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Establishing milk supply with a pump

There are several reasons milk supply may have to be established by expressing and not by directly breastfeeding. Mother and baby may have to be separated after birth due to prematurity or illness, or maybe baby just cannot latch on for some reason. Maybe baby is tongue tied, has a cleft palate or is too sleepy to feed effectively.

So how does a new mum start to establish a milk supply if she is not directly feeding her baby?

After birth you should be encouraged to hand express colostrum within an hour of birth if possible, or at least within the first 6 hours. Ask to be shown the technique by your midwife, or there are plenty of great video tutorials online. This one from Global Health Media is particularly good, click here. It is important to massage the whole breast and the nipple for a couple of minutes before starting. Hand expressing is recommended for the first two to three days until the milk begins to come in as colostrum is very thick and sticky and is in small quantities, so will get lost in a pump. However, if large quantities of colostrum are being expressed, you could move onto the pump earlier. Also there are settings on some hospital pumps designed for expressing colostrum and some mums respond better to this. The pump can also be used just for stimulation.

Babies only need a small quantity of colostrum, so every drop counts. These small drops can be sucked up with a syringe direct from the nipple or dripped into a small cup and then sucked into a syringe. This can then be given directly to the baby. You should be encouraged to hand express 8 to 10 times in 24 hours to mimic the baby’s feeding patterns. This will give enough colostrum to feed and to prime the lactation sites so that you will have the greatest chance to make a full supply or as near as possible. Some mums do struggle to express any colostrum in the first few days. It does not mean it’s not in the breast, we all start making colostrum in the second trimester of pregnancy, but it can be a bit challenging to get it out. If it is proving difficult then maybe ask about donor breast milk until your milk “comes in”. Most mums find they can express mature breast milk much more easily.

 

 

lilli put pumping

Moving on to the pump. Milk begins to “come in” around 3 to 5 days after birth, a process called “lactogenesis II”. It is triggered by the birth of the placenta and will happen whether a mum is breastfeeding, pumping or doing neither. Breast milk gradually changes from colostrum to mature milk over a number of days and volumes should begin to increase. Continuing to pump 8 to 10 times a day will help ensure you establish a full supply.

Top tips to establish a good supply!

Frequency – There really is no better way to get a full supply than to pump frequently; 8 to 10 times a day to begin with is essential. Some mums with large storage capacities may be able to drop a couple of sessions and continue to make enough milk, but for many frequency is the key. Expressing sessions do not need to be equally spaced. And if you miss one for some reason, try to shuffle up the others so you still get the same number over 24 hours.

Efficiency – Using a hospital grade pump is recommended. In hospital the staff should be able to provide one for you to use, normally in the pumping room, sometimes by baby’s cot or incubator. Once discharged, hospital grade pumps can be hired either direct from the manufacturer or from a local pump agent. If baby is in NICU there is often a discount code.

Breast shell size – It is really important to get the pump’s breast shell size correct. This will mean pumping should be comfortable and not cause any damage to the nipples, and it will also help maximise milk production. Just a note to say sometimes a pair of breasts need two different sized shells! And sometimes you need to change size as you go through your pumping journey as breast size changes. Nipple diameter is the key. Check your manufacturer’s information on this and experiment a bit.

Power pumping – This mimics a baby’s natural cluster feeding pattern and can help stimulate milk production. The pattern is as follows using a double pump: pump for 20 minutes, have a 10 minute rest, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes and then pump for a further 10 minutes. This can be done once a day to help boost supply. If you are using a single pump then you can power pump by pumping 10 minutes on the left and then 10 minutes on the right, rest 5 minutes, pump 10 minutes on the left and 10 minutes on the right, rest for 5 minutes and then pump ten minutes on the left and 10 minutes on the right again.

 

power pumping

Hands on pumping technique – This is a technique which incorporates massage, hand expressing and pumping all at the same time. Many have found that this can greatly increase output. For a more detailed explanation watch this video

Hand expressing – after the flow has slowed you could try finishing off by doing some hand expressing. Often a little more can be squeezed out by hand

A hands free pumping bra – This can make the above massage much easier, as you use the bra to hold the pump onto the breasts and so hands are free. It also means you can pump and do other things at the same time. This can be essential, especially if you have older children. You can buy them or make your own by cutting vertical slots in an old bra or sports bra where your nipples are, and you can insert the cones through the slits.

Warmth – Applying a warm compress just before you express can help the let-down reflex.

Skin to skin with baby – Skin to skin, or kangaroo care as it is often referred to, helps boost oxytocin and encourages the milk to flow. Oxytocin is one of the key hormones involved in the production of breast milk and, amongst other things, stimulates the let-down reflex, meaning milk flows more easily when pumping.

Look at baby – Photos, videos, pictures, pumping next to the cot, listening to your baby. All these remind the breasts what they are supposed to be doing! They also stimulate oxytocin and help with supply.

Latch baby – If baby is beginning to latch on to the breast, pumping straight afterwards can make it much easier for the milk to flow as the baby will have stimulated the let-down reflex.

Distraction – “A watched pot never boils”. It’s the same with pumping. If you watch what you get, you will likely not get so much. Distracting with listening to music, relaxation recordings, mindfulness, watching comedy, chatting to other mums or friends and family all have been shown to increase milk production. Stress can inhibit the let down reflex so these techniques can help keep you relaxed.

Eat and drink – Good for health and energy of the mother, not necessarily for milk production.

Rest – It is really essential for mums to rest. Yes we also want them to wake once or twice a night to pump, but getting a good amount of sleep is so important to cope with the stresses and strains that you feel when a baby who is latching. Get help with all the usual household chores, looking after older children and cooking. Mother the mother so the mother is able to mother the baby.

Galactagogues – There are many foods or medications out there which either have some scientific evidence behind them or have anecdotal evidence that they can increases milk production. However, none of these work unless the milk is being removed frequently from the breast. They are not a magic wand. For more info on galactagogues have a look at this link
pump Sophie De Sousa expressed stash

It is important to look at 24 hour output, not necessarily what is expressed in each session. This is because there is often a wide variation in amounts from different times of day, and also each breast often gives a different amount. Over the first few weeks, we hope to see a gradual increase in volume in each 24 hour period.

Once babies are strong enough or well enough they should be able to move gradually on to breastfeeding directly. Make sure you seek some support from a trained breastfeeding specialist to help you achieve this.

Kathryn Stagg IBCLC 2018

 

Breastfeeding 4 under 4: Lilli Docherty blogs about feeding baby twins and two older siblings,

Not one to do things by half, I was very fortunate to conceive in February 2017.  With an already 18 month old and just turned 3 years old nurslings, I was very aware of the forthcoming task ahead.  With the world’s average self weaning age being between 2-7 years old, I realised that this pregnancy and the changes in milk taste could lead to my eldest and possibly my (now) middle child’s end to their breast feeding journey.  Though, equally I had already fed throughout one pregnancy and managed (purely at the grace of hormones) to maintain supply.  I could do it again couldn’t I?  The longer I have nursed, I’ve received increased disapproval and adoration.  Society and the culture in the UK is sadly a little detached from our mammalian purpose… I admit there was a time when I myself was uneducated in the value of breast feeding , and I remember thinking, ‘surely its wrong to feed a baby who can walk up to the mum and lift her top to ask for milk’… oh the irony…I spend much of my home life with my top and bra straps dropped down ready for quick presentation of boobs when needed.  Here I was, feeding two walkers with a growing belly.

Wowsers! there’s nothing like the bedtime nursing session and pregnancy to completely zap all energy.  I was shattered each night but was generally having undisturbed sleep now that both nurslings seemed content to snuggle with me instead of nurse during the night.  (This wasn’t a process I could rush, and my husband and I very much went at their pace. My second baby needing to have hold of one boob though the night as if to confirm ownership).

My eldest had always required a bit of support (in the form of one hand shaping the breast to ensure a deep enough latch ) to feed due to a tongue tie. My confidence with feeding her in alternative positions was limited to ‘needs must’ like during mastitis and blebs, all part and parcel of feeding tongue tied babies.  So sticking with her in cradle position and my second being too fidgety in rugby hold, meant I limited tandem feeding sessions for when their toddler melt downs meant there was not other option. Generally though, they took their turns in stead.  I have no idea how to parent without breasts. I nursed them both to sleep and transferred them to their beds. Tantrums, toothache, bumps and falls, were all solved with boob.  Yup, I not thought of how I was going to do all that with number 3 in my arms too!

