Oh, it's the inevitable post-partum BOOB post!
I've been wanting to write about my breastfeeding experience for a while, but it's just recently that I've been quite a bit more obessed/stressed about it and needed to get it out.
I exclusively pump. The twins got formula and collostrum for the first two days of their lives, but haven't had anything other than breastmilk since my milk came in on day 2. I feel so incredibly lucky that a) my milk came in that early, b) I ended up with an oversupply and could therefore keep up with two babies, one of whom went through two months of eating nearly 45oz every day, and c) I got a HANDS FREE PUMP!
Here's the story. Day 1, about five minutes after they rolled me into the recovery room I was in a wicked haze and shaking uncontrollably (c-section will do that to you) when a nurse came over and said they were about to give our babies some formula, "Would you like to feed them?" I was like, yeah, on the boob. They said no. No? No. Ok, I'm confused. I've read that I need to try and nurse asap...so can you let me have my babies? No. Um, ok. Let me go at this from a different angle...
Basically, I don't remember much of it, but I know that I tried to struggle for about two minutes and then they explained that if I want the babies to be sent to the NICU then sure, I could try to feed them. Otherwise, they need formula cuz their blood sugar was too low.
I think that's what happened. Like I said, I was in a haze. But I honestly don't care. I did for a few minutes right then, but I got over it pretty quick when I remembered that goal = healthy babies. Besides, I was seriously shaking and it would have been a HOT MESS trying to nurse them for the first time right then.
Fast forward to one quick trip to the NICU anyway for some testing and then we were all in our room. With twin births, they have LCs come by every day and just hang out for as long as you need them. It was really great to have the expertise, cuz it wasn't so easy. They had already started on the bottle, but I wanted to try.
So for the next two days I nursed one for ten minutes on each side, then gave them a bottle of formula/whatever I could pump, then nursed the other for ten minutes on each side then supplemented with bottle...and then pumped (tricked my body into thinking I had triplets basically)...then washed and dried pump parts. This took about two hours and the babies were eating every three. Starting on day three I stopped all of the formula because I was pumping enough for them, but still had to do a bottle of pumped milk after every attempt at nursing, cuz they weren't latching well. By day four, I was in full blown tears almost everytime I tried to get them to latch.
The babies were about 5lbs each by this point, had "late pre-term" sucking/latching problems, and fell asleep after about 30 seconds on the boob every.single.time. I can't tell you all of the different tricks we were trying to keep them awake, it was intense and took a LOT of time, especially with two. I finally decided that I was going to focus on pumping for them and I would try to get them to latch a couple times a day for practice, but I'd revisit when they got older/more mature. The LCs were in full agreement and recommended trying again later.
Eventually, Grace gave up. I went to see LCs, we tried and tried. She had enough and it was incredibly apparent by about three weeks PP that she was done nursing. She knew the bottle and liked it better. Caleb started getting better at latching and ended up nursing pretty well...but little man started into a two month growth spurt of EPIC proportions (he went from 5lbs on day 4 to 12lbs by 8 weeks). He would nurse for twenty minutes and then still need a 5oz bottle, which would take another 20-30 minutes to get down. So, with the prospect of feeding two babies and still making time to pump after every feed, it just wasn't in the cards for us.
I still nursed Caleb once a day for about 6 weeks or so which helped my supply (and any clogged ducts that came up), and gradually just gave up on it. I continued to pump 8x per day for about 9 weeks and by that time I was getting about 70oz per day. Serious oversupply, but it worked out.
I built up a pretty good freezer stash, even with my ginormo baby, and didn't need to dip into it at all until about a week and a half ago. After getting sick, I had to start pumping 7-8 times per day again (I dropped to about 6 around 11 weeks) and it was getting to be too much. I also started trying to get in shape again and eating less, which had an impact as well. The babies started sleeping longer stretches and I stopped waking up to pump without them. I had gone a long time without a stretch of sleep longer than two hours so that I could pump every feed (even if B took that feeding). I was tired and done.
Exclusively pumping is SO hard, but for us, it was incredibly worth it. Just the fact that I had the oversupply, I had to go ahead and use it. It's been a tough addition to my busy day of taking care of two babies, but after all of the difficulties I've had with my body over the years, including the pregnancy, I was so surprised that I actually had the supply that I needed.
So right now my supply is slowly dropping, and I'm not working too hard to get it back. I was for a few days, living in denial that we'd need to move to formula at this point (I had originally wanted to try for 3 months, but when I made it that far I decided to try for 6). I'm ok with them having formula, and I'll still be able to give them some breastmilk every day, but it's the cost that I'm bummed about really. It was pretty awesome to avoid any cost for feeding them, especially because we had such hefty eaters.
Here's the worst part. I could probably survive for quite some time on pumping what I've got left and using my freezer stash, but we found out about 3 weeks ago that dairy-free REALLY helps with Grace's spitting up/reflux and Caleb's fussiness. I had tried to go dairy free a while back, but did it sorta half-assed and not for long enough to see any effects, so I gave up. I tried it again for real a few weeks ago and it seemed to make a big difference. I wasn't fully convinced though until a) I gave them some milk from the freezer, from when I was eating dairy, and the spitting-up/fussiness returned and b) I went off the dairy free diet for a couple days and again, the spitting-up/fussiness came back. Crazy! I didn't want to believe it cuz, honestly, I like eating yogurt and ice cream from time to time...but it seriously makes a huge difference!
