Feeding premature twins - the highs and lows

Asked to write five hundred words on the topic of feeding twins, the first three that spring to mind are ‘premature’ and ‘acid reflux’! 

Like many multiples, my two bundles of joy arrived in the world earlier than expected, by six whole weeks to be exact. To be fair, we’d been on Premature Rupture Of Membranes alert from twenty-three weeks so by thirty-four weeks I thought we’d won the lottery.  And we have, obviously. 

Twins are amazing and special and we can’t believe our luck but sometimes small babies don’t feed well and our tiny pair were no exception. Twin one, our little girl was born weighing four and a half pounds, she was the bruiser of the two.  Twin two, our baby boy weighed in at three pounds and six ounces; he looked like an immature rhesus monkey and coo’d like a small bird.  That soft coo soon turned into a raucous squawk and we were on a mission to get him FED! 

My first epic failure as a rookie twin mum was the ‘need to breastfeed’; I didn’t, I couldn’t.  The milk didn’t come, despite pumping my breasts frantically with an all singing, all swinging breast pumping machine.  So, I ploughed my guilt into baby vitamins and probiotics and set out on a mission to formula feed.  Baby one took to the formula well, at least initially but baby two, the bird, cared not for his milk.  The community midwives, who visited- all of once, said we should wake the smallest one every two hours for a feed, whilst feeding the bigger baby every three!  There were charts and preemie bottles and over-priced ready-to-feed formula and tears, lots of tears. 

Baby one glugged and glugged then screamed and screamed and baby two screamed and refused anything more than the occasional ounce of food.  We cried and worried and googled frantically; a baby cannot survive on eight ounces of milk a day, surely.  As it turned out, baby one had the not-so-silent, silent reflux, or gastro-oesophagael reflux disease as it is otherwise known.  She gulped then screamed as the acid reflux burned her throat, then gulped some more to soothe the pain, and so on.  We tried pro-biotics and pre-biotics and dairy-free, goat, soya, colic drops, the lot.  Nothing worked.  At night we sat her upright in a swing and slept on the floor next her, trying to soothe her when she woke wailing and writhing in pain (every two hours). 

Four months in we found the solution lay in formula as thick as pancake batter and ranitidine (an antihistamine that blocks the release of stomach acid).  By eight months things had settled down, mostly, and the drugs and pancake batter kept the constant screaming at bay.  Baby two, on the other hand, never did take to formula, irrespective of thickness, texture or taste!  He coasted along on the 0.2nd centile and after many sleepless nights we discovered buttery toast and avocado; he would eat both.   Of course, we stressed about the optimum sustenance potential of butter, bread and avocado but ultimately the boy got bigger and babies need fat and simple carbs, right? 

Ultimately, if I was to do it all again, what would be different I wonder.  Well, I would never wake a sleeping twin every two hours to feed, EVER.  Babies need their sleep as much as anything and the bird was furious when we plucked him from his warm moses basket for a session of nigh on force-fed formula by the ounce.  I would worry less, obviously; I am sure every first time parent says the same.  Maybe I would persevere with the pumping breast contraption or maybe that’s just the guilt speaking.  I would definitely try avocado and buttery toast sooner. 

It worked. 

Every journey and every baby is different but it you find something that works for you, embrace it.  And try to enjoy the ride.  It really does go all too fast.

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This guest post was written by Laura Scott. Mum to twins Isobel and Max. Laura is a Children and Families Social Worker. Thanks to Laura for writing this piece about her feeding experience.

If you would like to talk to anyone regarding breastfeeding or feeding you can call the Tamba (www.tamba.org.uk)  and NCT feeding helpline 0300 330 0700 which is open every day 8am-midnight.


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