'Free the Nipple' Series 3

Open & real conversations about the joys & challenges of feeding a tiny milk monster

In our third series, we chat with Megan Raynor - mum to Cooper and Theo, aged 2.

Tell us about your breastfeeding journey. How were the early days?

Well, for me my breastfeeding journey began being milked by a nurse in the recovery room after an emergency C Section at 31 weeks. I was amazed that even though it was so early, my body knew exactly what to do. Unfortunately, the twins were so small they couldn’t yet breathe on their own, let alone breastfeed, so the majority of the first two months was spent pumping and then feeding them through a nose tube. 

Providing them milk felt like the one real thing I could do to help them so I took it as my full-time job - expressing every 2-3 hours all day and night, snacking constantly and drinking more water than I have in my life.

Once the boys hit about 6 weeks old, we started to try breastfeeding. Being so small they couldn’t latch for long so after each feed, we’d top them up with milk down their nose tubes. We’d weigh them before and after each breastfeed to see how much milk they’d taken on. 

It became about numbers which was a really conflicting feeling because I loved the feeling of their little bodies against mine as they fed, it was like I was almost getting to be a “normal mum”. But at the same time hated the anxiety about how much they’d take in, since this determined when we could go home.

When we did get to go home I was able to really embrace the “us time” that breastfeeding gave the three of us, despite still needing to express and top them up with milk after each feed. 

And since then? 

As the boys grew, so did their strength and I was able to make the top-ups smaller and smaller.

The only time I really fed them individually was during the night when I didn’t want to leave the bed to feed, or when I was trying to be subtle. It’s hard to be subtle when you feed your twins in tandem! I spent a lot of those days topless because how else do you get two boobs out at once?!

We fed right up until 10 months when I got mastitis and didn’t want to have to go through the mission of getting my milk supply back up. I was so proud because after the start we’d had I’d set a goal of 6 months, so to feed until infection got in the way felt great!

To be honest it was a bit of a relief to get part of myself back; being able to put away the pump was blimming satisfying!

What are your thoughts on the support available for breastfeeding mothers?

In my experience, there’s a lot of support - too much support in fact! Over our 9 weeks in hospital I had multiple lactation consultants, midwives and nurses all trying to give me breastfeeding advice. 

All their advice was different and it made trying to establish breastfeeding much more confusing. I felt pressured by all of their expectations, let alone my own. 

I think if mums had one person who got to know them and supported them on a more continuous/relational level during that establishing period, it would be much more helpful.

Fav thing about breastfeeding?

The way it slows down time and you just get that moment of you and your babies. I read somewhere it was a “forced moment of rest for all” and that really resonated with me. 

That’s the part I miss most now that they’re two and constantly zooming around, I miss breastfeeding for the feeling of connection, sitting together in the quiet snuggled against one another.

This is a weird thing to have as a fav...but I was always impressed by how the milk would shoot across the room too when the boys would pull away, or when I’d prod the side of my breast. It made me laugh, every time. It also made me even more impressed by the female body!

Most challenging thing about breastfeeding?

For me it was the never-ending nature. After every feed, for our entire breastfeeding journey, I would pump milk. With twins, you never know when they’ll outdo your supply and need more milk so I was constantly freezing back-up.

The pumping was a time drain and exhausting. And it actually wore most of the skin off around my nipples and breasts, from the constant nature of having a machine attached to me as well as the babies. My bathroom drawer was filled with nipple balms.

Anything you found surprising?

Two things stick out.

  1. That my body sustained life for two humans. I was what mum called “a good cow” and that surprised and made me proud every day. It felt like after the rough start I was finally helping them.
  1. The difference in attitudes towards twin mums and singleton mums when it comes to breastfeeding. I got applauded and told how amazing I am, for every day I breastfed. Then when I switched to formula at 10 months, I was told how incredible I was for lasting so long. Yet my singleton mum friends don’t get the same treatment and it seems like that’s partially why they get so much mum guilt when they stop. 

It seems unfair. All mamas are epic! Breastfeeding is so much more than a physical act, it’s emotionally and mentally draining. And when you’re having trouble with it, it takes up so much of your mental space, when all you want is to be enjoying your baby/babies.

Any leakage or nip slip moments you’d rather forget?

Considering my boobs were out almost all day, every day, during those breastfeeding months, I don’t know if you could count anything as a nip slip.

Weirdest place you’ve fed your babes?

Since I always feed them in tandem I mostly feed them at home. But I did pump on a 3-hour bus trip home from Auckland when I spent a weekend away from the boys for an interview! 

The bus was delayed so my pre-ride pump didn’t quite last the distance. The bus was packed too 😅

Your top 3 feeding tips for mums-to-be?

  1. One-handed snacks! Always have them within reach, along with a water bottle.
  2. A breastfeeding pillow - so key for twins and I did find it useful for my back when I occasionally fed one at a time
  3. Be gentle with yourself. Often we go into breastfeeding thinking it’s going to be as perfect as what we see on Instagram. Every journey is different, so expect less and go with what’s right for you.

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