Nursing is hard. Period. For even one baby. It’s nuts.
I don’t really know why I keep doing it. I just do.
If you had the fabulous fortune of an easy nursing journey, praise Jesus and His Holy Name for all of your days. And I will praise Him for you and thank Him for your good fortune.
As for the rest of us, there are stumbles and struggles and sobbing for weeks on end. At least that’s been my experience. With one baby and with two.
With my first born, I wept and wailed and “woe-is-me”-ed for the first couple months of nursing. I made several visits to a lactation consultant for life-saving advice and affirmation. I struggled and stumbled and sobbed my way through cracked, bleeding nipples and the dreaded… thrush. (I still quake in fear at the name.)
With the twins, I wept and wailed and “woe-is-me”-ed all over again. I made every lactation consultant in that hospital assist and advise as I attempted to nurse each babe individually and the two simultaneously. I took home every bit of paraphernalia they could throw at me: nipple shields, latch assists, creams, brochures, hotline numbers, pumps, and pump parts.
In both cases, with my first born and the twins, I nursed them each as soon as I could after delivery, and I just kept doing it. Each day, week, month has been different. I’m hoping by month 6, I’ll feel like I know what the heck is going on, but I’m not counting on it.
This is the road we’ve traveled thus far:
Nursing: Day 1-4
In the hospital, Katie roomed in with us, and Emma was in the NICU.
The girls were teeny tiny so they 1) didn’t have large enough mouths to latch properly and 2) would fall asleep before they were full since eating is exhausting work for such tiny babes. To remedy these issues, I used nipple shields to help them latch, and I pumped to force feed them extra milk in a bottle after each nursing session.
Every three hours I would attempt to nurse Katie, then s-l-o-w-l-y (post c-section) make my way down the hall to attempt to nurse Emma, then s-l-o-w-l-y make my way back to pump, THEN eat and sleep and start over. 24/7. It was exhausting.
Nursing: Days 5-14
We were discharged on Day 4, so I had to take the show on the road, so to speak.
The girls were still small, so I still used nipple shields at every feeding, still gave them pumped milk in a bottle after every feeding, and still pumped for them after every feeding. This meant waking up, nursing both at the same time, then handing them off to my husband. He would give them each a bottle of pumped milk while I pumped more milk for later. 24/7. It was exhausting.
Let me back up. Because you are probably stuck on something I just said.
Yes. You heard that right.
I nurse them at the same time.
This is a miracle from heaven above. It is no special skill of my own. I happen to have been given a fantastic double nursing pillow that I “arise and call blessed.” Also, my dear Lord in Heaven has gifted me with two identical children who just so happen to have identical nursing needs and preferences. Both girls take roughly the same amount of time to nurse, have no problems latching (using a nipple shield), and need little to no attention once they have started eating. Without these gifts, I have no idea how I would nurse two babies simultaneously.
The additional gift that I can still claim no part or pride in is my milk production. Thank you, Jesus, for this body and this milk. The only thing I can do is try to maintain it, but even that isn’t really something I can control. I had a friend bring me fresh squeezed carrot juice because it’s supposed to help your milk come in. And it did. So I drank that whenever I could get my hands on it for the first month or so. And I drink a ton of water. And I eat everything in site. I guess these things help my body make milk? But mostly, I thank Jesus.
Nursing: Days 15-30 (The Dark Days)
This was the worst 2 weeks ever. Ever. Ever.
I was suffering from post c-section gas pains and other digestive and (ahem) “issues.” And then nipple thrush reared its ugly head.
The pain was excruciating. I was sobbing at every nursing session, crying every time the babies woke for their next feeding, wincing at the thought of nursing again. I just couldn’t take it anymore, so I decided to pump exclusively for a couple days, until the treatment started working and the pain began to subside. After the horrible, no good, very bad, two days of exclusively pumping, I said, “This is for the birds” and went back to nursing. I also went from pumping after every feeding, as I had done since their birth, slowly down to pumping just once a day. (Sigh of relief.)
Side note: Pumping exclusively is crazy hard. Crazy, crazy hard. If you do it, you should mention this to everyone you ever meet for the rest of your life (Hi! Nice to meet you. I pump exclusively. I’m kind of a big deal.) and they should gasp at the sight of your glory.
After my official thrush diagnosis, I went into full blown elimination mode.
I sanitized everything multiple times per day. Washing hands. Boiling pump parts. Washing hands. Switching out breast pads. Washing hands.
My knuckles cracked and bled from all the washing and sanitizing.
I stayed in my room for days and days, shirtless and sad and sanitizing.
I treated my nipples with Gentian Violet for one feeding each day, turning my tiny babies’ tiny mouths the purplest purpley purple you have ever seen.
I rinsed my nipples in vinegar and water solution after every feeding, covered them in a special cream after every feeding, sanitized my nipple shields after every feeding, and got sick of thinking about and caring for my nipples all the, all the, all the time.
