Wednesday 8 February 2017

The Smartest but Hardest Decisions I Made as a Twinmom (to date!)

As you may have noticed, I tend to analyze a situation before it happens. Whether it be upcoming events including all of Stella's angelversary dates I have either celebrated or simply lived through or the birth of my twins. It helps my mental state and overall happiness. 

This sweet fella has caused his Mama a lot of stress and anxiety - he's definitely worth it.

To me, knowledge is power. I use knowledge to get through. 

The ability to breastfeed twins was something I was in awe of well before I knew I was pregnant with my own twins. I anticipated a lengthy twin breastfeeding journey but I figured if I drew from previous experiences and made use of outside resources available, I would succeed?!

To cope, I kept my expectations low. I knew if I couldn't feed both babies there were other options. I wasn't going to be left hanging with a hungry baby. Or was I?

Me and my boys!
Since having my twins, I noticed others expectations of breastfeeding twins was lower than my own. I suppose as feeding, let alone breastfeeding is hard enough with ONE baby. There is judgement and pressure surrounding feeding and the the physical weight of our babies; from the nurses we encounter after delivery to the moms we encounter at the park. There is pressure to do what is natural and isn't supposed to hurt from the professionals while also pressure to formula feed by the formula companies who send full can samples to your door. What is a new mom to do?

The anxiety and stress of baby feeding. The options, the judgement, the reality. Walker drinks both breastmilk fortified with Nutramigen
The babies arrived and I listened to the recommendations to pump; as I knew my milk takes 3 days to arrive. The fear of being able to feed 2 babies thrust me into full pumping mode despite my exhaustion. It started with a few drops and later proudly pumped a few ounces. It was a motivator and an early achievement to the start of my twin breastfeeding journey.  In the meantime, Walker was given donor milk and Conrad formula - I was okay with it. It was my only choice, neither baby could lose more weight.

Bottle feeding and breastfeeding at the same time!
I was managing to feed both babies but realized it was extremely difficult for Walker to breastfeed. His breathlessness and the lack of suck, swallow and breathing coordination made our feeding sessions extremely lengthy and tiring for us both. Finally a nurse, who had witnessed and assisted me with the feeds, suggested I think about  bottle feeding Walker and stop breastfeeding. 

I didn't feel pressured, insulted or judged by the suggestion. It was a relief. I was given the permission I needed to stop. It was important to feed Walker the easiest way possible to allow him to drink enough to grow.

Walker is always wet from reflux regurgitation - he often throws up 70mls or more of his 75ml feed
It was a tough decision to make. Would I have succeeded if we worked a little longer? I now had to pump and bottle feed which involves several more steps than breastfeeding but it WOULD WORK.

As my babies grew and Walker's reflux became more severe, pumping and breastfeeding became increasingly difficult. Timing the pumping and on demand feeds became hard; one or the other was lacking and I was exhausted.  Stress brings an expected lack of sleep, increase in anxiety and decrease in milk supply. All not helpful for my situation. My husband also was constantly reminding me to pump and I instantly felt resentful and annoyed. His requests weren't meant to be negative but my reaction and the way I handled my feelings wasn't natural or how I wanted to feel. 

The second decision I was able to make easily as we had no choice. My feeding expectations had to take a back seat to the health of my children. It wasn't enjoyable to feed Walker anymore and whenever my husband would mention re-feeding Walker, I would get anxiety about pumping and taking another hour to feed him. I sometimes thought, he's okay, he got enough.

No, he wasn't getting enough. 

He would regurgitate every feed. We decided it was time to get a nasal gastric tube. The tube would feed Walker when he wouldn't and get more into his tummy easily. The reflux caused a bottle feeding aversion due to the pain and being forced to constantly eat. The tube was a necessity to finish a feed.

Walker getting the NG inserted
With the re-feeding, I worried again about having enough milk to feed my babies. My once large stash of expressed frozen milk was diminishing from intermittently thawing a bottle to re-feed Walker. I would pump small amounts of milk and handed them directly to my husband to fortify. 

I relate my thoughts to those of my grandmother during the war; not knowing when she would be able to feed her baby again and stocking up on items. My stash is sacred and it was getting low - how would I manage? I started to feel helpless. I laid up at night wondering what to do. I finally decided I needed help and I would ask for it.

The Boys at one of many checkups
I swallowed my pride and reached out to a few close friends and an online mommy community group for milk donations. The offers came piling in. Everyone was willing to donate their small or large stash to my small baby. Others hadn't pumped in months but were willing to give it a try. Milk was graciously being dropped off at my house. I was so grateful.

Finally I was approached by one Mom who has an abundance of milk who generously offered to help us out.

I felt a huge sigh of relief.

Ever since I reached out for help, I felt less anxiety. I could concentrate on Walker's nutritional needs without having to expose his tiny sore tummy to more changes, if I didn't have to. Walker started to make small gains and has noticeably grown since we got the donor milk. Conrad is also thriving since I stopped pumping and solely breastfeed him. He put on weight and a tiny round belly. 

I made the decision to use donor milk because I knew it was the best thing for BOTH of my babies.  

Conrad is now 5 pounds bigger than Walker. They know no different and are building a great bond.
As moms we often have visions of how we would like life to be once we have a baby. It is very difficult to change these plans without feeling like a failure. Feeding our babies is the one thing we should be able to do - but its often the hardest.

The saying all new moms have heard, "Breast is Best". It makes you feel that anything other than the breast is bad.

Breasting Conrad at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto
You are not a bad mother if you consciously make a decision that is BEST for your BABY. 

I could see my situation was becoming extremely stressful and upsetting and a change needed to happen before my mental health was sacrificed. Asking for help can be risky, not knowing if you will be answered and what you will do if you aren't. I always remember I am not the first mother going through this situation and there are other ways to feed my baby which are perfectly healthy. Dealing with my feelings was important before my ability to care for my babies was affected.

One on one time with Walker, wet from regurgitation after he got his ng tube
Although you may not always please others and you may feel like you are judged because no one knows what you are going through as you aren't wearing a sign that reads "I gave breastfeeding my best try but it didn't work for me". Stay strong in your decisions as you know your baby and yourself best. Be open to changes in your feeding journey because you are going to hit unanticipated bumps in the road, as we did.

When it comes down to it A FED BABY IS BEST. 

The decision on how to successfully feed our babies is an important one to consider whether it be from you, from someone else or from a can. The most important thing you can do is help your baby grow into a healthy human being while taking care of yourself along the way. When you become a mother, you become the decision maker. As long as your baby is fed, no one will ever truly remember how your got there. I thought I would be so proud to tell others I am able feed both of my babies by this body but I am even more proud knowing to myself, that I am fully satisfying their needs and filling their stomachs.  


  1. My girl was in an incubator for the first week of her life and I had to bottle feed, sometimes supplement with formula, because it was best for her. The judgement I received was insane. I wanted to breastfeed, I just couldn't and then she had a nipple aversion until suddenly, at a month old, she latched on. I couldn't believe that people, nurses included, would make a Mother feel worse for doing what she needed to do for the best for her baby :(

  2. Moms are nothing less than superwomen! This story is so inspiring. Your kids will grow up appreciating everything you do for them. Thank you for sharing this post

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