Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Transitioning from Pumping to Breastfeeding Twins

Hi everyone, my name is Jamaila!  I wanted to talk about my exclusively pumping-to-breastfeeding success story, because when I was going through the transition process I found there weren’t a lot of mamas doing the same thing quite so late as I did. So my usual ‘find-everything-on-the-internet’ strategy of self-support was rough!

My twins were born at 36+5, blessedly free of pretty much all complications except that they couldn’t seem to latch. We had the help of great LCs and lots of L&D nurses, but my girl, as the smaller twin, just couldn’t do it. She had some suck/swallow delays, and my hubby syringe fed her while I worked on nursing our boy for the first two days. Once she learned how to eat at all, both of them took all the milk I could pump and a bit of formula to help them gain weight while in the hospital.
Thankfully, my milk came in before we even left the hospital, so once we were home we started the laborious process so many of you are familiar with – work on “practicing” nursing, feed expressed milk from bottles, then pump. The entire cycle took over two hours – once we were done, it was time to start over again. Something had to give, and the mutual frustration and tears (me and them) of nursing was what went. We switched to exclusive pumping; I was lucky enough to be able to provide all the milk they needed and more by pumping. Whenever it got rough, I forced myself to point out that since I COULD, I should! But it was hard, hard, hard. I took the advice I’d seen here and gave myself mini-milestone goals: one month. Six weeks. Two months.

By three months, we had a routine that worked as efficiently as it could, but I hated it. I rarely got to just sit and cuddle my babies after I fed them, because I always had to go pump. I started asking about solid foods, just because I was so eager to get away from the pump. By this point, my little girl – the non-latcher! – would occasionally comfort-nurse when she was upset, but we were still so anxious about tracking how much milk they were getting that we were hesitant to try moving away from bottles.

Finally, I was desperate. I decided that I was going to try direct breastfeeding for just one feeding a day – the one feeding that I had to handle alone, after my husband left for work and before my MIL came over to help for the afternoon (bless her!). So one day, I tried it. And, to my shock, they both latched, and ate for about twenty minutes. Afterwards, my breasts felt just as drained as when I pumped, so clearly they were getting enough food! It worked! I was delighted. At first, I pumped after the feeding just to be sure, but when I got almost nothing – barely an ounce – I knew it was working as intended. So for the next week or so, I nursed them for that feeding, and we continued our routine the rest of the time.

Then I added another feeding. I picked one of the afternoon feedings, and left a pumping/bottle feeding in between the two nursing feedings because I was still nervous about drainage. It worked again, and I was so gleeful about it that I went virtually cold turkey after two days and switched all but the very first morning feeding to direct breastfeeding. It WORKED. And the religious pumping schedule I’d established when I was exclusively pumping meant that I had plenty of supply.

So my transition from EPing to EBFing didn’t happen until my babies were four months old – but it happened, and it’s doable! Don’t give up hope!

A final note: it took us until seven months to switch the very first morning feeding from bottle to breast, because I had an overnight oversupply – engorged breasts in the morning, lots of foremilk. Eventually I was able to manage it and we transitioned to nursing in the morning, too. They seem to like it. And it makes the morning routine much simpler – I get to sleep a little extra, and they get to play a little more actively since I’m not attached to the pump trying to wrangle them!

Until about nine months, I continued to pump right before I went to bed for about ten minutes – like a ‘system flush’ – I think that making sure everything was drained once a day regardless of how well they had nursed all day was helpful in preventing clogs and other issues. Eventually, I dropped that last pump, too (all the milk I'd been pumping at night had just gone to the freezer, since breastfeedings filled all their nutritional needs during the day). The first morning after I dropped it, I woke up in a puddle of milk and had to change all the sheets on our bed (if you don't have a waterproof mattress liner, GET ONE). The second morning I was just uncomfortable, but not leaking. By the fourth morning, everything had equalized and I had no more oversupply issues. Thanks, biology! 

I now no longer pump at all, unless I miss a feeding (date night!). My pump no longer lives on my bedside table, and I look forward to continuing our healthy breastfeeding relationship for months to come. I’m glad I EPed as long as I did; in a lot of ways it made the first couple of months easier – we even got to go out on a couple of date nights, because other people could feed the babies! And I’m glad our babies know how to take a bottle! We’re still able to get away once in a while. But I’m so glad that they finally learned how to nurse!

 If you have any questions for Jamaila, CLICK HERE to email her or you can visit her blog: Jamaila Brinkley


  1. This is such a great post! I too found it difficult to breast feed two littles right away and they were so small, so I did the practice nursing, feed formula bottle, then pump for maybe a week. It's so much and takes forever! Once my husband was returning to work I decided to drop the nursing and exclusively pump (but supplemented with formula). I never went back to try nursing but I often thought about it since with the pumping your supply isn't diminishing (probably). I'm so glad to hear it worked for you!! I would definitely try to communicate to new twin moms it doesn't have to be all or nothing, and just because nursing might not click for everyone in the hospital doesn't mean you can never do it! Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a great post! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Perfect timing for this post! I'm going through this transition right now and you're right, there is NO information on it! It's very encouraging to hear another twin mama have success going back to breastfeeding. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks everyone! Glad I was able to share some encouragement - it's so hard to find resources about this out there. Thanks to everyone who is getting in touch! So happy to share my experience with other mamas!

  5. I love this! This is kind of how I started exclusively pumping. I will try breastfeeding tom and see if it works. My twins are 2 months old.