I have had quite a few requests for a blog on my experiences breast feeding and since I like to please, here it is. One thing we need to cover off before I get into the nitty gritty of breast feeding, is I have implants. Not a secret, it's been written about in magazines before, talked about on TV in a really embarrassing reality tv show I did when I was in my early 20's, but I haven't talked about it recently. Since the Nuggets have arrived I have a new group of followers/readers and you probably weren't aware. For the people who knew I had them, that's usually their first questions when we talk about breast feeding. How did you breast feed when you have implants? It's one of the biggest misconceptions about implants out there, that it means you won't be able to breast feed. My doctor assured me then, as I always knew I would want to breast feed, that unless I wasn't naturally able to breast feed myself, then the placement of my implants would not affect that. It's funny how so many people instantly think it's a write off, even my OB was worried I wouldn't be able to feed.
Anyway I digress...when I first was pregnant I knew I would want to feed and was aiming for a year. When we found out we were having twins I still wanted to feed but knew it would be a tougher journey.
Fast forward 34 weeks and the nuggets made their early entry into the world. After my emergency c-section I was told to squeeze my boobs to collect the colostrum.I barely remember it, but Jay said he would hover over my boob with a syringe sucking it up and after every squeeze I would fall fast asleep. Apparently it was rather hilarious! The amount of colostrum I collected really impressed the nurses and was a good sign that I would be a milk making machine, which it turns out I was luckily.
I was still vomiting for about 2.5 weeks after birth and was paranoid my lack of nutrients would affect my supply, but I'm really lucky that it didn't effect it too badly. My milk came in big time and I had beach balls as boobs, they were so full, pert and looked pretty epic if I do say so myself. Poor Jay was allowed no where near them though!
Since the boys were born so small, the first few days they would practice feeding on my breast whilst still being feed by and NG tube. The NG tube delivered my pumped milk directly to their stomach via a tube that went up their nose and into their tummy.
The nurses were great in Nicu, except one who made me feel like shit for being a little late to feed one of the boys, he was really hungry and it was then difficult to latch him. I was so ill myself I found it really unfair that she was making me feel so bad and guilty about being late (reason being I was being sick in the toilet). Last thing a twin mama wants to feel is pressure and anxiety about doing everything wrong! The rest were great and really helpful with showing me how to latch them and support their tiny little bodies next to me and my giant knockers. One of the things I had to do was pop a finger on my breast and pull it slightly away from their noses, they were so small my full boobs would squish against their face and since they were so small it would cover their nostrils, so the pulling away would give them a clear airway making it easier to feed.
Once you graduate Nicu you are sent to PIN, a ward where the babies are still supervised 24/7 by nurses but where you are meant to do all of their "cares", basically look after them like you would at home. Most babies are in there to learn how to feed properly, stabilise, put on weight and just be generally better and in a good place to be able to thrive once sent home with their parents.
I really realised once we were in PIN that I was struggling to bond with my babies and I thought nailing breastfeeding and feeling like I was doing "something" right would help. I really stuck in to figuring the whole breastfeeding out, as I figured that maybe that was the key to bonding, as so many mothers said it does. Their mouths were so small they didn't always latch correctly, I was having to pump to keep extra feeds available to be feed via NG tube. I did get some cracked nipples which wasn't fun at all. I noticed it first when I saw there was blood in my pumped milk and quickly realised it was coming from the space where my areola and my nipple meet. We have a lactation consultant who works in the NICU and PIN ward, I personally found her very helpful. She was straight in there giving me these new Manuka honey breast pads to help heel them and they were a godsend. I couldn't recommend them enough. The healing properties of the Manuka in the pads worked a treat, and within a couple of days they healed and I never got any more cracks or grazes after this. The lactation consultant told me that I was lucky as darker coloured nipples are tougher and I seriously had some dark chocolate afghans going on. Considering how little pain I got in terms of the boys sucking on them, the old wives tales may be true! Thanks to my great grandmas Indian blood for giving me some tough nipps!
Check the silly pumping video my friend Sophie took when she visited me in hospital, she couldn't believe the set up and how it really was like milking a cow.
