I can’t remember making a conscious decision to breastfeed; for me it wasn’t a decision as such, I never really considered otherwise, at least not until I found out I was having twins, and people began to ask whether I was going to try; the first seeds of doubt were planted and so the worry began!
I’m really interested in nutrition (strange that is something I have to point out really), so I knew that breastfeeding would provide the ultimate nutrition for my babies, especially if they were born premature, as I was warned many times that they were likely to be. I worried about bonding with two babies at the same time and I knew breastfeeding would help with that, and I also believed breastfeeding to be more convenient than bottle feeding. The more I read and researched about breastfeeding, the more determined I was to make it work.
We did our best to prepare for the arrival of our twins; attending a special multiples antinatal class as well as the ones provided by the NHS midwives; and I attended a breastfeeding class at my hospital. I read books, lots of books, and I googled endlessly for accounts of breastfeeding twins. I was aware of the many problems I might face but felt prepared to make it work.
Fast forward to the arrival of my babies at 37 weeks 6 days gestation. I was induced and had a long labour with epidural and was pretty out of it, though conscious, when the babies were born. We had a difficult birth in theatre and my youngest twin had to be resuscitated, meaning I didn’t get to hold my oldest baby until half an hour after she was born (she was with daddy while the other was born), and my youngest was given to me once the doctors were happy she was doing ok.
We were transferred to theatre recovery and after an hour or so the babies were taken away to special care for 3 hours to have an iv drip fitted for the antibiotics they needed as a result of likely infection. They were brought back to the ward and then my husband was told to leave for the night, even though I begged for him to be allowed to stay, then suddenly I was alone, with my two newborn babies!!
Sadly, that night was probably the worst night of my life due to several serious failings in care; my pain relief plan not being followed, incorrect removal of my epidural, failure to change my catheter or provide me with enough fluids. I was wired up to several drips and asked several times for nurses to help me pick up my babies as I was still paralysed, but was told to rest and that they were there to look after the babies. When the babies began to cry, I pressed the buzzer and shouted until someone came to help me try to feed them for the first time. It didn’t go well, the theatre recovery nurses were pretty impatient and forcing the babies to latch, which distressed us all. In the end I demanded to be left alone with my babies, and when we all relaxed, one of them latched straight away! The other didn’t, so I was given help to express colostrum which we fed them with a syringe.
The next day I was given an apology from my consultant for the previous night’s treatment and told that ‘steps had been taken to prevent it happening again’. By this time I was a complete hormonal emotional mess and was transferred to the maternity ward where we had a completely different experience; the staff there couldn’t have been more wonderful, gentle, patient and supportive. I spent two days solid in tears because breastfeeding wasn’t going well and the babies were losing weight. I cried to anyone in a uniform that would listen – I think even the cleaners got an earful at one stage! I think it was written in bold on every page of my notes that I wanted support with breastfeeding! Eventually, with the babies on a mixture of a pitiful amount of expressed milk, and formula, we were allowed to go home. We were offered the chance to stay but I could no longer stand being woken every half an hour for observations for myself and the babies, I felt we would relax and make more progress at home.
At home I continued to try to breastfeed at every feed then cup feed. When the midwife visited for the first time she had stern words that we were still cup feeding when the babies should be having much more, and insisted that we upped what we were feeding them and used a bottle alongside attempting to breastfeed. I had been expressing like a crazy thing since the first night and suddenly, day 6, my milk came in and I was able to ditch the formula, solely breastfeed my youngest, and bottle feed my eldest. After two feeds from a bottle, my youngest suddenly seemed to learn what to do and by day 7 we were away!
We were supported wonderfully at home by midwives and health visitors for the first few weeks, and we attended a breastfeeding clinic run at the local health centre. During this time, many, many people around me were worried not only about me, but also that the babies were not getting what they needed, giving me an easy way out of continuing to try to breastfeed. Fortunately there were some key people that believed and encouraged me and I clung on to these believers who I felt gave me justification and permission to continue!
The next few months were a roller coaster – getting used to sleep deprivation; the girls would feed 45 mins at a time sometimes every hour, and I was expressing in between. Soon I had enough milk to feed quadruplets easily – I filled the freezer and had leftovers which I hoped to donate but sadly there isn’t a local milk bank. I considered selling to body builders as apparently that’s a ‘thing’ but couldn’t quite bring myself to do it!!
We went through pain with bleeding and cracked nipples, one of my daughters had bad reflux and winding took longer than feeding! It was a challenge to ever leave the house. The breastfeeding clinic became my safe haven and there I learnt to tandem feed, was shown the best feeding positions for dealing with trapped wind and gained the confidence I needed.
It got much easier with the exception of growth spurts and developmental leaps when I was confined to the sofa feeding for a few days each time. I began to enjoy breastfeeding!
The nights were not great; the girls were waking up every two hours, not always at the same time but I refused to wake one to feed at the same time as the other, worried about upsetting their natural pattern. At 7 months old, I discovered co sleeping, and for the first time in their lives we all got a decent nights sleep, just waking for a quick couple of feeds without me having to get out of bed! I wish in hindsight I’d co slept from the beginning, it would have saved me so much tiredness and probably have helped me prevent getting a touch of PND.
I’m being quite lighthearted but breastfeeding twins has been hard; exhausting, I’ve been beyond exhausted and my immune system has taken a battering; I’ve had illness after illness. My girls have each individually slept through the night (different nights of course!) and both times I’ve ended up with mastitis, which is horrendous and feels like you’re actually dying.
We had issues with biting when the girls were teething, sometimes I would sit there in silent tears with the pain of razor sharp tooth buds coming through. When they deliberately bit, I found yelping in pain then removing them nipped (no pun intended!) it in the bud straight away.
I’d never had a goal, but I did intend to wean the girls onto cows milk at one year old. As one year approached, I attempted to give the girls cows milk in a bottle but they just spat it out and threw the bottle across the room. I tried skippy cups, straws, every receptacle I could but they even rejected expressed milk, as we’d long since been lazy with bottle feeding as breastfeeding was just so much easier. I was pretty distraught. I’d been building up to one year and the girls were more dependent on me than ever. I felt cheated and deceived by the advice of weaning to cows milk at one.
I decided to postpone going back to work and with a wonderfully supportive employer I was granted a further year’s career break. My reasons were several; partly because of childcare costs, partly because of my long commute, partly because I felt that the girls had only had 50% of the time they would have had if they were born singly, partly because of my mental exhaustion due to lack of sleep, and partly just because it didn’t feel right.
I did a lot of soul searching and reading on extended breastfeeding and realised that this was my only option if I didn’t want to wean harshly, which I knew I couldn’t bring myself to do. I so love feeding and nourishing my babies and although I’m now very self conscious feeding two very bolshy toddlers in public, I know that what I’m doing is the very best for them not only nutritionally, but immunologically and also for their psychological development.
The girls are now 15 months old and showing no signs of ‘self weaning! I still have my low moments; recently I had to pull out of going away on a hen weekend for one of my oldest friends; I miss out on a lot but I have so much more than I could ever wish for; two beautiful, healthy and very bright babies and I’m so proud of what I’ve managed to accomplish.
Are you pregnant with twins or struggling with breastfeeding? Please feel free to ask me any questions and I’ll do my very best to help.