Friday, July 23, 2010

Nursing In Public with Twins: My Story, My Thoughts

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about nursing in special circumstances. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!

Kristin tandem nursing her
newborn twins.

When my twins were two weeks old, I took them on an outing. By myself. We first had an appointment with my wonderful lactation doctor, and when that was over, I took them shopping at REI, which was close by. I wanted to get a Father's Day present for my husband, the new Daddy of three. I also hadn't been much of anywhere other than my house, the grocery store, and the hospital in more than a month.

At the time, I was feeling brave. Thinking back, I realize I was a little bit crazy, too. In in a good way, perhaps. You kind of just need to jump in and do this kind of thing at some point.

We had a good appointment, and then I packed us up and headed to the store. I transferred the girls in their carseats to the double Snap and Go (aka, the extra long baby bus). I also brought a ring sling. We wandered around, I got to browse -- everything was going well! As expected, one baby got fussy pretty quickly so I put her in the sling. I pushed my backpack and the other baby in the stroller. Soon she was calm and happy, but the other baby would fuss, and I'd switch, and buy myself a bit more shopping time. Worked pretty well!  I knew my time was limited, though.

Soon, I knew they needed to nurse. At that age, they were often nursing around the clock. Hourly, often.  It's hard with two newborns and a milk supply issue! My girls wouldn't take pacifiers, either, and had a strong need to suck. I sat down on some benches in the play area, near the restaurant. I was really lucky -- this is pretty much the ideal place to nurse in public. In breastfeeding-friendly Seattle, in a crunchy outdoor store, in an uncrowded area surrounded by parents with young children. Geesh, what could be better, really?

I started nursing one baby in the sling, and I doubt many folks even knew or noticed what was happening.  The other baby was peacefully sleeping in the stroller. A few minutes in, though, she -- as usual -- sensed what she was missing and wanted in on the action. What to do? At this age, tandem nursing was still a challenge, with floppy, hard to latch babies. They were so little!  And I was used to lots of specially placed pillows, and a nice chair with a footrest, not a hard bench in playland!

But, necessity is the mother of invention, so they say, and if I wanted to finish my shopping trip in peace, I needed to nurse both babies. Right now, before the screaming happened. So, I scooped her up (thanks to the sling I had a free hand) and positioned her in the crook of my arm, under the extra fabric tail of the sling.  Easy, peasy. Now, I had two content, nursing babies.

Of course, that's when a big conference room opened up right near us, with tons of people (mostly men) pouring out for lunch. Many sat on the extra benches, right next to me. I am not sure if any of them noticed (or cared) what I was doing, but nobody said anything, if they did. Several other moms did cheer me on, quietly, with friendly, positive comments, which I appreciated.

Eventually, I was able to finish my shopping and head home. It was good. I felt very empowered and competent in my baby-wrangling that day. And it was so nice to be OUT in the world, seeing something other than my own four walls & family.

In those early months, getting out of the house -- doing something "normal" like going to a store, a restaurant, or just being out in the city -- was a huge thing. The isolation you start to feel when you are locked in your own house gets really tedious fast.  If a mother goes anywhere with a newborn, it's likely she is going to have to feed it. If she is nursing, she will need to nurse!

I am a big breastfeeding advocate, and am not shy to nurse one baby in public. I will admit, though, that tandem nursing in public places and in front of strangers was not something I ever really felt that comfortable doing. As the babies got bigger, it was just too hard. It's harder to be discreet. It feels like a freak show. I wish I could be that person who does what all women have a right to do -- to proudly feed their babies wherever they need to be fed. I wanted to be that woman. But, most often, I hid in my car. Or, I gave one or both of them a bottle (I needed to supplement as it was, so that was not a difficult choice for me). Or, even more likely, we stayed home -- it was just so much easier for me to stay home.

If I was feeling this way and doing these things -- someone who is confident in my decisions and rights, supported, and in a super breastfeeding friendly city as well -- what about all those women who are not?  Who have faced real criticism, who have been asked to cover up, or to leave, who have been shunned or even encouraged not to breastfeed in the first place?

I think of those women and wonder what I can do now to empower them, to make them feel like strong and capable mothers the way I felt that day in the store -- out and active in their communities, accepted and supported, mothering their babies the best way they know how. For now, I will share my thoughts and stories, encourage mamas when I can, and hope we all continue to create a new normal, for the sake of all those who follow in our footsteps.

We are proud to host today's guest post on tandem nursing in public by Kristin. You can normally find Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings, where she writes and photographs her attempts to embrace motherhood, nurture creativity, and maintain sanity while raising twin toddlers and a preschooler.

Here are more posts by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! 


i loved your story!

i can't imagine when they get to the crawling age how hard it would be to contain twins and nurse at the same time.

Way to go!! I love your story so much. It goes a long way in the fight to bring breastfeeding into the mainstream culture. What's normal is not always common. Thanks so much for being normal!

As breastfeeding mom of 18 week old twins i totally hear ya! Tandem nursing at home is growing difficult enough, let alone out in public when you are looked at like a freak show. I even bought a nursing cover to put over both of their heads while they tandem nurse and one always freaks out because the fabric is touching their face or one stares at the pretty pattern and keeps pulling off the breast.All the while I am paranoid my breasts are going to show.Nursing in the van is so much easier sometimes and you should not feel bad that you retreated to the car. Nursing is about feeding our kids but also about what makes us feel comfortable. We each have our own modesty level. I am a prude! I even cover up at my In-Laws while nursing. At home, boobs hang out for everyone to see :)
Nursing twins is very different than simply nursing a singleton. Just getting both latched on can be a challenge.
Thankfully mine do take pacifiers and can be contented until I am done with the other.So nursing in public has gotten so much simpler for me. And now they are such efficient nursers, done in 10-15 minutes. Nursing twins has been a sweet challenge. I never had a single issue with my first child. He was a healthy chunky boy who nursed for 19 1/2 months. With the twins I developed mastitis twice and had to nurse every two hours around the clock in the beginning to get their weight up. And thanks to my inverted nipples, nipple shields were a must to get babies to latch for the first 14 weeks. Exhausting! But now when they pull off to smile and you and have your milk running down their face, I smile back satisfied that they grow because of me. And I remind myself that while I never would have willingly chosen to have two babies at once, I couldn't imagine my life without my little girl or boy. Or their older brother ;)
I love at the end how you have decided to be a positive encouraging woman to help others. The more nursing is discussed and seen the more normal( I can't believe it isn't)it will be.
Good for you!

Thanks so much for the kind words! Yes, tandem nursing older babies & toddlers can be very acrobatic!

Anon, so nice to hear your story! I do sometimes nurse them one by one, but its tricky because mine are not patient turn-takers for this! I like your comment that "nursing twins has been a sweet challenge" -- yes, exactly! I DID have huge breastfeeding struggles with my first child, but it actually was excellent training for what I faced with nursing twins -- I knew SO much more about milk supply, latch, various ways to position, among other things, that it helped a lot as we hit various roadbumps and challenges along the way.

Twins run in my family, so every pregnancy brings the raised eyebrow and wondering "Will it happen this time?" I think that if it does happen, I'll be more likely to persevere and nurse them after reading this. :) Go mama!

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