Time came around to the 12 weeks scan at the end of April. My belly had really popped, though I was managing to avoid telling people about the pregnancy, preferring to have the reassurance of seeing the baby for real first.  I lay down on the bed in the sonography room, and all I see is black, an empty black space on the screen. I cupped my face and begged the sonographer in panic, “Please tell me there’s something in there”.  He flits the camera over my belly back and forth, my husband and I staring up and the screen holding our breath.  The man turns to me, his eyes sparkled and he said, “which one do you want to see first?”…

There you have it, the moment we realised we were now a family of 6.  The logistics of this wasn’t thought out until the time the babies arrived.  There was only so much we could plan for because a multiples pregnancy & delivery had too many potentials.  Heading into the Summer months helped burn off the children’s energy running around outside whilst I could sit and catch my breath, the weight of this pregnancy and my reduced lung capacity impacted on our usually active life.  My bulging belly made nursing increasingly awkward and uncomfortable.  And there was the joyous hormonal zinging pain lasting throughout the feeds, even with deep exaggerated latches.  All feeds required mental strength to complete but I treasured them.  I didn’t know if my supply would dry up, whether if it did, my babies would be happy to dry nurse, or how often I’d be able to nurse them once the twins arrived.  So many questions and none of which there were answers for. I carried on feeding as we were but asked the children if we could change the bedtime feeds to earlier in the day time so I didn’t need to try and roll around getting in and out from their bed. People say how resilient children are and my two were the true example of it.  By keeping the option of nursing available to them, it meant they were reassured and unphased by the impending changes.  My supply dipped around 22-26 weeks, my eldest said the milk tasted like strawberries (I think she meant sweet) but that there wasn’t much (handy when they can articulate to you exactly what is going on isn’t it?).  My son would latch and get bored from wasted effort at the measly offerings.  But the three of us stuck with it, dry nursing, hormonal nipple pain and taste changes, along with a persistent bleb, ensuring if their nursing journeys were to end, it was by their choice.  I felt it would help with bonding all the siblings and curbing my mummy guilt of having another baby/babies.

The twins arrived at 34 weeks after a speedy delivery where I arrived at the hospital with about 10 minutes to spare.  This meant the twins required some support and our hospital stay lasted 12 days.  Having nursed my big 2 to sleep literally 90 minutes before the twins arrived, to be so swiftly separated from them for an uncertain amount of time was, for me, distressing and draining, but their strength and preoccupation with Grandparents meant I was met with beaming smiles and kisses each day they visited.  I’m no psychologist but I can only assume children are protected in these scenarios by the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ concept.  The members of family who assisted with childcare said I was barely mentioned, which is obviously great, but being typical mum I punished myself still for not being there for them.  The fact they were still nursing was of huge help.  Here I was in hospital with two babies who weren’t able to nurse directly, pumping and hand expressing for them around the clock.  I became engorged when my milk finally came in. BLESS THOSE TODDLER/OLDER NURSLINGS! They swooped in to my rescue.  Although tender to touch, the relief from my older two, drawing out the blocked milk from my inflamed ducts was awesome.  For this reason alone, continuing to nurse them throughout pregnancy was well worth it.  This gentle transition between them meeting the babies in incubators, to cuddle opportunities, to coming home, all the while still having ‘boobie’, I believe, secured a united family bond.  It took another 3.5 weeks to have the twins off tube feeds of expressed milk and able to feed directly, but my older nurslings supported me, the expressing mission I endured and how their nursing sessions needing to fit in after a pump sesh.  I was bound to my bedroom nest and they would run in with newly sterilised milk pots from Daddy.  A support network is imperative for any breast feeding journey, but having my children at the helm of this was awesome.  Communicating clearly from the start how, “the babies need the mummy milk to get bigger and then they will be able to play with you”, and “you can eat food but the babies can only have mummy milk”, has helped even my 2 years old’s understanding and we’ve dodged any jealousy of how my time is used and more so how unavailable (by comparison) my breasts are.

 

Whilst the twins were tiny, their little mouths and shallow latches, meant their effectiveness at milk transfer was limited. Except, I had a couple of useful tools to help establish my supply.  In hospital I’d been advised to use the hospital grade double pump, and power pump as much as possible.  Well, with this in mind, by tandem feeding one of my older two with one of the twins, the let down was brought on in both breasts, reducing the energy the attached baby required to use and increasing the milk they received.  Every bit of stimulus my breasts received worked towards increasing the supply to service the twins who would eventually need to feed directly from me, and I was needing to stay a step ahead to keep them on my milk alone.  Some medical professionals were confused about the science of breastfeeding and felt my older two would be “taking the milk from the babies”, but I knew and valued the importance of demand=supply=demand=supply.  In the long run the twins’ muscle strength and latch would mature enough for them to manage and feed independently. For those initial weeks of learning, to have this inclusive way of feeding, I’m sure became fundamental to our overall success as well as minimising any negative impact that can be experienced when introducing a new born into the family and transitioning siblings to their new ‘big’ brother/sister role.

The expectation upon older siblings are immense and the huge changes mine went through to bring home premature twins were not to be underestimated. Ultimately though, by making them part of the survival plan, communicating through pregnancy about the how booby time will change but emphasising they very much have the choice to continue still and by ensuring my support network of my husband, the Grandparents and friends, I was happy to take on the ‘rods for my back’ I had willingly installed, even down to co sleeping and cuddling the big two until they were asleep. We are now 4.5 months into our ‘nursing 4 under 4’ journey, directly feeding the twins at the breast and tandem feeding in various combinations as needed. As mums we worry about how we cope, but as a twin mum, this statement  rings more true. A friend said to me, ‘just take it 10 minutes at a time’, and when I feel like the dysfunction level is reaching a high, I remember this.  Often 10 minutes later, one or both of the twins has nursed to sleep or has settled in the sling. Or my daughter has allowed me to brush her hair, or they have finally put their shoes on. It’s all little things, but it all passes. The evening cluster session can start any time from 3pm and tends to last until 8pm. But whilst tandem feeding the twins I can use pillows to assist with positioning enabling me to free my hands, so I can do story time with the older two and assist with getting changed for bed.  So for all the worry and mummy guilt we put ourselves through, know this: It can be done! Our bodies are amazing and so are our little nurslings, no matter how many of them there are.

Lilli Docherty, Feb 2018

Tandem feeding twins

You have two babies, you have two breasts. Many twin mums like to feed their babies together to save time and to try to maximise sleep!

But should you try straight away or should you single feed first whilst you are all practising?  The answer is it really depends on your babies and you. Some babies struggle to latch in the early days so trying to juggle two babies and latching both on with one hand each can be quite stressful. And they often take a few goes each to latch. So some mums prefer to wait until they have practised a bit feeding singly. Other babies, especially if they are full term, a good size and nice and alert, can tandem feed straight away. So you will really have to wait and see. Some mums try tandem feeding and just don’t enjoy it. And that’s fine too. But I think its always a good idea to be able to tandem feed if you need to, even if you don’t do it all the time.

So how do you go about tandem feeding? The most popular position is the “double rugby hold”, or “double football hold” if you are American. The babies lie one down each side of you. Start nose to nipple, so the babies need to be quite far back with their legs curled round your waist; you may need an extra cushion or two behind you to make room for their legs, especially as they grow longer! Support the baby with your hand behind their shoulders with thumb and fingers round the neck behind the ears. Tickle top lip with your nipple to stimulate baby to open her mouth wide, and bring on to the breast chin first with nipple going up into the roof of the mouth. Many mums find a twin feeding pillow really helps to support the babies in a good position. You can read my blog about different twin feeding pillows here. If you have your feeding pillow set up well you should be able to let go of the babies and feed hands free (meaning you can eat ice-cream!).

