Let me start by saying, fed babies are happy babies. I’ve stood on my breastfeeding soap box before and probably came across as a smug know-it-all, which is not my intent. Not at all.
I knew going into this latest child rearing adventure that I would at least attempt nursing for as long as my body could keep up with it. I did lots of research on breastfeeding twins (did you know that our bodies can actually keep up the necessary supply to exclusively nurse QUADRUPLETS?!) and knew it would be challenging. My experience breastfeeding a single baby was not without its difficulties, and I ultimately stopped nursing Natalie because I was sick of pumping at work and felt ready to have my body back. I cried big fat tears during our last nursing session, but nearly jumped for joy when I had my first long stretch away from her that didn’t involve engorgement and seeking out a private, clean place to pump. I won’t say that I regret ending our nursing relationship when I did, but I have spent time feeling like I gave up too soon.
I’m a pretty goal-oriented, plan-ahead person (ya think?!), so I set an initial goal of 6 weeks of exclusively breastfeeding the twinners, figuring that their weight gain and my comfort would determine whether or not we’d start supplementing with formula at that point. Having two big, healthy babies with hearty appetites was a dream in some ways (we are so incredibly grateful that these two didn’t start their lives in the NICU, like so many multiples do), but was also incredibly intimidating. I just wasn’t sure how my body would keep up, especially at the beginning when they were nursing All. The. Time.
But I hit my 6 week goal. And it was going well, so I decided to shoot for 10 weeks, and then four months, and then 6 months. Each time we hit a milestone, there wasn’t a reason to stop. Even though it’s twice the production, my body actually feels better this time around than when I was breastfeeding Natalie. I’m thrilled to share that the babes were exclusively breastfed until 5.5 months, when we started introducing some solids. Our nursing relationship is still going strong, and we’ve added lots of solid food (including mixing their infant cereal with formula) to supplement at this point. The babies nurse every 3 or 4 hours during the day, and go a long stretch (10 – 12 hours) overnight between feedings. I pumped for a while and they have each taken a bottle pretty happily, but since I’m home with them full-time the pressure to pump is mostly off. I think we’ll probably transition to drinking from straws instead of to bottles in time for their first birthday. The goal now is to keep nursing them until around that one-year mark, only weaning sooner if that seems to be best for either baby. I doubt it will.
I’ve fielded lots of questions from people about nursing twins, because I think it does kind of boggle the mind that the human body can feed TWO babies, each weighing more than 18 pounds at this point! The logistical questions can be answered pretty simply: I tandem nurse using the football hold on our giant nursing pillow, offering the breast after their naps each day. They are usually both hungry when they wake up, though Vivian isn’t always interested in nursing right away. While our nursing sessions used to last forever, both babies are now incredibly efficient little eaters and we are usually done in about 10 minutes. They each nurse on just one side apiece, and their weight gain has indicated that they are getting plenty to eat! Viv finishes first, without fail, and I prop her up on one side of the pillow for a burp and then she gets some wiggle time on the bed while Logan finishes up. She is a rolling, creeping machine and I have to keep a good eye on her to keep her from plummeting off the bed. It’s not exactly easy, but it’s a routine that works for us at this point. I’m not sure how things will change as Viv becomes bigger and stronger and wants to wriggle out of my reach.
Other questions are usually about me, and how I am able to keep up with the needs of these two growing monkeys. My body is definitely working hard, and I think breastfeeding gets the credit for my post-partum weight loss (over 60 pounds, just 5 pounds shy of my pre-pregnancy weight). I am hungry and thirsty pretty much constantly, and feel a big responsibility to be mindful of taking in enough calories to support my supply. I also take a Fenugreek supplement daily (in addition to a prenatal multi, calcium, iron, fish oil, vitamins C & D, and a probiotic), which may have no effect, but I like to think it’s helping.
I know I’m lucky that breastfeeding has been pretty seamless this time around, and feel incredibly grateful to be fostering the mutual benefits it provides me and my babies. The pressure I felt when I was nursing Natalie has simply evaporated with these two, and while I hope to breastfeed until they are near 12 months, if it stops working we’ll adjust. I’m sure it will be sad for all three of us when it ends, but as long as everyone is healthy and happy in the meantime, I’m not stressed about that transition.
I’m happy to answer questions about nursing two, if anyone has them. If you know someone expecting multiples who is curious about how it all works, send ’em my way! There were lots of challenges at first (Viv was tongue-tied, neither baby would latch without a nipple shield, I couldn’t figure out the football hold, etc.), but practice has helped us find our rhythm–it’s doable!