My breastfeeding journey started when I had my first daughter at 17. I had a pretty easy pregnancy and planned birth at home. I wasn’t thinking too much ahead of the birth with her – I just knew I wanted to breastfeed. We all breastfeed our babies in my family and my mum is a midwife so I could ask her anything. So I wasn’t expecting the cracked sore nipples and pain with getting breastfeeding started. I also got a breast infection in the early weeks and did have a few moments I just wanted to give it up. I had to remember why I wanted to do it, and that these challenges wouldn’t last. I ended up breastfeeding Hine for 3 years – so I know it’s hard in the short term but it’s much easier in the long term.
With the last few weeks of pregnancy with my twins, I decided to express some colostrum as my babies were breech and I planned a caesarean at 37 weeks. The scans showed the babies were about the same size – estimated 3kg each – and I thought I could have them and go home about 48hours later. When they were born Gracie was 3.4kg and Jalen was 2265g so a big difference! Gracie was a natural feeder, but Jalen needed lots of support. He had breathing and feeding problems and was admitted to NICU for 2 weeks. He would latch and feed, but would get tired quickly and needed top-ups via a nasal gastric tube.
I felt like I had triplets at that time! I needed to feed two babies and to express too. Gracie really helped bring my milk in and I think made it easier for her brother to feed. It was a stressful time as it was Level 4 during the last part of my pregnancy, and it was uncertain how long that would last or if it would return. The twins were born in Level 3, which meant I was separated from my eldest daughter due to extra Covid precautions. It was really important I had my extended family around to support me.
Jalen was on 3 hourly feeds around the clock. It was really challenging juggling everything at that time but I aimed to be there for 6 out of his 8 feeds/24hours. This meant lots of early starts and late bedtimes.
Finally getting home was such a relief! Especially being able to see my 4 year old daughter again.
Jalen still needed lots of time and patience with his feeding. He was not very coordinated or strong for a couple more weeks and still needed support with expressed breastmilk top-ups. I did see a lactation consultant in the community who was really helpful, and went to a few breastfeeding groups, which helped for support and getting out of the house. We had lots of ongoing support from family, friends and others like our kohanga reo whanau and Te Puawaitanga services.
Jalen developed eczema when he was a couple months old. This led me on a journey of learning about eczema and triggers like my diet. I found becoming dairy free helped, as did avoiding oats as well other irritants to his skin like some soaps and washing powders. I decided to delay starting solids for him till he was 8-9 months old and just keep him exclusively breastfed. Now, he has an occasional flare up by mostly his eczema has disappeared. He can have dairy now too without any worries. I don’t know if it’s one of those things he just grew out of, but I do think breastfeeding helps with gut and skin health.
I love watching my children develop their personalities. Gracie May is very bright and independent but also very cuddling. Jalen was always a little behind his sister in weight by about a kilo and some milestones, but he has caught up to her in many of these ways including his weight, although she is still 7cm taller! He is also a bright wee boy who is becoming more adventurous. He is sensitive too and loves cuddles. I love that breastfeeding helps encourages lots of cuddles and calm time. They don’t mind sharing too much when tandem feeding and they are best friends.
Breastfeeding twins has been a really empowering experience for me because despite the challenges along the way I have stuck at it anyway!
It gives me a lot of happiness and confidence to watch my babies grow and develop and know I have supported that with the right balance of nutrition and immunity they need.
It is also really special to see the nourishment to their wairua/spirit and hinengaro/mind through the love and bond I share with them during breastfeeding. My children are my taonga.