I'm picking back up on my breastfeeding series. You can find the first few posts here.
Because the breathe, suck, swallow concept is developed in the last few weeks before babies are born, the twins had a little catching up to do. They were not able to develop this skill in utero so we had some work to do when they were born. I was not actually able to nurse the boys until their last week in the NICU.
We would do kangaroo care (skin to skin) every day because it has been proven to help preemies. They don't have to work so hard to regulate their body temperature because they are against your warm skin, their breathing will sync to yours and regulate while they are laying on your chest and it's just good bonding time for mom and baby when nursing is not allowed yet and there isn't a lot of "hold time" allowed.
Around the third week, the neonatologists and I talked about what the NICU world calls "lick-n-learn". I would pump and then once I finished pumping, we would allow the boys to latch on to try and figure out what to do. Because I pumped first, they were not going to actually be getting any milk. So, they could work on the breathe and suck without having to add the swallow component yet. We did this for a few times and then we got to try nursing. The boys did great. And the lactation consultants were super helpful. Since the boys mouths were so small, we had to work on getting them to latch on correctly. And we had to work to keep them awake. Once they got all snuggled up to me, it was challenging to keep them awake and alert enough to actually nurse for any amount of time. We were able to try for 20 minutes once a day at the beginning. We had to limit our time so the boys wouldn't actually burn more calories trying to nurse than they would gain from the milk they got. The Lactation Consultant would come in and weigh the boys, help me with nurse them and then weigh them again. This allowed us to find out how many milliliters of milk they were getting.
When we took the twins home from the hospital, I was able to nurse them twice a day. The other six feeds were pumped milk given by a bottle. Each week I was able to increase the number of times I was able to nurse by one time per day.
First, many people have asked me, do you nurse them both at the same time? And the answer is yes. For months it took too long to nurse the boys separately. If I was to nurse them separately it would mean I would nurse one and then nurse the other and by the time they were both finished I would only have about an hour before it was time to start over again. It typically would take 30-45 minutes from start to finish. If I did them separately, that's 1-1.5 hours!
They sell a fabulous pillow called the Twins + Plus Brest Friend. It is a necessity. For real. It allows you to do a football hold with both babes and you can nurse, two babies, hands-free.
There are some pictures below to show how it has worked for me:
A few notes about the picture above: I just stuck a burp cloth in between their heads so you wouldn't have to see too much. Which really, pretty much every woman in my life has seen everything I've got. Except for the blogosphere. So consider yourselves lucky :) Secondly, Robin [the wonderful lactation consultant] suggested taking a blanket for each babe, folding it in half [hamburger fold - does that make sense?], then rolling it up and folding it into the shape of a candy cane. Then, allow the babe's head to rest in the curve of the candy cane. This helped immensely when the twins were so tiny. It helped them latch on because they were higher and it helped my back because I didn't have to hunch over to try and get low enough for them.
When we would go out somewhere I would nurse the boys separately but it was stressful. It almost made it not worth going out for long periods of time because I would spend so much of the time in the car. But, over time the boys started taking less and less time to nurse. This made it a lot easier to nurse when we were on the go. It was definitely helpful to have someone around to hold one of the boys while I nursed the other. Typically the other person (daddy, grandma, aunt, etc) would change a diaper while I nursed a baby and then we'd switch.
Just in the past few months the boys have been able to start nursing together without the pillow. I always use the pillow if we are at home but if we're out somewhere, we can make it work without the pillow. They have gotten to the point where they realize what the other one is getting to do and they are super jealous that they aren't the one getting to nurse. Plus, they are able to hold themselves up a little and they can definitely latch on just fine.
But, even though I typically nurse them together, it is so sweet when I get to nurse them separately. Any time I'm at my mom's house, I nurse them separately. It is such a sweet time to just look into their little eyes and inspect their little toes and ears and hold their little hands. I love it. So, I definitely like having a mix of nursing them tandem and then individually as well.
So, I started working on this post back in March and I finally picked back up. It is hard to believe how much has changed over the past eight months. I am telling y'all now, this gets so much easier as you go on. I promise. I remember trying so hard to figure out a way to make nursing out in public easier. But, it's just tough for some time. But, it is just a season. The super long, 30 minute nursing sessions will cut in half and then in half again before you know it. The boys only take about 7-10 minutes to nurse now (sometimes even less)! All that to say, stick with it mamas! You can do this! And you will be so glad you did!