Twin Breastfeeding and Pumping Update: Four Months
If you’ve been following along, you know that our breastfeeding and pumping journey has been a long one. We’ve done a lot of trial and error and we’ve done a lot to improve the output that I was able to produce for our twin boys. We’ve also worked on our nursing journey, which from the start was a little complicated because both boys had tongue ties. Now, just like the babies, our journey is changing fast and I wanted to update you on some of the stuff that’s been going on.
One of the biggest changes that has happened since the last time I wrote is whether we’re breastfeeding or pumping. This has been a big change for us. The last time I posted, a lot of the stuff that I was talking about was the herbs that I was taking and how we were working on the boys latching and tandem feeding.
That was wonderful, and while I was on maternity leave that was working very well for me. The herbs were helping with my supply and the boys were latching better and getting along perfectly at the breast when tandem and feeding. (That is, when we are able to get them to do it while they were both awake and cooperating.)
However, as the boys got a little bit bigger, they became more fidgety and learned that there was another baby at the breast. And so they would feel around for each other and touch each other on the face and on the top of the head. Overall, tandem breastfeeding became very distracting and they would also pull off the breast a lot. A feed that usually would take 20 or 30 minutes would then take 40 minutes to an hour. And unfortunately, the boys are not patient enough to wait for one baby to nurse and then have the other baby nurse.
So while I was on maternity leave, this was all okay because we had a lot of time to work on it. Then, in November I went back to work and at the start of going back to work, I was pumping at work, feeding the boys the breast milk when possible and then breastfeeding when possible, oftentimes at night or in the middle of the night when they needed a lot of comforting or needed to go back to sleep.
Now that I’ve been back at work for a full two months, I have really been doing a great job with pumping on the regular, but the boys have not been breastfeeding. And that is because unfortunately tandem feeding did not really work out. As the boys got bigger, they were too heavy for me to put on the breast by myself. I needed the help of my husband every time.
And then of course, like I said, the boys would pull off of the breast or start playing and touching each other and then it just became playtime instead of feeding time and feeds would take so long. Now my husband and I both enjoy feeding the boys breast milk from a bottle. I’m able to pump enough breast milk for one baby a day. That’s such a big accomplishment from where I was in the beginning, and I’m proud of that.
I’m going to update you on the amount I pump a little bit further down, but I am able to give the boys several feeds a day of breast milk and then we supplement with formula. This has worked out really great for us. I have finally let go of a lot of the mom guilt I had around not being able to nurse them because I realized just for their sake, they’re a lot happier when they each get individual attention during our feeding times.
When my husband and I are holding both of the twins, they each get a little bit of one on one time with us to just be fed and be loved and be played with. I think this is definitely a big change from them tandem nursing where I almost felt like they were fussing because they weren’t getting exclusive attention or maybe there was just a lot going on for them. It’s easy for babies to get overstimulated and I think having another baby nursing right next to you that’s touching your face or touching the top of your head can lead to a little bit of frustration. It may just be a little too distracting to enjoy your meal. Now, I find that the babies are feeding quicker and more happily, and we are all enjoying getting a little bit of one on one time with each of them. Plus, they still get the benefits of breast milk and I think there’s a lot less stress on me.
Changes in My Pumping Routine
Now that I’m exclusively pumping, there are some major changes that I made to my pumping routine. In terms of quantity per pumping sessions, I am able to pump anywhere between one ounce on each side to one and a half ounces on each side. And if I get a little bit longer pocket of sleep at night, say the boys stay asleep for four hours instead of their usual two and a half to three, I will be able to pump almost two ounces per side.
In terms of frequency of pumping, throughout the day, I am pumping about seven to eight times, so I’m getting anywhere from 16 to 20 ounces of breast milk a day. This is great because the boys are still feeding in three ounce increments, which means that’s about three bottles a day and they’re up to about six or seven bottles now. We are actually getting a lot more breast milk than I thought I was ever going to be able to pump. The fact that I can give them three full bottles a day, and sometimes, if I’m lucky, a fourth, has been really, really great for us.
