My Journey of Exclusively Pumping For Twins

On March 16, 2017, I took a huge sigh of relief and gained a little bit of my freedom back. After 405 days of pumping, I was finally done. For just over a year of my twins’ lives, I spent at least 3.5 hours per day being milked by a machine. That’s 1,417 hours and 30 minutes. To put things into perspective, those hours equal just over 59 days, or about 2 months. While I am eternally grateful for the ability to produce ample milk for my babies, I’m not sure that I would do it all again. We often hear the amazing feeding stories, but we rarely discuss the downfalls. I’m not sharing this because I believe any particular method of feeding is best (I believe everyone is doing their own version of their “best”), instead I just want to put my personal journey out there for anyone who can relate.

Why I Began Pumping

I began pumping shortly after delivering the boys. They were NICU babies, so I would bring them as much milk as possible, and pump while I was with them. They practiced breastfeeding, but their “sucking” mechanism was not initially strong. I knew that if I could still give them breastmilk, then they would get stronger, faster. By the time they were able to come home, they did a combination of breast and bottle feedings. If you’ve been following us for awhile, then you know we had to relocate from Germany to the states for medical reasons. Because the move was going to be involved, we decided that I would exclusively pump, so my husband could help with feeding during our transition.

I’m going to skip over my experiences pumping during commercial flights, as they were enough to warrant their own post in the future. If anyone is wondering, I pumped in the car during our search for a house. After finding a house, we needed to renovate, and I pumped between painting and caring for the twins. It was not a blast. These things were necessary though, and I don’t take them into account when I consider why I would be against pumping again.

What Was So Bad About It?

To produce enough milk and deflate my balloon breasts to a level of bearable comfort, I had to pump between 6-8 times per day, for at least 30 minutes per session. So, when you take into account pumping, cleaning parts, and labeling and storing milk, it was about an hour long process. Luckily, the boys were great nappers up until about 6 months of age. This meant that I had the opportunity to pump, but by the time I was finished, they were up and ready to be changed and fed again. Their routine took anywhere from 45-90 minutes. So, I often had to get right back to pumping. It became a vicious, exhausting cycle, which left me a little depressed.

If I didn’t pump on time, either one or both of my breasts would get engorged and painful. For those of you who don’t know, this happens a little faster to women who exclusively pump, than those who exclusively breastfeed. Engorgement can contribute to clogged milk ducts, which may then result in mastitis. Just my luck, I ended up with mastitis 3 times. That means I had to fight to a fever and struggle to regain my supply on each separate occasion. Mastitis was worse than any illness I’ve ever had, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

I thought that as they got older, it would get easier. Their feedings would take less time, and I would actually have a minute in between to feed myself or clean our house. While those things were true, I was wrong about it getting easier. When babies grow, they nap less and become more aware, demanding even more of our time, but in a good way. They become more playful and are able to be taught fun things. It’s truly a joy to be a part of.  Unfortunately for me though, I still needed the time to produce milk for them.

To try and get my pumping in, I would time my sessions for right after the boys ate. After eating, they usually played, so my hope was that they could be content during that time. While this occasionally worked, I generally was not so lucky. Most days, I found myself pumping to the sound of babies crying. It seemed like they would upset each other, get a toy stuck, or some other issue would arise, and I wouldn’t be able to help them. Sometimes, I think they just wanted me to be with them, and instead, I was glued to my pump. It brought me to tears, because I was at odds with what to do and felt like I was failing them either way.

Couldn’t I Have Stopped Pumping?

I considered ending my pumping journey multiple times, but didn’t. Our pediatrician recommended breastmilk for at least the first year, so I felt dead set on reaching that goal. Quitting hadn’t really crossed my mind until about 7 months, and at that point I was over halfway there. Our premature babies were then above average on growth, and I wanted to keep them going strong. At the time, I thought that providing them the best nutrients that I could was worth everything, so that’s what I did.

How Do I Feel Now?

The numbers in the first paragraph are shocking to me. I spent 59 days pumping. That’s 59 days of watching and listening to my babies cry for my attention, just so I could make milk. I acted as if there was no alternative, when there was. We had supplemented a little with formula, so it’s not like we were against it. After almost 2 weeks of not pumping, I’ve been able to spend more time with my boys. I’m enjoying their laughs, instead of enduring their cries, I’m reading more books to them, instead of watching them wave their favorites toward me, and it’s all so fulfilling. It makes me sad to know that at a minimum, I missed two months of their little lives.

