When L went back to work, the babies were seven weeks old. I knew that my biggest challenge managing the twins alone would be feeding. I knew that if I could get back on board with tandem feeding, I would have a much easier job of it. I wouldn’t have to sterilise any bottles or have to leave enough time for boiled water to cool and I wouldn’t have to worry about how to position the babies to allow myself to bottle feed them at the same time (it is much easier to have a free hand when breastfeeding – bottle feeding requires one hand to hold the baby and one to hold the bottle!).
So when L went back to work, I started feeding the babies together again. I still found it a little challenging to get Imogen to latch and stay latched, but we both got the hang of it eventually. Claudia of course latched easily and fed like normal, although I missed the closeness of feeding her individually. Using the breastfeeding pillow and tandem feeding was certainly efficient, but I felt a little like a dairy cow.
In the evenings, when L was home, we would go back to taking a baby each and managed to establish quite a good routine whereby Imogen would go to bed after her bottle and by about 10 weeks was sleeping through the night.
We would also revert to form at the weekends because I missed feeding Claudia on her own during the week and found it hard work to tandem feed so it was nice to get a break when I could. I would try and pump at a couple of occasions over the weekend as my body was obviously expecting to feed two babies, so I had a bit of a case of oversupply. Sometimes we would use the milk straight away so Imogen could have a bottle of that rather than formula, but I also froze quite a bit.
Over the weeks though, it began to make more and more sense for me to continue to tandem feed at the weekends. L gets plenty of time for cuddles without needing to rely on feeding for quality time and on a practical level there was plenty she could get done around the house if I was feeding both babies. Plus it ensured my supply stayed steady and as the twins became more aware and interactive – both with me and each other – tandem feeding became both easier and more of the bonding activity I had felt it wasn’t at the beginning. They would pull away from the nipple and grin up at me or catch sight of one another across the pillow and hold hands or – more often than not – try to poke one another in the eye.
I was finding my feet and it meant that whilst Claudia remained exclusively breast fed (with the exception of times when they were looked after by other people for a few hours), Imogen was now only on one bottle a day and was breast fed the rest of the time.
Imogen’s one bottle a day was in the evening. She would have a bottle after her bath and then go to bed, sleeping through until 6am, with the exception of the rather hellish week just before half term when she went through a major growth spurt and woke up in the night to guzzle down a couple more bottles.
In principle Claudia’s routine was the same. She would have a bath, I’d put her in her pyjamas and the zip-up swaddle we affectionately called the ‘strait jacket’ and then I’d breast feed her. As a general rule I tried to make sure the babies fed for at least half an hour, but at that evening feed, Claudia would feed for around an hour to an hour and a half, meaning I was trapped under her for most of the evening. She would doze off at the breast but as soon as I tried to move her in order to eat my dinner or do anything, she would stir and then suddenly become wide awake. She would sit in her bouncer for the rest of the evening either chatting happily or drifting back off, but would always wake up when we went up to bed at 10. I would feed her again once we were upstairs in bed and after half an hour to an hour she would fall asleep and as long as I moved her gently I could get her into her bassinet beside my bed. If she stirred I would often have to latch her on again and let her fall asleep at the breast before falling asleep myself with her on my chest. She got better at allowing me to put her in her bed as the weeks went on and it is now rare for her to sleep on me.
However, she was still very awake in the evenings and we couldn’t understand why she didn’t sleep after her evening feed like Imogen did. L suggested that it was because Imogen had her feed from a bottle, meaning she got all the food she needed in a shorter space of time than Claudia. So we decided to try giving Claudia a bottle after her bath too. Initially we used breast milk from the freezer.
I suggested that L should do the bottle feeding for Claudia as she might not take it from me knowing I was withholding the boob. I was also a little gutted to be losing my one-on-one feeding time as night feeds aren’t the same, mostly because I’m struggling to stay awake rather than focusing on the baby in my arms. So I started giving Immie her evening bottle and L gave Claudie hers. Having breast milk from a bottle didn’t seem to have any impact on Claudia’s sleeping pattern, so L suggested we try formula. I instinctively wanted to be resistant to this – Claudia was my 100% breast fed baby – but I realised it was a bit of a double standard if I was happy for Imogen to have formula in the evening and thought it was worth a try to see if we could get two babies sleeping through the evening.
It worked – with a bit of perseverance from L settling Claudia in her bed after the feed and making sure she was asleep before she left her. I also enjoyed bottle feeding Immie. You hold a baby differently if you’re bottle feeding and I liked being able to lean down and kiss her forehead midfeed. It also meant that I could feed Immie, settle her in her bed and then come downstairs and get dinner ready so that L could eat by the time she came back from settling Claudia (it always takes longer to settle Claudie).
So Imogen is on 4 breast feeds and one bottle feed a day whilst Claudia, who still wakes in the night, is on 5-6 breast feeds and one bottle feed a day. All in all, I am quite proud of what I have achieved so far. They are now over four months old and both are primarily breast fed. In some ways I wish I had been able to breast feed both of them more consistently in the early days, but looking back I can remember how emotional and overwhelmed I was by it all, and I know that I needed that break and to not feel constantly in demand. I think I’ve been lucky that both babies have breast fed pretty easily without any obvious latch issues either causing me pain or them to lose weight. I am sure that if either of them had been singleton babies I would have found it fairly easy to breast feed them exclusively – after all, I effectively did do that with Claudie, whilst also feeding Imogen sporadically. If I were to have another baby – which I think is pretty unlikely, but maybe that’s for another post – I would definitely choose to breastfeed. After all, breastfeeding one baby would be a breeze after managing two, but that’s the case with pretty much everything to do with twins.
I am proud that I’ve fed our babies and I’m not beating myself up over the fact that they have had formula too – we have done what we needed to for us as well as them and we’ve still given them a great start in life and provided them with lots of good nutrients and antibodies. The only thing left to decide is how long I will continue to breastfeed for – possibly longer than I thought I would before having children. Of course, this may be limited by the fact of my return to work and that – legislation aside – teaching is not exactly the kind of job that lends itself to taking yourself off for half an hour several times a day to express.
It’s been a real roller coaster, but overall, breastfeeding has been a wonderful experience. I mean, it’s unbelievably weird – I wish I had known beforehand how milk will just drip out of you if your baby cries, or if you haven’t fed for a while (I’ve lost count of how many times I woke up in a puddle until I invested in some sleep bras) and how it actually has the potential to shoot across the room (I never would have believed that if you’d told me before) – and sometimes it just astounds me that they’re actually getting food from me, that my body is producing actual food for them. It kind of blows my mind. But oh my god it’s also such an amazing and beautiful thing. There is nothing else like the feeling I get when I have one of my babies curled up in my arms, eyes gazing up at me and a hand curled around my finger or gently placed upon my chest. I honestly can’t recommend it enough!
*I actually finished this part on Thursday, but then accidentally deleted half of it when trying to preview it on the WordPress app. It was not a good day. So I have recreated it to the best of my recollection, but technically there are now some factual errors as the babies seem to have reached the glorious 4 month sleep regression and we can forget all about sleeping through the night. Also, they are teething. Teething babies bite things. ‘Nuff said.