This time last year, I was still in the hospital after delivering preemie twins. They started out in the NICU and when I was wheeled in to see them, I asked that they be given donor breast milk until my milk came in. I was told the smaller babies needed the milk more than my 34 weekers, so I only had one week to start producing. I was determined to give them breast milk and assured the team I could do it after successfully breastfeeding their two older sisters. I saw doubt in the nurses eyes when she said ‘Yes, but you’ve never breastfed twins or preemies.’ She didn’t say I hadn’t breastfed a child with Down syndrome and an un-repaired heart, but that was also inferred in her statement.
I held back hot tears as I went back to my room with a cold plastic pump and no babies next to me. I was determined to make it work. I had no idea over the next year that our breastfeeding journey would include a 3 month hospital stay for him, rules that only allowed for 5 minutes of breastfeeding at a time if his respiratory rate was low enough, some days when he was only allowed milk by NG tube and not by mouth at all, an 18 day inpatient recovery after open heart surgery, including 8 days on a ventilator. A complication called chylothorax actually made the fat in milk lethal to him for 4 weeks, so he had to take medical grade formula by tube during that time.
Through it all, I continued to pump for him (skimming the fat out in a centrifuge for a month) and to nurse his healthy twin sister. It was truly a labor of love. I am happy to share that one year later, Leo and Ari are both still nursing. Leo ditched the NG tube in January and we haven’t looked back. We narrowly avoided oral aversion and he is a happy little eater. Even using a fork and a straw at times. Formula supplementation at times has helped us with weight gain and helped me juggle both twins but I’m so grateful for the bonding health benefits (including passing of Covid vaccine antibodies) that this journey has given the three of us.
Written by Jennine Coosaia