Today is the final day of breast feeding week so I thought I’d share a little bit about my breast feeding journey.
With Dahli and India being born at 27 weeks and in NICU and SCU, for a very long time I was not able to try and breastfeed them. They were not strong enough and not ready, plus their CPAP would have gotten in the way anyway!
It was an hour after the girls birth that my midwife came and offered to help me hand express some milk. I was surprised that I was doing this so quickly. And even more surprised that she managed to help me get enough milk out for my girls first feed! (They were fed through a nasal gastric tube). I think it was about 1ml in total. From this lesson on, every three hours, day and night I would express. At first just with my hands, then with the expressing machine as a stimulator before hand expressing, and then solely on the expressing machine. I would set my alarm for every three hours and expressed day and night. At times I did it next to one of the girls in their humidicrib, sometimes downstairs in my hospital room and then at home when I was finally discharged. When I was allowed to hold the girls I would hold one of them for ‘breast cuddles’ to encourage my milk supply and then I would sit there next to them and express afterwards. At home I would flick through the millions of photos and videos of my baby girls to help me make lots of milk. And I made a hell of a lot. It’s amazing what our bodies can do! I was expressing so much milk, litres a day. The hospital had to freeze some and I got to freeze some at home when they couldn’t fit anymore in their freezer.
The girls first breast feeding practice was sucking my milk off a cotton tip. Soooo cute and fascinating. And then at around 31 weeks (1 month old), India was off the CPAP and had her first proper breast feeding practice. She was 1377g this day and it was quite remarkable that she managed a little feed at this stage. I still remember how excited and proud I was. She got quite the surprise with how much milk came out, I remember she threw up on me and herself a few times! 🤣 For a long time we would continue this breast feeding practice as the nurse tube fed her my EBM.
Dahli didn’t get to start practicing breastfeeding until a little while longer (almost 35 weeks) because she she still needed the breathing support. But finally while on high flow, she got her first practice. Dahli latched straight away and then screwed her face up. She was either shocked or unsure of the taste and then she fell asleep on me as I stared at her beautiful face that after almost three months, I could finally see properly. Now both girls were off CPAP and able to practise sucking I was able to start tandem feeding. This was super exciting and a huge moment for me. When I learnt I was having twins this was one of the first things I thought about. The twin feeding pillow was no longer just for cuddles, but for actually feeding my babies!
The tandem feeding journey was filled with joy and anxiety, proud and happy tears and sad, disappointed tears. It had far more unsuccessful experiences than successful and it was heartbreaking. Once the girls were in SCU the focus became on getting them to full feeds so that they could finally graduate and go home. I was determined to breast feed. I would breastfeed them and then top them up with my EBM. It was an intense juggling act made easier when my husband was there. It also brought up lots of feelings of incompetency as nurses had to help feed because tandem was not working and they were on the same schedule. I longed to get them home and focus on breastfeeding in the comfort of our own home. But in hospital I was only allowed to practice with them every alternate feed. And then when we could see that the bottle was the fastest route home, that’s what mattered most.
When we finally got home the juggling act continued but with much less anxiety and stress. On and on for months. I eventually decided to just do breast feeds for bonding and supply purposes because they just couldn’t get a full feed. So I learnt a way to express while bottle feeding them simultaneously. And if one bubba wanted a little settling or mummy time, I’d offer them my breast. One of my fondest memories of this time was having them both on me in the bathtub and them both fighting over the same nipple 🤣
Eventually the girls weren’t really interested in my breast. They wanted the bottle of EBM and eventually formula top ups when my supply started to run low and not be enough for the girls. A combination of their growing appetite and less time to express.
I expressed until the girls were 9 months old. My machine wasn’t really cutting it any more, my girls were now on solids and my spare time was spent making them solid food! If I tried expressing as I bottle fed them, they would pull out the tubing! And if I tried expressing as they played, their attention span would dwindle…along with my supply. So I weaned my boobies and put the expressing machine in storage….and I burnt my god damn expressing bras! 🤣 From then on the girls were on homemade, delicious solids and organic formula. I was happy that I had gotten them to this stage, although mummy guilt was also very much present.
So that’s my breastfeeding journey! I hoped Reuben to be a more successful breastfeeding story. My supply did actually come in and I was back to expressing again. This colostrum/milk was a gift to the girls from Reuben (which came at a good time as they were very sick). This was an extremely hard and emotional thing to do. I tried to just zone out and not think about what I was doing and why I had to do it. In the end I ended up needing help to make my supply go away and after a few weeks, I got tablets to help stop it.
Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different and I believe that all mummy’s make the decision that is best for them and their babies. I have moved on from the sadness and guilt I felt from my unexpected breastfeeding experience. I now know that I was a NICU mummy rockstar and I did absolutely everything I could do to get my bubba’s their mummy’s milk (including the multiple batches of lactation cookies, nighttime googling of lactation foods (hello oats!), many cups of lactation tea and finally motilium to help boost supply!).
Thanks for reading!