Author – Anonymous
Our twins were born at 34 weeks and spent 5 weeks in NICU/SCN, mainly learning how to feed. I had done the ABA breastfeeding course, and while I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, I felt well prepared. In the end, however, I had had an emergency c-section at 34 weeks, and wasn’t really with it after the birth. As I didn’t have my babies physically with me, the hospital moved me to a gynae ward, rather than maternity, as the maternity ward was so full. At the time, I didn’t mind, but thinking back, it was not the right place for me to be. No one spoke to me about expressing colostrum etc. It wasn’t until I was wheeled down to NICU/SCN to see the babies that one of the nurses asked me if I had any to feed them with. I felt so stupid, and was quite angry with myself once I found out that I could hand express it and they could tube feed it to the babies. I knew the value of colostrum, but it never occurred to me to try to hand express it. I went back up to the ward with a renewed sense of purpose, and basically demanded that someone come and show me how to hand express. As it was not a maternity ward, my request was quite low on their priority list, but eventually a nurse came and helped me. I called and orderly to request a wheelchair to get to the colostrum to babies, but by the time that was organised it was way past their feed time and they had had to give them some formula. By then, the babies were 48 hours old and my milk was starting to come in. I started using the hospitals double electric pump and was soon producing good volumes of milk. I remember after I had had my first “decent” cuddle with Alexis, which lasted just over an hour, I was able to express 80 mls. Not bad for my third day!!!
I was very very strict with myself and expressed every three hours, even overnight. That first night at home, leaving the babies behind, was the hardest. I had to get up twice in the middle of the night, in the freezing winter temperatures, and express. I cried and cried. The next morning it was a race against the rush hour traffic to get to the hospital in time with my precious liquid gold. I was frantic to get there before their 7am feed. After a few days I had enough to start freezing some, and then I could relax a bit as I knew the nurses always had access to my milk. I seemed to be blessed, my supply was plentiful, and it continued to stay that way throughout my 18 months of breastfeeding. I put that down to my strict three hourly expressing timetable from the start. I diligently recorded the volume every feed and took great pleasure in tallying up the quantity and the end of each day. By the end of week one, I was expressing between 700-800mls a day and by day 10 I was easily expressing a litre each day.
Finally my babies were big enough to start trying to feed them directly. I will never, ever forget that toe curling pain that came from trying to learn to breastfeed. I realised that I was in the best place to get good help, and organised every day for the lactation consultant to come and visit me at the nursery. She ended up suggesting I use a shield, as their tiny mouths were so small they were having trouble latching on well. This helped significantly, and I continued to use it for several months after their discharge. It almost became my security blanket for breastfeeding, and I was not confident to stop using it. Eventually I did, and there were no issues. To start with I fed them singularly, but then once they both got strong enough I started to tandem feed. Breastfeeding a baby conjures up an image of a Madonna like image of mother and baby, serenely sitting in a rocking chair, content and enjoying the moment. Let me assure you……….tandem feeding is very unglamorous. It’s easier to just go topless, you end up with milk everywhere as one baby or the other unlatches. The couch is the best place, as you can lay a baby each side while you position yourself and what feeling like a million pillows! Then you take your top off and get one baby settled on the breast (by this time the other is screaming blue murder as it can smell the milk!). Then comes the challenge of trying to get the next baby safely up off the couch and in the right position on the pillow without dislodging the other baby! Finally, when you are both settled you realise that you have left your water bottle on the table. I had the most incredible thirst overtake me each let down. I would literally beg my husband to get my water bottle for me RIGHT NOW! We soon got the hang of it, but I have to say I never really enjoyed tandem feeding, and I preferred to single feed when I could. We were blessed in that they were fast feeders and were done in 15 minutes usually. I had heard all these stories of babies taking an hour to feed, and then two hours later you had to start the whole process again.
We did do a bottle feed for the last feed, of my frozen expressed milk, as I had a lot in the freezer. This allowed my husband to be a bit more involved in the feeding side of things. We used to sit up in our bed and draw our knees up to our chest and rest the babies on our thighs. We would spend that bottle time talking about how beautiful they were and talking about how lucky they were. I enjoyed that time each evening, it made up for the numerous times they woke overnight for a feed!! I was lucky enough to breastfeed for 18 months, and then it only ceased as I got sick and had to have an operation, so we decided it was a good time for them to be weaned off the breast. While I was lucky to have had a relatively easy breastfeeding journey, I am a strong believer in “fed is best”, if breastfeeding doesn’t work out for you don’t beat yourself up about it, there are plenty of other options out there.
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