Saturday, November 1, 2008

Breastfeeding Multiples Can Be Done!

By Rachael
BBA Contributor, Mother of Triplets

Of course, breastfeeding isn't possible for everyone. Often it is an incredibly personal choice a new mother has to make and it is one that needs full support of family and friends. If you choose to go with formula for your multiples' early needs, there are a lot of wonderful benefits to doing so. But if breastfeeding your multiples is something that you would like to do, it can be done. In fact, I was successfully able to pump for/breastfeed my triplets for 14 ½ months.

After a lot of trial and error in the beginning, I realized some very important things…

1) Invest in a good quality pump, preferably a hospital grade pump. If you cannot afford to purchase a hospital grade pump, they are available to rent through your hospital or other locations such as medical device stores. They are often covered by insurance, so check with your carrier prior to renting or buying one.

2) Pump or nurse regularly (and avoid supplementing as best you can) in the beginning. If you nurse, do so on demand and put the babies to the breast each and every time they are hungry. It will likely be rough with constant feedings, but that is their way of increasing your milk production. If you stick with it, it will be over in a few days! If you pump, do so every 2-3 hours around the clock for the first few weeks, then every 2-3 hours during the day, with 4-5 hour stretches at night. Make sure you vary the times that you pump as well. The body operates on a supply and demand schedule, so the more you pump or nurse the more milk you will make.

3) A baby is far more effective at extracting milk from the breast than a pump, so put the babies to the breast as often as possible!

4) Drink plenty of liquids. Seriously, this is probably one of the most important things you can do. If you are dehydrated, logic would indicate that you will not be able to make as much liquid.

5) Eat plenty of calories. This is also one of the most important things you can do. Your body needs the energy provided by calories (and fat) to make the milk your babies need.

6) Get plenty of rest. I know, something that is so difficult in those first few months, but your body is working hard to make milk so you need to let it rest. Let things go (it is only temporary) and sleep when the babies are sleeping.

7) If someone offers to help, accept it! Let them come cuddle the babies while you get some shut eye or pitch in around the house. Whatever you do, don't fall into the trap of thinking you can do it all or you will be overwhelmed and exhausted in no time at all!

8) Preemies can nurse. Although it is usually a more difficult beginning, they will likely eventually get the hang of it around their original due date. Persistence is key! Keep putting your preemies to the breast, starting slowly at first and gradually adding in more sessions as they get stronger. Also, until your babies are nursing like pros, make sure that you pump after each nursing because it is likely that you will need to help stimulate your milk production.

9) Be willing to be flexible. There may come a time when you realize that your body just isn't able to produce enough milk for your growing babies' needs. If you reach that point, don't be discouraged. You can continue to pump and give your baby a mix of breast milk and formula.

10) If you decide to call it quits, there is no shame. Both you and your baby have to enjoy the experience for it to be worthwhile! It was a difficult road at first, and I was armed with a lot of inaccurate and misleading advice, but I stuck with it and the experience turned out to be quite fulfilling to me and my babies. In fact, when my babies stopped nursing and I returned my pump I was sad. It signaled the end of my babies being babies and their transformation into full-fledged toddlers.


Bridget said...

How awesome! I cannot imagine nursing triplets!

I would add to get a great lactation consultant. A good LC can help encourage you with a no guilt approach. Remember, as my LC listed as her first rule, "the mother is always right." If you need to supplement or quit bf'ing for your own sanity, you are right. My daughter was only 3 wks early, but we had a rough start.. she was tiny, I was on mag for preeclampsia for a couple of days (made us both drowsy), she had a poor suck on bottle and breast. I delivered at a hospital trying to be certified as breast friendly. I felt tremendous guilt in the first month b/c I had to pump full time. When I found my LC, she introduced me to moms who had the same latch problems. My daughter started to latch at times at 2 1/2 months but not full time until she was 6 months old (and then nursed until 13 months). She refused formula on multiple occasions. stress. a great support system is key to success (and sanity).

also, skin to skin contact. I spent a lot of time topless. Getting in the bath with my daughter helped as well. There are great papers on how infants who get in the tub with skin to skin contact with their mother hunt for the breast instinctively for up to 4 or 5 months. This was the only way my daughter would latch for her first 4 months. In the first 3 months, I was more of a paci, but I pumped like a champ when we got out of the tub.

I tell pregnant mommas that those who say they had an easy time with breastfeeding from the start are either a. lucky, b. lying, or c. suffering from newborn amnesia. It's hard... but it gets easy... eventually.

Thanks for the tips and inspiration! ;)

Amber S. said...

I love this! Thanks for letting the expecting Moms of Multiples out there know that breastfeeding IS possible. When my twins were tiny, I actually had several people make the comment "I assume you're not breastfeeding" since I had two babies. I loved to throw a little humor back to them by saying "God gave me two breasts, didn't He... so how did YOU nurse your ONE baby?" ;-)

The biggest thing to me was lots of fluids and LOTS of calories. I had to often remind myself that I could work on my pre-pregnancy body AFTER they were weaned - the big challenge in this stage of my life was to MAKE MILK! (Although I was almost there BECAUSE we breastfed, ironically enough. All it took was a little bit of toning.)

Another bit of advice is to set small goals. My first goal was to get my milk to come in. After that happened, I wanted to nurse until their one month appointment. We were all still happy, so then we wanted to go until the two month appointment... and so forth. If I would have went into it saying "I am going to nurse for a full year," I could have seen me getting discouraged and throwing in the towel during that first LONG month. It did nothing but get easier for us. On the other hand, however, if nursing didn't work for us, I wouldn't have had to beat myself up emotionally, knowing that I could simply stop after my next goal was met. Less pressure is best, as stress will slow milk production!

Good luck to any Mommy out there who makes the commitment to at least try to breastfeed!


Jenny said...

I think this was a great post. To all those expecting multiples, I'm here to tell you that it is possible to breast feed them. I have 15 mos old quadruplets. They were born 9 weeks early, and my first goal was to pump enough milk for them the entire time they were in the NICU. They were there about a month so we got through that. Then I decided to set weekly goals. I am proud to say that they got breast milk EXCLUSIVELY for 9 weeks and partial milk/formula for about 6 more weeks. (I was pumping around 120-160 oz a day at the end of it.) Unfortunately i kept getting severe mastitis so I chose to stop. It was very sad, but my kids are EXTREMELY healthy and I like to think some of that is because of the breast milk they got:)!
All this to can be done, although NOT easy for many, it can be done and it is WONDERFUL!


Anonymous said...

Ya'll are right! Breastfeeding multiples can be done! You have to have your mind made up, be organized and on a STRICT schedule,have husband/family support, and be ok with not sleeping much at all for the first 3 months! Our twins are 22 months old, and I am still breastfeeding them! Thanks for the article! It was awesome! Erika in MS