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Sleep-deprived mum needs help re. breast-feeding at night

(85 Posts)
Frenchfamille Tue 19-Feb-13 20:30:31

The twins are here - they are delightful but I am shattered. The good news is breast-feeding is going well. They are 4 weeks old today, and I know I shouldn't be expecting too much, but after a long delivery I feel as though I haven't slept since they arrived.

In the day they are not sleeping for long spells. I have put them together in a big old fashioned pram which is in the lounge - really for ease but perhaps I should be putting them in their cot(s) upstairs?

Day-time sleeping for me seems hard as one is awake, the other sleeps etc. I have 3 other children, at school mostly (not on wednesdays - we live in France).

At night-time they have been in the cot in our room, and I try to do a feed last thing with them both but neither then seem to settle brilliantly so we've ended up with latched on to me, the other being held by husband, in an attempt to get some kind of sleep.

Despite having done this 3 times before, I feel completely out my depth with the sleep thing. Any advice very welcome. At 4 weeks should I let them cry, perhaps put them in their room, and not be feeding what seems every other hour (or sometimes every hour if one then wakes up the other)? I am obviously snatching sleep as I wake up with one latched on, or off, so I've obviously nodded off.

Everyone in France is telling me to switch to bottles - honestly, it really is something that every health professional has suggested! But will this achieve anything - they still need to sleep! And I have established good breastfeeding so think this is not the option.

Sorry to waffle and sound negative about no sleep. We adore our girls (our eldest are all boys so it's quite different!) but I really do need to sleep soon....

butterflyexperience Tue 19-Feb-13 23:49:07

I think you have done amazing to bf twins till 4 weeks and have other dc!

I don't yet have my dt so I'm sure someone more experienced will pop along to advise

DigestivesWithCheese Tue 19-Feb-13 23:55:07

Hi French,

My twins are fully formula fed now but I've met a few mums who are breast-feeding twins and most of them give a bottle of either expressed or formula milk as the last feed (the one which is between 9 - midnight, ideally 10 when they are more of a routine).

My DH does that last feed for our twins and it means I get to bed as early as possible (around 8pm if I can) and have a longer stretch of sleep before the next feed, which is usually after 1am.

Keep going, you're doing brilliantly to have got this far! grin

temporary Wed 20-Feb-13 00:06:20

I am so so sorry you haven't got any replies on here.
My heart really goes out to you, as I was like you and had twins who did not fall into a deep sleep immediately after a feed, and that was massively hard. I remember mine doing the whole crying all evening until about midnight, and both wanting to be feeding or held all day long, and that was the most draining thing.
I don't really know where to start as there is so much I can say. Firstly I don't think that bottles are really the answer to your sleep problems as then you would still have to feed them with the additional agony of having to get out of bed to make the feeds.

I did one night once, when I had a pile of pillows on each side of me, as well as pillows putting my body at about 45 degree angle. I put a baby on each pile of pillows to each side ( the piles were high and got the babies at exactly the height to breast feed whilst on their sides). I managed to lie and sleep for a long period of time as the babies could have a nipple permanently in their mouths, it was my best night sleep for a loooong time. I was very reliant on my partner though as I couldn't do anything for myself. It was such a hassle getting the pillows in position that I didn't do it again.

The rest of the time I would put baby A on to my left breast lying down, then fall asleep. When baby B woke, baby A was by that time asleep so I would move her onto the cot next to the bed, and bring baby B over to my other breast, get her latched as I lay down then fall asleep until baby a wanted her next feed. On the plus side I was able to be lying down in the dark and sleep for all the night, but the obvious downside to this method is that the babies are not in sync so the disruption is so much more frequent, but I can honestly say that because I was zonked out so quickly again after the change over it wasn't a big issue.

During the day I always fed them tandem, so they were in sync and although the feeds were every 2 hours they only lasted 30 minutes and then I was potentially 'free' (as long as there was someone around to push the pram or take over.)
Have you managed tandem feeding at all? If you don't enjoy it, it isn't forever and could just get you through the tricky early days.

I wonder if you could get the days a bit straighter, and get some more help to give you a proper nap every day, then it might just help you to get through this early days 'hump'. That is my biggest regret, that I didn't get more help in the first 3 months, all because I thought I had to get the hang of it all on my own so I may as well get on and do it on my own.

You are doing a wonderful job, my heart honestly went out to you when I read your message, it was like reading a message from me 3 years ago. It doesn't matter how experienced you are, twins do floor you, I felt like I was a first time mum all over again because it is just that much more complicated.


temporary Wed 20-Feb-13 00:07:11

Oops x-posted.