The biggest change that I’ve made into my pumping journey is that I got an Elvie pump. The Elvie pump is a wireless, hands-free pump that has no tubing from the pump itself to the pump motor. The whole thing is contained in an egg-shaped single breast pump for each breast, so there is a pump that attaches to a little reservoir and a shield that goes over your breasts that attaches the pump and reservoir to you.
You use it inside of a nursing bra and make it fit very tight so that the suction is not broken when you move around, then you just turn them on. The amazing thing about this is that you can control it from the pumps themselves or you can control it from an app so that you can pump discreetly while you do things like walk your dog, drive your car, or even sit through meetings, which is one of the biggest things that has allowed me to pump more at work in less time.
This has also helped me keep my milk supply up. When I moved from breastfeeding to exclusively pumping, I was very worried because I had heard that your breast milk supply can drop. I did not find that to be true, and I think that is due to having a pump that I don’t have to find a room, find some time, and stop everything I’m doing to use. I can just pump and go, simultaneously, and that has been amazing for me. The Elvie pump has allowed me to do more pumping.
Another thing that I believe has helped is that I bought myself a little hand pump that has a silicone shield on the flange and does a little bit of a massaging motion so that after I do a pump with the Elvie breast pump, I use the hand pump every third or fourth pump. Between two to three times a day I do about five minutes on each side of gentle hand expression, both with the hand pump and with my hand. It allows me to get anywhere between a half an ounce to 0.75 ounces more per side, two to three times a day.
I have actually been using that as my freezer milk, and here’s why: This will be hind milk, which is the milk that is pumped after the very end of your feed when your breasts are at their emptiest. It’s also the fattiest of the breast milk. By freezing it in smaller increments of two to three ounces when I’m gone or away or the boys are feeling extra hungry, we can thaw one of these frozen milk bags and add it to either a bottle of formula for extra calories or extra fat or just use it for when I’m traveling, like this upcoming work trip I have.
On top of that, I also got a Haakaa, which is just a squeeze ball that you put on the breast that helps suction out some milk. I do find this helpful when I’m pumping on the hand pump on one side to have the Haakaa on the other, but it doesn’t really extract a lot of milk and it can be uncomfortable. I think that if you have a very strong flow, this would be great, but it doesn’t work that well for me. I still use it just to catch any leaking while I’m hand pumping. But for the most part I’m just using the hand pump afterwards.
Another big change is I went back to a lactation consultant. The first girl that I went to was amazing and she helped me with the boys tongue ties and our breastfeeding journey. Now that I’m exclusively pumping, I sought out a lactation consultant who spoke a lot about exclusively pumping and had a lot of experience with this.
I’ve met with her once and that was a little bit different than before. With the first lactation consultant, we were strongly centered around the boys and breastfeeding and pumping. This new lactation consultant knows that I’m exclusively pumping, and so a lot of it that we worked on was obviously the emotional component of exclusively pumping and letting go of my breastfeeding journey, but then also all the things that we can do to continue to keep my supply up.
Some of the things that we talked about were mimicking cluster feeding when the boys are having a growth spurt and adding liquid iron to my diet instead of an iron pill so that it’s better absorbed. This can help me stay healthier, build my blood supply, and also have that reflect in my milk supply. The healthier you are, the better your milk supply is going to be, and low iron can correlate with low supply. She looked at my lab results and saw that my iron levels were at the lowest healthiest levels and because I’m breastfeeding we agreed that an iron supplement would do really well.
She also worked on the massage techniques that we use. Before I pumped, I was just kind of massaging with a lactation massager, which I still use, but now I’m using a different motion and using both hands on one breast instead of just massaging each breast with one hand. The combined both hands actually does help with the milk letdown.
Also a light finger tapping over the breath breasts, which I was like, is this really going to do anything? But I have found that it does actually relax me and help with the letdown as well. It mimics a baby’s hands on your breast, letting your body know to let milk go. So those are the things I’ve been working on with her. It’s been really wonderful and we have another appointment in a couple of weeks for me to follow up to see how everything’s going.
Blocked Ducts and How I Cleared Them
Since I’ve started using the hand pump and the iron supplement and a little bit more of an aggressive massage, I find that the average of 0.75 ounces to an ounce has gone up to a little over an ounce. And so the entire, the amount of milk that I’ve gotten per day has gone up a little bit. I think that has also led to me having a blocked milk duct twice in the same spot. I’m not super worried about it because it resolves itself within the day.
