I have a brief disclaimer: obviously this is only my experience. As with singletons, other twin moms can -- and no doubt do -- have a completely different set of challenges and rewards. Just like with all pieces of advice you get when you have a new baby, certain things will fit and others won't. In some ways, nursing twins has been easier than I expected, and in other ways more difficult. You never know until you do it!
Let's start with the woes.
- Frequent feedings. Without question, I am making enough milk for both boys, proven by their excellent measurements at the pedi recently and the obscene amount of diapers in our trash bin. But I have on my hands a couple of snackers who each nurse about 11 times a day. For those of you who aren't earning a PhD in math like my cousin, that means I am nursing 22 times per day. And seeing as there are only 24 hours in a given day... yeah, that's a lot. Fortunately, as snackers, they don't spend a lot of time at the boobie bar for each feed. Just long enough for me to hop online to
- Less sleep. If anything about breastfeeding twins has the power to break me, it's the added sleep deprivation. Wow. My milk supply tends to be pretty low in the evenings, and breastmilk is digested faster than formula, which works against me as I struggle to get more than 1-2 hours of sleep at a time. Some nights are better than others; at my worst, I was sobbing in exhaustion as I walked down the stairs in the morning, and at my best, I actually have a decent amount of energy during the day. Of course caffeine makes the twins wig out, so I am on my own in that department. But it's nothing a good moisturizer and eye cream can't fix. And as Bean has proven, it will get better. Hopefully soon. Please.
- I'm constantly on duty. It can be overwhelming to nurse one child sometimes. You just want to have some time for yourself, to finish a task you are doing around the house and let your partner or parents take the child for a while. With twins, it's two times the obligation for me to always be there to offer milk when they need it. I can't take a break for more than an hour or two around the clock, because soon it'll be time to feed again. Which falls entirely on me. Constantly. Around the clock. Phew.
- Much harder to pump a stash. This is a side effect of the first woe, the frequent feedings. And again, this is only my experience -- if you want to see a true professional in the Nursing and Pumping for Twins arena, look no further than Miss MVK. But for me, feeding so much and not having an abundant supply, I find it exceedingly difficult to pump milk so I can leave two bottles for any brave soul who would watch the boys for me, or for someone else to take a night feeding for me. This also means that in the fall, I'll probably have to leave my mom with a bottle of formula for each twin while Bean and I attend our co-op preschool on Friday mornings. Not the end of the world, but still, frownie face.
- Boobie burnout. My final goal when breastfeeding Bean was 12 months. When we hit that point, he wasn't nursing all that much anymore and we were both enjoying it so we kept going. He weaned himself at 18 months when my milk changed due to the pregnancy with the twins. I also plan to nurse Nix and Gax for 12 months. But when we hit that point this time, I'm just not sure I'll have it in me to keep going. Many women do, and maybe by then I won't be feeling as consumed with nursing. But at this rate, I anticipate being burned out and wanting to transition them to cow's milk. It makes me sad to think of weaning them before they are completely ready.
- The bottomless (stomach) pit. I have never in my entire life experienced such insatiable hunger as I have since I started nursing the twins. Oh. My. God. I can down an entire huge meal and need a snack an hour later. And every evening I have to pack myself a sandwich, drink box, and pop tarts (must have the pop tarts) to eat overnight like I'm taking a lunch to middle school. And of course I crave carbs, yummy glorious beautiful CARBS! A friend said, "Well, as long as you are eating healthy complex carbs, you're okay." But no. I like my carbs simple and straightforward, like a donut. Or licorice. Or chocolate. Which definitely ties into my next woe...
- Holding on to baby weight. You will often hear breastfeeding touted for helping moms shed baby weight quickly. Not by me. Sure, it works for many women. But I am one of the lucky few who actually hold on to 10ish pounds of extra weight while breastfeeding. When Bean stopped nursing, I dropped much of it almost instantly. I'm hoping it works double for twins, because I could easily stand to lose 20 lbs right now. Why this extra weight, you ask? I've heard it's a primitive biological thing, like if there's some sort of famine then my body can utilize the fat to still make milkies for the munchkins. Fortunately, I have an endless supply of donuts, licorice, and chocolate. Unfortunately, no one told my belly, butt, and thighs. Or wait, that sounds backwards...
- Mo' milk, mo' problems? I could be completely all wet with this one, but it seems that with double the demand, there is more room for problems to pop up. Supply for one, of course. I have been on a steady diet of fenugreek since the boys were born, so thanks to the maple-syrup scented side effect I always smell like I just finished a double shift at Denny's. I also have a recurring clogged duct. It stays away if I keep up with 1200 mg of lecithin daily, but when I run out of it, the clog returns. Then I have to send my dad to the store at 7 am to get more. *ahem*
Now the whys.
- Healthier. While the specifics of the health advantages of breastmilk over formula are hotly debated by both sides, I have not poured enough over scientific peer-reviewed studies to claim to know all the specifics. But I do believe that what I can provide naturally is the healthiest option. And let's face it, by the time they are Bean's age, they'll be clamoring for Chicken McNuggets just like their older brother. He actually walked into Taco Bell the other day, pointed to a family eating their meal, and said, "Hey, they are sitting at our table!" So for now, it makes me feel good that I can give them the best nutritional start possible.
- Bonding. This is especially important when you have twins. With three small boys, it's hard for me to get one-on-one time with each of them. But being the sole provider of mommy milk, I am assured to see each twin separately. And in addition to being online to
- Money savings. Are you sitting down? To provide twins with formula for an entire year, you can expect to spend between $2600 and $4400. *gasp* Sure, there is some cost associated with breastfeeding. (Our insurance bought me a brand new $300 Medela Pump in Style without so much as a copay, check before you purchase one yourself!) Even with random accessories like nursing bras, a cute nursing cover, bottles for pumping, nipple soothies, etc., we are still saving loads of cash. More than enough to purchase that woven wrap I am craving. Oh come on DH, you know I'll get it eventually anyway!
- Convenience. I know, it's a strange point to end on, following all the "woes" about how much work breastfeeding twins can be. But there is a wonderful convenience built in that I don't have to clean any bottles, nor pack any formula when we go out. If a baby gets hungry, BAM! there's the milk. And no bottle prep in the middle of the night when they get hungry. Especially as they get older and nurse less frequently all around, it gets super duper easy peasy. Quick meals, instant soothing after inevitable baby boo boos, and no U-Haul necessary to tote diaper bag for all three boys when we go out. Awesome!
Obviously the woes outnumber the whys in my little list, but the weight of the whys is immeasurably greater to me. (Try saying that five times fast...) I know some women can't produce the supply necessary for twins, and my heart goes out to mamas who have not been physically able to meet their personal goals. I will forever be grateful that producing milk is one thing my body does not completely suck at (pun intended). The sacrifices that I have to make in order to give my boys breastmilk now is such a short chapter in the overall story of their lives, but has the potential to help them forever. They will wean soon enough (too soon?) and I'll be free to ask my parents to take them for a few