Jason and I had gone through IVF to become pregnant and couldn’t believe our luck when we were told at the first scan- that not only were we pregnant - but expecting twins! Therefore, told it was a high-risk pregnancy, however my pregnancy was going well and my bump was growing day by day. I hadn’t yet reached the point in my pregnancy where I had funny cravings and I was still managing to fit in my clothes that had a bit more stretch.
But at 25 weeks, on a weekend when my husband had a planned trip away my waters broke unexpectedly and I was rushed to hospital where I ended up having a C-section because of a cord prolapse; they saved my babies lives, spending 137 days in NICU and undergoing surgery as well as being on Oxygen at home.
Tommy weighed 930grams and Conan weighed 750grams, we were told how important breast milk would be for them especially the Colostrum - but with all this happening so suddenly I hadn’t got to this part in my baby book yet! - I was given an information leaflet and a syringe to collect the Colostrum. I couldn’t hold my babies; I couldn’t look after my babies but this is one thing I could do.
My husband and I were in a separate ward to the boys, I read the leaflet and followed the instructions but nothing was happening and felt so angry at myself. All I could think was I’ve let my twins down again.
I already felt a great sense of anger towards myself that my waters had gone so early and it was somehow my fault. My Husband urged me to ask for help but I felt embarrassed, but I am so glad I did. A lovely Midwife came and helped me to collect the Colostrum, showing me how to massage my breast to stimulate the milk but also explaining it may take a few days for my milk supply to become established so felt a bit of relief; I could finally do something that would help my twins.
ESTABLISHING MY SUPPLY
My husband pushed me in the wheelchair to the Neonatal unit and I held my syringes of colostrum with such pride, handing it to the nurse as she explained how important this was for the boys. As they were born at 25 weeks and my first children, I was told it might take a little longer for my milk to come in and would I be happy for the boys to have donor Milk if they needed it? Straight away I agreed it was so important to me that the boys had the best chance and the right nutrients, especially whilst I waited for my supply to come in.
The boys were tube fed tiny amounts of milk. Between visiting my twins and recovering from a C-Section I was desperate to bring my milk in; massaging my breasts to stimulate and then when it started to, I moved on to the breast pump which was such an accomplishment! I would set my alarm and wake up through the night to make sure my supply became constant and like how the boys would feed. Sometimes I wouldn’t get much at all, but every little helped.
I had managed to build up a good supply of milk and the nurses explained they would freeze it for when the boys needed it so that none was wasted. I felt so proud of myself that we hadn’t had to use donor milk at this point.
DONOR & FORMULA MILK
As the boys got bigger and started to tolerate their milk through tubes, they needed more milk and donor milk had to be used because I just didn’t have enough. Again, I felt angry towards myself for not being able to give them enough, but the nurses explained how the amount I was getting was a lot for someone at this point in a pregnancy and not to forget that there’s two babies in need of the milk.
The first time they were tube fed donor milk I must admit, I felt upset that they weren’t having my milk but I felt so grateful that this was an option and still breastmilk with the nutrients they needed.
As the weeks went on, with challenge after challenge, my breast milk started to reduce. Whatever I could collect the boys where having but being topped up with donor milk but as the boys got bigger the Doctors explained we couldn’t use donor milk anymore and we would be moved onto a special formula to ensure they got the right nutrients but warned us that formula is not as gentle on their little tummy’s as breast milk and they could have a bit of trouble with it.
Again, I was filled with guilt. with less and less milk and although I tried not to look at other mums, I couldn’t help but notice they were bringing bottles full of milk for their babies.
One of the lovely neonatal nurses called Rachel, encouraged me to speak to the breast-feeding specialist at the hospital. When I did she was full of praise towards me and gave lots of helpful advice recommending a few things and a medication that the GP could prescribe called Domperidone. That evening I had the Domperidone to take a couple of times throughout the day and I slowly saw a difference in my milk supply. Although the twins had to be topped up with formula I was happy I could give them more of my milk as the boys got bigger and stronger.
BREAST OR BOTTLE
Although still very poorly the nurses asked me would I like to breast or bottle feed. I was given so much support and love when making my choice, they told me the pros and cons of each and left the decision up to me - I decided I wanted to try and breastfeed - being conscious of my body already this was a brave step for me to take never mind being a room with others and my boys being on so many wires and tubes.
When the time came and the twins where ready, I was given help to try and breastfeed. It was made as private as possible and we were given time alone. I felt like a proper Mummy for the first time! However, after this I took the hard decision of using bottles, with my milk supply being low and the boys so desperately needing milk I decided we would be better getting them established with a bottle so I knew what they could get. It was such a big step when the boys started to enjoy a bottle. Little by little, bit-by-bit they slowly had less tube feeds and more bottle feeds.
I was still expressing and giving the twins whatever I could get. Not only did I want to give them my milk to protect them I also wanted to keep my milk going so I could try breast feeding at home where I felt more comfortable and at ease.
Breastfeeding shouldn’t be something that’s feared but I did worry about it a lot. I was given so much support from all nurses and something I once felt shy about become so natural. I carried on expressing between looking after my boys at the hospital they had a lovely expressing room and it finally felt comfortable.
The boys eventually were well enough to be transferred back to York hospital, closer to home. The new ward made it as private as possible and I soon eased into the new way of doing things. It got harder and harder to express as the boys got older and they wanted cuddles and attention more, I tried to make the time to express but, I was getting hardly any milk and the boys feeds where nearly all formula at this point. I didn’t want to give up.
The day finally came and the boys where discharged after 137 days in hospital, still on oxygen and still very little they were home.
I am proud to say that with the technique the nurses taught me at Hull I was able to breastfeed and felt comfortable in my own home to do this, and above all I felt confident. This was more of a comfort thing for my boys as I wasn’t getting much milk and their main source of milk was still formula. But I had done it, I felt so proud of my boys and of myself.
Our journey may have been more up and down than others but together as a family we overcame so much and milk was one big factor. We got there in the end from Colostrum, to breast milk, to donor milk, to formula. From a midwife massaging my breasts, to the breast pump, to tube feeds, to trying breast feeding to bottle feeds and then finally at home breast feeding for comfort.
The boys are now thriving at home and they love their food, they’re eating three meals a day and enjoying their bottles more than ever!
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