Monday, August 24, 2009

How Does One Nurse Two?

When I was still pregnant, I devoured any book that was twin related. I couldn't get enough information from moms who had been there, done that. Every book had an obligatory chapter on feeding, and just about every book I read said the same thing about nursing twins, and it went something like this:

"It is technically possible to nurse twins, but few manage it. If you can, that's great! You go, girl! But for the rest of us, and probably you too, the next 20 pages are about the ins and outs of bottle feeding..."

So, when I started, I didn't have high hopes. I prepared myself for a huge battle and difficulties in getting two to eat simultaneously.

And it never really happened.

You might be thinking: "Wait, you have complained about nursing and had just about every complication possible over the last six weeks. What are you talking about???!!!"

Well, that's the thing: I've had trouble with NURSING. Every issue I've had has been related to nursing in general...nothing to do with nursing *twins*. My (still ongoing) battle with thrush was related to all the antibiotics I've been on...had it with Henry for the same reason. The mastitis?...nothing to do with two little mouths...trouble latching with Lucy? struggled with Henry on that one too. None of it is a twin problem...just a nursing problem. I would have had all this trouble even if I had only one babe.

So, how DO you nurse twins?

Well, for starters, I have two boobs. So that's helpful. I remember the very first time I fed the girls in the hospital, the first thing I said was "Well, it's a good thing I didn't have triplets!" :)

That said, I tandem nurse just about 99.99999% of the time. Doing it separately doubles the time and staggers the schedule too much. I would basically spend most of my day feeding if I didn't do it at the same time. So the time I spend nursing the girls is actually no longer than the time I spent nursing just Henry.

Some twin moms nurse one baby and then feed formula to the other...and then switch at the next feeding. This seems crazy to me. To sit for 30 minutes and nurse Lucy...and then go make a bottle, sit and feed it to Jill and then go clean said bottle, just sounds like a lot of work and so much more time. I'm not quite sure why you would do this?

I'm convinced that the key to nursing twins lies in having the proper set up and having nursed a baby before is a huge advantage. I can see how if you haven't done it before, you might just give up and think that your woes come from there being two babies, rather than it just being part of the game sometimes.

EZ-2-Nurse Pillow:

(For those of you who don't know me in real life...that is not me...just the stock photo from the would think they could update the photo considering how much they charge!)

This is a must. I cannot imagine trying to breastfeed twins without this thing. Without it, you would just have to prop 25 pillows and blankets to make it work. It's expensive (about $50 plus shipping/handling), but I got TWO of them for $10 on Craigslist. I keep one upstairs, and one downstairs...although that's totally unnecessary...I only do it because it worked out that way.

The downside is that it's HUGE. At least twice the size of a Boppy.

But it not only helps hold up the babies, but the way that the foam is cut, it angles the babies that you can nurse hands free! This is nothing short of miraculous...I couldn't nurse Henry hands free, so the fact that I can with two is incredible!

(Again, not me, but I HAVE eaten a meal and/or talked on the phone like this!)

The second key to success is having a proper "Nursing Station":

When I had people here helping, they would hand me one baby at a time and then I would hand them back when I was done. Obviously, this wasn't going to work long term, so I had to figure out how to get the girls situated alone. I found that setting them on either side of me on the couch didn't work...the minute I sat down, they would roll towards me and end up underneath the giant pillow, and it was really awkward trying to pick each one up when I also had this gigantic thing strapped to my middle. I quickly realized that I needed to be able to set the babies down in FRONT of me. So, I found an armless chair (the pillow is so big you can't sit in a chair with arms) and I set it next to my bed which is at the perfect height.

Many of you may have been wondering how on earth I have time to blog and surf the web lately...well, since I'm stuck just sitting there staring at my bedroom wall for so much of my day (no TV allowed in bedrooms), I get bored and set up my laptop...and am literally typing this post while the girls are eating (and Henry is napping).

