(Disclaimer - I'm not a doctor or lactation consultant and do not intend any information in this article to be utilized without you discussing your situation with a professional first, this serves as general information only.) How can I maximize breastfeeding success at the hospital? hospital As much skin-to-skin as possible! We had 2.5 hours of skin to skin after birth. While I understand this may not be the case for everyone, this allowed the babies time with me and the ability to nurse when they felt ready. Frequent skin to skin and latching in the newborn stage is the best prescription for a healthy milk supply. Keep your babies with you at all times and nurse whenever they need to. My husband also did skin-to-skin with whichever baby I was not nursing to keep the babies comfortable and facilitate bonding. skintoskin Think twice before introducing bottles or pacifiers. Most baby-friendly hospitals do not allow pacifiers anymore as they reduce the amount of suckling at the breast. Also, any amount of formula given will fill the babies’ tiny tummies and reduce their desire to breastfeed. Their capacity for milk is SO small, about the size of a marble, and your colostrum is the perfect amount. If they are not able to latch, absolutely make sure you are pumping every 2 hours or as recommended by the lactation consultant. I nursed and pumped, and when I pumped I was able to give the babies the colostrum in a clean syringe. Since we lived 2 hours from the hospital, I even brought some with me (prefilled with colostrum) for the drive home and kept offering small amounts to the babies to keep them satiated. How do I manage once I get home? homewithbaby Accept help if it is offered. My mom came to stay for 5 weeks, as my husband had to go right back to work. I know this is not an option for everyone, but if you have any friends or family that are willing to pitch in, even just to clean your bathrooms or prepare a meal, it will make your life exponentially easier. Nighttime was really hard. My husband wanted to help even though he had to work. We figured out a system where if the babies stirred (or if it approached 3 hours since the last feeding), I would get up, change their diapers, and wake my husband. He would then help me position the babies for nursing and go back to sleep. It was pretty terrible -we didn’t sleep much at all and we had very colicky babies who cried ALL the time. But, my husband truly wanted to help and this was his way of participating in the babies’ care with me. There were many nights when my mom would come in and help us rock the babies to sleep if necessary and we were really thankful for another pair of hands. She also helped a ton during the days when my husband was at work. Recovering from having twins was very tough on my body – you tend to have more bleeding, bloating, swelling, and overall bodily changes than with a singleton. I was also extremely hungry and thirsty all of the time. I struggled to find a single second to care for myself, even with help around the house. Understand supply and demand. Breastmilk is produced on a simple, supply and demand system. Nursing often is the best way to ensure adequate supply – not taking herbal supplements or eating certain “galactogenic” foods. My babies were late-premature and extremely lethargic. There were times when I needed to wake them to make sure they ate every 3 hours. It was a little hard because people questioned whether or not I should wake them to eat. They’d always stood by the old adage – “never wake a sleeping baby.” But, when you’ve got 6 pound twins that are struggling to gain weight – the adage no longer applies. After the babies began to steadily gain weight and my milk supply was more established, I started to let them sleep a little longer at night. Also, as discussed earlier, I tried to avoid bottles as much as possible and completely avoided pacifiers. In the beginning, I was able to pump a decent amount of milk and it was very tempting to give the babies bottles. However, I waited until at least 4 weeks to introduce a bottle, and even then, used them sparingly! I never introduced a pacifier. This is probably a whole post in and of itself, but pacifiers can reduce the amount of suckling at the breast and result in decreased milk supply. This certainly is not the case for everyone, but I know my twins struggled with latching and weight gain, so I didn't want to introduce anything that would potentially derail their progress. newborns Tandem nursing has to happen. I hate to say this, I really do. I hated tandem nursing - I admit it freely. I still hate it 16 months later. The first 3-4 months or so, you pretty much have no choice. The babies’ tummies are so tiny and breastmilk digests very quickly, usually in about 90 minutes. This generally means that your twins will want to nurse every 2 hours or less (counting from the START of the feeding). For example, if you start nursing at 7 am, they will want to start nursing again at 9 am. This leaves you with about 2 seconds of time for yourself. But, in all seriousness, think about this situation. My newborn twins took about 40 minutes to eat per nursing session. When I nursed them individually, it was 1 hour and 20 minutes into the feeding cycle before I was done nursing completely. That means there was a mere 40 minutes before twin A would be screaming for her 18th breakfast. In the meantime, there are diapers to be changed and babies to be soothed before the cycle begins again. This plan literally gives you no time to yourself. After about 3 days of being home, my husband BEGGED me to tandem nurse. I told him I couldn’t do it. He told me I couldn’t NOT do it. With tandem nursing, we usually had at least an hour of reprieve before the twins were hungry again. It’s never enough time to get everything done, but this is not forever, it’s just for now. I'm really grateful that my husband was so supportive of breastfeeding - and of me! He truly wanted me to have some time to myself because he knew how how utterly exhausted I was! AWeKWW52zkne_79rE0WnwlJBJCfM If you feel any pain, please address it with a professional – or two, or three. In the beginning, my babies’ latches were very uncomfortable. I asked the lactation nurse in the hospital for some help because I felt like they weren’t latching deep enough. She would basically come into the room, say it looked “fine,” and leave. A few times, she just latched a baby on for me and walked away, never taking a minute to teach me anything. I had no idea what I was doing, and no one cared to show me! I learned very quickly that it may not be a good idea to solely rely upon the professionals at the hospital you birth in. I’m studying to be a nurse myself (hoping to work in lactation), and there are many lessons I’ve learned about what not to do. I developed mastitis about 7-10 days postpartum. My babies weren’t latching effectively and I was so engorged. I could not get relief! Before I knew it, I was lying in bed shivering and sweating. I called a local lactation counselor to do a home visit. The second she walked in the door, she looked at my reddened, inflamed chest and said “oh honey, that does NOT look OK.” Within minutes, I was on the phone with my midwife to get antibiotics. She tried to help me learn to latch the babies properly and I felt much more confident after her visit. The mastitis eventually cleared, but sadly, the latching issues did not subside. I looked into my twins’ mouths and discovered they both had tongue and lip ties. They were also having trouble gaining weight and my pediatrician was sending me home with backpacks full of formula samples. I ended up having to see several more lactation specialists. I was exhausted, I was in pain, and I was dejected. The lip and tongue ties are something I will address more fully in a later post, but my point is – don’t seek just one professional if you need help. Sometimes a second opinion is necessary. I think a lot of people give up because they can’t find solutions to their pain, but each person you consult may have different experiences that can lend themselves to your situation. Don’t stop searching for answers! Not all pediatricians give the best breastfeeding advice. Pediatricians see A LOT of babies. They see babies who are happily breastfed, happily formula fed, and everything in between. To them, your breastfeeding experience is not personal. They don’t understand your struggles or that you have a special place in your heart for wanting to nurse your baby. What they can see is that your baby needs to gain weight. Thanks to formula, they know exactly how to do it - and fast! As parents, we need to advocate for ourselves and for our children. This doctor sees your baby once per month or less, and they may not feel like they have a responsibility to respond to your emotional needs as the child’s mother. They don’t know you, and you are not their patient. You’re new to this, and they’ve seen 1000 or more moms in the same frantic situation. It is important to them that lines on the babies’ growth charts ascend and that they meet their developmental milestones. It is up to you to express just how important breastfeeding is to you and your family. It is up to you to stand your ground. It is up to you to seek out a new pediatrician if you think he/she is not supportive of your goals. They work for you! Ditch the breastfeeding app and/or spreadsheet. I’ve always been a super neurotic, hand-in-assignments-a-week-before-they-are-due type of person. It’s no surprise that, by the time I was 30 weeks pregnant, I had a clipboard ready with my own expertly designed excel spreadsheet to document my twins’ every feeding and bowel movement. The minute the babies were latched on, we’d start recording the time and which side they were on. Initially, I was so proud of my super-organized spreadsheet. But after a little while, it became such a chore. When I went to my first breastfeeding support group, the lactation nurse told me to throw my spreadsheet in the trash. I was shocked – I thought this was what I was supposed to do? She looked at me, and said something to the effect of, “oh sweetie, please, you just have to stop this.” And I’m so thankful I did. She instead suggested I use a simple tally system to record how many times each baby ate and how many dirty diapers they had per day. The stress was lifted! I never realized how much pressure I was putting on myself to fill out this self-imposed form 800 times daily. Once I received the “permission” from someone else to let it go, my life improved dramatically. Stop with the neuroses. Feed your babies and take care of yourself when you can! Haven't caught up on the previous posts about breastfeeding twins? Check out: part one  and part two I'd love for you to comment and start a conversation! What was your experience with the hospital lactation staff? How about pediatricians? Is there anything you wish you would have known in hindsight?