Many mums are worried about how they will be able to tandem feed without help when their partner goes back to work. The most important thing is to keep everything nearby within reach. Then get you feeding pillow ready. Pick up one baby and put on sofa or bed next to you. Ensure baby cannot roll or push themselves off. It is surprising how early babies can move themselves! Then pick up the second and place next to the first. Get settled and make sure the feeding pillow is in position. Lift one baby onto the pillow, ensure they can’t roll off, you can either use your arm to support it or some prefer to roll up a muslin and just prop them up. Lift second baby onto the cushion. I usually advise mums to start with the fussier feeder as you can concentrate more on the latch and use both hands. Then once the first baby has settled into a deep feeding rhythm and the milk is flowing, latch on the second baby. Sometimes this knocks the first baby off the nipple and you have to start again! But with practice, you will get there.

But you don’t have to be constrained by the double rugby hold and needing to use a pillow to tandem feed. There are several other positions you could try. And especially as the babies get older, more able to control their heads, and faster at feeding, you really can be quite creative.

Commonly called “The Stack” you can feed one baby in cradle hold and one in rugby hold. This is quite a good position for feeding out and about as you can do it either without a feeding pillow or with just a couple of cushions to support your arms. Or you can sit cross-legged on the floor and have your legs support the babies.

The “double clutch” can be another good way of tandem feeding without a pillow. It is especially useful when babies are a bit older and can feed in a more sitting up position.

You can even tandem feed in the car. Just make sure you are not actually driving at the time!

And you can feed walking around if you can master the “tandem twin sling feed”. The ultimate food on the move.

And most importantly, there are ways you can tandem feed lying down, so you can lie back and relax whilst you feed. These positions can be used from birth when babies like to feed very frequently, or later on during the long, cluster feeding sessions during growth spurts.

 

And when the babies become toddlers, they can feed any old how.

 

Kathryn Stagg, IBCLC, Jan 2018

 

Night Weaning Toddler Twins

Babies wake in the night. We know that. Babies like to feed a lot in the night. That’s a given. But sometimes it all becomes too much. Sometimes its exhaustion, sometimes its nursing aversion, sometimes work commitments and sometimes it’s just that mum has had enough. Night weaning is generally not recommended until after 18 months by most Gentle Parenting experts. At this age they have some understanding of what is going on. Sleep is a developmental stage, like walking and talking, and babies and toddlers will do it when they are ready. Some will have large chunks of sleep from an early age and that’s fine, but others continue to wake frequently well into their second year.  There are definite genetic factors at play. And twins do not necessarily do it at the same time. Often one is ready much sooner than the other. Breastfeeding is by far the easiest and fastest way to settle a baby back to sleep when they wake. But there may be a point where mum needs to stop it. This should be for the mum to decide and nobody else. She will know if she is ready to night wean. If she is not sure whether she should, then it probably is not the right time yet. It is nobody else’s decision; not the health visitor, grandmother or even the partner. And just to make sure you understand, night weaning will not necessarily make them sleep any better. They may still wake, and you will have lost the easiest way to get them back to sleep. However with lots of consistent alternative reassurance they will begin to be able to transition from one sleep state to another. Toddlers not being too over tired during the day will also help with this.

tandem feeding in bed

Breastfeeding at night is not so much about nutrition for toddlers. There is a big emotional context to it. Breastfeeding is helping them feel safe, to deal with all the big emotions of being a toddler, to deal with the pain of teething, to reconnect after being separated due to work and child care. There’s a whole load of stuff going on. So it’s important not to take away the other comforts that they are used to whilst you try to night wean. Co-sleeping, bed-sharing, cuddles, using a comforter like a toy. These can help the transition away from relying on the breast to settle back to sleep.

Should you night wean both together? Or should you deal with them separately? This is a difficult one as it really depends on your own individual situation. Is one more settled than the other? Or are they both equally as wakeful? Is either of them happy to settle for your partner?  Are you bed sharing? Do they share a separate bedroom? Do they have separate rooms? There are all sorts of factors to take into account. If one baby is more settled, able to settle for a partner, or they are in separate rooms, then it may be easier to try separately. Otherwise it is probably easier to do both together.

Find other ways to settle your toddler at night. There are many different things you can try as a replacement for breastfeeding; cuddling, stroking, patting, singing, use of a special toy or blanket, music, white noise, whatever works best for you. Some will work better than others and everyone is different. You will find the best option for your family.

One thing to try is to cuddle or stroke back to sleep whilst they’re stirring before properly awake. Toddlers go through sleep cycles from deep, slow wave, sleep to light REM (rapid eye movement) sleep regularly and it is during the REM sleep that they often fully rouse and need help to resettle back into a deeper sleep again. Unfortunately a toddler’s sleep cycle is much shorter than an adult’s. This only really works if you are bed sharing as you will need to be in close proximity to be aware when they are about to wake. But if you can cuddle or rest your hand on their body and settle before they are completely awake, you may find they go back into another deep sleep without fully waking and demanding to be fed. I found turning baby away from me and cuddling tightly from behind worked fairly well.

Try with just one of the night feeds. Try the first wake-up of the night and see if you can settle them in a different way. This is the most likely night feed to be able to drop more easily. As the night progresses and morning approaches, sleep often becomes lighter and toddlers are more difficult to settle back to sleep. They often like to get up very early at this age. The most likely thing to help you stay in bed for a bit longer is to continue to breastfeed in the early mornings!  

Find another comforter. Toddlers often like to have a comforter in bed and these can really help to transition away from breastfeeding being the major comfort. The comforter can be anything your toddler is attached to. It can be a toy or blanket, or sometimes physical touch can replace breastfeeding; my toddler would slide his hand up my sleeve for comfort. The replacement comforter should be introduced well before the night weaning process is begun as it should not be seen as a replacement for breastfeeding but a separate comfort. Then slowly you can encourage your toddlers to become more dependent on this and less dependent on breastfeeding.

Debra's twins cudding

Twins also have a built in comfort; each other! One of the plus points of having more than one baby is that they do give comfort to each other. In the early days many parents co-bed their twins or triplets and find this can help with settling them to sleep. However a lot of mums separate them later as they start to disturb each other. But sometimes as they get older, they may like to sleep together in a large cot or floor bed or even just in a standard toddler bed. I often found mine had climbed in bed together when they had gone to bed separately.

Shortening feeds. This can be especially effective if you are experiencing nursing aversion. Nursing aversion is a negative feeling some mums get when feeding. It is often hormonally driven, ovulation and menstruation can be a trigger, and pregnancy is a major culprit. So in order to continue being able to breastfeed, shortening the feeds can work well. You can talk to your toddlers about having “a little bit”. To start with, tackle the bed time feed, pull off the breast by sticking in your little finger and breaking the seal just before your toddler is about to drift off to sleep and encourage them to do that last bit on their own. You can always re-latch them if it doesn’t work. Once the toddler is used to this you can gradually unlatch sooner and eventually they may settle to sleep from awake on their own. Some mums like to sing a song during this feed and when the song is finished, the feed is finished. If you are having a particularly bad day you can sing faster! Once they are good at settling to sleep without the breast they may be more able to move between their night time sleep cycles without feeding. They may settle for the song. Or they may settle with just a few of sucks.   

Talk to your toddlers throughout the day about how boobies will be asleep tonight and how they can have some in the morning. Let them choose which comforter they would like to use. Remind them again just before bed time. Try to keep it positive. When will they be able to feed again, you can feed once the sun shines, boobies have gone to bed and will be back in the morning. Try not to focus on rejecting them. On saying no, not now. Some parents find a Gro-clock can be a great visual aide for this method. The Gro-clock can be set to go from day to night at a certain time and you can explain to your toddler that they can breastfeed once the clock says it is morning. You can set an early time to begin with and extend it later on, once they get the concept. There is also a lovely book called “Nursies When The Sun Shines” by Katherine C Havener which focusses on night weaning and explains to the toddler that she will be able to nurse when the sun comes up.  

