Where do I start? This is a HUGE topic with lots of feelings and beliefs attached to it. Let me start by saying that I do not judge anyone for their choices, especially when it comes to such a personal decision like breast feeding.
If you are going to be a mom, or already are, you will need to sacrifice to do a good job. If you were able to conceive and carry a baby, you have already started that process. You have decided whether it was worth eating this or that to prevent heartburn. You took the extra time it requires to make all those extra bathroom breaks. You may have undergone procedures to maintain a healthy pregnancy or been on bed rest. This is all the beginning. It teaches you that baby is going to be the priority for a while. What he or she needs comes before most everything else.
What’s the big deal with breast feeding? Well, this is why being a mom is so demanding and so rewarding at the same time. As a breast feeding mom you are your baby’s life source. Daddy can change diapers, help burp, and help put baby to sleep, but there is an around the clock demand to be fed which requires mom to be there at all times. This, paired with the sleep you lose, is where all those “I’m totally overwhelmed” feelings come from. Oh, wait, I forgot all the hormones…. Well you get the point. I’m starting off this way so that you will know it is a challenge. You may think bottle feeding is easier. It isn’t. I have done both. There is a lot of extra time (time that takes away from the time you could be catching up on sleeping) consumed by prepping formula, pumping, warming bottles and washing bottles. If you can get over the learning curve, breastfeeding is much easier…… sometimes.
Baby Center has a great article on the benefits of breast feeding. I know that many of you know how good breast milk is for our babies. Breast milk is unique in that it changes to suit your baby for their age and need. The contents of breast milk even change during a feed! There is a foremilk and a hindmilk. This is why it is so important to empty the breast with each feed. Not to mention that it helps to prevent clogged milk ducts.
Milk is produced on demand. We start this demand by putting baby to the breast when they are born. During the first couple/few days what they get is mostly colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk produced. Read all about colostrum here. (This great article also talks about why such small feedings are enough for your newborn). When you are breast feeding it is important to make sure that you are taking in enough water and food. That is the only way your body has what it needs to produce milk for baby! Every time I sat down to nurse my twins I brought a pint of water with me. I would drink this while I fed them to make sure I was hydrated. So, the more your baby drinks, the more your breast will produce for the next feed.
Sleep is another key factor in milk production. My milk didn’t come in until the third day at the hospital when my husband and I finally got a 4 hour nap. Then, BAM, more boob than I knew what to do with. Schedule your visitors so that you have time to take a break and sleep during the day. You need it!
I learned to feed the babies in a football hold position and then made the switch to a lying position after getting a spinal headache. Check out this video for the three most commonly used positions. The first couple days I fed the babies one at a time while learning and then got the lactation consultant to show me how to tandem feed them in a football hold. It is crucial for you to see a lactation consultant! She will give you proper instruction on how to latch baby and will make feeding baby much easier.
After going home I kept in touch with my lactation consultant and went to a couple breast feeding support meetings that were led by the hospital lactation consultant. I had several issues personally. I had problems with painful feedings and fussy babies. I tried many changes to my diet to decrease their gassiness but nothing helped much. After 6-8 weeks of painful feeds, I tried wearing nipple shields to help with the pain. I’m not sure how much they helped or if they did. The bummer was that my problem wasn’t with position. I had the lactation consultant inspect both baby’s latching and she complimented what a great job I was doing. Too bad it still hurt.
I made it to 4 months and had a talk with our pediatrician. He reassured me that he understood my desire to continue breastfeeding but also wanted to let me know that if I was miserable while doing it, this would effect the babies as well. At that point I decided to pump and supplement with formula. So, I pumped, and pumped, and pumped. Did I mention I pumped? In order to even attempt to keep your milk supply up to your baby’s demands you need to pump with every feed. So I fed, put them down for nap and somehow ate while I pumped. The pumping was never ending BUT by pumping, I got another 2 months of healthy, antibody infused breast milk into my babies! At six months the decision to stop pumping was partially made FOR me, due to the fact that my migraines were kicking in again and my neurologist wanted me back on a preventive medication. I WISH I could have breast fed for the entire first year.
Try to remember not to judge others for the choices they make. There are all kinds of reasons why moms don’t breast feed. I do believe that all women should breast feed because that is the most nutritious food for baby! I also know that this isn’t realistic. Many of us have to take medication that our babies can’t get. Some women have body image issues which prevent them from ever being comfortable with feeding their baby. Sometimes the body just says NO and dries mom’s milk right up. If any of you are on the fence and don’t have a physical reason why you can’t breast feed, I urge you to breast feed. By breast feeding, you will always know what your baby is eating – and it’s first ingredient won’t be corn syrup! If you breast feed, you will never have to worry about a recall. If you breast feed you will have many hours of precious one on one time (or one on two) with your baby. Even though I had pain with most feedings, I will cherish the hours I fed our babies. I hope you will too!
I had to share this amazing twin breast feeding pillow with this post! This is much like the one I bought but the completely suped up version. I found the add in TWINS magazine. They sale at DoubleBlessings.com for the same price as my plain old one which came in a faux denim, minus the privacy cover. Happy feeding!
This will for sure be an abridged version, but I wanted to tell my birthing story for those readers out there who are pregnant or are interested….
When you are pregnant with twins most OBGYNs automatically dub you “high risk” and for the most part, they are right. You have lots of risks for lots of things. Because my pregnancy was one with fraternal twins, in two separate amniotic sacs (the fluid filled sacs that protect baby), and because our twins had separate placentas (the filter and blood source to baby) that were not right next to each other, we were on the lower end of the high riskiness of twin pregnancies. (Note to reader: I will make sure to write a blog on complications of twin pregnancies and the different types of twin pregnancies sooner rather than later).
In my 5th month of pregnancy (December), I was put on medical leave from work. I was at home and was not supposed to do any strenuous activity. I was to put my feet up often. By the end of my 6th month I was put on bed rest at home. My doctor told me to “become a slug”. I was allowed to come downstairs in the morning and go back upstairs in the evening for bed. I was also allowed to walk a short distance to the bathroom. My husband set up a cooler by the couch with snacks and water. All this time I was on a medication called Nifedipine every 12 hours and when I contracted more than 6 times an hour I took an extra medication called Terbutaline. Whenever contractions would start picking up I would make sure my bladder and bowels were empty (either can stimulate contractions) and I would drink a big glass of water. Dehydration can also cause contractions. If none of these tricks worked, and the contractions continued, I would take my second medication.
All of this fun continued until I was 36 weeks and 5 days along. I was happy that I had only one overnight stay in the hospital prior to my delivery date! I did have a couple false alarm checks. When you are at risk to deliver a baby or babies prematurely, it is ALWAYS better to call the doctor or hospital and be checked for preterm labor than it is to wait too long and deliver early.
On week 36 and 5 days I woke my husband at 4 AM because my contractions were 3-7 minutes apart and I wanted him to have a few minutes to run through the shower and eat. I knew I wasn’t allowed to eat because, like with most twin pregnancies, my doctors had convinced me to deliver them c-section to greatly decrease the chance of birthing injury. Oh how I wish I had them vaginally! Recovery was no fun.
After an uncomplicated c-section delivery, we had some trouble getting a pain medication that worked well for me. One didn’t seem to do anything, another made me so drowsy I was hardly an effective mommy, and if I took oral medication I was likely to vomit. Oh what fun. I sat up in recovery to attempt breastfeeding. The process went as well as can be expected for a first time! The problem was that it is ill advised to sit up more than 30 degrees for 24 hours after getting a spinal. (Try breastfeeding in the side lying position to avoid sitting up). On day two I got a spinal headache. Day two was also the day when I had about 20 hospital personnel visitors. The pediatrician came to circumcise my son, the lady taking pictures came, the lactation consultant visited, the hearing test lady came, there were the regular nursing visits and I also had a visit from the anesthesiologist and nurse to do a blood patch, (which is just like getting a spinal all over again, except, instead of injecting numbing medicine, they inject some of your very own freshly drawn blood. The platelets in your blood are supposed to patch up any holes where CSF (brain fluid) might be leaking). I believe THIS is right about when I had my first breakdown. I started crying and couldn’t stop. I had a terrible headache, I was getting jammed with needles & I couldn’t be there by my son – who was getting skin hacked of his penie! On top of it all, I now was under strict directions to stay lying down flat for another 24 hours. My nurse was great. It wasn’t how I was treated that made me melt down. My hormones were flying and I was, shall we say, OVERWHELMED!
On day three the babies had to pass a car seat test. They were hooked up to monitors and strapped into their car seat to make sure their breathing and heart rate were ok while in that position. This is only necessary for babies under a certain weight. Somehow, some time that day, Erik and I both got 4 hours IN A ROW of sleep. I don’t know how it happened – and it didn’t happen again for quite some time – but that is when my milk “came in”. I woke to hyper-inflated mammaries and was in shock. Who put me under and gave me implants? FYI, if you are worried about why your milk hasn’t come in, drink lots of water and take a nap. Sleep is KEY to milk production (I’m not suggesting that this is the only reason for low milk but sleep is seriously key).
There was also a mix up at the hospital regarding my daughter’s weight that was only solved after seeing a photo of the scale, that read 5 pounds 9.75 ounces a few days later. I hadn’t figured this out at the time. Someone initially reported my daughter’s weight as 6lbs. There are 16 ounces in a pound. At her next weigh in, my daughter appeared to have lost around 6 ounces which freaked everyone out a bit. They then had me supplement by wearing a bottle of formula around my neck when breastfeeding. This bottle had very small straw like tubes that I taped to my breast. My daughter still breastfed only but got formula while feeding. Yet another stressor!
Day three was also the day I was first allowed to get out of bed (due to the spinal headache and blood patch). Standing up after a c-section sucks. I hunched over and shuffled to the next empty bed and nearly passed out. I can’t believe how much effort it took to get to the bathroom (Mind you, being on bed rest for any period of time makes recuperation that much more difficult). Each time I got up it was just a little bit easier. Not easy. It was just a little bit easier.
On day four we were discharged. We were now supposed to be able to care for two newborn babies all on our own. WHAT?!? It was an adventure getting to the car and home. It was a really windy day and until the truck got moving the babies hated being strapped into their car seats. I took some adorable “first car ride” pictures on the way home as I sat in between two babies and my husband “chauffeured” us all the way home.
It has been over a year and a half since the twins were born. Writing this blog, it seems just like yesterday. I think it might be time for a glass of wine and a bath….