It’s been 6 months and 15 days since the birth of my identical girl twins. As most moms know, the early days in your newborn’s life both fly by at the speed of light and get stuck in slow motion, where 15 minutes can seem like 4 hours. Since I have a 2 yr old daughter as well, I know now that the little phases don’t last long and I can enjoy them for the fleeting stage they are.
The first 6 months with identical twins can be summed up in one word: breastfeeding. Over the past 6 months, I’ve either been breastfeeding, pumping, worrying about milk supply, stocking up frozen milk, stressing over whether that glass of wine is keeping them up and guiltily sucking down my large cup of coffee every morning. Despite all of that, I’ve successfully breastfed both girls exclusively (excepting the early days of waiting for the milk to come in) and both are growing beautifully. Here are my tips for new moms in the battle of the boobs:
Tip #1: Get Help and Give it Time
I affectionately refer to myself as a ‘milk dud’ because without fail my milk takes 14 days to come in. It took 14 days with my first daughter and despite the encouragement from lactation consultants that “this time would be much faster” it took 14 days with the twins. My girls were big for twins, 7 pounds and 6 pounds, 13 ounces respectively. When they came out, they were ready to eat.
The early process was nothing less than a total pain in the ass. I can say that now. Picture your mother-in-law and your husband hovered over your bare breasts with a 10ml syringe full of formula trying to time the releases with the babies’ sucking motions. It seriously required three people at every feeding, but since I was determined to breast feed both babies, it was worth it and it worked (eventually). That said, I mentally gave myself 14 days – no more – where I would try absolutely everything to bolster my milk supply. If it wasn’t in after 2 weeks of syringe feedings and pumping 5 x a day, supplementing was my next plan.
Tip #2: Make Friends with your Breast Pump
Like I said before, at first I had to pump 5x a day (after every feeding) to get my supply up. It was awful and I began to hate the pump. But then I realized, pumping was really my only time of solitude. I got a hands free pumping brazier and started bringing a book. Or I would just sit and space out. I also rented a hospital grade pump for the first few months; this made a huge difference as it worked much faster than my store bought version.
Tip #3: Get Rid of the Guilt
On day 2 in the hospital, I asked one of the nurses for some formula so I could start the process of supplementing with a syringe while waiting for my supply to come in. The nurse was very tentative and minutes later the lactation hoard descended. They felt if I started supplementing so soon, I wouldn’t follow through with breastfeeding at all.
Point is: You will have many people telling you what to do on both sides and all you can do is make a decision and go with it. Many other moms-of-multiples thought I was NUTS to try breastfeeding at all. That’s why, you need to make a decision that you, above all, are comfortable with for your family. And make sure to have a backup plan in case breastfeeding doesn’t work. You need to decide what your boundary is (2 weeks – 6 weeks – 2 months?) and know that if it doesn’t work, you are not a bad mother. Quite the contrary, you are doing what you need to do to save your sanity, which benefits your babies in the long run.
I also enlisted help right away. My mother-in-law (God bless her) was here for 2 weeks following the birth of the girls and I have a full time (yes – 40 hours a week) helper who can do anything from holding babies, to playing with my toddler, to dishes and laundry (all of which start to accumulate very quickly). Not to mention, an extraordinarily supportive husband. I felt very guilty at first about all the help I required, not to mention the cost. But after awhile, it’s very apparent where the phrase “it takes a village” came from. Obviously, whoever said that had three kids under the age of 2. If hired help isn’t a possibility, try to schedule friends and family ahead of time to help with the necessities so you can spend time getting to know your babies.
Tip #4: Own the Logistics
If you’re planning to breastfeed twins, you’re going to need some tools. I used the EZ2Nurse breastfeeding pillow. It’s huge. It’s hilarious. Nursing two at once in those early days was a must for me. With a toddler in the house who also needed attention, I needed to feed them at the same time for efficiency’s sake. When they start to get more efficient and bigger, it’s easier to feed them one at a time, or just pump and give bottles.
Getting two babies on the pillow, not to mention off the pillow, is a huge undertaking. When they were small, I could get them both on the pillow by myself, but getting them off was harder. I had a system where I could hold one in the crook of my arm, while the pillow was strapped on and gently roll the other onto the bed for a dismount. As they grew, this became dangerous so I had to make sure I had backup.
You’ll need lots of bottles, lots of breast pump equipment (oh how I hate washing those darn things) and a quick drying rack since ultimately you’ll end up just rinsing them out with hot water.
Tip #5: Pay Attention
Hopefully this won’t sound cliché, but try to enjoy this time. My girlfriends seem to fall into two camps; those who love breastfeeding and are sad to let it go and those who don’t mind it, but are eager to get to the next phase (this is me). With my first daughter, I wished the baby days away too fast. I was always waiting and ready for the next phase, the crawling, the walking, talking, etc. With the twins, I made a mental note everyday to enjoy the phase I was in, because they don’t last.