I took Grapefruit Seed Extract pills and Fluconazole. I took probiotics and drank keifer and ate yogurt.
I prayed and texted anyone and everyone asking for prayer. The strangest prayers I ever did pray.
Please, Jesus, let my nipples stop burning. Please, Jesus, heal my nipples. Please, Jesus, remove the white hot searing pain that shoots through my breast into the deepest part of my soul every time I feed my newborn twins. I know I’m supposed to love them and “Ooo!” and “Aw!” over them and be thankful for their health and happiness and miraculous existence. But. Right now, they are just horrible harbingers of pain and suffering.
Please. Please. Please. Make. It. Stop.
I was sad and lonely and frustrated and desperate and depressed.
Then it was finally gone and over and done, and I sighed in relief. I thanked Jesus for His love and kindness and the simple fact that I could stop thinking about and praying for my nipples. Amen.
(My eye still twitches at the thought of it all.)
Days 31-60: Thou shalt call me Bessy. Bessy the Cow.
From Day One, the girls seemed fine with a 3 hour schedule. No more.
Around one month, they began eating every 90 minutes to 2 hours, and they usually nurse for 30-60 minutes. So. You can call me Bessy.
They are starting to slow down, more like every 2.5, sometimes 3, hours. And a couple nights, every 4 hours. Praise Him.
They still nurse for 30-60 minutes at every session, but so did my first born. For an entire year. Guess that’s just how we roll.
I still use the nipple shields. I really have tried to wean them off of them to tell you the truth. One of these days I’ll give it a shot. I may make an appointment with a lactation consultant to get some expert help. Weaning them off the nipple shields really would make the actual nursing process a lot easier, and make nursing in public about 100 times less stressful.
Speaking of which…
The Actual Nursing Process
Many moons ago, a sweet friend of mine found out she was having twins. She already had a toddler. I was very excited and very frightened for her.
She pinned a video on Pinterest that showed how to tandem nurse twins. I watched it. With my jaw on the floor.
Fast forward… and this is now MY life.
(Please take a moment to pick your jaw up off the floor.)
Here’s the break down of my process:
A baby cries. Sometimes encouraging the 2nd to join her. Sometimes not. The trailblazer is usually Emma, but on occasion, Katie leads the fray.
I get up, change diapers one at a time, placing each baby within reach of my nursing perch.
I wash my nipple shields if not already clean.
I plump up my 1, 2, 3 back pillows (cuz you need lots of back support when nursing) and sit down, cross-legged and comfy.
I grab my lap pillow, plop my giant nursing pillow on top, and buckle myself in.
Pull one baby on, get her latched and nursing.
Second baby latched and nursing.
Ready. Set. Netflix here I come.
30-60 minutes later…
I’ve fed both babies, drained a water bottle, devoured snacks, dropped crumbs all over my little loves, and watched another episode of whatever I’m binge watching at the moment. I unlatch one baby at a time, re-swaddle my sweet ones, place them in their bassinet, and try to use the bathroom, replenish supplies, and feel like a person for an hour or so.
Roughly a hundred million times per day.
Usually there is wailing and sobbing and gnashing of teeth mixed in. Spitting up, pooping out, crying, cuddling, rocking, singing, napping, swaying. But you get the general idea.
At 3 months, it’s just this thing that I do. And I don’t really do much else.
Nursing sort of dominates our days. I do get out and I have nursed in public (at church, bible study, the park, the library). I tried to find out how other people nurse twins in public, but the internet seems to be silent on this topic. So let me break the silence!
Nursing Newborn Twins in public
They are too tiny to tandem nurse in public without my nursing pillow, so I trade off, one twin then the other. This doesn’t throw off their feeding schedule much at all, since I only do it once or twice per week.
But it does require a major time commitment. My girls happen to take 30 minutes each to eat, so I have to be seated for about an hour. Major time commitment.
I have nursed them simultaneously in public on two occasions. It was insane.
One one of these instances, I had to figure it out all by myself in a back room somewhere. Wondering how I kept covered up? Ha! Modesty, Sh-modesty.
I felt like some sort of circus act. Precariously cradling one baby in each arm, carefully balancing nipple shields, and attempting to cajole infants into latching without the use of my hands, nudging and wiggling this way and that. When they were finally settled and eating I felt like shouting, “TA DA!” but dare not move a muscle for fear of ruining all my hard work. So I sat, motionless, sweating, nervous, praying. And then, of course, my nose itched.
Needless to say, I don’t plan on nursing two babies at a time in public unless I absolutely have to and only when they are older and the entire process is a little more hands free.
And that’s my story, so far…
Not sure how long this breastfeeding thing will last. Just taking it one day at a time. For all the hassle, there have been hundreds of sweet moments of cuddling and caressing and snoozing and snuggling. The next 3 months are bound to be completely different from the last three, except the continued cozy cuddles. Making it all worth while…