Last week I discussed my experience with breastfeeding newborn twins.
I knew, even when I was still pregnant, that I planned on breastfeeding the girls. However, I was not fully prepared for what a challenge it would be. I set several mini-goals for breastfeeding.
The last goal I set was to get to the six-month mark.
Once we got to six months, I knew we were in it for the long haul
I figured at this point it would be silly (and expensive) to give up on nursing. By this six-month mark, my supply was very well established and the girls were, in general, very efficient nursers.
We seemed to have gotten past that tricky point where my milk did not seem to be satisfying enough.
Once I introduced solids, it seemed like some of the pressure was off of me
Technically, the introduction of solids is the first step of weaning. At first, this sounds alarming. At six months of age, I was not emotionally ready to give up breastfeeding the twins.
However, it was comforting to know that I could be away from them for a period of time and someone else in the family could feed the girls a puree and hold them over until my return.
Not that this particular scenario played out, ever. I, personally, find it excruciating to leave my small babies, ever.
However, the thought that I could, if I so wished, leave the girls with another family member was comforting to me.
The girls loved solid food, but their nursing did not diminish much for a while
Between months six and twelve, I was still nursing the girls a lot. But, they also stretched their feedings out more, so that I rarely had to nurse them somewhere other than home.
Church for them seemed to count the same as home, which is probably one of the side effects of being born into a pastor’s family. So finally, at about six months or so, I was able to take a few hours to myself between feedings.
Yes, it was a lot of work
I spent a lot of time feeding those babies. Yes, our family life suffered a bit. Laundry was never caught up, dinner was a rather casual affair some days.
I skipped many fun evening activities with friends. But, the health of my twins and my own health was and is totally worth it. The girls have been exceptionally healthy. As a matter of fact, despite Emily’s rough NICU start, she has only had to make one sick visit to our doctor.
Elizabeth has only been in for well-baby checks. Yes, they both have some colds and minor stomach bugs (we are a family of eight!), but we have had no ear infections, or RSV or any other myriad ailments I feared when I knew I’d be delivering two small, possibly early babies in January!
(I am not claiming that breastfeeding specifically prevented these ailments, however, it is a well-documented fact that breastmilk offers immunity-boosting properties!)
And, while I was letting the house go so that I could nourish my babies, I was actually taking care of myself.
Breastfeeding is a wonderful symbiotic relationship. The babies gain nourishment, and the mother, who played a part in creating the tiny miracles that she holds, gets a much-needed moment of rest.
My breastfed twins did not sleep through the night until they were a year old
This is not a complaint. This is not a downside of breastfeeding. This is a simple fact. My babies woke in the night to feed until they were a year old. They had a need, and I met that need.
Was it always pleasant? No. Will I miss this night’s feeds someday? Yes, I think I really will.
I took advantage of the quiet and alone time. I caught up on DVRed television shows. I read my book club selections on my Kindle. I posted obscure Facebook statuses. Some nights I would just stare into the eyes of my sweet baby girl and marvel at the miracle that she was.
Yes, I spoke in the singular there. Because I never ever woke the second twin in the middle of the night.
Whatever baby woke up in the night got fed. Some nights only one baby would wake several times. Some nights I had very broken sleep as the babies played “tag” and took turns waking every hour on the hour (those were very, very, difficult nights, and I always declared a “pajama day” the next day).
But these older baby night wakings were different than newborn night wakings. They were less predictable, less scheduled, and shorter than the newborn wakings. Sometimes a twin would only need to breastfeed for a few short minutes. Other times she may have seemed famished.
Why did I not wake the other twin and get it over with?
Well, there are a few answers to this question. Part of me is so used to being a mother of singletons. Before the girls were born, I had four sons, one at a time. Several years apart. I am simply better wired to night-parent one baby at a time.
I prefer to fly solo during the night. I know that many parents of twins have a team approach at night. I can appreciate that. However, I felt incredibly guilty as a stay-at-home mother to make my non-lactating husband wake up at night to help with the babies. Yes, they are his children too.
But, his vocation is very important. And sleep helps him to do a better job. He spent many a morning during the girls’ first year handling the boys’ morning routine on his own so that I could get a borrowed hour of sleep after a long night.
He rarely complained about the state of the house, and he pitched in as well as he could and encouraged the older children to do the same.
Also, even though I am not a sleep trainer, and I am against most sleep training methods, I also am wise enough to realize that waking a baby in the night, for whatever reason, does not aid in that baby learning healthy sleep habits.
If I were to wake the other twin, in order to save myself a wake-up an hour later, I would be breaking a sleep cycle, for somewhat selfish reasons on my part.
Now, if you are a mom who has to work outside of the home, you may have to find a sleep plan that works better for you. You may find that your twins are better sleepers at an early age than mine was.
I also had the experience of four older siblings and the knowledge that they began to sleep better at a year of age.
At around a year old, nursing jealousy kicked in
I had read about nursing jealousy before it hit. I was ready for it. The books warned of it beginning around six months old, and we did not experience it then. I thought we may have avoided it.
However, at about a year old and continuing even now, it hit with a vengeance!
If I breastfeed one twin, the other immediately takes notice (even if she was happily playing), rushes over to my chair, and cries the most pitiful, “my feelings are so hurt, you are certainly betraying me” cry.
I softly tell the “wounded” twin that first I am feeding her sister, and then I will feed her.
Usually, after a moment the other twin will return to her activity. However, as soon as I finish breastfeeding the other twin, the second feeder will rush to my chair to “claim” her feed.
It is quite a spectacle, and one of the reasons I rarely, if ever, nurse them outside of the home if I can help it!
Weaning is in the future, but I’m not sure when
The three of us are in a pretty comfortable nursing relationship. For the most part, all three of us get a full night of sleep (barring teething discomfort). Both girls remain fairly courteous nurses (meaning that I rarely get bitten).
I don’t foresee another pregnancy or a prolonged absence that could force weaning, so for now, we continue with the status quo.
Breastfeeding older babies is complicated and proper nursing manners must be taught. I see their feedings stretching farther apart, and then sometimes I cans sense a growth spurt or developmental milestone when they seem to need me more.
I do know that I feel so privileged to have been able to spend this time with my girls. Our nursing sessions have been wonderful times of snuggling, storytelling, singing, and toe tickling.
The laundry can wait for another day. I know that I am going to blink and my sweet nurslings will be heading off for kindergarten, hand in hand, with a spring in their step!