Dad sleeping with babies

The partners in a twin or triplet family are often much more hands on than your average family, as there is much more to do! If your toddlers are happy to settle with your partner, and they must be truly happy, sometimes this can be a good technique to night wean. Your partner can go in first and see if they can settle them. If it doesn’t work then you can go in and breastfeed back to sleep. Some babies are more receptive to this than others. You may find one of your babies is fine with your partner and so this may help night wean one of them easily and you can concentrate on the other. Sometimes you can split them up and the non-breastfeeding parent take one of the toddlers and sleep with them and the breastfeeding parent can sleep with the other. But often only the breastfeeding parent will do and if this is causing further distress it may be a good idea to stop.  Remember for a toddler breastfeeding is a way to connect with you, their mum. So keeping the connection is important.

Night weaning is often a very gradual process. Aim for small goals and baby steps. And don’t be afraid to stop if it does not feel right. Teething, illness, changes of circumstances, can all increase night waking and sometimes it may just be easier to go back to breastfeeding in the night again. Then once the unsettled period has passed you can try again. Also don’t be afraid to stop at a certain stage if you are all happy. Sometimes mums find that one or two night feeds are actually quite doable and continuing with these can actually make night times easier. Each journey is very personal between mum and her toddlers and what will work for one family will not necessarily work for another.d and j in bed

www.isisonline.org.uk/twins/

www.parentingscience.com/baby-sleep-patterns.html

www.feedsleepbond.com/how-to-stop-breastfeeding/

www.emmapickettbreastfeedingsupport.com/twitter-and-blog/weaning-toddler-bob-and-pre-schooler-billie-how-do-you-stop-breastfeeding-an-older-child

“The No-Cry Sleep Solution”; Elizabeth Pantley

“The Gentle Sleep Book”; Sarah Ockwell-Smith

 

Kathryn Stagg, IBCLC and ABM Breastfeeding Counsellor, Dec 2017

6 months of breastfeeding twins, with insufficient glandular tissue – by Ruth Cumming

Ruth Cumming has breast hypoplasia or insufficient glandular tissue (IGT) and as a result struggles to produce a full milk supply. She mix fed her first two singleton babies, gradually reduced the formula once they were weaning onto solids, and continued to breastfeed them until they self weaned at 4 and 2 and a half respectfully. Then she found out she was expecting twins! Here Ruth talks about her journey. Her original blog can be found here and she has blogged about breastfeeding her singletons too. She is now training to be a Mother Supporter with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers so she can support others.

The last time I wrote about breastfeeding the twins, they were 3 weeks old and things had gotten off to a great start. I’m pleased to say that it has continued to go very well for us. We’re now coming up to six months on Wednesday, which is quite a bittersweet milestone. On the one hand I’m glad that as they start to eat solid food, the amount of formula that we’ll need to supplement my low milk supply will decrease, and that other people will be able to help out with their nutrition intake. But on the other hand I enjoy being the centre of their world, and although I’ll still be that for a long time, this marks another step in their journey to independence. Don’t get me wrong, I do have days when it’s exhausting and I don’t enjoy it so much, but overall I’m happy to respond to their nutritional and emotional needs in this way and will miss it as they need breastfeeding less over time. I plan to let them self wean like the older boys did, so I don’t know how long we’ve got, but I hope quite a while yet. There have been ups and downs over the past few months, particularly with regards to sleep. The dreaded 4/5 month sleep regression hit at around 4 and a half months. This is a completely normal developmental phase and shows that they are learning lots of new skills, but it was extremely difficult with twins! When all is well I don’t think twins are any harder than two singletons close in age like I had with the boys, but when they’re going through a leap/growth spurt/sleep regression at exactly the same time, that’s definitely the hardest part about twins compared to two singletons. I have done lots of overnight feeding, though sometimes they’d be awake without wanting milk. Before the regression I used to prefer tandem feeding them as nice sleepy babies at night, so I’d try to wake Naomi to have a go at feeding when Samuel inevitably awoke before her, and she’d sometimes have a bit of a dream feed but was pretty much sleeping through the night (much to my amazement at this age as none of the boys have done that so young!) But once the regression hit I preferred to feed them lying down in bed to maximise my dozing time with all the wake ups, and that’s only really possible for me one at a time, so I would actually be quite thankful if they tag teamed then, as long as they settled again, which wasn’t always the case and my days ended up starting at 3/3:30 am! A few things really helped us get through the increased night waking. Firstly we have a bed which is set up for safe co-sleeping. Next to our double bed is a cot bed with one side off that is attached with cord to the bed frame, and the mattress pushed right against our bed with noodle floats (under the sheet) down the gap against the other side of the cot bed. This means the babies have their own space, but I can simply slide them to and away from me to feed in the night as needed. Tom sleeps downstairs so I have the double bed which allows me to tandem feed safely sat up with the tandem pillow if necessary. I would find it much harder to settle them both, and get up and bend down over in to a separate cot if we had that. Secondly I have taken any opportunity to nap in the daytime when I can. This means weekends when Tom is around and some weekdays when my parents have come over. I go to bed when the babies settle anyway, so I can’t get any earlier a night, but even just an hour in the day makes me feel better. The babies nap well in the slings for Daddy and grandparents too whilst I nap. Some might say that it would be helpful if others could give them a bottle and give me rest in that way, but unless someone is going to help me all through the night, it wouldn’t really gain us anything. I’d rather Tom got sleep so he can work well, look after the boys and do housework, which I’d only have to do instead if he helped feed the babies. And I’d rather sit and feed babies whilst tired than try to do anything else. Thirdly I find with breastfeeding that I get back off to sleep much more quickly after being woken than I have done in the past when not breastfeeding. This is down to the hormones involved. So if I’m going to be woken up, I like the fact I drop off again as soon as they settle. I think that aspect would be much harder for me if I wasn’t breastfeeding because I know I find it hard to fall asleep again if woken abruptly. Thankfully we seem to have come out of this sleep regression now, after about a month of broken sleep, ranging from mildly unpleasant to downright horrendous nights within that month. Naomi is back to sleeping ridiculously well for her age and Samuel is normal for his age with a few wake ups for feeding and relatively quick to settle. I seem to have written a lot about sleep here! It is inherently linked to feeding because most of the times that they wake they want to feed to some extent, though there have been times when they were just wide awake and happy in the early hours without wanting milk. And the fact that they have spontaneously snapped back into each of their “normalities”, without us changing anything, shows it wasn’t that they needing weaning into solids to help them sleep any better, which is still quite a prevalent idea in our society despite the NHS advice to wait until around 6 months to introduce solids. Before they were born, one of my apprehensions about breastfeeding twins was the logistics of feeding both together or one after the other, and also how that would work with our set up with the supplemental nursing system (SNS). I have been so pleased with my second hand purchase of the Peanut and Piglet tandem feeding pillow. It fits my body shape and size brilliantly and is so comfortable for the three of us. The twins still fall asleep on it sometimes and I usually enjoy the rest I get when trapped underneath it, which is even more comfortable with the addition of a travel neck pillow to rest my head. I can see us using it for several months to come; I think they’ll grow out of it in terms of their arm flailing and whacking each other at the front before they grow out of it length wise! I don’t tandem feed all the time, less so when I have help to entertain the other one, and often even if both are on the pillow with me they’re not necessarily both feeding simultaneously, sometimes I’m just holding the non-feeding one sat up next to me. I’m also really pleased with how our homemade supplemental nursing systems have worked this time. I got into using the homemade version towards the end of feeding Joel with it, having previously relied on the branded version with both boys. Our version is basically an ordinary baby bottle with a thin (size French 4) NG tube pushed through the teat. I find this system easier to clean and sterilise than the branded one, and the flow seems easier to regulate. I found some tubes on eBay – they are puppy feeding tubes – and then got some more through a family member who is a vet nurse. Since we have bottles anyway because I mix up formula in those as it’s not really possible to do it in the branded SNS itself, this makes the homemade version quite a bit cheaper. I use a Lactaid branded system when out and about because it has a neck strap so I can keep it there under my top to feed as and when I need to when we’re out. I was kindly gifted this by another twin mum, but I wouldn’t buy one myself as it is very expensive to import from the USA, and to use long term would work out even more expensive as you have to buy more disposable bags to refill. I don’t need a neck strap at home because I can rest the bottle on the tandem pillow or hold it in my hand when single feeding. I’ve found that it’s only practical to feed one at a time with the SNS, because even with the tandem pillow I need both hands to position the tube properly on each baby at a time, and since they’ve been more grabby with their hands and pull it out a fair amount when feeding, it’s impossible to have two tubes – I’ve tried a couple of times and it just ends up a big flailing mess. But it seems to work out that one is happy to suck on bare breast while the other has the tube, and only when they are both really grumpy or overtired does tandem feeding get a bit vocal. I’ve not been able to connect with any other twin mums who have used the SNS long term, so it’s been a case of experimenting with what works for us. Both babies seem to be feeding, growing and developing well, so we’ve not changed things when they’ve worked. It’s such a good feeling to be able to say that the twins have been fed exclusively at the breast for 6 months! They haven’t had a single bottle in that time, and I don’t intend that they will ever need one now. Of course they have had formula to top up my supply, but it’s all been consumed via the SNS. This means they have maximised the amount of milk they’ve got from me, and we’ve been able to enjoy the benefits of a breastfeeding relationship that go beyond the milk. I know that for twins we are blessed to be in this situation. It’s not unusual for twins to be born early and therefore struggle to feed at the breast for days, weeks or months. Despite my chronic low supply, we’ve had it quite easy in this respect. Strangely I don’t feel that unusual in the twin breastfeeding world compared to in the singleton breastfeeding world. I think it’s because lots of twins end up being mixed fed breastmilk and formula at some point, either short or long term, and for the first time I’ve really felt like I fit into the online breastfeeding community in the form of the Breastfeeding Twins and Triplets UK Facebook group. It took me to have twins to feel like I belong! It’s apt that in the same week that were marking 6 months, I’m also starting an online course with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers to become a breastfeeding peer supporter. I’d been thinking about this for some time, but when the opportunity came up to do it with a funded place via a crowd-funder campaign in the Facebook group I mentioned above, I thought it was finally the right time. I think my experience would be useful to share with other mums, in terms of twins and breastfeeding with low supply. I’ll blog more about how I intend to use the qualification when I’ve done more of the course. I know there will be more challenges ahead, but 6 months feels to me like the hardest milestone to reach, so it’s a big achievement in my mind to celebrate, and the first one I was determined to get to. I’m looking forward to the next 6 months and beyond now.
Ruth Cumming, Dec 2017

