People always ask how I went about feeding two babies at once, in both my professional and my personal life.
Obviously being the neonatal nurse-turned-health visitor I am, and always have been, a firm believer that ‘breast is best‘. But I have also seen women, good mothers, breaking down when they could not fully feed their babies. I didn’t want this to happen to me, I also knew that with multiple babies I would appreciate any help that I could get. I made the decision to exclusively express my breast milk so that I could have help in feeding them, I would know how much they were getting (something very important when you have small, premature babies), they would get the same amount and, most importantly, they would still be getting my milk.
Exclusive expressing is not an easy choice. There are not that many resources for support available out there (much of the information is about expressing for returning to work whilst still breastfeeding) and it is not a widely accepted choice. I mean, who in their right mind would choose to hook themselves up to a pump like a cow does?! Only a mother who wants the best for her little twinnies…
I started off using a simple double Lansinoh pump. It worked, but it was a slow and sometimes painful process. I think it would be a great little pump for returning to work or for trips out when you’re still breastfeeding, but for exclusive, hard-core pumping it wasn’t the best. I had trained mummies on hospital-grade breast pumps but I couldn’t believe that they were that much different from the one that I had. How wrong I was. I had cause to use a hospital-grade pump once and was amazed at the difference. It was faster, more effective and much less painful. My advice to any pumping mums out there is to rent a hospital-grade breast pump from a well-known brand (I myself used a Medela pump, their customer service is amazing and makes renting from them hassle-free).
If you are going to exclusively express, then keep to a routine. Your breasts produce milk on a supply and demand basis- the more you pump, the more your breasts tell your body you need to produce milk and the more milk you make. I double pumped (both breasts at the same time) to tell my body I needed milk for two babies- also a useful tip for you singleton mummies if you want to produce more milk. I stuck to a schedule, when the twins had a feed, I had a pump. Including, unfortunately, those delightful middle of the night feeds, in fact you may make more milk during these hours. After I had established my milk supply, I could go to a four or six hourly schedule, but when I did go to six hourly I noticed a definite decline in my milk supply.
Another thing to take into account if you are going to do any expressing is milk storage. You can store fresh milk in your <4oc fridge for five days, in the freezer compartment of a fridge for two weeks or in your freezer for six months, if you defrost some milk then it must be used within 24 hours. You can freeze it in bottles, or in specially designed milk bags available from baby stores. If you get into the swing of it and produce well then be prepared, we had to purchase an extra 70litre freezer to cope with my supply and I filled it!!
Once you're exclusively expressing and settled into a good routine and producing well, the next tricky step is stopping. When you are breastfeeding your little one they start taking less as they get older and start eating proper food, your pump does not do this! When I made the decision to stop expressing I tried to weaning down, first on the amount of milk I would express before stopping and then on the time I spent on the pump but neither of these seemed to work when I was still having to do it every four hours to stop pain and leaking. I found I had to push myself to stop by pushing the amount of time between pumping until I was about to burst and then doing just enough to feel better and then pushing again. Couple that with wearing a highly-attractive tight sports bra and it took less than a week until my dairy was closed down! I won't lie to you, it was really emotional. If my expressing wasn't taking me away from the twins as they were getting older and needing more entertainment and interaction then I would have continued, but I had reached the right time for both me and my family.
I managed to keep expressing for 35 weeks and I am so glad that I was able to give Biscuit and Cracker that start in life.