My twins have just turned two and I am still breastfeeding them. In honour of this milestone, and World Breastfeeding Week, in acknowledgement of the thumbs up and the raised eyebrows, I thought I would share my breastfeeding story with you.
Towards the end of my pregnancy it became clear that I was going to have to have a caesar – my twins were both breech and besides, most doctors were reluctant to deliver twins naturally. Having had my heart set on a natural birth, I was quiet upset about this and I took a while to accept it. In the process, I became adamant that I would breastfeed my twins no matter what. I spoke to a lactation consultant beforehand, I started with pre-birth breast care and I had a lactation consultant come to the hospital room in the first few days, and to my home a few weeks following the birth.
We were incredibly lucky that the twins were born at a good weight and age and were able to latch straight away. But that is not to say it was all easy sailing. Breastfeeding twins means that neither of your breast ever gets a break. In those first few weeks of having two newborns, this is particularly exhausting – after a feed there was always another. The feeds took a lot of hard work in the beginning and I was feeding more frequently so I felt like I was permanently breastfeeding. I would most often feed one twin and then the other, but it is hard to negotiate with a hungry newborn so sometimes I would tandem feed. My babes have never had a bottle so I couldn’t hand over the task to someone else. Although, I have to state, I had amazing support in the form of my mother and sisters and husband.
It was physically taxing too. In the first few days after birth, my breasts were huge, and hard and sore, and my one nipple was bleeding. One of my babies battled with with her latch so it was an on and off battle feeding her. When the twins were a few weeks old I developed thrush on my nipples and passed it on to them in their mouths. This basically means feeding becomes a nightmare as it is sore for you and your babe when they suck. Four months into breastfeeding I developed mastitis quite badly, and that has occurred three more times since.
So why did I carry on? Why am I still breastfeeding them? Well, in short, it is one of my favourite parts of my role as a mama. Not only am I providing them with this form of nurturing, love and care, and something only I can give them, it gives me an amazing sense of strength as a mother and has changed me as a person.
It is an amazing bonding experience for me and my babes – right from when they were born and I fed them skin-on-skin, to nursing them now as toddlers. I love holding them, and watching them, and I’m amazed at how their little legs used to fit in the nook of my arm but are now hanging over my arms, resting on my legs. When they were tiny, with knobby skulls and fuzzy hair, I would stare at my baby suckling and imagine tiny bits of me passing into them and forming who they are, I would watch little hands grow stronger and grasp my breast, and I would marvel in the miracle of a woman’s body being able to sustain a child, completely.
As they grow older, it is still a bonding time for us. Two year olds generally are not still. They are non-stop, crazy little creatures. But when they are feeding before their sleep or upon waking, it is a quiet and still time. I talk about our day or sing a song, or tell them how much I love them, or just hold them quietly. It’s a pause in our day, it’s being present in the moment, it’s a deep breath in their lives, a small connection to their babyhood as every other part of them is growing up too fast. Apart from the emotional benefits and attachments, my babes my been really healthy, and apart from a few winter chesty days, they have never been sick. I attribute a lot of that to breastfeeding. My twins love breastfeeding too. I don’t feed on demand, and never have. I only feed them before they are going to sleep before their nap and at night, and when they wake up in the morning. They love their ‘milkies’, snuggling up next to me, feeling comforted, nourished and connected. Being twins, it’s also special one-on-one time with me and one babe.
How long will I feed for? I don’t know to be honest. Two years was always in my mind but now that they’re two I realise that I can’t just pick a date on a calendar and I will wean them when we’re ready. Do I want to escape for the night with my hubby? Sure I do, but there will be plenty of time to do that – for the rest of their childhood and beyond. And right now I feel this is exactly where we’re meant to be.