CharlieBlanche Wed 20-Feb-13 00:20:58

Firstly I bow down before you in respect I was tired enough having teins let alone 3 other children.

I saw your question earlier but didn't respond because I wasn't sure I had anything helpful to say but I'm about to go to bed and no one else has come along so...

I exclusively breast fed our twins. Yes it is exhausting. At about your stage I literally thought I'd die from lack of sleep. I remember weeing the night before DH returned to work and it was all I could do not to beg him to stay home with me.

At about 6 weeks I started to feel a bit better (not having more sleep but I think my body just got used to it a bit). After 12 weeks even better (though still not much sleep).

I'm sorty to tell you that my two were more that 6 months old before they ever slept at the same time during the day or night.

Having twins is really hard, breast feeding twins is very physically demanding. Three other children - I can't even imagine!!! flowers

I think that whatever you need to do to get thtough the day is fine really. You have to take care of yourself too.

But although I found breastfeeding very hard and only sheer bloody mindedness kept me going in the early days I was soooo glad I stuck with it. Going out and about with twins involves aLOT of kit I can't imagine having to lug bottles etc too.

Sleeping arrangments. We had ours in two cots in our room until the were 7 months old. Much easier not to have to spend all night trooping into another room to fed/comfort/change two babies. They were orginially in the one cot but I found that they were disturbing each other in the night when waking for feeds, changes etc so side by side cots worked best for us.

The other thing I did was LOTS of walking with the pram. Fresh air would help send them to sleep then I'd wheel the pram into the front room and lie down on the sofa for 30 secs or so.

I put them in their carrycots or bouncy chairs down stairs to sleep during the day at this age. Once we'd established them in their own room I put then into their own beds diring the day. We never left then to cry it out. (although I have vivid memories if sitting in my bedroom floor howling myself while holding two crying babies).

I'm not sure I've been helpful at all but you are doing wonderfully.

Ps my wonderful, wonderful twins are now 5 yo, sleeping peacefully next door and are just fantastic. Hang on in there and take all the help you can get from friends and family.

Good luck!

FreeButtonBee Wed 20-Feb-13 03:37:44

Dunno French. I am up with my two week olds. They are just about asleep on my tandem feeding pillow but as soon as I move they wake. It's a killer.

DTS barely slept today and is so sucky all the time. I think he needs some attention tomorrow without me being distracted and hopefully that will trigger a better nught's sleep. Can only dream ( or not!)

thereistheball Wed 20-Feb-13 03:58:41

Hi French - I've just finished a night feed so need to get my head down but I will be back in the day to tell you how we are doing things. Meanwhile bon courage! (I'm also in France)

FreeButtonBee Wed 20-Feb-13 07:46:38

Well. Marginal win last night with sleeping in their carrycots downstairs with me on the sofa.. Got 3 solid hours - which is enough to manage for me. DTD is now feeding.

Going to feed both and them try to get out for a quick wall round the block, them go for a snooze with them both. I think I'm going to aim for wakin them to feed every 2.5 hours today to see if it helps a bit. Plus take the carrycots up to the bedroom tonight - ATM they are I'm one big cot together - which doesn't seem to be working for us.

Wd be grateful for any words of wisdom though!

thereistheball Wed 20-Feb-13 09:12:44

Hi again. Here are a few quick thoughts about your post.

1 - congratulations and well done to have got this far. The first month for us was chaos and I think you just have to muddle through as best you can. Must be especially hard with 3 (!) other children.

2 - at this stage I think babies are too young for either 'being left to cry' (or any other kind of sleep training other than a gentle insistence on a routine) or being put into their own room. Also, I would resist the pressure to switch to bottles. The French are notorious for not breastfeeding. If you want to, and you've got this far, then you should be able to continue.

3 - As suggested above, I think the first thing to do is block a few hours when you can get a guaranteed sleep because you are off-duty. For me this is as soon as I can get to bed in the evening til about midnight when DH goes to bed (in the spare room so as to be guaranteed a proper sleep before work), though we hope that the babies will sleep til about 1.30-2am. DH gives them a bottle at 10-10.30. This was expressed breast milk and is now formula. If you haven't introduced a bottle yet then now is a good time to do it because you can leave it so long that they reject it, which will tie you in to breastfeeding for months (I did this with DD - fine if you only have one child, but not for you I imagine).