This title sounds like an exaggeration, doesn't it? AcMB1ov+gnfuyN5SkhUR0j+Ow1KZ Sadly, it isn't. You see, twin pregnancies are often labeled as "high risk." Considering that twin births are up 78% since 1980, it's incredibly surprising that every twin mom would need to be treated this way. I can tell you several reasons why I was an ideal candidate to NOT be considered "high risk:" 1. I was 23 years old 2. my twins were dizygotic/diamniotic 3.  I did not have any chronic health conditions 4. I had no previous pregnancies - ergo no previous complications 5. My twins were spontaneous Here's the reasons for why I (technically) should have been "high risk:" 1. I was having two kids at once When choosing obstetrical care - I felt backed into a corner. The current medical establishment has a metric ton of criteria for twins to be born naturally. One of the, perfectly nice, physicians I saw gave me the following stipulations for having a "natural" twin birth at the local hospital: 1. I must give birth in the OR (just in case) 2. I must have an epidural placed even though I didn't want one (just in case) 3. If twin A is not head first, automatic c-section 4. If twin B is not head first, there's a possibility for a vaginal/C-section combo (AKA the dreaded "double whammy") 5. If twin A is smaller than twin B (based off of notoriously unreliable ultrasound measurements) - automatic c-section 6. Basically, if I breathed the wrong way - c-section I'm not here to make anyone feel bad about how their births went, or speaking to situations where medical interventions prevented mortality. I simply want you to know that I felt as though this was unacceptable, and I felt trapped. I wanted nothing more than to experience birth naturally - you know, the Ricki Lake in The Business of Being Born, kind of natural. I didn't understand why I wouldn't be "allowed" to do what our bodies were literally made to do. If my body could make two babies, it could certainly birth them. As my husband likes to say, "did all twin moms just die before c-sections?" [AdSense-A] IMG_0696 I felt paralyzed by the idea that I couldn't have the birth I wanted.  I checked with a local mom's group on Facebook and asked if anyone had suggestions about care providers who were more understanding. I was referred to a doctor 2 hours from my home. He looked amazing. He specialized in high risk perinatology, but also believed in home births, had a group of midwives in his practice, and he took new patients at almost any point in their pregnancy. My husband and I prayed and sat on the decision for a few days. I had some input from family members who were concerned for our safety and thought we might be better off sticking to the original plan. Something told us the original plan was not right. Ultimately, I made the appointments and transferred my records the 120 miles that were necessary for me to receive appropriate care. If an emergency occurred, I'd go to the local hospital and be no worse for the wear. After my first appointment with my new midwives and doctor, a wave of relief rushed over me. There was no pressure. There was no criteria. There were no stipulations. The doctor effectively told me that although the literature categorized me as "high risk" - I was as normal as could be. He assured me - there is nothing abnormal about having two babies. AZC5FMNa2GPm2TU4wr+qcc8F+9dz I continued to drive the 2 hours each way every single week, by myself, until the end of my pregnancy. The only time my husband was ever able to go with me was my 36 week appointment. It was not easy. Carrying two babies, I needed a nap after unloading the dishwasher. Driving 4 hours in one day (even longer if you include 18 stops to the restroom) was incredibly taxing. I can tell you now that it was worth every ounce of effort. I had the natural birth I wanted. I did not need to have an epidural, and I gave birth in a regular hospital room. I was treated like anyone else. I was able to get off the monitor and walk around. I was able to eat. I was not micromanaged. My doula was present. The doctor let my husband deliver my babies and he will forever be the first person to touch them as they entered this world. I had 2.5 hours of skin to skin with my infants before anyone asked to touch them. It was a dream experience, predicated on the effort we put forth and the risks we took to make it happen. IMG_1895   I have two healthy babies, yes - that is all that matters. But, birth matters too. We hear people say these things, and it almost negates the fact that a woman's experience is  important. My first birth was not just my babies' birthday - it was an experience that defined my life and my future. I know things don't always go as planned in these scenarios, but we shouldn't be told that we can't before we even start. We shouldn't be generalized into criteria that don't make sense. There is nothing wrong with our bodies - until it's wrong, and then we can address it. Until we all acknowledge that birth matters - we may need to keep going the distance to reach our goals. Twin A, by the way, was smaller than Twin B. twins Have something to add? Let me know what you think! Have an experience to share? Please do! [AdSense-A] If you'd like to stay posted on blog updates - subscribe here!