I also want to throw in that I’m getting more sleep now. I used to stay up extra late and wake extra early, just to avoid having to get up twice in the middle of the night to pump. My husband stayed up to keep me company and help me wash pump parts, but we both ended up more exhausted than we needed to be. We ran on empty for way longer than necessary.

Am I happy that I provided them with breastmilk for their first year of life? Of course. I don’t meant to sound anything less than grateful. They are happy, healthy, and won’t remember this past year. My point however, is before pumping for twins, no one tells you the time investment. When I consider the past year, what I realize is that a year of my milk cost me two months with my babies. If I had known that ahead of time, would I have still done it? I probably would have thought twice. If I were only pumping for one baby, that may be a different story. The three of us though, we lost precious time together that we will never get back.

As always, feel free to comment if you’d like. I’d like to reiterate though, that this post isn’t about breast is best, or fed is best, or anything like that. I’m also not into mommy shaming, so even if you aren’t nice to me, please be nice to each other!

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33 thoughts on “My Journey of Exclusively Pumping For Twins

  1. Thank you for sharing your story about pumping. It is so incredibly impressive that you were able to pump for your twins for a whole year, but it isn’t for everyone. The breastfeeding suggestions need to weigh mothers’ mental health and what is best for the whole life and young experience of the kids.

    • Thanks, Chelsea! I totally agree. I felt like my quality of life for the past year was so low, yet I was expected to be a ray of sunshine for my kids…who I couldn’t even spend much time with!!!

  2. You are amazing! I work part-time so I pump a few times a week but I don’t produce a full bottle. We supplement a little. Mainly because I don’t want to pump when I’m home. Pumping is SO hard. You deserve a cocktail and a vacation for pumping FULL time for TWINS!

    • Haha, thanks so much Catherine! Nothing wrong with supplementing, especially if it means enjoying more time with your little one!

    • Thanks so much for reading, Rachel! I know it’s a sensitive subject for some people, but hopefully it helps someone!

  3. You are an amazing mother, we all make decisions based on what we believe to be best for our kids. I nursed exclusively until I returned to work at 3 months, then pumped as well for the next full year. I stressed myself out trying to find places to pump, store milk, waking up at night to pump and keep up supply… it is such a draining process. I was lucky to have support but it was still hard. I bow down to you doing it with twins! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks so much, Ashley! Those words mean a lot! You’re amazing for pumping at work! I’ve talked to people who have stressed a bit about that, so I’m glad you had support!

  4. Go you! That is amazing. I breastfed and pumped for just one and it is harder than you realize, but also amazing that our bodies can produce like that. It’s not easy, but you should be so proud. So many women are unable to produce at all. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    • It’s definitely amazing that we can do that! Thank you for reading and you should be proud too! Whether it’s for one, or more, it’s still great to be able to do it!

  5. You are a warrior! Anyone who thinks that pumping moms are taking the “easy way out” could not be more wrong! I didn’t last nearly as long as you and I only have one babe. You rule the world as far as I’m concerned!!

    • Haha, thank you so much for the kind words! It was definitely more challenging than I thought it would be, I wish I had a warning beforehand!

    • Thank you so much for reading! Pumping can get pretty tough! Good luck to you on your journey!

  6. This story really resonated with me. I also exclusively pumped for my son for 10 months. In the beginning I thought pumping would be easier than breastfeeding, but I quickly realized how exhausting and hard it would be. Pumping was soo time consuming and I too felt terrible when I couldn’t go to my son because I was hooked up at the time. I had to supplement all along the way since my supply was never enough so after 10 months I finally quit all together. I felt horribly guilty because I was stopping because I was over it but after I did I was so much happier and felt like myself again. My little boy just turned one and is happy and healthy which is all we can ask for!

    • It’s such a hard decision to make! I’m happy that your little guy is happy and healthy, that’s really all that matters! I’m totally with you, I’m far happier now than I have been in the past year and definitely feeling more like myself! Thank you so much for reading!

