Support when I needed it the most…
My twin sons were born this summer by emergency caesarean after a long, unsuccessful labour. Many days on the delivery suite had given me the chance to really get to know my midwife, who came back to look after us for 6 shifts in a row! She knew how much it meant to me to have skin to skin contact with the boys as soon after birth as possible, and that I really wanted to try and breast feed them.
I noticed an immediate difference between them – one son opened wide and looked like he was feeding easily while the other just licked and sucked and fell asleep. I continued to feed them every 3 hours but Mr Sleepy was really hard to wake up, didn’t latch properly and fell asleep after a few minutes of feeding. After 3 days of asking for breast feeding support, with some help from an incredible Midwifery Assistant, the twins had both lost over 10% of their body weight and suddenly the hospital stepped in. I was told the boys weren’t allowed to go home until their weight improved and instructed by the Drs to give them formula milk. These are my first children and I didn’t want to argue with the hospital or seem like a breast feeding advocate at the expense of my children, but I wanted so badly to keep feeding them myself. People kept saying “no one exclusively breast feeds twins” but luckily for me I had a chance encounter while I was pregnant with a twin mum who was a Breast feeding Peer Supporter who had breastfed her twins right up to 2 years…. so I knew it could be done!
Emotional and feeling like I was failing my babies I reached out to the Infant Feeding Team from the hospital who helped me to devise a feeding plan to help the boys gain, with top up finger feeds of expressed breast milk for Mr Sleepy and feeding every 2-3 hours for both twins.
The next day they wheeled the scales back into our room at 6am. After a tense few minutes of the nurse double checking the weights I was ecstatic to find out the boys had soared back past 10% weight loss. We had done it and we were allowed home under the care of the community team. However we weren’t out of the woods as I was told that we would be immediately readmitted if the community team had any weight concerns, so the pressure remained firmly on.
This meant the work of the Harrow breast feeding support team was not over! They continued to support me with Mr Sleepy, who had now become the smaller twin despite being born heavier than his brother. With several more visits to the Peer Support team and support from a Peer Supporter specialising in twins, his feeding kept improving and I started to be able to tandem feed the boys. Mr Sleepy still wasn’t latching perfectly and his brother would pull back and suck as my let downs were too fast for him. This resulted in blisters and some extremely painful cluster feeds and sleepless nights around 5/6 weeks. On several occasions I felt like I couldn’t keep feeding them myself. Luckily for me the breast feeding support team continued to reach out and see how I was doing, and I was honest with them about my continued struggles. Each time we had a blip they would come and visit, or I would drop into a clinic and things would incrementally improve.
Now the twins are 12 weeks old feeding has become so much easier and more enjoyable. I’m so proud of myself that we haven’t had to reach for formula but this would never have been the case without the support of the Harrow breastfeeding team.
I can honestly say that without them I wouldn’t have been able to continue exclusively breast feeding. While there is no shame in using formula, I know that my mental health would have suffered with the feeling that I was “unable to provide” for my sons.
I would encourage any Mum to reach out to the team or to drop into any of the local sessions for a chat and some support. Don’t suffer alone and be honest about how it’s going! No one discusses how hard breast feeding can be before your babies arrive and it’s so easy to think you’re failing. You’ll find when you reach out that what you’re going through is totally normal and that so many other mums have been through it too.
Thank you to the Harrow Peer Support Team, without you I would be crying into a tub of formula!