This week has been fairly quiet, which is good, because last week was quite busy, as far as busy for me goes these days anyway. As well as our first growth scan on Thursday last week, which was the main topic of last week’s blog post, I also went to my first La Leche League (LLL) South Birmingham meeting and had a sling consultation to learn how to wrap newborn twins. Normally all these things in a week wouldn’t be that much effort, but they are exhausting for me in pregnancy. I’m still feeling constantly nauseous and need to rest on the sofa a lot. My work hours are still about half what they normally would be. I’m in bed before the boys every night, though I’m not always asleep straight away, just lying down and browsing social media or writing blog posts on my phone is better than staying up and risking being sick. I expect this is what it’ll be like until the end now, it was in my last full term pregnancy, and the nausea went as soon as I delivered the placenta after Joel.
Although I really felt exhausted last weekend after our busy week, I was glad that it had all gone well and it was a useful week in terms of preparation for the twins’ arrival. I was pleased to make a connection with the local LLL group. I spent a lot of time at LLL Cambridge meetings between Andrew’s birth and when we left to move to Birmingham. I made some great friends and got a massive amount of support in our breastfeeding journey. I honestly don’t think I’d have persevered as long as I did in the face of supply issues had I not felt welcomed and supported by this fantastic group of mums. I’ve blogged a lot about my breastfeeding journey with the boys before, but here’s a summary of my situation…
I have mamary hypoplasia – basically underdeveloped breasts. They never changed much in puberty or in any of my pregnancies, as they should do due to hormonal changes. I don’t really know why, but it could be to do with the fact that I was overweight in my early teens when the hormonal changes of puberty were occurring. I then flipped to being underweight in my late teens and early twenties, but have been in the normal healthy BMI range for about the past 10 years. The effect of this hypoplasia means I have insufficient glandular tissue (or IGT) – glandular tissue is milk-making tissue in the breasts. It’s not just about size, but also shape of breasts. It’s possible to have small breasts and still have sufficient glandular tissue, or indeed large breasts but not a high enough ratio of glandular to fatty tissue.
This doesn’t mean I can’t breastfeed at all, it just means I will probably never have enough tissue to exclusively breastfeed a baby without supplementation, though the amount should increase with each subsequent pregnancy (I’m NOT going to keep having kids to see how long it would take to increase my tissue enough by the way!) I certainly found that I produced more milk for Joel as a baby than I did for Andrew – I had to give him less formula and Joel’s poos were very breastfed in appearance. This could also be partly explained by the fact I knew what I was doing from the start, and so had been able to prepare much more for breastfeeding with IGT. It’s hard to put a figure on how much milk I provided for the boys because you can’t see how much breastmilk is transferred to them at the nipple, but I estimate based on supplemented formula amounts that I gave Andrew in the region of 50% of his intake in his first 6 months and Joel in the region of 70%.
Due to a very handy device called an SNS (supplemental nursing system), we managed to establish and maintain a breastfeeding relationship despite the supplements, because the boys were fed at the breast, with the formula coming through a small tube that they sucked on at the same time. Once they were eating solid food after 6 months, the amount of supplement gradually decreased, until we dropped it all together and they continued to nurse well into toddlerhood. I wanted to let them self wean – they did so pretty much at the same time, a gradual decrease in nursing that ended at just over 4 years for Andrew and at 2 and a half years for Joel.
It will be interesting to see how much milk I produce for the twins. It should be more overall than I did for Joel – partly because it’s another subsequent pregnancy and partly because I’ll have two babies removing as much milk from me as they can (the more milk taken, the more is then produced). Of course there will be two mouths to feed though, so they will need to share the supply. I have been encouraged by the fact that I’ve already been leaking a little colostrum (the first milk suckled after birth for a few days) for a number of weeks.
I spoke about a lot of this with the LLL group and leader last week. It was good to meet them so that when the babies arrive I will already know a support group to turn to, who know our situation. I’m not saying they will have all the answers, because breastfeeding twins with IGT is probably quite a rare occurrence! But just to be surrounded by other breastfeeding mums who understand why I want to do it and why it’s important to me, that will be invaluable, just as it was in Cambridge. To me breastfeeding is less about food in a purely calorific sense (because formula is actually pretty good at that in a case like ours where my milk alone is insufficient), but more about the things in breastmilk that are not in formula (such as antibodies), and, most importantly, what the relationship that nursing my children brings to us (which is why I love that the SNS allows this to happen). I don’t want the twins to miss out on any of this just because there are two of them. And despite what society would have us believe, it IS perfectly possible to breastfeed twins. Many ladies I have met online have done it, with no underlying conditions like mine.
Moving on to slings…. I had a fantastic consultation with Gillian at Coventry Slings, who is also pregnant with twins, just a little ahead of us. She was such a good teacher, and I felt I learned so much in our two hours together. It is possible to watch videos of mums wrapping twins on YouTube, but this isn’t a patch on getting professional expertise tailored to me, guiding me through the process as I try it, giving tips based on what I have a tendency to do incorrectly or not optimally.
I came away with a lot of info and an urge to practise lots before the babies arrive – though this is actually quite tricky with a growing bump in the way! The more I do it, the more I realise what I can do better. Although it seems complicated at first, it is getting easier already as it starts to feel more automatic. Of course I don’t have real live (i.e. wriggly and potentially loud) babies to try in there yet, but I’m gaining confidence that tandem babywearing will be a handy tool for us. The thought of pushing a double pram around with two older boys to keep an eye on too, particularly on the school run twice a day, is enough to make me want tandem babywearing to work for us – it’s far more practical. I also found that neither of our boys liked being in the pram, and once I’d figured out wrapping when Joel came along, he was very content to go everywhere in the sling, so was rarely pushed anywhere. Unfortunately I didn’t know about the variety of slings available when Andrew was a baby and struggled with an uncomfortable narrow-based buckle sling which didn’t entice me to carry him. We haven’t ruled out the possibility of a single pram/buggy, to have the option of one twin in there and one carried, but we are waiting until they are here and we have tried out what works for us before committing to a particular model.
The carries that I have been practising this week (and taking lots of selfies of!) are suitable from birth. The dolls I practised with at the consultation with were weighted to be around 4 months old. Once the twins get to around this age or maybe a bit older, about 6 months, it will be possible to carry them one on my front and one on my back. I will be going back to Coventry Slings for more advice as they get older. I couldn’t have taken any more info in for one session, it was so helpfully detailed, and I doubt my brain will remember back through the newborn fog to now by the time they are old enough for different carries!
I’m sure I will continue wrapping my practice teddies into next week and beyond….
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