Sleep tips for multiples

Sleep tips for multiples are not always the same as those for singletons. I’m not saying that multiple babies always bring exponentially more sleep problems! In fact, some people find that their multiples were easier than their singletons! But many families find that general sleep books contain tips that don’t always work very well with multiples.

Lyndsey Hookway, paediatric nurse, health visitor, IBCLC and gentle sleep and behaviour coach works at http://www.feedsleepbond.com as well as for the NHS and as an independent lecturer and trainer, teams up with the Kathryn Stagg, breastfeeding counselor, soon to be IBCLC and mum of twins as well as singletons to bring together our collective wisdom on sleep tips for multiples.

In the early days

The best time to lay the foundations for good sleep with multiples babies is in the newborn period. Prevention is better than cure after all! There are several strategies for families of multiples that are simply not an option for singleton newborns.

  1. Multiples are often smaller and born a little earlier than singleton babies. For these reasons, they often stay a little longer in hospital. Use this time to access as much support as possible for feeding, especially getting breastfeeding established. Many of the problems with low blood sugars, excessive weight loss and jaundice can be minimized or even avoided completely by frequent, effective feeding.
    • Plan to feed your babies at least 10-12 times in 24 hours
    • Try to not allow your babies a gap between feeds of any longer than 3 hours to avoid them dropping their blood sugars and becoming sleepy, cold or jaundiced
    • Ensure your babies are drinking effectively at the breast, and not just latching on and then having a nap! Watch this video to see what really effective feeding looks like.
    • Ask for help from the infant feeding team, peer supporters, a breastfeeding counselor, or IBCLC – check this interactive map to find your nearest.
  2. Very young babies are not great at maintaining their body temperature. Dress your babies in thin, 100% cotton layers, but remember to avoid using a hat indoors unless you have been advised to use one by your baby’s medical team.
  3. Consider placing your babies in the same crib for sleep, ensuring that they are still in the back to sleep and feet to foot position. Twins and triplets are often comforted by being near their sibling(s). for more information click here.
  4. If your babies fall asleep feeding on a feeding cushion, then provided you are awake and watching them, just leave them where they are! Lots of babies wake up when they are transferred. At first, the priority is getting your babies to sleep simulataneously, rather than get them to sleep in their cot.
  5. If your babies like to take their time feeding, consider tandem feeding, where you feed them at the same time. Try watching this video for some inspiration with positions and how to manage more than one baby for feeds.
  6. Use a variety of sleep cues from the very beginning to encourage your babies to associate several cues with sleep. These could include shushing, patting, white noise, and a small thin muslin cloth with your scent on.

What sleep problems may occur?

To some extent, multiples are no different than singletons – they still enjoy being close to their parents, being cuddled, rocked, and fed to sleep. Nothing new there! The specifically tricky thing with more than one baby is managing the logistics!

Problem Consider:
Babies not sleeping at the same time ·      Review feeding needs, weight gain·      Try to feed babies at the same time

·      Consider babies individually, to see if they have different needs that need to be met in different ways

·      Prioritise when babies sleep over where or how – try pram walks or baby carriers to get babies to sleep

One baby wakes the other ·      Try white noise to help the sleeping baby to ignore the breakthrough sound·      First try briefly separating the babies to establish good sleep habits. Then return them to the same room once they are both sleeping well
Hard to settle more babies than there are adults to help ·      Consider enlisting the help of others just for bedtime·      Consider tag-teaming at bedtime – one baby to one adult

·      Place one baby in a bouncer whilst settling the first baby

·      Place both babies in the crib and shush and pat both at the same time

Remember your sleep basics ·      Initiate a bedtime routine from the beginning·      Prioritise naps – watch your babies’ early sleepy cues and put them down for naps at the first sign of tiredness

·      Try earlier bedtimes to minimize overtiredness

Points to remember:

You gave birth to two, three or more completely individual little people. They may share many characteristics, features, and parents. However, that does not mean they will have the same sleep requirements, or go to sleep in the same way. Just as with a single baby, it is not your responsibility to make your babies sleep. It is only your responsibility to keep them loved and safe and provide the right environment for sleep.

If you do reach the utopian scenario when your babies are sleeping at the same time, in spite of the excitement you will feel at having achieved such a miracle, try to sleep! Resist the urge to catch up on your social media, laundry or batch cooking. The babies can sit in a bouncy chair watching you while you do those things. Sleep is a precious commodity – guard yours with your life!

Learn how to wrap your babies in a sling/baby carrier – this can be a lifesaver for when you need to get chores done, or you want your babies to sleep whilst you’re out and about. It’s well worth going to a sling library or asking a trained sling consultant to help you find the right sling – not all babies and mums get on with the same slings.

Remember the basics:

  • Bedtime routine (do 3-4 calming activities that are predictable before each and every sleep, and do a mini-version of the routine for naps as well)
  • Good sleep hygiene (uncluttered sleep environment, dim lighting, regular bedtime, bedtime routine)
  • Avoid over-tiredness – watch for early sleep cues: losing interest in toys, avoiding eye contact, becoming quiet. Later sleep cues include yawning, eye rubbing, crying, back arching and high pitched squealing. Putting your babies down after you see late tired cues may make it harder for your little ones to fall asleep.
  • Stay calm! Babies are masters at knowing our psychological state. You have to be wise to this and plan to mentally ‘park’ your baggage prior to trying to get your little ones to fall asleep. If they sense your frustration or desperation, chances are they will get worked up and be harder to settle. I often recommend a thought or mood journal to dump any unhelpful or negative thinking patterns.