4 - I've found the key to a good night's sleep is getting the babies into the same routine, so they wake and eat at about the same times. You want to be feeding them as much of their daily milk requirements during the day as possible, to minimise their need to wake at night. At this stage I think we were doing something like:
- 7 am wake and feed (I tandem feed during the day, but you could split this to 6.45 for one and 7.15 for the other). Try not to feed after 8.15 so they get hungry for the next feed.
- 8.45-9.45 nap (I do this in the carry cots in the pram in case I need to go out. I use their pram suits with no blankets - I often keep the front door open as I find the cool air helps them sleep for some reason)
-10 am feed
-11.30-2 long nap (try to get some rest yourself during this time. I took mine round the block to drop off then left them outside on the balcony with the bedroom door open while I rested. Often got a whole hour this way.)
-2pm feed
-4-5pm nap
-5pm - half a feed, then baths, then the rest of their feeds before 7pm bedtime
-10pm feed
- on demand feeds during the night. But no matter what happened we started again at 7.

I wouldn't let the babies have more than 4.5 hours sleep during the day. They are now a bit further on and we are down to 3.5. Speaking of which I must wake them! Hope that helps. If I think of anything else I'll add it later.

Meanwhile you are doing an amazing job - keep going!

thereistheball Wed 20-Feb-13 09:13:39

Oh yes - cuddling them to sleep is completely normal at this stage!

thereistheball Wed 20-Feb-13 09:16:09

also - on wednesdays could your elder children go to a Centre de Loisirs so you just have the babies to contend with?

thereistheball Wed 20-Feb-13 09:20:43

(I should say, re the routine above - I breastfeed then top up with a bottle to make sure they are getting completely full at each feed. Mine were very prem and spent 10 weeks in hospital. Once they came home and started to catch up their growth curves their demand suddenly and definitively outstripped my supply, but we are still going with mixed feeding more than 3 months down the line and I'm really glad I persevered.)

Nancy54 Wed 20-Feb-13 11:56:52

Hiya, french (and thereis!), i'm in france too and have 21 week old twins.

havent really got much to add after what has already been said but just wanted to say sounds like you're doing amazingly with dts and three others!!

re the breastfeeding, yes the french appear to be rather pro-bottle feeding, i nearly ended up not breastfeeding mine cos so much pressure was put on me to bottle feed them. no breast is best in la france!!!! anyway, i resisted them and no ebf dtg (bottle refuser!) and dtb has a bottle of formula before bed. like thereis said, it is good to get them to take a bottle as it takes the pressure off you and means you can get a block of sleep which you really need! dtg did originally take a bottle but has now decided otherwise.

re getting them to feed at the same time, this is a good idea in theory and i do manage it up to a point but my babies are very different and have very different weights so i find one often needs feeding before the other so i just do it. Same with naps, i try to get them to nap at the same time but my little girl needs more day sleep than my little boy so what can you do!

i would say just feed them as often as they want at this point (even if it is every hour), i know that is totally against french advice but that what what instincts told me to do and my boy is now a very healthy 8kg and the little girl 7, so i must be doing something right. its however horrendously tiring so you do need to get someone else to take some of the strain - so that why a bottle could be a good idea. tbh i don't know how you're doing it with other dcs, it's really amazing!!!

ClairesTravellingCircus Wed 20-Feb-13 13:53:29

Hello french

not much to add to the excellent advice you have received (also I wasn't able to EBF so my experience is different), but we have all been there with the terrible nights some of us are still there actually.

The early weeks are a killer. I have 2 older dcs too (but at 7and 11 they were quite helpfull). for weeks my longest strecth of sleep was somewhere between 7/8-10am, I was lucky that dh took the other two to school and the twins seemed to sleep better at that time (often in bed with me though). It was my life saver!

Sorry really what I want to say is, you're doing great and we know how you feel!
Hope some of the suggestions upthread help!

temporary Wed 20-Feb-13 14:55:48

clairestravellingcircus, mine slept best in the morning too. I used to get a really long stretch between 6ish and 10am, that was The ONLY time in a 24hr period though. I seem to remember I wasted it by getting up and having a shower.
It was about 3 months until that changed, which was weird.

