Sunday, November 1, 2009

Part 4: If I was having twins again: nursing x 2

Did you really think I'd post a picture of me nursing the girls?


This picture is much more pleasant for all. : )

The months I was able to spend nursing the girls I heard many comments that resembled, "I can't believe you're able to nurse two."

And yet, I firmly believe, that with the right steps taken, almost every mommy could nurse two if she wants to . . .and that includes not only the physical parts that need to be in place but the mental/emotional.

Trust me, there is definitely much more than just the physical that has to be taken into account. : )

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Before I begin sharing what I would have found helpful before I nursed the twins, here's one more disclaimer.

Us mommies are good with the guilt complex (and this includes me).

If we didn't nurse we're bad moms.

If we only nursed for 2 weeks we're bad moms.

If we only nursed a couple of months we're bad moms. . . .

Get the point?

So nothing within this post is meant to make any mommy out there feel like something she did/didn't do makes her a bad mom.

I just hear from a lot of expecting moms with twins who want to know how I was able to nurse or my experience with it.

So here goes.

From the moment I found out I was expecting twins, I knew I wanted to do everything I could to make nursing possible.

I was able to nurse Ava for 6 months and from that experience, knew I had to have a game plan.

Nursing took time for the two of us.

I had some physical complications, Ava was a slow eater and it took time for us to get it down.

But with a lot of good information, help, and determination, we stuck it out through the worst, experienced the good and I was so thankful for the experience.


1. Inform those around you that you are wanting to nurse.

From my experience with Ava, I knew just saying I wanted to nurse wouldn't be enough.

Knowing that nursing 2 would be time consuming and exhausting, I made a point to share to immediate family members my desire to nurse exclusively, as I knew my ability to build up a milk supply would be reflected by allowing the girls to nurse as much as possible.

Ryan and I had a conversation one night that pretty much was made up with me sharing that I needed to have him and everyone else behind my decision to only nurse, or in the hard times, I'd probably quit.

When you're exhausted for the umpteenth night in a row and babies needs to eat, if everyone around you is telling you to give them a bottle . . .it's going to be a lot easier to do that.

So I knew I'd need the encouragement to stick to what I wanted, big picture, even in the moments that seemed really hard.

2. Read. Read. READ.

I read through so many books on nursing twins.

It not only helped me feel like I knew something of what to expect, it helped prepare me for some of the realistic problems that could come up.

Nursing twins isn't a given.

Babies can be pre-mature.

Babies can have health complications - which can involve a hospital stay.

Twins usually are smaller - which can mean their sucking abilities aren't very strong/developed.

Sometimes only one baby is home for a while.

And sometimes mom can have complications.

So having already thought through some of those scenarios, and feeling like I knew what I'd ideally like to do given a situation, helped me as some of those did occur.

Plus, I'm the type of person that the more informed I am, the more capable I am of making a decision I'll be happy with tomorrow, when I'm faced with a complication during the night while exhausted and emotional.

I mentioned I read countless books?

None I loved.

Then one night I noticed that the same book kept getting referenced by all these mediocre books.

Brilliant me went out and bought the one referenced . . and I never looked back.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you are even thinking of nursing your twins (or even just pumping), read the book:

Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More
by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada

Don't bother with others . . .remember? - they all referenced Karen! : )

Although I'm sure the extra books didn't hurt having read.

3. Buy a twin nursing pillow.

In my personal opinion, this is essential if you are considering nursing your twins.

A bobby doesn't cut it (and truthfully, I didn't like mine even when I was just nursing Ava).

My twin nursing pillow is what allowed me to nurse my girls together. It let me only haul one pillow if we had to go somewhere instead of hauling 3 or 4.

It gave me back support (this sounds small . . .but it's huge).

And it's completely worth the cost (think a week or two's worth of formula).

You can find the one I used here.

While not all nursing positions you can use for nursing twins requires this, I still think it is worth every single penny.

4. Understand there will be sacrifices.

I don't really know how else to say it other than choosing to nurse twins will be hard.

You may remember me saying in a previous post that choosing to nurse my girls meant that I got very little sleep for a period of time and had to rely on others for a lot of extra help.

It's true.

I couldn't take a night off for a full night of sleep.

People couldn't come for the night and take the night shift.

I couldn't nap whenever I wanted.

Because when it came time for a baby to eat . . .it was my turn.


So you see the need to have a decision and game play in place?

In addition?

You don't nurse two babies at once while out in public modestly.

When nursing Ava, I could throw a nursing cover on and nurse by family, on the plane, in a car, eating out or where ever we were.

You don't do that with twins.

Plus add in the fact that most people haven't seen twins nurse before and you can feel like a spectacle.

So choosing to nurse meant that I didn't go very many places or stay many places very long for the duration of time I was nursing.