Some gadgets that may help:

The choice of baby equipment can be overwhelming, but here are some favourite gadgets from mums of multiples:

  1. Feeding pillows can be really useful – not only for feeding babies, but also to use for support, playtime and sitting up in bed. Check out Kathryn’s blog on feeding pillows here.
  2. Large side-car cots. There are loads on the market, and they facilitate breastfeeding and easier nighttime settling. If you don’t want to buy a specific co-sleeper crib, your other option is to buy a standard cot. Then take one of the long sides off, so that the cot only has 3 sides. Your babies can then sleep together in the cot.
  3. Bouncers – these can be a lifesaver as a safe place to put one baby while you attend to the other(s). There are lots to choose from – pick one that has head support so your baby’s head is not slumped, which can cause flat head syndrome.
  4. Twin buggies with carrycots. This is probably your most expensive purchase! However, if you have a pram with easily removable carrycots, your babies will be more portable.  You can then meet friends out and about whilst your babies nap. If they only nap in their cot you may have a tricky situation where you are forced to be housebound for all their naps – not great for your social life or mental health!

 

Exclusively Expressing For My Twins, by Sam Osborne

I was pregnant with twins, and I was going to breastfeed. I was determined and didn’t even buy any bottles! However, I also planned on giving birth to healthy, full-term babies with a strong instinct to root and latch. Instead I went into labour at 31 weeks and pushed my tiny, fragile twins into the world. They weighed 3lb each and were taken straight to NICU. I then had some complications, need a spinal block and manual removal of placentas and I didn’t get to see my babies for another 7 hours.

I knew they would be too small to breastfeed for at least a month or more, so I was given syringes, collection bottles and sterilising tank. I was shown how to hand express and given a pump which had a special preemie setting for collection of colostrum. This allowed me to express my first colostrum for my babies which they received down their nasal-gastric tubes. Two hours later I hand expressed again and then hooked up to the pump, but I barely got a drop. The NCU staff reassured me that this was normal and not to worry, my milk would be in soon. They explained that removing the colostrum AND nipple stimulation were just as important to establish supply. I personally found hand expressions quite tricky, especially with large breasts and when sore and tired after labour. So I hand expressed and then sat back, relaxed and watched my beautiful babies whilst I pumped and sent all the right messages to produce plenty of milk. The staff explained that George and Elsa were too small and poorly for formula milk, which would be hard on their delicate tummies and also put them a t increased risk of developing a very serious bowel disease called NEC. I signed a form to give my consent for my twins to receive donor milk. I will forever be grateful to the woman or women who fed my babies for those 3 days. My milk came in on day 4 and I was elated to see streams of milk flowing down the flanges and plopping into the bottles. I hired a hospital grade pump and expressed every 2-3 hours round the clock getting up at least twice every night. I was producing far more than my twins needed so my Mum bought us a second freezer for the garage, just for the milk!

After a month in NICU, my daughter was latching well and taking bottles of expressed breast milk (EBM) when I went home at night. She was discharged and came home to us, leaving her brother in hospital, which was very bittersweet. My son had issues where he would stop breathing, his heart rate would slow he would go blue and then with stimulation he would right himself and pink up again. Feeding seemed to trigger these episodes, confirmed by his nurses and consultants. These episodes were very scary and I started to dread latching him on. George would begin feeding, then go very still, he would turn grey then blue, lie limply until I unlatched him desperately rubbed him until his would take a big breath again and the beeping of his alarm would go silent. These episodes knocked my confidence hugely and I preferred feeding him bottles of EBM as I could watch him more closely and feeds were over and done with quicker. Bottle feeding him was much less traumatic and after another week of him bottle feeding and gaining weight, he came home to join his sister.

I nursed Elsa and expressed for George. I tried to make this work but I found it difficult to feed on demand and pump by the clock. I started to feed Elsa EBM in bottles too. This suited us better during those early weeks and months and it allowed my support network to help out with feeds whilst I expressed too. At the time I didn’t think of what would happen long term, I took each day as it came. I (naively) thought I could get my babies back on the breast when I was ready and George had outgrown his breathing and feeding issues.

My mum and my husband were a great support at this time, both practically and emotionally and I think they enjoyed helping to feed them too. The twins gained weight beautifully and whilst our situation was rather unique, it felt like everything was falling into place. By 4 months old, George had completely outgrown his breathing issues, but they had forgotten how to latch and I didn’t have the emotional energy to keep trying and ’failing’ at getting them to nurse. Instead I carried on pumping and slowly became a proud exclusively expressing breast feeder. By 7 months I was expressing 5 times a day (morning, bedtime and during each of their naps, even when out and about!). When they dropped a nap, I dropped a pump, I didn’t want pumping to interfere with our awake time together.

I had a large oversupply of milk which allowed me to I donate to several mothers in need. We would arrange collection of a large 1000-2000 ounces every couple of months. I donated to a lady with insufficient glandular tissue, a lady who had had a double mastectomy and another mum of twins who was nursing one baby but the second couldn’t nurse due to a medical condition. Breast milk is AMAZING stuff and it is very rewarding seeing other babies receive it, and getting to know women who value breast milk as much as I do. Watching my twins grow into strong and healthy toddlers also made it worthwhile too, they are a far cry from the tiny 3lb babies I gave birth to!

The twins are now 3 years old and I eventually stopped expressing milk for them when they were just over 2.5 years. In 2015r I trained as a Mother Supporter with the ABM and feel I can offer a great deal to mothers of premature or poorly babies who cannot latch, who need support and advice about expressing to maintain a supply until baby begins to feed efficiently. I am currently training to be a Breastfeeding Counsellor. Exclusively expressing, for however long you need or choose to do it, is hard work and requires determination and dedication – mothers need support during this time, I hope I am able to provide some of this support to them and let them know they are doing a fantastic job.  

Sam Osborne, ABM Mother Supporter and trainee Breastfeeding Counsellor

Specialist Twin Breastfeeding Pillows. Are they necessary and which one do I buy?

 

So you have had the news that you are expecting twins. Once you’ve got over the shock it’s time to think about the practicalities, and what you need to buy. Many mums wish to tandem feed their babies in order to save time and deal with two hungry babies! But are the twin breastfeeding pillows necessary? And if they are, which one is the best one to buy? They are not cheap so it is important to get it right. When you have the correct one they can make tandem feeding so much easier, especially in double rugby hold (one baby under each arm) but they can be used for other feeding positions too. If the babies are held at the correct height on the cushion you can actually feed hands free, meaning you can actually and drink your tea warm! But which one you buy is a very personal choice and often you need to think about your body shape before deciding. Your lap to nipple measurement (I bet you didn’t think you’d ever be measuring that!) makes a lot of difference. And this depends very much on the length of your upper body, and how your breasts fall. If you are tall with perky, small boobs, you may find you need a lot of extra cushions to make some of the lower brands work. We did a survey on the Breastfeeding Twins and Triplets Facebook group to see if we could glean any useful information.

There are five main brands available. The first four are the traditional U shape, (listed from thinnest to highest) and the last one is M shaped.

Harmony Duo. (£79.95)

This feeding pillow has been a mainstay of the twin feeding world for a long time now. It has a breastfeeding side and a bottle feeding side. On the breastfeeding side there is quite a big slope from outside to inside which helps prevent the babies from rolling off. However this pillow is the lowest of all sloping from 15cm down to 11 cm on the inside. Many mums find they need to add extra cushions to raise it up high enough. It is also the smallest on the inside diameter of the U, so not so good if you’re on the larger side. This pillow suits shorter mums, or those with droopier boobs. A lap to nipple measurement of 15-17cm seems to work best. Some find it’s difficult to use as the babies get older as it is quite narrow. It comes with detachable back cushion and a wipeable surface, although this can be a bit sweaty in hot weather. You may find you need extra cushions behind as babies get longer.

My Brest Friend Twin Cushion. (Currently US import only)

This pillow is a little higher. It has a nice soft feel and is comfy for the babies. It is a little wider which makes it feel more secure and less likely for the babies to roll off. It also has quite a large inner diameter so is good for larger ladies. This pillow slopes from around 15cm on the outside to 12 cm on the inside and suits a medium height, or medium boobs. A lap to nipple measurement 17-21cm and a larger frame would probably suit this cushion. It has washable covers and comes with attached back cushion but you may find you need extra support behind as it’s quite narrow.