(This post contains affiliate links - please see what that means here). What can I do to prepare myself for breastfeeding two babies?  AS9yco9z6ZreyzFwL3Srx7KyqoYx     1. If I could do it all over again – I would absolutely invest in a breastfeeding class to learn the basic mechanics of feeding your babies. Unfortunately, while nursing is the most natural thing in the world, it does not always come easily. Especially with twins that are likely to be somewhat premature, latching technique is very important. I watched video after video, but I couldn’t seem to understand how to get the perfect latch. An in-person class would have been beyond valuable.   2. Find a local IBCLC and put her on speed dial. Group meetings are great, but the truth of the matter is – you’re having TWO babies. Leaving the house can sometimes feel impossible. I went to group meetings weekly for breastfeeding, but also had several home visits that were absolutely vital to my success. My twins both had tongue and lip ties, anatomical issues that affected heir ability to get a good latch. I was in a lot of pain for the first 3-4 months, until we revised their ties (more on that later). There were times when I could not even fathom the thought of feeding my twins one more time – and as I felt that way, the clock wasn’t stopping. The seconds were whittling down until the next nursing session and the emotional and physical pain I suffered while I reluctantly repositioned my babies on my breast was unbearable. I needed help and I needed the help to come to me. I realize your average lactation consultant will probably cost you about $75-100 for a home visit and this might seem cost prohibitive. However, when you realize that a successful nursing relationship with your babies will literally save you thousands, the monetary expense no longer seems to matter. The IBCLC I saw saved our nursing relationship. Without her expertise and support, I would not still be nursing! IMG_1155 3. Join a local Facebook breastfeeding support group. If an IBCLC is not in your budget, or if you need a quick, on-the-fly response to a question these groups are absolutely amazing. I truly believe that we are missing a very important piece of the puzzle in today’s society – a village of women who understand and are willing to help one another. Many mothers or grandmothers didn’t breastfeed, many people feel uncomfortable talking about breastfeeding, or maybe you are the first of your friends to have a baby. Whatever the situation is, the reality is that women are supposed to help other women. Today’s village may not be the same as it was in the olden days where we gathered around a town square, but we do having amazing social media resources right at our fingertips. I cannot tell you how many times a complete stranger answered my questions and kept me nursing for just one more day. 4. Purchase a twin-nursing pillow. There are so many types available, I had the Twin Z pillow, which was better once the twins were older, but not so great for the newborn stage. (link to amazon here: Twin Z pillow ) I would recommend reading reviews, but anticipate having to play games with pillow set up underneath and around you to tandem nurse. I had to have my husband “set me up” a lot in the newborn phase to keep their heads and necks level. I also honestly loved using just a regular boppy and think they are totally underrated for nursing twins. (Link here). ARE9YkxnM26tbQfeUosUV_Q+CRPT IMG_0081 5. Think about renting a hospital grade pump. I was very misinformed about pumping before I had my girls. For some reason, I thought pumping would be unicorns and butterflies and giving bottles would give me a break. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Pumping is not only uncomfortable for a lot of moms, but it creates more work. When I could have sat and watched a corny hallmark movie while nursing my babies, I had to sit and listen to the most annoying sound in the world while this machine negotiated small amounts of milk into bottles that I had to then feed to the babies and clean. I hated every second that I pumped, but the hospital grade pump was much more comfortable and much more effective at bringing in an adequate milk supply than your standard personal pump.   6. Assess your partner’s attitude toward breastfeeding and knowledge level. My husband didn’t know much about breastfeeding, but he knew it was important to me. He also knew that it was also important to him. While he may have never thought about it prior to me getting pregnant, he did realize that giving his kids the best start possible was something he truly cared about. When times get tough, your husband should have your back. This is the same with female issues, like breastfeeding. He is still my number one support person, even though he hasn’t and never will breastfeed a baby. He lifted me up when I was down, wiped my tears when I was hormonal, and encouraged me to stick with MY plan. He knows all about latching, positioning, supply and demand – because we learned together. Discuss your goals with your partner, and together determine how you will support each other. IMG_1511 Didn't read part I? Check it out here: You CAN Breastfeed Your Twins - Part 1 Also - you can now view part III! You CAN Breastfeed Your Twins - Part 3 Have any thoughts or anything to add? I would love for you to comment!!

