National Breast Feeding week- My Breast Feeding journey

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. 

expressing at indias bedside
Expressing next to India’s humidicrib

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 🤣 

feeding station
My breast feeding station-twin credible, lap, warmed bottles of EBM, water bottle, TV remote, expressing machine, and of course India and Dahli

 

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!

Love Terri

To the nurse who told me like it was

To the nurse who told me like it was,

I don’t remember your name, nor can I picture your face, but what I do remember is your no bull honesty. I remember your brazen sincerity as I lay in the hospital bed; veins burning like webs of fire, heart pounding through my chest, arms and thighs bruised from steroids and cannulas, my tummy sticky and gooey with the monitors used to chase my active babies around, and my neck killing me from having to sleep upright, keeping my babies in sight for the nurses. I also remember the relief I felt when finally, a reassuring, firm voice from above (that would be yours) told me, “Honey, these babies are on their way!”

Throughout my whole pregnancy it was like all doctors and other nurses danced around the hard truths. I floated along with my not regular enough appointments, thinking all was wonderful and perfect. I wish I was more informed throughout the whole process and although having my girls arrive so early was extremely frightening, it was also a relief when finally, after almost a week in hospital with nurses and doctors pussy footing around the inevitable, you told me the truth. Thank you for not treating me like an idiot. This is my body, and my babies and I always should be told the truth, even if the truth is scary.  

You didn’t wait for my Dr to arrive (like you were supposed to), you didn’t hold my hand and tell my babies “stay in their bubbas, the world is not ready for you yet”, you didn’t tell me that perhaps things would get better and that maybe I would get back to work and the whole situation could reverse itself, you didn’t make irrelevant small talk. You didn’t whisper in the birthing room corner with the other nurses or doctors about what I feared may be happening. You didn’t care that you broke the rules, not allowing my Doctor to give me the news when he finally turned up. You saw a distressed, pregnant woman, fearing for the lives of her twins, and you told her what she needed to hear- that within the next 30 minutes, she would meet her 27 week old (gestation) babies.

This was my first pregnancy and in just a moment, you taught me a lot. If I do have any more children, or if I find myself in hospital for some other reason, I will be requesting non-sugar coated information. I am not a fan of sugar coating, not in my diet or with my health. I don’t need a pretty picture to be painted of the best possible outcomes, I need all the possible outcomes handed to me. This way I can prepare myself for whatever is to come. Yes, we received some information while we were in this whirlwind, about survival rates and possible disabilities if our babies were to arrive, but it didn’t feel real because no one would tell me that it was likely that our babies were on their way. Maybe I should have figured it out, but when I was deep in this tunnel of the unknown, for some reason, I wouldn’t believe my girls were coming, not unless the words were said by a professional. Just a simple, “it’s likely they are on their way”, or “you should prepare yourself for their arrival”, would have been enough to kick my brain and thought processes into gear, to get my head around the fact that: this is serious, this is very real, I will be meeting my babies soon.

I know the other nurses were all beautiful, caring people (well most of them). But until there was you, I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously. I felt like it was all a bad, fuzzy dream as my head spun and one day rolled into the next, and the next, and the next. All the while, I imagined that in a day or two I would be on bedrest at home, chilling and watching Netflix. No one would tell me that it was likely that my girls were on their way. No one would whisper the words. True, every day they stayed inside was a blessing, but living in limbo, on a hard, stiff hospital bed, thinking I would return home any day now, was false hope.

So thank you, for giving it to me straight up. I wish I had encountered you at the beginning of my hospital stay. I only met you the morning my beautiful girls entered this world. Now 6 months later, as I reflect on the whole traumatic experience, I remembered you and how somehow, as you handed me the news I had feared, your honesty made everything seem okay. I heard the news; it was go time, and yet somehow, I knew my babies were going to be okay.

 

Love Terri