I use very, very strong massage, heat, and then the lactation massager on that side and I press on it basically until I can’t stand the pain and just hold it there for a couple minutes then let it go. And this is how I’ve been clearing the blocked duct. Both times it cleared within four to five hours. It’s just extremely painful. I think I wasn’t emptying the breast enough for how much my milk production went up.
I know it seems like half an ounce per session isn’t a lot, but over the course of the day, that’s four ounces that I should be emptying completely. So, that is another thing that has happened with the Elvie pump. I have been able to build up a little bit of stash due to pumping more in general. And that means I get to talk to you guys about what I’m doing to prepare for a trip.
Traveling and Pumping
Traveling and breast pumping is a very daunting task. And that being said, I am trying not to stress about it, but of course, mom life means you have to stress about it.
So I made the commitment back in December to just start doing the hand pump two to three times a day, taking the one ounce from there and putting it in a bag. I’m getting anywhere between two and a half to three ounces per day from the extra pumps and I’m freezing it. By the time I leave in two weeks, I will have a decent freezer stash built up and I won’t have to worry about it.
I think the biggest grace I gave myself was understanding that I didn’t want to be stressed and rush. I’m already a little bit stressed about leaving the boys. Actually, scratch that. A lot of the stress about leaving the boys for four days is not because their dad isn’t a rock star. He isn’t going to do anything like I wouldn’t approve of like feed them McDonald’s while I’m gone. But I do believe that just being apart from them is going to give me a lot of anxiety. I feel very anxious when I’m away from them, even for a couple of hours of meetings just one time a week. And so I know that for four days, I’m going to miss them dearly. I’m going to be sad that I’m not around them.
So instead of adding to the stress of needing to build up a stash really quickly in December, I told myself, you know, you have a month and a half before you leave for this work trip, start pumping now, even if it’s just a little bit per day. And by giving myself a lot more time, I’m able to just produce a little bit of extra milk here and there and still over the course of that length of time, have a decent stash built up. Will it be as good as me being there? No, probably not. They may not get as much milk because again, the stash isn’t building the quickest ever. But I will have done what I could do without going overboard and stressing myself out. And the boys still get breast milk when I’m gone.
So what am I going to do with the breast milk while I’m away? Well, I purchased a really airtight cooler that is also a soft cooler so that I could put some ice in it, and then tape it in an accordion style to itself zipped with all the bags of breast milk that I pump while I’m away on my trip. I’ll be using my Elvie breast pump while I’m in conferences, in presentations, and while I’m just walking around our hotel for four days. I’ll store the breast milk in the cooler and then I will immediately use it when we get home so that the milk that I pumped on day one will be consumed on day four because I’ll be home that night. And then the milk on day two will be drunk the second day I’m home, that way none of the milk will be over the four to five day mark.
I’ll feel good about still having pumped while gone and then anything that I pump while we’re giving them the milk from my work trip will be frozen immediately for the time being. So it’s just a little bit of planning and also a little bit of finagling on my part. I’ll ask the hotel for a medical cooler and then I will check with my airline about flying with the breast milk and the frozen ice packs when I get there. If I have to check it, that’s okay. The flight’s only 45 minutes, so the entire time the breast milk will be with the freezer packs. It’ll be perfectly fine from the time we leave to the time I get home. The total time will take us about four hours and there will be lots of ice packs.
So that’s how I’m preparing for my upcoming trip while exclusively pumping as well as a big update on our pumping journey. I’m obviously going to continue to update you if anything changes from here on out, but I’m so glad that I’ve been able to kind of run the whole gamut. I got to breastfeed, and now I get to give them breast milk and, and even though I’m just exclusively pumping, it’s still very special to me and I still feel very good about it. I’m enjoying the journey more now that I have the Elvie breast pump and a lot more freedom.
And I will be doing a full blog on reviewing how the Elvie breast pump works, what the advantages are, and some of the pros and cons and. You guys can ask questions on whether or not it might be right for you. Thank you so much for following along with my breastfeeding journey.