DoingTheSwanThing Wed 20-Feb-13 18:06:29

Hi French
Congratulations! I hope you're feeling suitably proud of yourself smile
My b/g twins are now 6m and ebf, but I only have one other child, huge respect to you!
Not sure I have any words of wisdom but these are things that worked for us...
Tandem feeding only worked when they happened to want feeding at the same time. The only time I felt like I couldn't actually manage was as a result of trying to follow the very well-meaning advice of getting them on the same routine, so if that doesn't work for you (wrt nap times etc ), I wouldn't push it and try to go with the flow as much as possible. It's so hard though with other children to think about, I just wanted to strangle anyone who said "sleep when they sleep"!!
I found myself sleeping bolt upright tandem feeding with a massive cushion in the early days - totally unsafe but the exhaustion was something else! Eventually though we started properly co-sleeping (always intended to, but they were prem so I wanted them a bit bigger first) - I have a double bed in their room, they sleep there and I join them when they first wake up. It's so, so much better in terms of both sleep quality and quantity. Is this an option for you? I now barely wake to switch them over. They've both still feeding twice most nights but because there's no faff involved it's absolutely fine and I'm well rested.
Unless you particularly want to mix feed, I'd recommend ignoring the bottle suggestions- you've done so well getting established, things are only going to get better. I think it took until about 3 months for me to really feel like bf was the easy option... And then met up with some other twin mums who were ff... Gosh, I don't know how they do it! It's such an advantage being able to solve most problems by flinging a boob at them <lazy>.
Have you looked at any ways of tandem feeding whilst lying down? Difficult to advise as so much depends on babies size/boob shape etc, but that helps - only learned in the last couple of months here though (I kind of lie on my side feeding one then drape the other over the top of me... Total trial and error!). Even feeding one lying down is a huge advantage for sleeping.
Please don't take this as pressure to keep bf unless you want to, I'm sure plenty of mums will say ff is a good idea for division of labour purposes, I can only share my experience.
Very best wishes to you, I hope the sleep improves for you soon.
Apologies for the essay and any resultant typos... On phone wink

Frenchfamille Wed 20-Feb-13 22:38:18

I am bowled over by the number of replies I have got - a big heart-felt thank you to everyone. I will read them properly tomorrow as it is late here in France and I've only just logged on and am amazed with all the responses. Having flicked through so briefly I see there are lots of great ideas as well as support. I thank you all. Will read properly and reply tomorrow during one of the feed times when I have them balanced tandem and have hands free! We did, just to update, put them next door in their room last night, in separate cots, for the first time, and at 4am when they woke up, or one did, and it was about the 5th wake up that night, I decided to get up, lights on, proper feed (woke the other up too) and they went back to bed for 4 hours sleep afterwards which is the most they have ever had. It was a minor step forward...... til tomorrow, thank you all again.

Frenchfamille Thu 21-Feb-13 09:50:00

Thank you to all - support from everyone, thanks Butterfly,

Last night we managed 1-4.30am both asleep in their cots, then I had to do the lying down feeding changing over etc but at least we were relaxed, darkened light, resting. It really helped with husband taking charge after I finished feed at 1am and I went into deeper sleep and he settled them so I was 'off duty' which meant I zonked out completely til 4.30am.

Digestives - sounds a good plan, problem here with that is school doesn't finish til 5pm so we get home by 5.30pm, homework etc.... 8pm and everyone's still awake/home-working etc. It's really hard from 5-9pm as it's so full on so sleeping at 8pm would mean I'm in bed before the 3 boys! Although perhaps not a bad idea. But it does make me realise I need to do everything poss to get them into bed and then me follow. Sounds like you have a good routine going there.

Temporary - I hear you loud and appreciate your words having been there. You are right about it all and I know exactly what you mean about the lying down in night, you don't get the same deep sleep but it is sleep of some sort. I need to get the days more organised and yes I feed them mostly in the day in rugby position with drink, book, tv control, food, cake in front of me! I know it will get easier or I will just adjust more. Thank you for your long post and all the advice. Much much appreciated.

Charlie - your post made me tearful - bloody hormones.... I want to carry on BF and think it's not so much the BF but just the fact there are two of them, not always in sync and so the respite inbetween seems very very little. You write it so clearly that you are describing me exactly. It helps so much to hear other people's similar states - and the fact they are still alive to tell the tale!

Over here in France there is a real lack near me of twin support groups - I have to travel miles. It makes me realise how good it is in UK in comparison.

Keep going Freebutton - early days and all that..... well done for your 3 hour stint x

Thereistheball - don't suppose you in Brittany area?! What a great post - all those times noted! Yes, I need to do as much feeding in the day to leave nights less. 10 weeks prem - wow, you are a superstar. You sound so knowledgeable now - you've obviously done brilliantly. The other children are 11, 8 and 5. They don't want to be away on wednesdays but husband tends to stop working (works at home on computer) to help out and get them out and about. (we have a brittany and morbihan cycling champ in the 2 eldest - sorry, can't resist being proud mummy of boys especially as it's all girls stuff at moment!)
I feel better just reading your post. Keep in touch.

