Things I learned from breastfeeding my twins

I had always hoped during my twin pregnancy that I would be able to breastfeed, but was also very realistic that it might not be possible. My babies were born in Singapore and there you meet with a lactation specialist during your hospital check ups, from about 30 weeks onwards. It's not exactly a 'choice' over there not to breastfeed. The preparation they offered included practice with a doll and how to hold your babies and it seemed pretty straight forward, but it nowhere near prepares you for the real deal.

I had an emergency c-section with my twins and what I had learned from my breastfeeding research is that it could be a little harder to get started. Our son had breathing difficulties so he was taken away from me pretty soon to be treated and ended up with just our daughter who immediately started to look for the nipple. It happened in the recovery room where we were all alone, it was a beautiful moment. When I was reunited with our son he also started to drink right away. However, the nurses believed that I did not have enough milk available so they started to “top up” with a bit of formula. They encouraged me to use the breast pump to kick start the production, this was the worst moment of my whole pregnancy and delivery all together.  I would not like to recommend anyone to try to pump this thick colostrum, it's so painful! I ended up with bleeding nipples so I could not pump nor feed.   We spent 5 days in the hospital and the nurses and lactation specialist were very helpful but not super resourceful. Once we were discharged we had no friends or family around except my father who was there to help. 

I received a lot of information from a close friend and another twin Mom. But somehow it seems mothers don’t like to talk freely about their breastfeeding experiences or share many tips. Google happend to be very helpful, the free information on LaLeche is very sufficient as well as articles (in Dutch) on the website of really helped me.  My goal was to feed our babies simultaneously as much as possible. That worked out well, but after I fed them my husband usually gave them a small top up bottle. And in between I would pump so that I was able to sleep a bit and skip a feeding here and there while he took over. Our daughter did not want to drink from me anymore from 4 months onwards. So I continued expressing milk for her and our son continued to latch happily. Once they were 10 months old, we were on a family holiday and I felt like a slave to the breast pump and decided to give up and only fed our son at night. They are now almost 2 years old and still get two bottles of milk a day, before their nap/sleep. 

Looking back I could have been a lot more organized and it could have been a little more effortless. For example, if you have twins, get a double breast feeding pillow! I really thought I did not need that (nor did the lactation specialist advise me to get one) and just used normal pillows. We developed a whole pillow set up that worked out in the end, but in hindsight it could have been a lot easier.

Also, I think I would have liked to pumped a lot more. We ended up with direct breastfeeding, formula, AND pumping which is a lot of work. And a double breast pump! I really don’t understand why they develop single pumps, it takes twice as long. I had a single breastpump which wasted a ton of milk in the beginning that leaked from the other breast, until I started to use the most wonderful invention: the haakaa. Its a silicon breast pump that you vacuum on your breast (which isn't feeding the baby) and no more waste!   

Something else you don’t hear people talk about, is how to stop! For me it was almost impossible to stop, I was in the fortunate situation that I did not have to return to work, so I had all the time in the world to continue to feed my babies. But to wean off from breastfeeding can be heartbreaking, you need to be a tough cookie to pull this through.  

Another thing, especially for twins, and just in general - every baby is different! Your twins have different feeding habits and we need to adapt to that, however its hard to recognize that especially in the beginning because everything is overwhelming and you’re in survival mode. Try to pause and analyze what you’re doing and see if you need to change things.

But don’t try out too many things. Our son was a colicky baby with loads of tummy issues. And because you have his sister right next to him for whom digestion seemed a walk in the park, you try to solve his issues as much as possible. We changed formula many times, got loads of probiotics and simethicone subscribed by the pediatrician in Singapore and nothing really seemed to help. I wish someone had told me, stick to what you’re doing and everything will be alright! 

Forget about all the nipple creams out there, just use cold pressed organic coconut oil. Its absolutely safe for your baby and works wonder well. I NEVER had any issues with infections for me or the babies. Wash your nipples with water after every feeding and apply the coconut oil, you don’t have to remove it before you feed or pump. I also remember that a friend wanted to give her breast pump to me, back then I thought it was gross, but it's perfectly fine to use a second hand breast pump by the way, as you can clean it very well and sterilize it. Little did I know… but it's a tip I now share with other Moms-to-be!

One last note, cultural differences can be overwhelming. We are a Dutch/Venezuelan couple who’s babies are born in Asia. Although breastfeeding is encouraged everywhere, the acceptance and approach varies widely! 

Marleen - Dutch Mom of twins living in Brunei

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