that, but please stick with it!" In my extremely, vastly limited experience, I'd say give it a solid 8 weeks to try it out. And in the offchance that you really can not breastfeed at all, or decide it's just not for you, no guilt and no judgement. It is a very personal, and sometimes very spiritual, experience that every woman needs to own for herself.

And what would I tell moms, twin or not, who are worried or having problems with their supply? Please, PLEASE rent a super nice hospital-grade pump for the first month! It will make all the difference in the world. It did for me. I kiss whoever created the Medela Symphony. Mwah. Seriously. Sometimes insurance will cover the cost. We paid out of pocket, and it was the best under-100 I ever spent. And pick up the book "Mothering Multiples" by Karen Gromada. Explore KellyMom. Also, learn how to manually express milk, because sometimes you'll get more than a pump would. Connect with another twin mama who has the same breastfeeding goals. Get the support you want and need.

If you do go the pumping route, be forwarned that you will enter into a new and complex relationship outside of the relationship you have with your new baby(ies). A love-hate relationship that will leave you thanking God with tears of joy for the provision but also cursing the monotonous feeling of being milked. Just sayin'.

Hours after the girls were born, the nurses hooked me up to a brand spanking new pump and told me to get at it, but with little instruction. I would quickly learn that pumping is an art unto itself, after experiencing clogged ducts and vacuum blisters before a Lactation Consultant finally told me I was doing it wrong. Why didn't they tell me that I didn't need to press down hard on the cups (phalanges) to begin with? Or to check the suction power on the older Medela pump that I rented to take home? Ouch!

Plus, I wasn't really getting anything after pumping. I was completely freaked out that my milk would never come in, so I'd crank up the suction and hope that the sheer force would draw whatever even resembled colostrum out of my body. Not such a great idea, really. I would take a few mL's to the NICU with a despairing feeling, and pray that it would come soon and it would be plenty. When it did come in, I was ecstatic, and even more ecstatic to figure out that I got the most milk when I was close to the girls or right after holding them skin to skin. I set up the pump right in front of their isolettes and didn't leave for 12-16 hours. We left the NICU with a bag full of milk to start my home freezer stash.

I pumped to mimic the girls' feeding schedule every 2.5 to 3 hours, no matter what, with the Medela at the NICU and the one I brought home, and only sometimes allowing myself a 4 hour break to sleep. If I did that, I'd make up for it with a "cluster pump" session the next day.

Cluster pumping is something I found out about randomly, and I can't even remember how or where. But it helped me so much when I was trying to build my supply. Set aside an hour, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10, pump for 10, etc. etc. Don't worry if you aren't getting much or any near the end, it's just the action of the pump that will help signal your body to make more milk. I did it every few days.

So all that to say now, 8 weeks later, I'm not using the pump anymore. I've barely cracked my freezer stash. Correction - I used it for 10 minutes the other night when we were experimenting with night feedings, and I cursed that pump in my mind the whole time but watched with a nostalgic satisfaction as the ounces started to fill. I got way less than I know the girls eat, but I know that's normal now. As an LC said to me as I voiced my fears in the NICU about supply, "the pump is a machine, not a baby, and you'll never get as much with it as you will with your child. Your body knows!"

And oh, although I am so, so thankful for the Pump and that I am making enough milk for both, sometimes I just hate it so much, because now I'm dealing with oversupply that we're trying to regulate. But then I love it because it allowed me to completely feed my babies without supplementing a full formula feeding ever, and will allow me to come back to it if I need it. So I love it. But hate it, too. But love it...(it really never ends).

So please, be encouraged. You CAN do this! It is worth it. And the gift you are giving your child or children is immeasurable. Every week you go past their birth is a triumph. And you are awesome. 

Update, November 2011: I went back to pumping 1-2x per day after hitting the brick wall that is sleep deprivation. Now, Andy bottle feeds one while I nurse the other at 1 a.m., and then we switch at the second night feeding at 4 a.m. When they start going longer than 3 hours at a stretch, I'll revisit it. It hasn't been so bad, though! Once more, YOU CAN DO IT! STICK WITH IT MAMA! 

2 comments:

  1. GOOD JOB!!!!
    I did the same as you, pumped every 3 hours 24/7, even in the night.
    And I couldn't believe the amount of milk that was coming out!
    Keep it up!! I am so glad I made it 5 months!! My first goal was 6 weeks, then 2 months and so on.
    It is so hard, you are so right. But I wouldn't change the time I had, no matter how exhausted I was! :)

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  2. Meg, thanks for being so vulnerable and sharing about this! My sister is breast feeding right now and is doing well. And as John and I get closer to having little ones, I am taking in all of the mommy advice I can!
    I will say a little prayer for you, the girls, andy, and the breast feeding situation : ) Love you much. Dana.

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