Breastfeeding Premie Twins
By Melissa Sikes
Bozeman, Montana, USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 12 No. 2, March-April 1995, pp. 58-9
We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time
When my first daughter, Kaley, was born, she was placed on my chest and began nursing within the first hour of life. She was a great nurser from the start and nursed exclusively for five months. When I weaned her at eight months, I was unsure if I had made the right decision. Part of me felt guilty for weaning her too soon, and I quickly missed our nursing closeness.
Kaley was not quite a year old when I found myself pregnant again. I began attending La Leche League meetings and planned a home birth. I envisioned a quiet, peaceful birth with nursing soon afterward.
But four months into the pregnancy during a routine ultrasound, we discovered we were having twins. TWINS!! MY midwife said she could no longer offer me a home birth but could possibly be with me during the hospital birth. I read Karen Gromada's book, MOTHERING MULTIPLES, and began getting used to the idea of having and nursing twins. When I was twenty-nine weeks pregnant, I was in the bathroom for one of my many nighttime trips when I noticed I was leaking fluid. A mad dash to the hospital confirmed my fear--my water bag had broken. I was air-transported to a hospital better equipped to deal with my situation. I threw away my visions of a quiet, peaceful birth and just prayed that the babies would survive.
After a day of waiting I went into a quick three hour labor. Two-pound, twelve-ounce Amelia came head first and was whisked away seconds after her birth to a waiting neonatal medical team. Fifteen minutes later, two-pound, five-ounce Nina came feet first into the world. I begged the doctors to let me see her. What I saw was a wriggling snip of a baby, tiny, vulnerable, and fragile.
The girls were both placed on ventilators, heart and respiration monitors, and hooked up to numerous IVs. In the first few days of their lives they encountered many problems. On her third day of life, Nina had surgery to correct a heart valve problem. Despite all this, we never doubted their survival, and I began pumping my breast milk right away. I pumped diligently every few hours and even into the night, as if I were on a regular newborn feeding schedule. I filled many collection cups, froze them, and also brought some fresh milk to the hospital every day. At one and a half weeks, they were finally given a tiny bit of my milk. I watched as the milk dripped down the tube into their stomachs and reminded myself that some day they would get big enough to breastfeed. For now, I was doing the best possible thing that I could do for them, something neither the nurses nor doctors could do. Everything I had heard suggested that breastfed premies did better and recovered faster.
One day when the girls were three weeks old, I came into the newborn ICU and a nurse said that I could try to breastfeed them. My heart leapt at the thought of finally putting them to my breast. With lots of assistance from some wonderful nurses, they took to the breast eagerly. Nina was a bit slow at first, but she caught on fast. The girls had to learn how to suck, breathe and swallow all at the same time. I believe that the combination of the breast milk and the closeness of the nursing helped them to do as well as they did. At four weeks, they were stabilized and gaining weight steadily. The doctors allowed them to be transported back to our local hospital, but we were told it would probably be another two months before they came home. They had to be gaining weight consistently and be feeding without the tube.
At nine weeks, they came home weighing two pounds over their birthweights. I breastfed them first, then finished with the bottles of breast milk they had gotten used to in the hospital. Gradually, over the next two months, I was able to get them to breastfeed exclusively. With the help of my local LLL Group and my husband, I had the confidence I needed not only to nurse twins, but premie twins at that!
Nina and Amelia are now fifteen months old, healthy and nursing like pros. Many people ask me how I breastfeed twins and give Kaley the time she needs as well. I just answer "I can't imagine doing anything else."