Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Nursing Twins: Beyond the newborn days

As little as I like the newborn phase, it was actually really nice that we had a somewhat prolonged phase with the twins.  John Paul and Cecilia were the kind of newborns who seemed to live to defy all newborn knowledge - sleeping was NOT something that they relished, and they had long periods of awake and alert time from the beginning. 

Awake.  Alert.  Wanting to be entertained.  24/7.
Mary Claire and Elizabeth, on the other hand, probably spent 23 hours a day sleeping in the first two months.  They did NOT want to be put down ever, and they wanted to nurse for most of those 23 hours.  But I already told you all about this - check out my first post on nursing twins to see how we handled the first couple of months, if you're curious!  And my birth story with the twins is a long read, but I always enjoy stories about non-surgical twin birth.

Anyway, I ended the last post on a "To be continued" note because I didn't feel like writing anymore...  So here's more!

But let's be honest, you're just reading for the cute baby pictures!

Once we hit about two months, things started to change. 

-  Elizabeth was finally gaining weight, so we didn't need to worry about tracking how often she was nursing.

-  Both babies had become more efficient nursers, so we no longer had the 2-hour session followed by 15 minutes of sleep followed by another 2 hours...  Now they were nursing for 5-30 minutes, depending on whether they fell asleep or not.  Which means sometimes I actually had time to get off the couch and get dinner started, read to the big kids, go to the bathroom, etc.

-  Both babies started sleeping for longer periods at night (Mary Claire for 6-8 hours most nights!).

-  Both babies were willing to be put down for naps and for short periods of awake time during the day.

They still slept a LOT, though...

These changes couldn't have come at a better time, because my sister had just gone back to her actual life and I needed to learn how to deal with the twins on my own! 

They look so cute...  But cute doesn't mean easy!

The video below was a HUGE help for me when it came to logistics for actually getting the babies on the pillow!  At this point latching was not a problem, but physically getting in position was totally perplexing to me.


Nowadays I mostly don't bother with the boppies - my leg strength is back and I generally crouch or kneel, balancing the pillow on my knees (it buckles on in the back), and lift them into position from either the floor or the couch.  It's actually probably really good for muscle development, but there's no way I would have been able to do that in the early days.  You can see that her hands are free with this pillow, so you can have people bring you food, read a book, blog with one hand, etc...

The pillow is also a HUGE help when it comes time to put the babies down for naps after they nurse to sleep - again, I can crouch or kneel and balance the pillow on my knees while I put one baby in the swing or glider. 

Although sometimes they fell asleep like this while the big kids were napping and I just stayed put because really, could you bear to put those adorable babies down?
I can also *very* carefully lower it to the floor and it's flat enough that the babies don't roll off so I can put them down in their cribs, since the mattresses are lowered all the way (not because they're mobile enough for it to matter, because John Paul and Cecilia insist on climbing into and out of the cribs all day long).  5.5 months in and we still use the pillow a ton!

But certainly not as often as before.  Because here's the wonderful thing - the babies don't need to nurse all the time anymore!  So there are often times when one is playing on the floor and the other wants to nurse and I can just nurse one baby at a time!  Like a normal mom!

And then I have a hand free for a selfie!
There are still times when one baby wants to be held while the other nurses.  You get really good at the one-handed scoop, which is pretty much impossible until the babies have good head control.  Basically I slide my arm under them and hook them by the opposite armpit and I've got a pretty good grip (and I can do this even while nursing one).  Then I can usually just bounce one on my knee while the other nurses.

Or you give them both to your sister, who reads them a princess book...

Tandem nursing is still a big help when I want to get both babies down for simultaneous naps (those baby-free moments are all the more precious when you have twins!), when it's time to get them to bed, when they're both fussy and need mom at the same time but I want my hands free, when I want to get them good and full so that they'll play by themselves for a while...  But now it's more my choice and not a constant necessity

Both babies down and I chose to take pictures instead of eating something...  Priorities!  Get them straight!!!

I'd say the roughest patch we've been through in the past few months was the dreaded 4-month sleep regression.  I knew it was coming.  And the babies had been sleeping through the night regularly for several weeks, so I had built up a little stockpiled sleep.

Little did I know what they had planned for the evening...

But WOW.  So. Much. Worse. Than I ever would have expected.  Because you know how terrible that sleep regression was with one child?  MORE than twice as bad with two children at once.  It was a couple weeks of a constant haze and a lot of caffeine, because I was nursing one child or the other all. night. long.  And half the time I couldn't fall back asleep, so I was sleeping in 30-minute spurts and wishing that I had figured out how to tandem nurse while lying down!  I know it's possible, but I don't think it's possible with my body.  We got through it though, and the babies are both sleeping through the night again and it's one of those memories that makes me feel like a warrior and makes me even more convicted in my belief in co-sleeping, if ONLY because it's the only way I can get any sleep!!!


We still have a long way to go and a lot of obstacles to overcome - distracted babies not wanting to nurse, more sleep regressions, the time when they *won't* nurse to sleep every day, etc.  But we're doing well so far, and I'm happy to see that these chunky little babies are 100% growing thanks to me!

Resources:

http://www.karengromada.com/ - She literally wrote the book on breastfeeding twins!

EZ-2-Nurse nursing pillow - the brand I use - join your local Mothers of Multiples group and you may be able to borrow one for free!

Find a Mothers of Twins club near you!

Facebook is an AMAZING resource - there's a "Naturally Parenting Twins" group that has lots of crunchy twin moms, many of whom breastfed their twins and can answer questions.  Karen Kerkhoff Gromada is a member and answers questions about nursing frequently.  She's also a member of the "La Leche League for Moms of Twins/Multiples" group, which has a smaller membership but plenty of helpful advice!  There's also a "Tandem Babywearing" group with TONS of twin moms who can show you the ropes!

6 comments :

  1. They are SO cute!!!! I die.

    You are a rockstar for nursing twins+having 2 toddlers. For serious. I hope people randomly bring you flowers & presents (or maybe just food) all the time.

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  2. They are just so beautiful. Beautiful beautiful babies! I also consider you to be Supermom. I don't know if I'd have the stamina to do what you do/have done! Bravo! :)

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  3. Thanks for sharing the video, Rosie. That was helpful!

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  4. This is such great info and I'm sure will be so helpful to other moms of twins!! Go you. Such a gift you've given those adorable scrumptious little girls!

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  5. Oh my good gravy, you are flippin amazing. I just... Can't even imagine the prospect of handling twins. But you do such an excellent job of explaining your method that I just know it'll be an invaluable resource to other twin mommas. (Actually, twins run in my family. *insert terrified face here*)

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  6. Oh man. You just blew my mind when you said it is possible to tandem feed while lying down! Those are skills that I'm both in awe of and wonder at how its physically possible!
    But seriously, I think its awesome and amazing how well you're doing with this! Really, nursing twins should be your full time job, let alone all the other amazing things you do for two other babies and your home and husband! I think its great, and your sweet girls look beautiful and healthy!

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