Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Exclusively Pumping For Twins

To be honest, before I had my twins I didn’t give much thought as to how I’d feed them. I had a singleton first, and my breastfeeding experience was perfect. I was a lucky momma who didn’t experience any pain, had a newborn that latched on easily, and was a hearty eater. The nine months I breastfed him were full of cuddles and precious bonding moments that I’ll treasure forever. Since my experience with him was so seamless, I assumed I’d go the same route with my twin girls. 

Minutes after they were born, I advocated for them to breastfeed as soon as possible. They were tiny, but they were mighty! At 4lbs. 12 oz. and 4lbs. 6oz. they latched on right away and I tandem fed them the two days we were in the hospital. I was pretty excited with how everything started out, and while it was totally different to feed two babies at once, I thought I’d stick with it. 

Then we got home. Real life set in, and I learned quickly that tandem breastfeeding wasn’t going to work for me. There were a few reasons for this. First, I felt like it was a constant juggling act trying to make sure both of them were latched on, and making sure they were eating the same amount. On top of making sure they were comfortable, I couldn’t take my eyes off my then 17 month old toddler. Just when we were about halfway through a feeding, he’d need me, so I’d have to unlatch the babies, run over to help him, and then have to start the whole process over again. None of this felt natural to me. Every time I’d think about the next feeding I’d get stressed out. It was a far cry from the peaceful bonding and snuggling I’d hoped for. We needed a remedy, and we needed one fast. 

I thought about breastfeeding each of the girls separately, but I already felt like I was a constant feeding machine, and with a toddler running around didn’t feel like I could afford to give up more of my time. 

I reached out to a friend of mine who had exclusively pumped and bottle fed her twins. Talking to her was like breathing in fresh air. She had a similar experience to me, where she just didn’t feel the whole bonding thing while breast feeding twins. She helped me to get over the mommy guilt I felt about not wanting to breastfeed, and it was just the encouragement I needed to be comfortable making the leap from tandem breastfeeding. 

If you are trying to decide whether or not to exclusively pump for your twins, I’d love to give you a glimpse into what life looked like for me while I did it. It’s definitely no walk in the park and still requires lots of time and energy, but it was worth it for me. I was producing plenty of milk for them, it was free, and it even gave me a bit more freedom to take breaks because feeding them with bottles allowed for more hands on help from my husband and other family members. My husband and I could easily sneak out for date nights without having to rush back. I became quite the pro at pumping in the car, or anywhere else for that matter!

When I was alone during the day, I’d put the girls in their bouncy seats and feed them at the same time. I loved keeping them on the exact same schedule, and bottle feeding made it easy to do that. When my husband was home, we’d each feed one of them, giving us one on one bonding time. It allowed Jake to be really involved even during those early months, which was something that he wasn’t able to do as much with our singleton. With the twins, he would get up with me during middle of the night feedings, and since babies drink bottles a lot faster than breastfeeding, it cut the time we were up in the middle of the night. I’d bottle feed and pump at the same time, and then we’d go back to bed. 

Thankfully, I was able to produce more than enough milk for both of them. I actually had extra and was able to freeze quite a bit. Here are a few ways I kept up my milk supply. 

How To Keep Up Your Milk Supply

  • RELAX! If you’re going to be a successful pumper, you have to find a way not to hate it. Try to keep your mind off of it while pumping. Don’t look into those bottles and constantly check how much you’re producing. Chill out. Find something to laugh at or mindlessly read on your phone. 
  • Stay hydrated. I tried to drink around 100 oz. of water a day, which meant I had to be intentional about it. I’d fill up a water bottle before I was ready to pump and drank it while pumping. I was always really thirsty when I started pumping, so it helped that I tended to crave water at that time time. 
  • EAT. EAT. EAT. When you are producing milk for two babies, you will experience the hunger of your life! Breastfeeding is not a time to limit your calorie intake. I ate pretty much whatever I wanted within reason. I ate lots of oatmeal and Multigrain Cheerios, which are supposed to increase your supply. I also at a lot of healthy fats like peanut and almond butter, avocados, and hummus. I also made batches upon batches of these lactation cookies, mostly because they were SO yummy! 
  • Fenugreek tablets. Some people claim fenugreek didn’t do much for them, but I always noticed a big difference when I’d take it. I increased my dosage to three tablets a day and while I smelled like maple syrup, I noticed a significant increase in the amount I produced. 
  • Get enough sleep. Okay, I know this isn’t always possible, but I noticed an increase when I would get more sleep at night and when I’d take naps. I’d wake up from naps sometimes and produce two - four more ounces than the previous pumping session. Ask for help so you can get the rest you need to take care of those little one! 
  • Stick to a schedule. From the time my girls were born, I had them on a strict feeding schedule. They would eat every three hours, and I would pump every three hours as well. The more you pump, the more you produce, so even when the girls were sleeping during longer periods during the night, I would still pump every three hours and would store that up as extra. Eventually I didn’t have to wake up every three hours, but during the first few months I made the sacrifice and pumped around the clock. 
  • Empty out every time. Related to the previous bullet point, it’s so important to empty each breast out completely every time you pump so that your body knows to replenish and produce more. The amount of time it takes to do that varies for each mom, but for me it usually took about 15 - 20 minutes. I’d usually experience two let downs, and then I’d know that I was finished. 
  • Power Pumping. Every once in a while when I felt like I needed a little boost or some extra milk, I’d power pump. This meant I’d pump for 10 minutes, then stop for 10 minutes, and would repeat that cycle for a full hour. 