So ultimately, nursing twins is not much different than nursing a singleton. The only real difficulties I have found are:

  • I have no idea how I will/can tandem nurse in public. I may have to do it one baby at a time, or just time all of my trips between feedings. And since they are on the same schedule, I'd likely have to listen to one scream bloody murder while I fed the first one...
  • You can't be discreet nursing two.
  • Night feedings require you to be fully sitting up in bed and wide awake. You can't just nurse lying down and be half asleep so that's a big bummer.
  • You are kinda stuck feeding with the "Football Hold". I've heard you can do it the other way, but the babies have to kind of lay on top of eachother...which seeems weird to me.

Other than that, I can't think of much else that makes it all that different.

So there you have it. If you can make it through all the drama that breastfeeding can bring in and of itself (and not everyone has as much trouble as I do...shocking), nursing twins is not only possible, it's actually relatively "easy" once you get the hang of it!

Besides, I've done the math on would cost us somewhere in the neighborhood of $300-400 per MONTH for both girls...and that's assuming we didn't have to buy the super expensive Alimentum stuff! That would put us at about $700/month!!!! Yikes.


Jacquelyn said...

hahahahahaha gasp! that first picture of the nursing pillow is hilarious! She almost makes it look like she could set the whole thing up on the kitchen counter and make a pot roast for dinner at the same time! So glad you found something that helps! (you looked great on Sunday BTW, sorry I didn't get to say 'hi')

The Kothe Clan said...

I envy you. I only lasted 8 weeks and that was mainly pumping. Mastitis sucks, blocked ducts suck, the whole process is stressful.

Serenity Now said...

A-mazing. Nice to see how the process all works because of course I imagine you doing nothing but nursing a baby all day long. I guess I didn't consider that you do them both at the same time! One day your girls are going to have kids of their own and they will look back at all this and know they have one heck of a good mother :) I'm fascinated...but yeah, formula is $$$$$$$$, so good for you for sticking it out!

Penny Malley said...

So my question is this: How does each babe get enough milk when they're each only getting one boob? I assume your body just produces twice as much milk, right? How does it all FIT in them?? I sound like a 3 year old, but this is fascinating to me. Have you tried to pump, just to see how much each is getting?

Jeannett Gibson said...

Penny- your milk is produced via supply and demand, so the more the babies nurse, the more it makes...and since they do a full session on ONE side, that side has to produce enough to fulfill that need. So apparently they get enough. As for where it all goes...well, let's just say that I sometimes could pass as Dolly Parton's long lost twin! :(

Mama Mote said...

hahahahahahaha You posted it, but didn't use your picture as you said. Now I can picture it and I can't even fathom nursing two at once. Love your setup. You're a good mom, Jeannett. Maybe your girls will have twins. :)

Cindy said...

Good for you! :) I tried nursing my twins, but I had to pump for 3 weeks (the were in the NICU that long) and wasn't producing enough milk for both babies to be satisfied. I finally gave up - and these were my first babies. Had I done this before, I might have been able to stick it out. I tried tandem nursing only once.

summer... said...

wow! my heart stopped when i read the cost of formula for you two little ones. think of how many pairs of shoes you could buy with that money!!! seriously! well... hang in there! you're doing amazing.

Mommy3 said...

You're awesome! Keep it up. My twin girls are 9 months and have been super healthy and I am still nursing. I did tandem (the only way to go) until they were just over 7 months. At that point, they were just too big, moving around and on top of each other to manage both. Now I do one at a time time but they nurse MUCH faster now that they are older. Since I work, I pump A LOT and we go through A LOT of bottles too. Other than a little in NICU, no need for formula so far. The benefits and simple economics of keep me going. Funny I never had enough milk for my one son and now I have an abundance for 2. Go figure?

Thomas Clan said...

nursing two in public gets easier when they are a bit older. and the laying on eachother is a bit odd, but then becomes normal. i didn't have the twin thing but 15 months apart and nursed them both until luke was 27 months.
you go girl. i would love, love to see you and meet your girls. i will phone you soon..need to get your # again. i'll find ya. :)

Joanie said...

I love how we moms find our zone. My zone was with "My Brest Friend pillow" (the little sister to a twin nursing pillow) (Does that make any sense?) in my glider with my feet propped up on the ottoman. Countless wonderful - and sometimes restless - hours were spent there that I wouldn't trade for the world!

I love how you have a no TV in the bedroom rule. It makes a difference to quality of life I think.

Keep up the good work!