San Diego Bebe Twin Cushion. (Currently US import only)

This is another sort of medium height feeding pillow. Lovely brushed finish and comfy for the babies. It is a slightly wider pillow so lots of room for bigger babies. You can use it with an “apron” attached for modesty, although sometimes the babies are not so keen to be covered up. It has washable covers and a back cushion that is removable. The pillow slopes from around 15cm outside to 12cm inside. Again this pillow would suit a medium height or medium boobs. A lap to nipple measurement of 17-21cm would suit this cushion.

Peanut and Piglet. (£85.00)

This is a firm high feeding pillow. It is still around 15cm high above the knees but is higher at the back and so keeps the babies more horizontal. Because of its firmness the babies are held at a slightly higher height, so this pillow suits taller ladies or small perky boobs. A lap to nipple measurement of around 22-26cm would suit this pillow. Taller ladies may still need to lift it a little.

**newsflash** Peanut and Piglet now have a petite version of their feeding pillow. This will be much more suited to the shorter-bodied or danglier-boobed mum!

Twin Z. (US import only)

It took me quite a while to work out how this M shaped pillow from the USA worked. So the official way of using it is to start with the cushion standing vertically in the W position, then fold down the two outer prongs, the middle “prong” of the M becomes a back support. Then the two outside prongs are where the babies lie. There is a strap to pull the two prongs together to prevent there being a big gap for babies to fall into. It is a fairly low pillow, 20cm at the back but only 12cm at the front. Unless you are short or have droopy boobs you will probably find you need extra cushions to raise it up. There are bootlegs available in the UK but they do not have the front strap to hold it together.

It is important to remember that all mums and babies are different and some cushions will not suit some situations. Some mums prefer to just use a V shaped pillow, or a beanbag style pillow or a combination of normal pillows from the bed. Others find they can still use a single feeding pillow. Other mums prefer to find other tandem feeding positions for which you don’t need a pillow at all, like a double laid back position for example. Other mums just don’t like tandem feeding or their babies don’t like tandem feeding! So the point is am trying to make is that you don’t really know what will suit you until the babies actually make an appearance.

There is also a very healthy twin breastfeeding pillow second hand market. So if you do buy the wrong one you will find you can sell it on very easily. Or if you would prefer not to risk so many pounds, then buy second hand in the first place and save money. Many pillows are barely used and are in great condition. There are often For Sale posts on Breastfeeding Twins and Triplets UK Facebook group, also on the TAMBA for sale forum for members, local twins clubs and of course auction and second hand websites. And if you don’t get on with the pillows or don’t get on with tandem feeding, they make a great support for babies learning how to sit up.

Kathryn Stagg, ABM Breastfeeding Counsellor, Nov 2017

Breastfeeding Triplets

Twins, I can understand twins, you have two babies, two arms and two breasts. The maths just works. But THREE babies! Where do you start with breastfeeding triplets? Joanne said: “My first thought when I found out I was expecting triplets was: “oh no I won’t be able to breastfeed them.” But after lots of research she found others have breastfed their triplets.

But why one earth would you even contemplate it? Well firstly there is obviously all the health benefits for mum and babies. And triplets are much more likely to be premature so these health benefits are even more important. But once breastfeeding is established, it is so easy. Don’t get me wrong, having triplets is hard, but it’s hard whatever way you feed them! Breastfeeding means feeds are always ready to go, no preparation, you won’t forget your boobs when you go somewhere, you don’t have to get out of bed to do the night feeds, and once they are older it is a really nice way to get some one on one time with crawling babies, and later there is no better way to subdue a tantrum! And it’s free! Although you may have an increased food bill due to how hungry it makes you! The reasons to breastfeed three babies are just the same as the reasons to breastfeed one or two.

I asked some of the triplet families on Facebook what would be their top tips.

Firstly, believe it is possible. Sue said “my body grew three babies, it can feed three babies”. And as with all breastfeeding, believing it is possible and trusting your body to produce what is needed is so important. As is having health care professionals who are on your side. Natasha said “I’d also recommend making connections with the hospital lactation consultant before your babies are due. Mine came and saw me 2 or 3 times a week when the boys were on SCBU and when we returned to our booking hospital 3wks after the boys were born she was there ready and waiting for me. We struck up a real friendship and she had my back the whole time. She was knowledgeable and empowered me to stand up to others who thought it wasn’t possible. She also helped educate me around bottles/dummies/kangaroo care etc which was great and helped me make informed decisions.”

The majority of triplets will be born early and end up in the Neonatal Unit. So mum should be prepared to start your breastfeeding journey with a breast pump, expressing every two to three hours round the clock to establish a copious milk supply. Once mum is discharged home she will need to hire a hospital grade double pump and continue this expressing pattern. We will shortly have a more in depth blog on pumping so watch this space! Once babies begin to feed at the breast, pumping can begin to reduce. Our other blog Transitioning a Premature Baby Onto The Breast is a good read of how to move from expressing for your babies to breastfeeding them when they’re discharged home.

Being educated in how breast milk production works is really important as mum will need to maximize her milk-making potential. For triplets the breasts receive three times the stimulation as from a single baby. This means the breasts are drained three times as often. This in turn promotes them to make three times as much milk. The more you feed the more you make. The hardest thing is finding the time to do this and some time to eat and sleep too! And you will be incredibly hungry. Breastfeeding one baby takes around 500 calories, so we can assume that three babies take 1500 extra calories! Having healthy snacks and lots of fluids will make you feel like you have enough energy to do this, although it probably won’t directly impact your milk supply.

Get support with positioning and attachment i.e. getting a good latch. For small babies it is so important to ensure they are latched on well so they can feed as efficiently as possible. They get tired very easily. Breast compressions can help get a bit of extra milk into them during feeding. Also vital for mum too as this will help prevent sore nipple and blocked ducts. When you are trying to feed three, you need to minimize the chance problems.

Some mums prefer to tandem feed two babies and then feed the third, rotating who gets the individual feed. Others prefer to tandem feed two and give a bottle of expressed to the third, rotating who gets the bottle each time. Or some prefer to breastfeed all three separately to get some individual time with each baby. Or maybe do more expressed feeds and less direct feeding. There is no right or wrong way to do this. It’s whatever suits you and your family best. And you can change what you do for different times of day or for different stages of breastfeeding. So keep an open mind and be flexible.

Many expectant triplet mums wonder how they will get the time to do everything. Will I ever sleep? The truth is you can’t do everything. So prioritize and delegate! If a mum is breastfeeding then she needs to prioritize that over everything else. Get help with all the things that anyone can do! Another pair of hands can be useful for general baby care; nappy changing, baths, feeding top ups, settling when they are cranky! Also help with the housework is a must in the early days. If family and friends can’t help out then it might be worth spending some of the money you are saving on formula on buying in some help. And the rule for visitors is that the must bring food and do one household chore before they are allowed a cuddle of the babies!

And of course if it all gets too much mix feeding is always an option. For example some triplet mums prefer to breastfeed two babies and formula feed the third, and then rotate. Or breastfeed one and formula feed two and rotate. Or use expressed breast milk and formula in bottles. Any amount of breast milk is incredibly valuable and should be celebrated.

To sum up Caroline commented: “All I would say is it takes patience and perseverance. You need a smile for those who say you can’t, and a finger for those who say you shouldn’t!” So if you have just found out you are expecting triplets, why not give it a go and see how you get on?

 

Kathryn Stagg, ABM BFC, 2017

Transitioning a premature baby onto the breast – a step by step guide for parents

When a baby or babies have arrived early, Mum often feel stressed and helpless and feel one of the few things they can do is to provide breast milk. Preterm breast milk is different to that of a mum who delivers at term. It has higher levels of energy, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals, and most importantly it has higher levels of immune factors. It is highly valued in the neonatal unit and mums are usually supported to hand express colostrum within the first 6 hours after birth, and then move onto the pump to provide breast milk for tube feeds. The hospital should be able to advise on renting a hospital grade double pump for when mum is discharged. It is important to pump frequently; we recommend 8-12 times in 24 hours making sure at least one is between 2-5am when hormone levels are at their highest. There will be a more detailed blog on establishing milk supply through pumping soon.

 But what next? How do we go about actually breastfeeding? Is it possible to move to exclusively breastfeeding when you have had such a traumatic entrance to the world? The answer is yes, but it will take time.

