Successful Breast Feeding Super Preemies!
by Jennifer Buske
My identical twin girls, Everlynn & Vivian, were born on June 8th, at 3 pounds each. I had always planned on breastfeeding my babies, but had not planned on twins! It was a huge surprise to my husband and I, that is for sure! Although, this did not change my plans for nursing them. How was I going to do it? I had no clue...
Ever & Viv stayed in the NICU for four weeks and had no major health or development issues... they didn't even need a breathing tube!
I began pumping while still in the hospital, recovering from my C-Section. I had Placenta Previa and was still very sick from this. My milk came in when the twins were a day old. From that day on, my milk was given to them through their feeding tubes.
At about 33.5 weeks gestation, I became adamant about letting my babies start to practice nursing. The nurses finally allowed me to start "breastfeeding" them in the NICU. I love the NICU nurses and will be forever thankful to them, but I will say, some of them were not very supportive of this. The majority of the nurses said things like, "They are too young, so don't expect much." " Don't become discouraged when they don't latch on." " They probably will not be able to suck at this gestational age."
I guess, I just ignored them, for the most part. I was aware that they would probably not latch or suck, but wanted to try, despite the odds against them. After all, they had already beaten most odds--being born so early and in perfect health!
One of the nurses showed me how to do the "football" hold. She gave me the nipple shields and said preemies do much better with them (I continued to use these until they were 12 weeks old). I remember the first time they latched onto my nipple, It was so amazing to see these TINY babies, doing exactly what nature intended.
The nurses were shocked and started calling the twins "Super Preemies"! Even the doctors were talking about how amazing it was, that they were nursing at such an early gestational age.
The twins were not allowed to suck very long at this point, in fear that they would burn too many calories and lose weight. As the days went by, I continued to "practice nurse" at least once a day.
When the twins were about 35 weeks gestation, the nursing became part of their feedings and they were consuming anywhere from half an ounce to a full ounce, on a good feeding. The amount they nursed depended on how tired they became, usually falling asleep quickly and taking the rest of their milk through the feeding tube.
When I left the hospital, I continued to pump every three hours and was traveling to the hospital 2-3 times a day to nurse the twins, followed by pumping. After the twins came home, I continued to tandem nurse them, using the nipple shields and a Boppy pillow. This pillow worked for us, because they were still under 6 pounds for a long time. I believe I switched to a My Breast Friend nursing pillow when they were around 13 weeks. Personally, the twin feeding pillows did not work for me. I am very petite and short waisted. They would not stay on and were so big and bulky.
I would say, the hardest part of my nursing experience was when they were very young (about 33 weeks gestation - 13 weeks old). The babies were constantly falling off the nipple, falling asleep, and/or just not consistent with anything! I was also still having to pump after nursing, as they were not taking all of my milk and I wanted to keep up my production. It was so frustrating and extremely tiring. They were on a two hour feeding schedule to gain weight and that included the night time feedings too. Since I was nursing, my husband wasn't much help. Occasionally, I would take a break, and they were given a bottle, but usually I chose to nurse them.
So, basically, all I did for the first 4 months was change diapers, nurse, burp, put babies to sleep, pump, wash pumping parts, and start all over again.
My biggest problem while nursing came around 5 months when I was back to work (around 3 months). The challenge for me, was not having the time to consume enough calories or pump often enough at work, to keep up my production and keep the milk caloric.
I was/am about 110 pounds and I barely had time for one meal, let alone, consume the amount of food it took to keep my milk fatty. I was having to eat over 3,000 calories a day! My milk began to look like water, literally translucent, and the twins continued to spit it up and/or need a bottle of formula after nursing. I tried supplements for milk production, and it helped with the production amount, but not the quality of the milk. At one point, my family would joke about the feeding, following my Cheeseburger, because it would be the best milk of the day!
At about 5-6 months, my weight continued to drop and I was still struggling with not having enough quality milk for both babies and I began nursing one/bottle feeding the other and switching back and forth with every feeding. Of course, this made the milk problem even worse and I couldn't do this when I was away from them at work 3 days a week.
The "watery milk" and low production never got better. This inevitably, became the reason for me weaning the twins at 7 months.
I miss breastfeeding my babies and I feel guilty in the fact that they are not getting the best source of nutrition, but I am also very proud for having nursed twins for 7 months.
They are healthy, happy, and loved beyond measure and that is what matters at the end of the day.
I have always said, "Breastfeeding is not only the best gift you can give your baby. It is a birthright." Do what you can and breastfeed as long as you can. There are countless options available for practically every problem you could have when breastfeeding. It's not easy, but it can be done.