That was hard for me.

Yet again, I knew it was a short term sacrifice that was worth it for me.

So be realistic in what choosing to nurse will entail and decide what is most important to you.

4. Know that choosing to nurse may mean you need more help for longer.

I've often said the only reason I, personally, was able to nurse my girls was because of the huge amount of help I received.

My mom was here for probably a month straight early on, a lot of the second and then little bits here and there the next few months.

Ryan's mom took Ava quite a bit while mom was here helping with the babies and was a huge support when my mom had to go back.

My sister helped out with Ava tons.

And other family members and friends were a huge support.

Ava was 19 months old when the twins made their appearance. So she was very high maintenance and not quite ready to spend half a day taking care of herself why I nursed on the couch.

You don't get up and help a child get something when you're nursing two babies at once.

And a 19 month old is not going to sit quietly while mom takes a nap after being up half the night.

So those first 2 months I could not have done it without help for Ava and time for me to nap.

After that, when I was doing more and more afternoons and days on my own, Ava was a teeny bit older, a little more used to her reality and we were able to do it.

Not always beautifully . .. but we got through it.

So consider your level of support and your kids.

I was blessed with a lot of available help.

I know we would have made it being on our own sooner and more often, but I was so thankful to be blessed in such a huge way by those around us.

Well, while we're being honest, most of the time I was thankful. : )

5. As soon as possible, begin pumping in the hospital AND consider renting/purchasing one for yourself at home.

The first day the girls were born, I was talking to the nurses about getting a breast pump in my room and began pumping.

I tend to have a milk supply that is slow in coming.

I also knew with little babies, I didn't have much room to play with their weights as they waited for milk.

So I would pump throughout the days we were in the hospital.

With Ava, my milk took 5 full days to come (It really was more like 5 1/2).

With the twins?

It was 2 days.

The sooner your babies can get milk, the better for them . . .and for their ability to nurse.


Pumping allowed me to have extra colostrum on hand if it seemed like either baby needed it.

And bonus?

It helped signal to my body very early that a large milk supply was needed.

The first month, I'd pump every time after I nursed.

And even after that, I'd pump after I nursed a couple times a day.

This allowed me to start building up a supply if the need did arise that I had to be somewhere, we were in an inopportune place or complications came up.

One such?

I was sent into the ER a week after the girls were born with a suspected blood clot.

Luckily, all was ok.

Yet because of the dye given to me for the scan, I couldn't nurse for 24 hours.

Yet they still only received breast milk because of milk I had already pumped and I still kept up my supply.

I came down with thrush which I pumped through and fed the girls bottles until it was cleared up.

My goal was to only give my girls breast milk as much as possible - even for supplementing for weight gain early on.

Pumping made that possible for the 4 1/2 months I nursed.


It made it possible to give them breast milk for a month after I stopped nursing with the milk I had frozen.

Trust me.

The cost of the pump will be worth it very quickly when you consider the cost of what formula would have been the first 5 months of the girls lives.

6. Nutrition is key if you are wanting to nurse twins.

If you are wanting to nurse your twins, now is not the time to diet.

With Ava, I could watch what I ate and still have an adequate milk supply.

I learned very quickly this was not the case with the girls.

As soon as I started to try and cut back for vanity's sake, I'd have fussy girls.

So know that the weight will eventually come off and, for now, your priority is full tummies.

But even the bigger key for a good milk supply?

Drink. Drink. Drink.


: )

If you are awake, you need to be drinking a cup of water.

I kept a gallon of water always full in the fridge so I could just keep pouring and drinking.

I heard that carbonation and caffeine could affect milk supplies. So while nursing, I didn't drink any type of carbonated or caffeinated drink.

I had fenugreek, an herbal supplement that supports/boost milk supply, on hand if I thought I needed to begin taking it.

Yet I can't stress enough the importance of staying hydrated.

The eating will take care of itself.

I firmly believe that in trying to make sure I had a good enough milk supply for the twins I overate in the beginning.

I couldn't cut back, but I didn't need to over eat either.

The liquids are key . . .

However, even when weight stuck for a long time and the last five - ten pounds have been stubborn . . .if that is the cost of me having been able to nurse my girls, I'd make that mistake over and over again.

and finally?

7. Ask for help early.
Nursing twins isn't always easy.

Let's face it- getting one baby to latch on and nurse well isn't easy.

So neither will it be for two.

Each baby is different.

Mom is different.

And it may take some time and effort for everyone to get in sync.

In the hospital, I was asking for help and input from the nurses and lactation consultants often.

Initially, I nursed the girls separate.

They were so small, I couldn't nurse them together well at all.

Around a month old, they were a little bigger and more proficient at nursing and I was ready to start nursing them together.
You'll want to do this too, as it will open up your free time immensely.
Nursing together is most definately a goal you want to aim for if nursing.