Once premature babies hit around 32-33 weeks gestation they often begin to start developing a suck, swallow, breathe pattern in short bursts and may start rooting for the breast. Hopefully mum will have already been given the chance to have lots of kangaroo care with her baby before now, but at this point it can really help transition the baby from tube feeds onto breastfeeding.

Learning to breastfeed when you are a premature baby is a long, slow, tiring process and it requires everybody to have lots of patience. To start with babies can have skin to skin time, or kangaroo care, be encouraged to lick the nipple and if they are ready to possibly have a few sucks. A baby can begin with non-nutritive sucking at the mum’s recently pumped breast to provide a gentle experience without an overwhelming flow of milk. Then a fuller breast can be introduced. But at this early stage the majority of any feed will still be  expressed milk through the feeding tube. The staff will encourage mum to maybe try baby once or twice a day at the breast so as not to tire them out too much. Once they become stronger and start to suck and swallow more efficiently its time to move to more frequent feeds. It can be a good plan to try baby at the breast during their tube feed as they will begin to associate the act of breastfeeding with the feeling of having a nice full tummy. A nipple shield can help the smaller baby to latch onto the breast, especially if they have been given bottles. There is evidence that suggests shields can incease milk intake in preterm infants in the early days. Remember ask for lots of support from the hospital staff during this time. This is actually one of the benefits of having babies in special care.

When the babies appear to be feeding better and getting much more milk we can move on to the next stage. This can be at different ages for different babies. For some it can be around the 36-37 week gestation mark, others need to get to near full term. The hospital staff will help give confidence that it is time to move to the next stage. Whilst some babies will be able to move straight on to exclusive breastfeeding from tube feeding, this new enthusiasm for feeding can be a bit misleading as the suck can still be uncoordinated and inefficient and the babies can still tire easily. If we move on to exclusive breastfeeding too quickly, it can cause problems with babies not taking enough milk, becoming too tired and then starting to reduce their weight gain. So for many babies its advisable to continue to top up with expressed for a while. A lot of mums choose to top up by a different method than tube so the babies can get home. Hospital staff may use a tool like the Breastfeeding Assessment Score below to calculate how much top up to give baby. They will calculate to work out exactly how much milk  depending on baby’s weight, gestation, growth about how much a full feed is.

For twins and triplets it is important to remember that they are individuals. One baby may be much better at feeding than the other. It can be hard not to compare and be worried and frustrated  if one baby is not managing to feed as well. But, with time, it is very likely that they will catch up and both will feed well from the breast when ready. 

Generally hospitals prefer to use bottles to feed babies their top ups, or during the night when mum is not there. They are easier, there’s less waste and staff are pushed for time so go for the easier option. So to minimise the impact of using a bottle on breastfeeding, it is important to use a paced bottle feeding technique. Paced bottle feeding means letting the baby take control of the speed of the feed and when to take breaks and when to finish. Sit baby in an upright position and keep the bottle as horizontal as possible whilst still filling the teat with milk to avoid intake of air. Baby should be encouraged to latch on to the bottle like the breast, so touching the top lip to encourage baby to route and bring baby onto the bottle chin first, teat into the roof of the mouth. Stop frequently and make sure you do not force baby to have a certain amount. With this slower feeding technique, the baby will be able to tell it is full and finish the feed when satisfied. And baby will be more able to transfer  between bottle and the slower flow of the breast.

Mum and baby will hopefully be given the chance to ‘room in’ for a night or two before they are discharged. During this time they’re often encouraged to move on to more baby-led feeding as opposed to hospital routine based feeding. But babies can still be sleepy and not wake for feeds at this stage so its important to make sure that they feed at least every 3 hours as a minimum. 3 hours is measured from the start of each feed.

For a lot of preemie mums, their first experience of being at home with their early baby is to be in an intense breastfeed, top up, express routine, every 3 hours or more, day and night. This is utterly exhausting and overwhelming and mums can often not see past this stage. However with good feeding support from health visitors and breastfeeding specialists and the discharge team from NICU, mums can move on to exclusive breastfeeding.

Whilst the baby still needs top ups it is imperative that there should be somebody to look after mum. This routine is so full on that there is not much time for anything else, especially sleep! Somebody to do the top up whilst mum expresses can be a life saver as this can save time and could give mum half an hour extra break before she has to start the process again. Breastfeeding makes you hungry and for mum’s energy levels it is important that she eats properly, so having someone to feed her whilst she feeds the babies is a great idea. Every single breastfeed given and every single drop of expressed milk should be valued and encouraged. Emotional support reassuring her that she is doing a brilliant job and that soon it will become much easier can keep everyone going through this incredibly tough time.

Support can be invaluable at this time but a lot of mums feel unsure about taking their preterm baby out to groups due to risk of infections. This is where home visits from well informed health care professionals and good online support can step in. Online support especially can be great, as long as it is properly moderated, as mums can make contact with others who have been in the same position or are going through it at the same time. Peer to peer support is incredibly important. There is also often somebody around at 3am during the night feeds to sympathise!

So how do we know when a baby is feeding well enough to move on from this routine? Often around due date or just after, babies suddenly ‘get’ feeding. Their suck becomes more coordinated and they can remove more milk from the breast. You can watch for the full term feeding pattern of sucking fast for a minute to stimulate the let down, and then move on to deep slower jaw movements with pauses in between. You may be able to hear swallowing. Breast compressions can help to get a bit more milk into the baby if they are still seeming a little inefficent or sleepy at the breast. They often have a big feeding frenzy at around due date and sometimes want to cluster feed. This can be very unnerving for a preterm mum who is used to having a sleepy baby who needs to be woken for feeds. Cluster feeding should be encouraged and explaining to mum that it is completely normal behaviour and will help baby get lots of milk. However it does not necessarily translate in to weight gain immediately. It can be very discouraging when baby has been feeding all night and only put on a small amount the next day. However you often find a day or two later and it pays off.

For twins or triplets it may be a good plan to get some support with tandem feeding. Tandem feeding maximizes the time spent feeding as there’s less waiting time for babies and it is a more efficient use of time. It helps synchronize the babies’ feeding times and more importantly sleeping times! A strong feeder can help a weak feeder by stimulating the let down and getting the milk flowing. It also increases milk supply and the milk has a higher fat content.

Dropping or reducing the top ups gradually can make it a bit less stressful. For more detailed info in reducing top ups see our other blog here

But here’s an overview: Mums can reduce the volume of top ups and put babies back on to the breast if not settled. Mums often find that babies are more settled during certain times of day or night and these can be the first feeds to just breastfeed. Encourage mums to allow the baby to have a second or third go on the breast if they do not settle after the first feed. Offer the other breast so baby gets a nice fast flow of milk. For twins or triplets you can just put them back on the same one and mum will get another let down of milk.

Aiming for maybe 3 top ups of expressed a day and being baby led in between is a good starting point. Mum can keep an eye on nappy output during this time to give her peace of mind and she may prefer to weigh the baby before moving on from this stage to give her confidence that everything is going well. Sometimes when babies move on to more direct breastfeeding, their weight gain can flatten off a little bit. This can be really discouraging but it can take a bit more energy to fully breastfeed and they can tire themselves out and burn more calories. As long as they are still gaining this is usually ok and they will set off following their curve again given a bit of time. This may be a good time to get some reassurance from a breastfeeding specialist.

Once mum is feeling confident and babies are feeding well it is relatively easy to drop the last few top ups. Mum can either stop them all at once or drop one at a time. It is often a relief to have the relative simplicity of just breastfeeding without all the faff of expressing and washing bottles. Some prefer to still keep an expressed feed in their routine so that they can have a break.

 Breastfeeding is so important for babies, but even more so for premature babies. But establishing breastfeeding in the neonatal unit is like a marathon, not a sprint. It is a slow process taking every ounce of patience and determination. But it is worth every bit of stress.

Kathryn Stagg ABM BFC, Aug 2017

References

Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, enhanced 5th edition, Wambach & Riordan, 2016

The Breastfeeding Atlas, 6th edition, Wilson-Clay and Hoover, 2017