(Just wanted to throw this out there, every situation is different and I am hoping to encourage, not disparage any moms. This post speaks to my experience and general information only. Please treat yourself with love and care.) I can recall a midwife appointment during my pregnancy, around 26 weeks. It began like any other visit - I was weighed, measured, and two heartbeats were heard. AeKYZRhIa032mVZJZKtmCLN2F+9w Before I knew it, it was time for my questions. Did I have any? I had an entire notebook of questions that I’d been filling out whenever any inkling of worry came over me. (In case you didn’t know – pregnancy fries your memory. Notebooks were a necessity and worry flowed from my pen constantly.) I didn’t even know if my insurance would cover the time it would take to get tackle those pages of queries. The conversation went like this: Me: “I’m having a lot of anxiety lately.” Midwife: “It’s normal to experience this before giving birth, I promise…” Me: “No, I’m not anxious about birth. I’m incredibly scared that I won’t be able to breastfeed.” Midwife: “Do you have any reason to believe that you can’t breastfeed?” Me: “No… I just don’t know I could ever make enough milk for two babies. It seems impossible.” Thankfully, I had an amazing provider who sat and addressed my concerns for as long as I needed. She was incredulous that I was so sure I wasn’t going to make enough milk. I could easily look back on my mindset then and blame it on my hormones. However, hormones were not the culprit, this time. Society, people, the internet, even well meaning family members, can cast doubt on your ability to breastfeed your twins. You need to tune them out. Do not give up before you even start! [caption id="attachment_84" align="aligncenter" width="300"]IMG_1486 - Version 2 Just minutes old![/caption] This is not a debate about formula feeding vs. breastfeeding – this is for moms who know they have made the decision to breastfeed their twins and want to be armed with as much knowledge as possible. I want you to know that it is possible. My midwife was incredulous for a reason. There really is no biological explanation for why you couldn't provide nutrition for the two babies that your body is creating. Don’t quit before you begin, and don’t make any big decisions on a bad day. By quitting before you begin, I mean saying things like “I’m going to TRY to nurse my twins.” In what other context do we use that exact phrase? Things like, “I’m going to try to get there on time,” “I’ll try to eat healthy this week.” Usually, when we say these things, we end up not following through. We are 15 minutes late for something even though we said we would “try,” or we are back to having a “cheat meal” after a few days of “trying” to eat healthier. “Trying” is the mentality of accepting that it may not happen. Breastfeeding is something that you need to commit to. Committing to it does not guarantee success, but hearing yourself say, “I am going to breastfeed until x amount of time” breaks down the mental barriers. It’s assertive, straightforward, and present a real, tangible goal for yourself. IMG_1151There will be days that even the most committed mothers want to quit. Breastfeeding two babies has a huge learning curve and is very stressful. There were even times when it was going well and I didn't think I could make it one more day. One of the best pieces of advice I was given was to wait until tomorrow. Just get through one more day. If I still felt like I wanted to quit tomorrow, then I should seriously consider it. But, if tomorrow is better, even marginally better – wouldn’t I have wished I hadn’t acted so brash before? Months down the road, you may regret stopping because you had a bad day, or even a bad week. Pick a time when you’re feeling better to make these tough decisions. Even if your choice is to stop, you’ll know that you were informed and not controlled by too much negative emotion, therefore minimizing future regrets. IMG_1515 IMG_2091 I’m currently at almost 16 months of exclusively breastfeeding my twins. I’m proud to say they’ve never had any milk besides mine. I’m not trying to brag, but it has been hard work and we should have permission to pat ourselves on the back. I’ve seen expectant twin moms on Facebook ask the same questions that I asked my midwife. I want them to know their worries are normal and so are their bodies. Listen to your bodies, your babies, and find a community that will support you and your goals. I haven’t decided on a stop date, and I still take it one day at a time. I commit and recommit to breastfeeding each and every single day that I choose to continue. When the time is right, I’ll decide our nursing relationship is over - on a good day.     Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments! Like what you read? Check out part 2 here: You CAN Breastfeed Your Twins - Part 2