How To Make Time For Pumping

Perhaps my biggest struggle starting out was finding the time to pump with a toddler running around. It seemed like a marathon to pump, feed, and wash everything, only to get finished and start the whole cycle over again. 

  • Breast Pumping Hands-Free In my opinion, an absolute necessity when pumping is a hands-free pumping bra. I purchased the Simple Wishes hands free bra, and it was a game changer. I could multi-task no problem. I could feed the girls and pump at the same time. I could feed my toddler lunch and pump at the same time. I basically lived in that thing. I could even pump in the car while driving through Starbucks. Crazy memories I’ll never forget. 
  • Store pump parts in the fridge. Washing all the pump parts takes time, but during the day I stored my pump parts in the fridge, and would pull them out when I needed to use them. The cold temperature kept them sterilized and only required me to wash them thoroughly once a day. 
  • Serve the milk at room temperature. I didn’t warm up their bottles. Breast milk is good at room temperature for up to six hours, so I’d pump ahead for the next feeding, set the bottles on the counter, and would just have to grab them when they were ready to eat.

Breast Pump Recommendation

I started out with a Medela Pump In Style Advanced, which I loved. A few months later I was gifted with a Medela Freestyle which I loved even more because it was cordless and rechargeable. I could walk around my house with my breast pump clipped to my pants instead of having to be confined to an outlet. 

Both of them have the two phase expression technology which mimics a newborn for two minutes, and then slows down and pumps. It also has adjustable speeds. I can confidently say that without this technology I wouldn’t have produced as much milk. I actually had a very basic Medela model that I was given for free through my insurance company that didn’t have the two phase expression technology and I produced two ounces less per session. A good quality pump is most definitely worth the investment. 

How To Store Extra Breast Milk 

I didn’t waste an ounce of breast milk! Anything extra I would pour into an 8 oz bottle and would store it in the fridge. When the bottle was full I’d put it in a freezer bag and froze it. Breast milk stays good in the freezer for up to six months and a deep freeze for up to a year. Jake and I took a couple of trips while I was exclusively pumping and I had plenty to feed them while we were away. 

How To Prevent Clogged Milk Ducts 

Early on, I had a lot of battles with clogged milk ducts. My lactation consultant told me that some women have a thicker milk consistency and are more likely to have clogged milk ducts. Since the pump doesn’t empty out the breasts as thoroughly as a baby, that’s another reason why it’s a bit more likely to happen while pumping. If you’ve had this happen before, you know its painful and definitely not something you want to be a repetitive issue. I’d recommend doing the following to prevent it from happening: 

  • Wear a properly fitted bra. If your bra is too small, it will put too much pressure on your breasts and could cause you to get backed up. 
  • Take lecithin. My lactation consultant recommended this to me, and when I started taking it, I never had another problem thereafter. You can purchase it over the counter, and I took it three times a day. 
  • Make sure your breast pump flanges are large enough. Medela breast pumps come with a standard size flange, but many women have nipples that are too large for them. Larger sizes can be purchased at most stores that sell baby gear. When I purchased larger flanges it made pumping much more comfortable. 
  • Don’t sleep on your tummy. Again, putting pressure on your breasts can back them up. I had it happen several times, even while sleeping on my side, so pay extra attention to your sleeping position. 
  • Apply lanolin after each pumping session. It not only prevents you from getting sore, but also keeps the ends of the ducts open. 
  • Homemade Cloth Nursing Pads. I swear by them. My mom made some for me, and not only do they save money, but they’re super comfortable. There are lots for sale on Etsy. 

Whew, that was a LOT of information! Thanks for sticking with me. I successfully exclusively pumped until my girls were six months old. At that point, we decided to switch to formula which was also a great option. I have nothing against formula and am so thankful we were able to have the choice!

I truly think every mom needs to decide what’s best for her family, and there is NO wrong way to do it! As long as those sweet babies are being fed, you are doing a great job! You are the only one who knows what your kids need...don’t let anyone guilt you into thinking it has to be done a certain way. You need to do what makes you the best mom you can be, whether that’s breast feeding, pumping, or formula feeding! 

Good luck, momma! You can do it! 

Follow along Amber's journey raising three under three..with her fourth (a little boy!) on the way over at her blog Mommy's Me Time and Facebook

Feel free to email her with any questions you may have: amber@mommysmetime.com


  1. I exclusively pumped and bottle fed my twins too! I am thrilled with how it turned out and wouldn't change a thing. Oh, except i wish I didn't lose so much weight and dry up around 5 months, but I had saved over 1000 ounces that they got BM until almost 8 mos.

  2. As your babies grow, how does your body know to produce more milk?

    1. I didn't write this post but I EP for my daughter for a year. I extended my pumping sessions to 25-30 minutes so I would have more letdowns and ask my body to produce more and it worked for me. I think extending the length of a pumping session signals your body to produce more milk.