My milk supply was great, once those first cracks disappeared my nipples were holding up, but my god those let down pains were tough! I felt like I had needles running down my milk ducts for the first 5 or so minutes of feeding. Everyone told me feeding hurt because it hurt your nipples, no one told me my boobs would feel like they were being shredded on the inside! I'm not sure if you just get used to that pain or it goes away after you have been feeding for a few weeks, but that eventually wore off. I would just grin and bear it for the first 5 minutes until it would subside for the rest of the feed!
Sadly the whole bonding experience whilst feeding for the first few weeks didn't happen for me. I was forever trying to keep them awake on the boob, timing how long it was taking them to record on the sheets in PIN and generally falling asleep myself late at night waiting for them to finish their sometimes hour long feeds (that's two hours sitting up in a cold hospital feeding them one by one!), it was exhausting. Thats another thing no one says, they say breast feeding is handwork, but I thought that meant it was hard figuring it all out, not that it was physically exhausting to begin with. The thirst, all the extra water and food you need, the forever having something attached to your nipple, the pain of being hooked up to IV's myself and bending the joints they were placed in to feed, dealing with the boys wires and tubes and the cramp you would get from holding a baby in one place for an hour. Gah! It's funny as I originally thought I had a pretty easy experience breast feeding, as once I got it down it was pretty straight forward, but I really forgot about all of this stuff that happened at the beginning. That is until I started typing and it came pouring out of me.
After realising I couldn't handle sitting up for two hours at a time feeding the boys one after each other, I knew I had to get the tandem feeding down. Late one night the lactation consultant had more free time to help me learn how to do it and set me up. God it was hard getting their tiny bodes in the right position and up close enough to my giant orbs, there was so may rolled pillows, muslin cloths etc going on but we did it.
I had to hold their heads up and in the right angle towards my nipples because their heads weren't big enough to lay flat and let their mouth reach me. So sitting and feeding like this for an hour (they were slow feeders to start with due to their size) wasn't exactly comfortable either. The pillow had to wrap around my sides so their legs could lay that way, as they got longer and longer it was tough as I would need to sit so far forward in the pillow for them to be able to lie down. I was forever having to shove pillows down the back of the pillow for back support and to stop it pushing forward if I sat back. I have since found a great looking twin feeding/general feeding pillow online from the states that looks like it solves that problem. Wish I had seen it when i was feeding!
Tandem feeding wasn't easy to start with, so if you have twins and are reading this don't expect it to be something you will master quickly, especially setting it up by yourself. (If you do I bow down to you). The boys were small so it would take Jay passing them to me and me holding them in place to get them to feed correctly, in fact to tandem feed it took Jay being their to help me a good few months before I felt confident enough to do it on my own, not the latching part, but actually getting them up onto the pillow and settled. Jay was amazing and would wake at every night feed to help pass the boys to me and get them on, and then take them one by one when they were done to help me burp them. I should mention here that the boys feed 2 hourly 24/7 for about 16 weeks. Those little buggers didn't get into a great 3 hourly schedule like most NICU babies and demanded to be feed every two hours without fail. There was no stretching them out as they would get so historical that they would end up being too upset to latch and feed properly. It was bloody awful! So props to Jay for being their by my side 100% for all of the night feeds, I seriously have an amazing man.
It took a visit from Dorothy Waide for me to put on my big girl panties and decide to give tandem feeding when I was alone a good crack. The boys were about 2 moths at this stage and she said I didn't need to treat them as carefully as I had when they were in Nicu. She recommend I set myself up on the couch with each of them on either side of me, pop one on and then pick the other one up with one hand and scoop them up onto the pillow. To burp them mid feed she said I should roll them off the pillow, I know, sounds WTF?! But it worked. I would kind of gently roll them off the pillow gently as possibly onto the couch and lay them on their tummy. Then you could pat their back till they did a big burp and pick them up by the back of their clothes (I know this sounds horrifying but it worked!) and lift them back onto the pillow to re latch. Imagine it being like a cat picking their baby up by the scruff of their neck. So that's how I managed tandem feeding alone while they still needed me to keep an arm under their head, so their mouth could reach my nipples. As they got older I would sit them in a boppy pillow either side of me and latch them one by one. They were bigger and heavier at this stage so I could reach for one and put them on, they no longer needed my hand for support so I could use both hands to get the second. Then eventually I could hold them both in a side by side football hold where they lay on top of each other.
