When I first started this journey, I knew I wanted to experience breastfeeding for as long as possible. After finding out we were expecting twins, I also understood that my journey might not look the way I initially imagined because I was high risk and carrying two babies who had their own agendas. Looking back, I am so happy for every step we took to make sure the girls could adapt, grow, and overcome everything they did. I experienced breastfeeding, pumping and using formula to feed the girls, and I am so grateful for everything.
I will talk about my first experiences with breastfeeding my daughters in the NICU, my pumping journey, and the introduction to formula. I will also go over some of my favourite items I used and some tips and tricks I learned along the way.
The girls were born around 5:30 am on October 9, 2019, via c-sections. I did have a c section booked for October 30, but apparently, Mackenzie & Victoria couldn’t wait that long. They were two months premature at birth because I was only 32 weeks and three days along in my pregnancy the day I went into labour. To read more about their delivery, click here to read more about my Twin Pregnancy.
The girls were immediately taken to the NICU to be taken care of so they could start growing their strength. After 5 hours of recovering and trying to sleep, a nurse came in to check on me. We began trying to get my first bit of colostrum out to start feeding some girls in the NICU. This gave me my first motherly task, and I felt that even though I wasn’t there with them, I was still providing for them, and it made me feel good.
I needed a lot of support during those first 24 hours with extracting my colostrum. I found it hard to milk myself. It was also unnatural, and I have such sensitive skin that my breasts were so red. I was fortunate to have such a fantastic team of nurses to guide me and help when I needed extra support.
I had colostrum for the first 2-3 days after giving birth. I remember the night that it turned into milk because I was using my Mandala pump from the hospital. I was advised to hold the pump upside down to collect the colostrum in the reservoir and then use a clean syringe to collect it all. After filling three syringes, I slept. When I woke up to pump again, I was so excited to see my milk come starting to come through. I believe the first time I pumped, I got 100 ml from both boobs (50 ml each), and I was so proud of myself!
I pumped the whole time the girls were in the NICU, but it was stressful. I was so tired, my nipples were tender, and getting up to pump at night was hard, but it was worth it. I also cried over spilt milk at least once a week at the kitchen table at 2 am.
I am so proud of my body. It created nutritious milk to help my two petite girls and helped protect them and give them the strength to get through their NICU journey.
After pumping for weeks and waiting patiently to try and breastfeed the girls, once they got more stamina, developed their sucking skills, and were over 34-35 weeks gestation, we could start to try breastfeeding. I hoped they would latch correctly, and they would do fantastic. They knew what my milk tasted like, they knew exactly where my nipple was, but at first, they only had the energy to try for 5-7 minutes at a time.
The girls both had different experiences with breastfeeding, and below I will go into a bit of detail. I was not anticipating their individual preferences surrounding breastfeeding and feeding in general because, at that point, they had only eaten from a tub that went from their nose directly into their stomach. This was such a learning experience for me, and I could tell this may not work for them in the way I wanted it to work.
I started to prep Victoria for her first time breastfeeding. I began to get excited to try breastfeeding for the first time. We weighed her before I fed her to see how much she would eat, and the lactation consultant helped me position her. It all of a sudden, just for a moment, felt natural to breastfeed, and we started with the nipple shield, which I am so thankful for it made it so much easier for the girls and less discomfort for me. Victoria latched without needing too much assistance, and she drank 4ml of my milk! I loved it being able to watch her and study her face while she drank, and she looked so at ease, like she was sleeping on a cloud. She fit perfectly and enjoyed staring at me.
Two hours after I fed Victoria, it was Mackenzie’s turn. I was so excited things had gone well with Victoria, and I was ready to try again. I got Mackenzie ready, and we weighed her I got my breastfeeding pillow in position and got to it. As we started positioning Mackenzie and getting her in position to latch, I noticed a difference already between the girls. Mackenzie was quite franticly looking for milk. She seemed a bit stressed, and it took her a few minutes/tries to latch, and she needed help holding the latch because she was crying off and on. Mackenzie seemed frustrated, and in turn so was I. After some time, we weighed her, and she only drank 1-2 ml of breastmilk.
For two weeks every day, I tried to breastfeed the girls. Some days were fantastic, they stayed awake longer and drank milk, but some days were very hard. Mackenzie was usually still upset during the whole time and not drinking a ton, and Victoria was still doing a great job at latching and bonding but was not drinking as much as she needed to be.
So, I finally spoke with some of the nurses that I had become close with, talked to the lactation consultant, spoke to Brent, and I had an honest self-reflection, and these were some of the topics
We decided that it would be best for my mental health, the girl’s development and growth, and best for our family to introduce bottles to them with my breastmilk. I continued to pump the nurses would feed the girls my milk in a bottle whenever they were cueing (showing signs of hunger). One night Mackenzie was cueing, and the nurse fed her a bottle of my milk and human milk fortifier and she drake 40 ml! When I called that morning and found out, I was so happy and cried a bit because at the moment I knew we made the right choice for the girls. Later that day, Victoria drank 30 ml from her bottle, and that’s what started our next journey, formula.
After six weeks of being in the NICU, the girls had reached every milestone they need to be discharged. The most important one was they were professionals at drinking from their bottles. During their last few weeks at the NICU, they practiced everyday drinking from a bottle and occasionally, they would have some issues with choking or have a spell, which would set us back. But, the more they practiced, the stronger they got, and we were so pleased with their progress. They were finally able to come home, and we were to feed the Similac Neosure. I still had milk in our freezer, and they came home with some extra breastmilk to but I was to make sure they drank the formula with it.
Shortly after the girls came home, I found it somewhat impossible to pump because if one baby was asleep, the other was awake and needed something. When they would both be sleeping, I took time to relax and eat, watch tv, or shower. I also had two blocked ducts in my left boob shortly after I got home which was painful and frustrating which didn’t help my already disappearing milk supply.
Eventually, my milk became less and less when I would pump. On the last day, I pumped. I only collect 60 ml of breastmilk from both boobs, and I spilt 30 ml of it on the floor, disconnecting my pump from the bottle, which held all of it. I said to Brent, “I am done. I can’t do this anymore. There is nothing left.” I didn’t have the time anymore and I knew it. Luckily, I still had frozen milk, and I started periodically adding some to their bottles with their formula. The last time they got breast milk in their bottle was when they turned four months old, and since then, the girls have exclusively had formula. They caught up with the weight for their age and are super chunky now, which is all we wanted.
I have put together a list of items I could not live without during this whole feeding journey. I thought I’d share them all with you if your currently pregnant or have a newborn.
*each of these are afflict links
Every baby is different, every mother is different, and everyone is in a different situation. Do what is best for you and your baby, and know that you ARE doing a fantastic job. You may feel like you are failing, but I promise you that you are not; your baby loves you no matter how you feed them. I am so proud of everything my body did during that time, and everything was meant to happen the way it did.
My answer: We finally found a way to feed them with weight gaining results and less stress for the girls and us.
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