So now I'm a little torn. Do I waste all of that freezer stash? The pediatrician said it's a serious hassle to try and donate it because of all of the testing and red tape to go through for screenings. I don't really have a ton of time on my hands so that might be a bit difficult to take on right now. Or do I just give them a little bit at a time and hope that it doesn't affect them too much? I don't have enough supply now that I'm dairy free to keep up with them completely let alone freeze any.
We'll see what happens. In the meantime, I'm looking into the right formula to choose. What are your recommendations?
Also, our pediatrician said no solids at all until after 6 months.
Here are a few things I've learned about Exclusively Pumping (for twins) that might help those who have to go down that road (this is just my experience, it may be different for others!):
1. In the beginning, getting the babies to latch at all is a big win for your supply as well as the prospect of having them latch later on. Keep trying every now and then if you have help- just let someone else feed one baby a bottle while you try and nurse the other, then pass off that baby for a bottle while you pump. Saves time.
2. Don't try to get them to latch when you're alone if you're already having trouble. It will just cause meltdowns for mom and babies. Save the latching practice for when there is another set of hands to help out!
3. BUY A HANDS FREE PUMP! Oh my gosh, I started out using the hospital grade pump they supplied. I'm sure it was good for my supply, but oy having to hold it on there when pumping 8 times per day is just plain cruel. I bought the Med.ela Fre.estyle. Glorious. Worth the money, I promise (if you're EPing).
4. Drink a ton of water (goes for pumping and nursing).
5. Eat as much as you possibly can. Even if it's not the healthiest food, you need to get calories!
6. DO NOT WATCH THE BOTTLES as you pump. It will only stress you out. Seriously. Just pick up your phone, iPad, baby, remote...anything to keep your mind off of the amount that you're pumping. Stressing over your supply backfires, I guarantee it. And eat/drink while you're pumping, it makes the time go faster.
7. Some women have luck with looking at a picture of their babies or envisioning them latching to help with let-down. I find it always better to just think about something else. Get distracted. All of a sudden twenty minutes will have lapsed and you'll have a good amount pumped. Whatever you do, RELAX. You can't let-down if you're stressed or nervous/worried/busy! (one of the downfalls of the hands free pump is you can do things like clean up or wash bottles, just make sure you're not doing anything that will tense you up, you have to relax)
8. Read kellymom.com for tips on getting your supply up if you're worried. Things like fenugeek and mother's milk tea can help. I didn't have to go down this route, but I've heard great success.
9. Keep up the night time pumps until at least 8 or 9 weeks. I know, it's rough. But your supply will definitely take a hit if you quit those too soon. I've heard you need 12 weeks to really set your supply. I went a little less than that and it was fine. But not too much less.
10. Pump every time the babies eat. Yes. Every time. For at least 12 weeks if possible. Or until you're ok with a little dip in your supply...or you just can't anymore. This happened for me around 12 weeks, so I let it happen. I started spreading the pumps out to about every four hours and my babies are eating every 3 hours. I usually pump one less time than they eat. This worked out fine and I still had the same supply for about 3 or 4 weeks after decreasing. Then I got sick and skipped a few more pumps and started eating less...well, you get the picture.
11. Wait until the babies are napping to pump if at all possible. This will make it hard for you to nap when your babies nap, but it's the only way to really get a good pump. Put the babies down and then wait until they're really asleep to get the machine going. Otherwise you'll be up and down trying to soothe them or you'll have to stop pumping so you can get them out of the crib, etc.
12. Even with a hands free pump, don't bend over while pumping! Easiest way to lose some of your milk on the floor :( haha
13. Always mark on your freezer bags how much you put in the bag and the date (there should be an appropriate place to mark, don't use pen that will smudge when wet!!!).
14. If you get a clogged duct, try pumping while leaning forward a bit. Try to turn up the pump a level higher than usual. Try to release the suction in the horn for a second and put it back on angled a little bit differently (usually try to angle the pump horn in the direction of the clog).
15. If you can get your baby to latch, it's the easiest way to clear a clogged duct! Caleb saved me from many painful nights! He would latch for just a few minutes and then have to pull off because he unclogged the duct and it was spraying too hard and choking him. Poor little man!
16. Do not try and wash your pump parts after every feed. Good lord I did this for like three weeks and it was just awful. Luckily a bloggy friend mentioned that it was ok to store them in the fridge for a day at a time! This saved my life. Just put them in a ziploc bag after you use them and put them in the fridge for the next time. But make sure to warm them up a bit before throwing them on your boobs! YIKES, good morning!
17. Buy more than one set of pump parts so you can throw the dirty ones in the sink and just pull out the others for the next pump. Then you don't have to be worried about washing them before your next session, etc.
18. Bottles, oh good lord bottles. Make sure you have enough pumping bottles so you don't have to wash those too often, either. I never used the same bottles to pump and to feed, although that's an option. It just didn't work for us and my oversupply. I pumped into medel.a bottles and stored in the fridge in those (or in the freezer in bags) and then poured into bottles as we went.
19. Please buy enough feeding bottles so you don't have to wash bottles more than once per day. Ugh, learned that one a little late, too!
20. Snuggle your babies. I wish I could have nursed my babies, but it wasn't in the cards for us. I mourned the loss of that bonding time for a bit, but really, I get to snuggle my babies chest to chest, on my knees, kiss their face and tummies, and look at their gummy grins! Plenty of bonding time without nursing, so don't fret. If pumping gets in the way of this bonding time too much, just remember that formula is not the enemy! Enjoy your babies, they are only little for a short time! (Believe me, my tiny 5lb Caleb is now an 18lb 4 month old!!!)
Good luck and please don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions!