Before my girls were born, I was blissfully unaware of the mamouth task breastfeeding twins would become. Although I knew it’d be hard, I was pragmatic that I’d be able to do it. All the advice I was given at prenatal groups and from midwives only convinced me further that I wanted to give nursing my best shot.
It is such a shame that all the prebirth talk doesn’t materialise into actual support once the babies are here. Apart from a few quick sessions whilst I was recovering from my c section, I was pretty much left to it. In fact, I think many medical professional were ill equiped to support me. I got the distinct impression from a few that I was crazy to even try when I could just bottle feed.
I’d barely begun my journey before I was being convinced to give it up. After a few day, I felt broken. To say it wasn’t going well was an understatement. The pain was so bad, I’d sit biting my fingers until they almost bled, silently crying but refusing to give up. I’m not telling you this as some kind of badge of honour but more to demonstrate just how stubborn I was.
Feeling a failure
One of my biggest challenges was that Emily, born at 4lb4oz, just couldn’t seem to latch. Her mouth was just so tiny. When the medical professional told me I needed to top up, I sobbed. What a failure I felt. I knew nursing twins would be hard but if it was possible for others why not me? I turned to expressing. It was the only way both could have an equal amount of Mummy’s milk and to ease my guilt.
Looking back now, I should have called for help much sooner. After a week, I rang a free phone number and got matched with a fab breastfeeding mentor. Although she hadn’t nursed twins, she’d tandem fed her two girls and more than that she had my back. When everyone around me was telling me that it’d be ok to give up, she was giving me practical support, ideas, tips, positions and just as valuably, the encouragement and support to continue.
When it’s all looking pretty bleak, it’s not surprising your loved ones just want what is best for you. They are caught in a catch 22, wanting to support your decision but also trying to find a solution to the difficult circumstance. Most tried to convince me to switch to formula. I know this was only with love but I dug my heels in and carried on.
Cluster feeding and expressing for twins is no joke. In those early weeks, it meant I had only a 90 minute window between the end of a feed and when I needed to start expressing again. The days and nights blurred and my body went into survival mode. How I survived on hour blocks of sleep I have no idea but I did.
A light at the end of the tunnel
After a few months, I managed to get my supply up and only relied on a small amount of formula from then until my girls weaned themselves at 17 months. Getting to the six month mark was incredibly emotional for me. That had been my goal. At a week old, I didn’t think I’d make it to the first month. I was so proud of myself.
By then we’d got into quite a nice routine and the experience was actually easier than preparing a bottle. By the half year point, I could actually enjoy feeding my girls. Physically, it was the hardest challenge my body has faced and I’m still envious that it wasn’t as straight forward as some other mum’s find it. I’m convinced if I’d been given more practical support from the onset, I wouldn’t have needed to face the months of distress that I did.
That’s my breastfeeding story. Did other twin mums get the support they wanted or were you discouraged from nursing too? Here’s my advice to any expectant mum’s who are determined to breast feed. Firstly, get the number for your local support group before your little one arrives. Secondly, call it on the day you start having problems. Don’t wait and suffer like I did.
The volenteers at the other end of the line will do all they can to help.