This week on the Full Circle blog, we're going to hear from my friend Vanessa Taylor. Vanessa is a mom of 3 beautiful girls: a 3-year-old singleton and 7-month-old twins! I met Vanessa in a breastfeeding support group about 2 years ago, and we became fast friends because of our similar parenting styles and our goal to learn as much about breastfeeding as possible. I asked her if she would be kind enough to share her story of her twins' birth and exclusively breastfeeding her girls (and a shoutout to postpartum doulas!), and she was nice enough to write this. ~Kelsey
My breastfeeding journey begins with my oldest who is now 3. Long story short, I knew from the second I got pregnant with her that I would breastfeed her. Formula wasn't a choice for me. I would make it work. And we did. Through the cracked and bloody nipples, through the month where I'd pump a little milk to put in a syringe to squirt on my nipple to help her get latched, to endless all night nursing, until I weaned her when I was 3 months pregnant with the twins. I gained confidence in myself and my body regarding breastfeeding. I joined a wonderful breastfeeding group on Facebook, and became semi-obsessed with infant feeding. I read about booby traps, birth, and how to overcome common obstacles. And with the twins, knew I'd breastfeed them, just as sure as I was with my oldest.
One of the first things I thought when the doctor told us "it's doubly fine! It's twins!" was "will I be able to breastfeed them?" Breastfeeding is very important to me so when we learned I was having the least risky type of twins (I have dichorionic (separate placentas) diamniotic (separate sacs) twin girls), I breathed a small sigh of relief. Most doctors will support vaginal delivery with di/di twins if one baby was head down.
My pregnancy was mostly uneventful, but very challenging at the same time. Everything I did during my pregnancy was to grow my babies, and keep them in as long as possible so they wouldn't have to go to the NICU, where a lot of moms' breastfeeding journeys end. I followed Dr. Luke's diet recommendations from the book "When You're Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads". She talks about which foods are best to eat in each trimester, how much protein to eat (which is a TON), and how much healthy weight to gain in each trimester. I got a FitBit to keep active. I rested when my body told me to. I credit this book with my girls' very healthy birth weights and my healthy weight gain of 42 pounds. I was very aware that lots of twin moms have c sections, which can affect breastfeeding so I did some yoga to encourage the babies to get head down which my OB said was a requirement for vaginal birth. Baby B turned head down early on but Baby A stayed breech until 35 weeks. She finally turned and I was confident I'd get to birth them vaginally. I knew there was a chance of vaginal birth for the presenting baby and c section for the other baby. I was terrified of a c section.
When I went into labor at 37 weeks 5 days at 3:15AM, we called the babysitter, the doula, and raced to the hospital. 6 hours and no c-section later, I had my babies in my arms. I credit the on call OB for my vaginal birth of the second baby, Everly. She took her sweet time compared to her sister, Harlow, who basically shot out an hour after we got to the hospital. This OB was patient and listened to me when I wanted to try different positions, he didn't rush me, he let me know when I was making progress getting Everly down, and when I wasn't. I even got to breastfeed Harlow between contractions. My husband knew how important it was for me to be able to nurse her within the hour after being born, so he asked the nurse to hand me the baby for skin to skin and some nursing. After almost an hour of not making much progress and a few times where everyone in the room looked very nervous waiting for Everly's heart rate to come back up, I made up my mind that I didn't care if I pooped on the table, I was getting this baby out. As soon as I started pushing like I was pooping, I made better progress. With one last huge push, and me basically ripping my husband's shoulder off, she came out. She was blue, but they assured us she was ok, and then she started screaming. My babies were here! 1 hour and 1 minute apart. I nursed both of them in the operating room immediately after birth (they make you deliver in the OR "just in case"), and neither needed any NICU time. YAY! Harlow was 5 lbs 9 oz and Everly was 6 lbs even. My oldest daughter was 6 lbs 1 oz so these were some good sized babies!
They were great nursers from the beginning. Harlow was a little sleepier in the first 24 hours but the ladies in the breastfeeding group on FB (including Kelsey) assured me that it was OK, and to follow their lead. We were discharged the next day after me insisting, and that's when the fun began! The hospital wanted me to schedule an appointment with their pediatrician for the next day since we were leaving "early", so I did. The babies nursed pretty much non stop until my milk came in late on Day 2. They didn't lose much weight and have been gaining like crazy ever since. I knew it was important for each of them to nurse 10-12 times everyday for the first few weeks, and it turns out, they still nurse 9-10 times even now at 7 months.
After we got home, I called our postpartum doula to schedule when she'd come help us overnight. She came 2-4 nights per week for the first 3 months. I honestly don't know how we would have made it without her. She would bring them to me during the night, help me get them latched, burp and change them, put them back to sleep, and repeat all night long. I tandem nursed only when they were very little. I found it much easier to nurse them one at a time.
For me, nursing twins wasn't much different than nursing a singleton, except we do everything twice. Feed baby, burp baby, change baby, and repeat. With the confidence and knowledge I'd gained with my oldest daughter, it came naturally and easily. I had and have help, so that is truly invaluable in dealing with the daily grind with 3 kids 3 and under. For me, doing a lot of research before babies were born helped tremendously. I knew what was normal, when growth spurts were, and I wasn't intimidated. I trusted my body to provide milk for the babies it grew. And it has! My girls are right around the same size my oldest was at the same ages. Breastfeeding twins is a challenge, but if met head on with support and knowledge, it is absolutely doable!
Kelsey Voelker is a labor doula and lactation educator with Full Circle Birth Collective. Learn more about Kelsey here.
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