This is the 41st post in a series on Booby Traps, made possible by the generous support of Motherlove Herbal Company.
We are so very pleased to share the second of a two part guest post by Karen Gromada, MSN, RN, IBCLC, FILCA, on Booby Traps for moms of multiples (click here for Part I). Karen is the author of the classic Mothering Multiples, and is recognized as a leading expert on breastfeeding twins (and more).
While a lot has been written about nursing multiples, we haven’t seen a comprehensive explanation of the barriers moms face. So we think this post will be a classic!
Peer Booby Traps
Mothers of multiples sometimes booby-trap breastfeeding for another mother when they proclaim, “You won’t survive infancy with multiple infants unless you…
- “Get them on the same (strict) schedule right away!”
- “Use sleep training so they soon sleep through the night (even if each must cry it out).”
Strict day or nighttime schedules can undermine milk production and may interfere with weight gain for one or more babies. Plus, trying to impose such schedules often adds to the stress of caring for multiples by creating an unrealistic expectation for many young infants and putting unnecessary pressure on a new mother.
Also considered a Booby Trap by those who need the company of other mothers of multiples but aren’t yet ready to leave breastfed babies at home is a parents/mothers of multiple club that welcomes the mother but frowns on breastfed babies accompanying her to meetings.
Finally, a mother of multiples may Booby-Trap herself. For instance, the mother who expects each of her babies to have the exact same breastfeeding pattern or assumes each of her preterm babies to make the transition to direct breastfeeding at the exact same time and in the exact same way is setting Booby Traps for herself. Each multiple-birth infant is an individual. More likely than not, one former preterm multiple will be ready to move to exclusive breastfeeding before the other(s). Also, one is more likely to need more frequent breastfeeding or more time to breastfeed than the other(s).
Mothers often Booby-Trap themselves by thinking there is a problem with breastfeeding when an issue has little or nothing to do with the actual breastfeeding. Often the issue is really about coping with two or more times the usual number of babies. But breastfeeding easily gets all mixed up with the two (or more) babies issues. It becomes another case of shooting the messenger (breastfeeding).
A huge self-detonating booby trap common among mothers of multiples is that they tend to “should” on themselves! Mother who think they should be able to care for babies, older children, household tasks, their careers, etc. as they might do or have done with a previous single baby set themselves up for frustration. When circumstances interfere with a mother of multiples’ breastfeeding goals, too many mothers blame themselves instead of the circumstances. Mothers who think they should be able to “do it all” without physical help and emotional support are in for the biggest boom of Booby Trap bombs!
How Moms of Multiples can Avoid the Booby Traps
Don’t add to the minefield of Booby Traps. A mother of multiples is more likely to avoid Booby Traps if she:
- Prepares to begin breastfeeding under a variety of circumstances – preterm or full-term birth; vaginal, cesarean or a combination of delivery methods; supportive or unsupportive partner, family or friends; etc. For more information or ideas, review the FAQ at my web site.
- Develops a birth plan designed to help breastfeeding (or milk expression) that includes skin-to-skin contact at birth if babies are late preterm or term, and with less mature preterm infants as soon as possible. (Skin-to-skin contact is called Kangaroo Care in the NICU. Be a “squeaky wheel” about making it happen!) A fill-in-the-blanks birth plan for twins and some triplet sets is available on my website.
- Develops a cheering squad of breastfeeding supportive professionals, family and friends who understand and will reinforce her breastfeeding goals.
- Finds where she can rent a hospital-grade breast pump in case she must express milk for babies that came early or any that is not yet able to breastfeed effectively.
- Expects late preterm/term newborns to cue and begin breastfeeding within the first hour of birth; plans to hand express colostrum within the first hour if one/more babies cannot yet breastfeed. Then Maximize Milk Production with Hands-on Pumping by combining the breast pump with hands-on techniques until all babies breastfeed well.
- Accepts help with household tasks or an older child, which free her to breastfeed and/or express milk for her babies.
- Allows time for a daily routine to develop as she and her babies adjust and get to know one another better.
- Distinguishes breastfeeding issues from issues related to having two (or three or more) the usual number of babies.
- Celebrates what she and her babies accomplish and lets go when babies or breasts force her to take a detour for any amount of time.