Nancy - thank you too. Not in Brittany area?! Sounds like you are doing well and yes, all that French stuff about bottles, it is quite unusual but I wanted to bf them so was quite persistent plus it is going well, just the fact that there's 2 to keep happy..... they are 4 weeks old.

Thank you Claires - for all your words.

Doingtheswanthing - I think I did that once, more by accident, one draped over the top - they seem to be able to grab the nipple from different angles so it's a good thought! I appreciate your bf advice - it is a very personal thing and I have no qualms on how they are fed as long as everyone's happy but certainly feels I've done the hard bit to get established so a shame if I didn't carry on now. As I keep saying to people it's having 2, not the way they are fed, and the fact they are not always in sync. But as you all say, they are zonked now, I am having late breakfast, and here by my 5 year old who is off school ill...... oh dear, just another thing to add into the equation.

I hope I haven't missed anyone out. Please keep in touch and I will try to post updates. This really has been of help to me, so sending you all a big thank you from a thankfully sunny day in France X

Nancy54 Thu 21-Feb-13 12:36:00

God french I don't know how you've got the time to respond to us all personally, wow!!

Not in Brittany unfortunately, I'm in Lorraine (nancy to be exact hence my name), its a shame, I'd love some rl twin mum friends!! Have joined the jumeaux et plus ass but its not v active in Lorraine

Frenchfamille Thu 21-Feb-13 20:42:42

Dommage, Nancy. But i will try to find some support here although not had much luck so far. Re. responding to all, I read the info on here which said it was important to acknowledge everyone and I was too scared to leave someone out! Normally so sure of myself and decisive, my sleep deprived head does not have the same clarity..... I have to say, the added 3 children bit hit a low today as i found myself at the doctors with my 5 year old. Has la grippe (like flu virus) and was hoping for once to get something for it having usually avoided doctors here but alas, just doliprane and rest and TLC. So tomorrow I have one of the boys off school also, possibly another as he says he's feeling rough! Ooh-la-la! All i keep thinking is 'what happens if I get ill?' Never before have i felt so much pressure to be well. So much so that I bought from the pharmacie a big bottle of that hospital type hand steriliser! Positive thoughts to France please........

Mandy21 Thu 21-Feb-13 22:05:10

Sorry for the late reply - hats off to you for dealing with newborn twins and 3 other children.

Couple of things that worked for me (and this is all bearing in mind that I didn't have any other children to sort), I found that demand feeding at this stage - absolutely every time they got whingey in the day I'd feed them, and if one wanted feeding, I fed the other one too (one after the other). Each twin had a designated boob so if they didn't take very much, it was still full for the next time we tried. For the night feeds, we still fed them together, but my H helped out - Twin 1 would wake, i'd feed him / her for 10 mins or so during which time my H would have woken Twin 2 and changed nappy. He'd give me Twin 2 to feed, and I'd pass him Twin 1 to settle. Once Twin 1 was settled, he'd go back to sleep. I'd finish feeding Twin 2 and then settle them. It sounds like a faff but it meant H was up for about 15 mins at each feed, I'd be up for about 20 mins. We could then (usually) get a couple of hours decent sleep before the next feed. In the early days, we had them in their moses baskets inside a big cotbed in our room - they seemed to like being swaddled in a confined space i.e. moses basket (they'd spent time in incubators) but liked being close to each other.

I also agree that if you can, keep going with the b/f - I bed exclusively for about 7 months, then gradually tried to introduce a bottle of EBM. We did eventually switch to bottles at about 11 months - my DTD was still waking at this stage for a night feed and the hassle of having to make a bottle up during the night was a real pain after b/f.

Good luck smile

Nancy54 Fri 22-Feb-13 07:18:08

Oh no!! Sending you lots of get well vibes across the country from Lorraine!!! Hope your little boy gets better soon and that you don't get it! X

Frenchfamille Fri 22-Feb-13 14:58:37

Too late Nancy - achey, hot/cold etc AGHHH! But being sensible, in pjs, curtains drawn, husband taking girls for walk so quick nap....... not easy though!

rednellie Fri 22-Feb-13 15:43:48

Hey Frenchfamille - you've had loads of really good replies. This is just another person cheering you on really.

I've EBF my twins and I have a 3 yr old DD and we've managed ok. Obviously, there have been a lot of broken nights, but I'm so so so glad I did. Apart from anything else, one of my two boys is allergic to all sorts of things and if I had fed him formula he would have been very very ill!

My number one tip, especially for the early days, is assign a boob a twin and swap every 24 hours. I do the swap at the 6pm feed. Just one less thing to remember when you're already sleep deprived!

Good luck and congratulations.

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