Exclusive Pumping For Twins
When my twins were born I was a first time mom. Throughout my pregnancy I knew I wanted to breastfeed. My reasons varied from believing this was the healthiest option to most of my friends breastfeeding their babies. Plus, I was breastfed as a child. All these factors influenced my decision to breastfeed. Additionally, I was very nervous about trying to breastfeed twins. I had seen the struggles my friends had been through breastfeeding just one baby. As described in this post on breastfeeding preterm twins, I was able to provide breast milk to the twins for the first 11 weeks of their life through exclusive pumping. Since I have previously written about my personal experience exclusively pumping for twins, the purpose of this post is to discuss what to expect if you pump exclusively for twins. Plus, provide tips on how to succeed with exclusive pumping for twins.
What To Expect
If you are pregnant with twins and want to breastfeed, be prepared to exclusively pump. It could be you pump for just a few weeks or you could end up pumping the whole time you breastfeed. This is more likely with twins because twin pregnancies result in a higher likelihood of early births. The smaller the babies, the less likely they will have a good latch and strong enough suck to breastfeed when they are born.
In my case, the twins were born at 35.5 weeks and they were brought to the Continuing Care Nursery after they were born. They weighed 4 lb 12 oz and 4 lb 13 oz, and they were not strong enough to latch and breastfeed. This meant I started pumping at the hospital. I do not feel I was prepared for the possibility of needing to exclusively pump, especially for two babies. Even the special twins class I took at the hospital did not teach about the exclusive pumping. So, if I were to do it all over again, how would I handle exclusive pumping for twins? Here are my top 4 tips.
Tips To Succeed With Exclusive Pumping
- Setup and accept any and all help you can get
- Get a good pump through your insurance
- Decide on a schedule
- Commit to pumping
This is one is the biggest keys to success. I had help the first month with newborn twins and after that I was completely alone while my husband was at work. Instead of getting as much help as possible from my family, I was focused the fear of what I would do when they were gone. While they were around I could have tried to fit an extra pumping session or two to boost my supply. I still pumped 6 times per day, while also dealing with spinal headaches. But, maybe I could have gotten help with night feedings and pumped at night, instead I skipped pumping at night.
Start by enlisting the help of your family (it’s free). If you can afford it, I highly recommend hiring someone to help too. Maybe a night nurse to get some sleep. This would allow you to just wake up, pump, and go back to sleep. I really wanted to do everything myself as a first time mom. I cannot stress enough how important it is to accept help from your family and consider hiring someone to help you as well. Take it from someone who has been there, it will be worth it.
Choosing A Breast Pump
Depending on your preference and what your insurance covers, either rent a hospital grade pump or buy a double electric breast pump. The hospital grade pumps are stronger, but there is usually a limitation on how long insurance will cover a rental. Because of the time limitation I decided to go through my insurance and purchase a breast pump. I used the Medela Pump In-Style Advance Breast Pump for both the twins and my singleton. This breast pump was wonderful. I never had any problems with it. I have two of them and they both still work like a charm.
Establish a pumping schedule that has some flexibility. I think the best way to do this is decide how many pumping sessions you will complete in a 24 hour period. In my case I did 6 pumping sessions per day. This did not produce enough breast milk to support two babies exclusively with breast milk, but this is what I was able to do given my circumstances. For a point of reference, if I was only feeding one baby, I would have been able to supply about 90% breast milk with 6 pumping sessions. I could have woken up once or twice at night to pump, but since I was also waking up to feed the one of the babies, this was just not going to happen. Which again, emphasizes the importance of getting as much help as possible to succeed with exclusive pumping.
Committing To Pumping
If you have read about my experience breastfeeding pre-term twins, you know that when I tried to switch from pumping to breastfeeding I thought feeding would get easier, but instead it got harder. Over the first 10 weeks I had become very comfortable with my pumping schedule. However, I was concerned with the amount of breast milk I was making. I thought if I could just start breastfeeding my supply would increase. But, I did not realize how difficult it would be to establish a good latch for the twins. It felt like completely starting over after 10 weeks of really hard work.
If you are exclusively pumping and you are comfortable with it, do not feel like you have to make a change. It is okay to stick with this method. In my case, I could have provided breast milk a little bit longer if I hadn’t been so stressed about figuring out breastfeeding.
There you have it, the top 4 tips to succeed with exclusive pumping for twins. Don’t forget the most important tip. Get help, get help, get as much help as you can get!
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