Breastfeeding the twins has been quite an experience. While they were in the NICU, I wasn't even allowed to attempt anything until they were about 3 weeks old. The boys were so small and nursing was so difficult that they would have burned more calories trying to nurse than they would have actually gained from eating.
Then the boys would be fed the breast milk through their feeding tubes.
I woke up every three hours during the night and pumped. And I pumped every three hours during the day. In order to give my supply a boost from the start, I pumped on a very strict three hour schedule and I pumped for the entire time milk was coming plus 2-5 minutes after I no longer had any milk left. By pumping while empty, I was telling my body that I needed it to supply more than it was already supplying. I definitely think this helped establish a healthy milk supply.
For a while, my strict schedule was pretty limiting. Both hands were tied up with holding the pump parts. So pretty much, I just sat there. I watched tv if I was at home. But the majority of the times (other than the middle of the night), I was at the hospital.
Thankfully, at both Duke and ARMC, I was allowed to pump beside the boys beds on most occasions. At Duke the boys were never in the same room. So I would pump beside Crews. Then, three hours later, I would pump beside Tate. They would pull the curtain around their isolette closed and I would sit and just stare at their sweet little bodies. (At ARMC you had to manually set up these barriers - wheeling them through the NICU and locking multiple together to create a wall. Thankfully, the boys were side-by-side at ARMC so we would just block off the whole corner and have quite a bit of room with the barriers up). It was good to pump beside them because it has been proven to help your milk supply as a NICU mom. When you aren't actually nursing your baby(ies) and you're hooked up to a pump every three hours, you start to feel like a machine. You're not actually getting to enjoy the process so much. Just getting the job done. Which can often affect your milk supply. Especially if you're sitting at home, without your babies. Or if you're sitting in a pump room staring at a wall (I used the pump room only once at Duke and a few times at ARMC - only if family was visiting. So they could stay with the boys instead of having to sit in the waiting room while I pumped. I hated it every time.). So, being around them and listening to them cry and watching them move and all of that, can help with your milk.
Kinda like that episode of The Office when Pam has a baby and goes out to an office party and Kevin (the big, bald guy) keeps running up to her and going "Waaa-Waaa" really loud and in her face. And she is confused about why he keeps doing that and what he is trying to accomplish. So, he does that the whole time they're at the party. Then, near the end of the party, Angela starts to cry and all of the sudden Pam looks at Jim, wide-eyed, and tells him they have to leave. Right then. Pam had started leaking. (Kevin gets mad that he'd been trying it all night and it hadn't worked. haha!)
The whole concept of how your body works with producing milk is amazing to me. It's the craziest thing ever. But, I just had to throw in The Office reference to relate to how it is seeing your babies and hearing them cry and your milk letting down.
Okay, so back to being tied up. I would just sit there and look at the boys or watch tv. But, if my phone rang or if I dropped something on the floor, or if I wanted to change the channel, I was in a bind. I would have to stop pumping on one side or somehow hold both sides with one hand so I could use my other hand to get the phone or the remote. Over time I got better at holding both sides with one hand, but I would still end up in a bind.
Thankfully my sister-in-law, Katie, was at the hospital one day while I was pumping and told me that I had to buy this hands-free pumping bra. It changed.my.life. I'm so serious! I'm going to post a picture below, but I couldn't find one without a woman actually wearing it. So, the picture does show it on a woman. I actually tried to look for a brown-headed woman so you wouldn't think it was me at first glance. Haha. So she does have blonde hair, but it's not me. And, just so you know, my stomach looked JUST like that when the boys were a few weeks old and I was sitting by their bed pumping. Riiiiighhhtt.
It's a Medela Easy Expression Bustier. And it is the bomb-diggity.
Yes, I just used the term bomb-diggity. Because it is THAT good. Welcome to 1995.
I bought mine at Babies R Us and it was around $30, I think. Best $30 I've spent. Promise. One of the best parts about it is that it's strapless and it zips in the front. So, when you get ready to pump you just pull up your shirt, wrap this around you and zip it. You don't have to pull it down over your head. You don't have to worry with hooking it in the back. And you only wear it when you actually pump, then take it right back off and throw it in the bag with your pump parts! So, after I got that, I would set up to pump and sit by their beds and read them books. Or at home, I would read, or get on the computer or stalk people on Facebook - ha.
The other thing that was limiting was that I had to be home or at the hospital every third hour so I could pump. Untillll, we bought one of the adapters so you can plug a regular cord into the car. It is fabulous. I have since, pumped in the Target parking lot, sitting in the backseat while Jordan was driving, in the church parking lot in between services, and while driving myself down I-40. Definitely worth it! I'm all about some multi-tasking :)
Robin also helped a ton by telling me a few things before the boys arrived.
First thing was that I would need to rent the hospital pump for a few months. I have been renting the pump through Duke for the last four months. It is about $80/month but it is a much more effective pump and with as much pumping as I have done, I needed a really good one.
Robin also told me to be prepared to supplement. Many twin moms do not have enough milk to keep up with two babies. So, she had already given me the talk about not being upset if I did not have enough milk. That I might have to supplement and that it would be okay if that was necessary.
I am praising the Lord that this was not a problem. After puking for four months straight, being on bed rest for two months, going in to labor three times, having the boys two months early AND having a month long NICU stay...my milk supply is one thing that worked correctly! But, honestly, I realize that is not the case for many people and I do not take it for granted.
My milk actually came in so well, and the boys needed so little (like 2 teaspoons every three hours!) that I had to figure out some way to store all this milk. And quickly. So we ended up buying a freezer to store it all. It only stores breast milk. (Except for like three ziploc bags of corn in the door).
Again, Praise the Lord for milk. But also...holy cow. (Literally.)
Once they boys got to start nursing, I continued to pump after every time they ate. Because I had worked up my milk supply, I needed to keep it up and not allow my body to readjust to only making what they needed as such small babies. So, I would pump until I was dry after they boys were full. Knowing that the boys only get one side apiece, means that each side has to produce enough to feed a baby. So, I had to continue to keep my supply up so as they needed more, my body could keep up. I know that this is all based on being a twin mom, but I would definitely recommend pumping after your baby or babies (it would work the same for a singleton mom) finish eating if you think you need to increase your milk supply.
And then, last thing, is that I am still pumping during the night. The boys are now sleeping 8 1/2 - 10 hours per night. But, I can't go longer than 6 hours without pumping. I did not realize this. And other moms forgot to mention this to me :) So, I typically pump once during the middle of the night. I do allow myself one night a week where I sleep through the night without pumping but a lot of times it's not worth it because I wake up so uncomfortable. Feeling like I have two cinder-blocks sitting on my chest. Which is tons of fun. Let me tell you :)
Okay, I think I've dumped all my pumping knowledge here. Maybe in a not-so-organized fashion. But it's all I've got :) My final thought is that pumping can definitely make a difference and has been worth every second!
How about the rest of y'all? Any pumping experiences?