When I hear stories like this one, about a mom who persevered through breastfeeding premie twins, I’m filled with admiration! Many of my challenges with healthy full term babies pale in comparison.
One of the themes that stands out is the sheer determination of these moms, and how at the end, they were happy they stuck with it as they saw their babies thrive on their milk. I’m also impressed with the flexibility these moms show. They realize that every baby is unique, and will have challenges of their own. Breastfeeding is about learning, and both mom and baby have things to learn sometimes!
I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I did.
Nursing Premie Twins: A Mom’s Breastfeeding Story
Before I became pregnant I had decided that I would breastfeed my baby.
I imagined my baby being born and placed gently on my chest for his/her first meal. The immediate bonding between mother and child was a vision I held onto until the day my water broke.
You see, I was only 30 weeks pregnant with twins. If you’re wondering, yes, they were in vitro fertilization (IVF) twins. My husband and I tried to get pregnant the old fashioned way, but it didn’t work. We found out after twelve months of trying that he had poor sperm and I had a pituitary tumor that messed with my hormones.
According to the urologist it was unlikely we would conceive a baby via spontaneous conception. We researched our options and I considered adoption, although my husband didn’t want to adopt. Thankfully technology exists to help couples like us become parents.
After learning we were pregnant with twins we were both excited and scared. We knew managing two babies at once would be a challenge. When I told my friends and family that I wanted to breastfeed they questioned whether or not it would be feasible with two at once. I have to admit, I wondered how difficult it might be, but I wasn’t giving up on my dream of nursing my babies. One of the breastfeeding books I read had a short section on nursing twins and an even smaller section on breastfeeding a premature baby.
Breastfeeding a premature baby is really a misnomer, there isn’t any breastfeeding but rather a lot of pumping. Babies generally develop the ability to suck around 36 weeks gestation. Often premature babies are provided a pacifier in the hospital when they are born prior to 36 weeks so they can start to develop the sucking reflex. Around 4 weeks of age (which would have been 34 weeks gestation) I attempted to nurse one of my twins (Baby B). The other twin (Baby A) was ill so I wasn’t able to breastfeed her. I didn’t have much success nursing my twins in the hospital and I was frustrated. At that time I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be able to breastfeed my daughters.
My girls were 7 weeks old when they finally came home. I hadn’t attempted to nurse Baby A because they wanted to monitor her feedings closely while in the hospital. Once we got home though, I was free to attempt breastfeeding.
One night Baby A was very fussy. I tried soothing her with a pacifier, but she wasn’t interested. I thought, what the heck, I’ll put her to breast and see what happens. She was in heaven. From that day forward she was an excellent nurser. She received almost all of her feedings through the breast. On occasion I would be out of milk and have to supplement with formula, which she didn’t like.
Baby B, on the other hand, wasn’t interested in nursing. She preferred bottles of breast milk. I had pumped so much milk while they were in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) that I had about a two month supply. However, when the bottles of breast milk ran out and Baby B was stuck with formula she started to get more interested in breastfeeding. She shunned me a lot. At one point I decided to take a two week break from trying to get Baby B to nurse. For the first week she didn’t seem to care, she was loving the bottle. In the second week she showed an interest to nurse. She would nurse one day and shun me the next.
I was struggling internally about having one baby receive breast milk while the other received formula. I was doing my best to encourage Baby B to nurse, but after two months of trying to get her to nurse I was ready to give up (at this point she was almost 4 months old). It was almost like she knew I was ready to quit because all of a sudden she stopped taking the bottle and wanted to nurse instead. She preferred one side and it was difficult to encourage her to take my left breast as it wasn’t as full as the right. So, I tended to place her on my right side.
Dealing with a baby who is uninterested in nursing is frustrating. Looking back, I cannot believe I tried for two months to get Baby B to nurse. I am surprised I had enough patience to keep trying to encourage her.
My other challenge was my milk supply. Initially I had enough milk for both of them. However, the stress of the NICU and the trauma of their early birth took a toll. I worked on bringing up my supply by taking herbal remedies and pumping after I finished nursing. You’re right if you are thinking, wow, that must have taken a lot of time. It did. I felt like something was always attached to my body. But I was so determined to breastfeed that I was willing to try and do anything to make it happen.
Breastfeeding my twins was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a mother.
The bonding between mother and child is a strong one even if the mom doesn’t nurse her baby. But I found this intimate connection, a feeling of being one with my baby while they were feeding from my body. I provided their nourishment and the benefit of breast milk will stay with them for the rest of their lives. If I can nurse premature twins until 15 months of age, you can do it too.
Thanks Kelly for that amazing story!