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Tube Feeding One and Tandem Feeding Twins

by Nancy Lomax, Pickering, Ontario

Six years ago, when we decided to start a family, I thought it would be “nice” to breastfeed my children. I would give it a try and hope for the best. After a rocky start of three miscarriages, we finally gave birth to our daughter Nicole.

I felt I would give breastfeeding a try - for maybe 4-6 months. Well, Nicole couldn’t figure out how to suck. I wound up with cracked nipples. And, because she was getting next to no milk, we went to a breastfeeding clinic. The nurse there told us to either finger feed or switch to the bottle. I was stubborn and went with finger feeding; meaning I would pump my breasts and collect the milk in bottles. Then either my husband or I (usually me!) would attach a small tube to our finger and put the other end in a bottle of breastmilk. It was like using a long straw. but, it helped Nicole learn how to suck. And, within four days of this every three hours, she seemed to be doing well. Within ten days, there was no turning back and we were a breastfeeding team.

We happily breastfed for 18 months, at which point I only weaned her because I was pregnant again. Due to the fear of a repeat miscarriage, I decided against the option of breastfeeding while pregnant. This pregnancy went well. I even went to a midwife and stayed away from all unnecessary tests, like ultrasound.

I had been ok about weaning Nicole because I had weaned her knowing that within nine months I would be putting another BABY to my breast once again.

Surprise, surprise. At 29 1/2 weeks I was suddenly measuring 36 m. Good grief. Twins were suspected and my first ultrasound was scheduled. It never happened. At 30 weeks I went into premature labour, so much for the midwife...I was taken by ambulance to Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. Sarah and Karen were born in the wee hours of the morning, two hours apart. They were rushed to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). I didn’t even touch them until they were 24 hours old.

Because all the breast pumps were in use, I wound up manually expressing breastmilk for my tiny little girls (Sarah was 3 lb. 9 oz. and Karen was 3 lb. 11 oz.). I was released 2 1/2 days later, at which

point I rented a high tech double pump and got intimate with it.

The girls were on naso-gastric tubes because they were too small to suck. Even still, I was trying to breastfeed within 10 days. Karen was sucking. Sarah just liked being close. It was a start. About the same time, they were tolerating their feeds through their ng tubes better and no longer needed their IVs. One less tube to worry about!

At two weeks they were transferred to a hospital closer to home. I could spend more time with them then. One nurse had successfully breastfed twins and another was a lactation consultant. We practiced and practiced. Eventually, they would each suck for 5-10 minutes. Some nurses didn’t think this was very good, but compared to Nicole, it was fantastic. I should still have been pregnant...they weren’t even supposed to be sucking yet.

At four weeks of age (corrected age according to the doctors was 34 weeks of pregnancy) they came home. They continued to breastfeed well. The only challenge remaining was to tandem nurse. With tiny infants, it was a bit difficult. At first I needed someone (my husband or mother) to help position the second child. But finally I figured it was easiest on the sofa or floor. I used a nursing pillow and situated the first one, then gently lifted the second child who had previously been placed close to where I would be sitting, onto the other half of the pillow.

I had just assumed breastfeeding would work and had no doubts, and it did. The girls still enjoy it. Now, if I sit on the floor and “flap” my top up and down, they come walking over. It’s great. Sarah and Karen are 14 1/2 months old now and haven’t had cow’s milk yet. I plan to keep breastfeeding at least twice a day until they are at least 18 months old. As for Nicole, who is now three, she occasionally still likes a “nibble” which I do not discourage.

I have enjoyed these years of pregnancy and breastfeeding and it saddens me to think of it ending. But all things must end and I look forward to having friendships with my girls as they grow and mature.


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