  7. Wow, seriously so impressive that you pumped, not for one but two, and preemies at that, for an entire year!! Seriously, huge accomplishment. As a breastfeeding mama, I can definitely relate with you – the pump kind of sucks! You definitely have reason to be proud, thanks for sharing your story <3

  8. Awesome job for pumping for a year!!! I too have twins (11 weeks yesterday) and pretty much pump exclusively. I started out trying to breastfeed but neither my son nor daughter got the hang of it well enough to tandum nurse before my husband went back to work and I didn’t have time to figure it out on my own. So maybe once every 2-3 weeks I’ll be in a situation where I need to nurse one baby. My pumping takes 20 min and my twins also take 45-90 min feeding and changing them so I too am left with a short amount of time before it starts all over again. I try to freeze as much excess milk as possible so I can quit pumping before they’re a year. Besides the fact that pumping AND feeding two babies is so incredibly time consuming, I can relate to not being able to answer my babies’ cries because I’m attached to their next meal, and I too miss spending a lot of time with them. Solely breastfeeding would be so much easier because you can cut the feeding time in half without needing to pump and wash bottles and pump pieces. Formula feeding isn’t really an option because of the cost x2 and because we had to supplement for almost 2 days after the babies came home and the formula didn’t seem to do well in their tummies. I don’t want to spend extra energy finding a formula that works for them, so I will try to keep up with pumping until at least 6 months, but possibly longer, if I can get enough milk in the freezer.
    Thank you for sharing your experience~it’s so nice to know that it was as time consuming for someone else and that I’m not alone! 🙂

    • Congrats on your twins, Kyla! Thank you so much for reading! Breastfeeding wouldn’t have worked out for us anyway, because they were getting frustrated that my milk didn’t come out fast enough. I had a pretty nice freezer stash, but as they got bigger and ate more, my stash deteriorated faster than I wanted it to. Before I knew it, I was fighting to keep up, so I HAD to pump, or else there was no next meal! I felt selfish wanting to stop, because I thought that if I COULD produce the milk, then I should! It was tough, like I said, I’m not even sure if I should’ve held on that long! I feel you on the cost too, that was another reason I didn’t stop! My guys started eating upwards of 10 oz each per meal, we would’ve ran through it SO fast! Thanks again for reading and feel free to email me or send me a message on IG, FB, or however you want! I love finding more twin moms!

  9. I exclusively pumped for 6 months and would think twice before doing it again! For the reasons you stated. Thanks for being so open and honest.

  10. You are awesome. I pumped for first one for 5 months, second one was formula fed after two weeks. Had mastitis with both. I admire your perseverance and commitment to do the best for your kids. Yes, 59 days is a big number, but they are healthier because of you. Unfortunately, mother’s guilt will not stop with feeding, it is a state of mind of any mother:) You have all life ahead of you to enjoy your kids, do not worry!

    • Thanks for reading and for the kind words! Haha, I know, mother’s guilt happens all the time, trust me. I’m always wondering if one is getting more attention than the other😂

  11. Kudos to you! I was exclusively breastfeeding my daughter until she’s 3yo (she was a preemie too) n never felt more liberated after it ends. Now im pregnant with twins and wondering should i do the same hence ends up on your page.Thanks a lot for the really useful info.

    • Oh my goodness, congrats! Thank you for reading. It’s rough with twins, I mean, you’ll survive it, but personally, for me, I’d definitely think twice. You can always give it a shot and wean a little early if you need to. I’d love to see how your journey goes!

  12. Thank you for sharing your story. My twins are 6 months (4 months corrected age). I have basically been exclusively pumping. They are out eating my daily production and luckily I still have frozen milk from when they were in the nicu. I’m trying to pump to get my supply up but I’m the next month they will each need one formula bottle per day. I really want to continue pumping for another 6 months but it is hard. I have felt terrible some days if I’m not eating enough and felt diabetic (I had gestational however I’m not overweight at all). I’m really struggling and felt so bad I would have to supplement with formula. I learned to prop them in a pillow and bottle feed at the same time while hooked to the pump and so It’s a little more efficient but the cleaning is a lot of work and if one is fussy and needs one on one feeding it takes more time. People just don’t understand what I’m going through right now and how hard it is for me to get out of the house. It gets depressing sometimes especially now that the babies are more awake and wanting to interact and I’m hooked to a pump.

    • Casey! I COMPLETELY feel you. It seriously does get depressing and I felt like people didn’t really get it either. It’s so hard to see them upset while you’re hooked up to a pump. On one hand, you want to play with them, but on the other, you want to be able to get the breastmilk for them. I was in the same situation, and mine went through my NICU stash as well. I was having to pump so frequently, it was horrible. If you feel that you aren’t getting enough food in you, you can always try protein shakes or bars, just something calorie dense to help you out. I also used to prop them up in their Boppy pillows, sit between them, and pump at the same time, if I was pumping during a feeding time. The struggle was real. If there is anything I can help you with, please let me know! You can always send me an e-mail, FB message, or an Instagram DM as well!

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