By Lindsay Gallimore – MamanLoupsDen.com
My twin boys were born at 36+3 weeks gestation and spent two weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or our local hospital. Having exclusively breastfed my first two children, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of feeding my two tiny boys who were so quickly whisked away from me after birth.
My first two children latched on as soon as they were born and didn’t let go for over two years. I didn’t ever have to worry about how much they were eating: they just nursed, and grew, and nursed and grew. It wasn’t such an easy start with these two!
My midwife and I sat alone in the vacuous silence of my delivery room: my husband was off in the NICU with our babies, the nurses were at their station charting … it was a thoroughly alienating experience for which I’m grateful I had my midwife present. My husband texted me pictures of our boys in their cots while I tried to start hand-expressing a bit of colostrum at my midwife’s suggestion. I had so many thoughts swirling in my head, and one of them was: will I be able to breastfeed these babies?
I knew I would need to start pumping right away since I was sadly not rooming in with my boys: they weren’t going to be on my chest to get things flowing. My nurse wheeled a pump into my lonely room in the maternity ward and it sat by my bed in the place where my other babies had lay in their cots. This sucked. I was exhausted and disappointed: I had been so sure my babies wouldn’t need the NICU. My visions of skin-to-skin in my hospital bed had been replaced with skin-to-pump while flipping through the pictures of my newborns on my phone.
Of course, nothing came of those first pumping sessions in the hospital. Although this was normal, I immediately started to think I would never produce any milk again. What if my milk never came in?
In our little NICU habitat, I fed my boys their bottles that first day and also latched them when I could. It was such a bizarre experience to feel like I wasn’t the one in control of my babies’ care: I felt like I had to ask the nurses permission to do any little thing to my boys. Asking permission to latch my baby felt uncomfortable and sad.
To my dismay, I had to go home the next night without my twins. The NICU’s lactation consultant assured me my milk would come in and told me I would need to pump every 2-3 hours at home. It was close to midnight when I got home and sat on the couch to pump for the first time, and to my pure elation, there it was, my liquid gold!
I set my alarm for every three hours (I was too exhausted to imagine getting up again after just two), so at 3 AM and 6 AM I pumped again, and I left for the NICU that morning with just under three tiny ounces of colostrum proudly under my arm.
It seemed like such a little bit of milk, but when the nurse measured it into the teeny tiny NICU bottles, I knew it was plenty! And so began my pumping journey: my twins are almost six months old and I’m halfway to my current goal of breastfeeding (via bottle or breast) for one year.
At first I was told to expect a very short NICU stay for my twin. Maybe four days, the doctor said. The morning we were meant to bring them home, I got the devastating news that their temperatures had dropped overnight and they could no longer go home. And things kept getting worse, as far as I was concerned: their feeding became less vigorous so they needed NG tubes. They needed warming cots. I came down with a cold and wasn’t allowed back into the NICU for five agonizing days.
Those five days at home without my babies were gut-wrenching. What got me through? Caring for my boys from a distance. I couldn’t be there in person, but because I could pump and because I could knit, I could still do something for them. I didn’t feel completely helpless. I felt a mixture of grief and pride as I’d hand over my little cooler bag of expressed milk for my husband or my mom to bring to the NICU.
Those two weeks in the NICU were challenging, but certainly nothing like the challenge of bringing home newborn twins and caring for them without a team of nurses and doctors!
What a journey it has been my friends! We continue to do a combination of breastfeeding and bottle-feeding my expressed milk, with some help from formula when necessary. Keeping up motivation to pump is a daily struggle, but my body is cooperating: my supply is good, my pumping sessions with my Ameda Finesse are productive and my boys are thriving.
Ameda strives to present you with accurate and useful breastfeeding information. This article may contain information and ideas that are not necessarily the views of Ameda. It does not constitute medical advice. If you have any questions please contact your healthcare professional.