Yet it didn't happen easily for us.

I found a lactation consultant in town that made house calls and she was a huge help in guiding me in how I could improve and make it easier for all of us.

With twins, you're nursing too much to deal with poor latches, bad positioning or complications.

So if something seems wrong, ask!

And if all else fails and there isn't anyone else to ask, feel free to call or email me.

I can't promise I'm an expect, but I'd love to help encourage you or support you if I can.

8. Be determined, but don't be dogmatic.

When I would say I wanted to nurse, that is what I'd often share my goal was.

You see?

Nursing is not the end all.

For myself, I believe it is the first and best choice for my babies.

Yet very early, I told Ryan I needed him to come and tell me if he thought I was taking my determination to nurse and hurting me and my family to do so.


I probably toed that line a few times.

Sometimes, some choices are outside our control.

Like me having to have a c-section.

I'll spare you all my opinions on that for now though. : )

And yet, despite having to have a c-section, I am blessed with two beautiful, happy and very fun little girls.

I wouldn't trade them for all the natural deliveries in the world.

My goal had been to nurse longer than I did.
Yet? Life.

My grandpa passed away when the girls were a little past 4 months old.

Between the travel, exhaustion, dictated schedule (visitations, funerals, etc) and thrown off schedules for the girls and me, my milk supply hugely dropped.

For the first time, I was having to start supplementing formula quite a bit that week and I wasn't able to maintain a good pumping schedule.

I came home thinking I was going to try and just nurse half the time and allow my milk to adjust.

That first morning home, I got the girls up to nurse and they both refused.

I think they were as frustrated as I was with my altered milk supply and were done.

I fed them bottles, pumped and then went up in bed and just cried.

I told Ryan after having worked so hard to nurse, to have it end in the timing and way it did, felt really hard and emotional.

I did pump for an additional month (a decreasing amount of times a day).

And yet?

It did bring some blessings with it.

My girls got 5 months of great nutrition (90% breast milk).

We started getting more and more of a "normal" life back.

We could stay in church all day.

We could take all the girls out to places like the fair, the mall, or to friends' houses for the evening.

Daddy could take an early morning feeding while mom slept in.

It wasn't how I planned it . . .but it was ok and my girls are none the worse for wear.

That all said?

I really hope I didn't discourage anyone from nursing.

It is exhausting.

But being able to nurse your twins is one of the most rewarding, once-in-a-life time experiences I would never take back.

Our budget appreciated it too. : )

As always, feel free to comment/email me any additional questions here on the blog or at

And if you missed some of my other posts on having twins, you can read them here:

Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Next time?

Baby gear. What I've found to be essential . . .


Jill said...

Amber - what a great post. THANK YOU for that. Although I am far from nursing twins, nursing in general is exhausting and your honesty is so refreshing. It hit home when you said the part about the supply falling and going upstairs to cry - I have been there and am dealing with that now. It's very disappointing when your heart is set on one thing, but life sometimes takes over. It's definitely one of those things that is out of our hands. Thank goodness for early milk supply and lots of frozen milk. :)

mom Bahr said...

Amber, You are incredible! Someday, when you have a little more time, you should write a book.....but perhaps you are touching (and inspiring) more people on your blog (and daily life) then any book could ever do! ever grateful for you (and all your gifts from God!) love forever, mom
ps You did a terrifc job at nursing, and you still put ALOT of time, effort and heart into nurturing your little angels!

amy said...

God knew what sister to give twins to - you are the best and your 3 girls and husband are blessed!!! xoxo

Sandy at God Speaks Today said...

Amber...thanks for your comment on my blog today. How you are getting time to catch up on blogs is beyond me. I feel honored you chose mine today.

Your post was wonderful. My son Noah was a premie and refused to nurse. I pumped breast milk exclusively for nine months before he passed away suddenly. I'm so very glad I did. It was difficult and exhausting because after I pumped, I had to feed. But it was so worth it. I wouldn't have traded that effort for anything in the world.

My daughter Rebekah was a perfect nursing baby. 13 mos straight, and then she stopped on her own. Like you, I was devastated. I wasn't ready. I would have nursed her for many more months.

I adopted my youngest two and wish I would have pumped to stimulate milk to nurse them. Lots of adoptive moms have done that.

Good for you for putting forth the effort and giving it your all. Your children are very blessed to have such a great mommy.


Rebecca said...

Hey Amber,
Thank you so much for posting your tips on nursing two! That was really helpful for me to read and think about in these days before the girls get here.

The day I read it, I left to go pick up that book you recommended only to realize that I already had this book at home. :) Someone else sent it to us because it had been so helpful to them. :) I have already been reading it and it is good! :)

Thanks again for your tips! Super helpful!!