I'm lucky that after those first few weeks with the pain, exhaustion of the 2 hour feeds it started to click into place for me. I'm not so lucky that the whole breast feeding experience didn't help me bond with my kids, that was a slow burn, but oh boy do I love them with everything now. I have said before that I almost, dare I say it, found it easy to breastfeed once we were established. I think the main reason behind this was that the boys latched well, I didn't continue to get pain, I made a FUCK load of milk, I could pump off 500-600ml in 20mins with no problems and they were good and quick feeders once they got bigger. BUT, and it's a big BUT, they had collic and reflux, which meant they puked everything up constantly! So while I made a tonne of milk it was hard to keep up with the demands for feeds as they were starving all the time after projectile vomiting everywhere.
I felt like they were constantly on my boob. If you know me you know I love my own 'bubble' I like my own space and me time and it was slowly driving me mental having not one but two things attached to my boob, then people like my mum hanging over my boobs watching them feed. What is it with that? I know people think it's cute and she was worrying they weren't feeding right but I'm like, back up mum, give me some space and keep your beady eyes off my boobs! (love you mum!).
I also wasn't keen on the feeding when we were in public. Don't freak, I'm not one of those people who think its gross to show your boobs whilst feeding in public, I feed them plenty of times out and about and I never covered them up. I don't care and if someone does they wouldn't walk away without a massive telling off from me. It was just the whole process took so long with two, I would have to do them one at a time. As much as I don't care about feeding in public, you can see above that tandem feeding is pretty much rolling fully topless and not discreet with my huge nipples and boobs. If we were out, which was rare, I wanted to eat my meal or whatever we were out for and not spend it sitting and feeding the whole time. So we would bottle feed either pumped milk if I had enough backed up or formula. That's something I'm not ashamed to admit, I am pro 'fed is best' and my children did mix fed during the 6 months that I breastfeed. So never feel bad if you do the same or purely formula feed. The mums who exclusively breastfeed, you are awesome and I am not trying to take away that achievement for you, but those that fed their child whatever way should be just as proud. It's not a competition after all!
Now a lot of lactation consultants or people in general stress about nipple confusion with bottle teats in the early stages. I kinda ignored that advice and feed them a bottle once a day from about 3 weeks old. I always feed them this bottle at night, the last feed before bed as that was when my milk was at its least fatty and I was tired and exhausted. I liked having the help to feed them or having Jay and another friend who was over doing it so I could have time out. Which is much needed and deserved, so don't feel guilty if this is something you want to do also. The nipple confusion thing never happened and it meant the boys were used to a bottle, so if they were away from me then someone else could feed them. I had so many friends say they gave their bottle to their baby once, they took it so thought all was fine, by the time they needed to give one to them again they weren't having it. I'm no expert but I think a bottle a day or every few days definitely helps with that issue, in my humble opinion.
I wanted to reach a year BF the boys but we got to 6 months when we went to LA to visit family and the weaning started, mum took them for a night so we could go stay at a hotel and have a lone time and they stopped being interested in the boob. To be honest I was done too. I was still having mental health issues and finding the transition to twin mum rather difficult and I just wanted a bit of "me" back. I was proud of what I had done, but I was tired of feeding only to watch it all be puked back up 2 minutes to 2 hours later so I started weaning.
I guess the point of all this is we all walk a different journey, and like Rebecca said at Takes A Village, breastfeeding is natural, as in we are made to do it, but it doesn't come naturally. Just as like I experienced with the help of a lactation consultant, it's a learned behaviour. We and our babies need to learn how to do it and it can be fucking hard. So don't be too hard on yourself ladies.
Weaning next up on the blog and why the boys still have their beloved bot bots.