Foodie Friday: Breastfeeding takes forever?

I’ve been thinking about breastfeeding this week. First, LauraC reposted her thoughts about her decision to stop breastfeeding. And then, a mom posted a question in the comments about how to get regular naps when her babies fall asleep when nursing and take an hour to eat. This got me thinking some more about the whole breastfeeding experience—what helped, what didn’t, what worked and what was awful. I’ve written about this before, here and here,  as have others here and here, but I think it’s such an important topic for new moms it’s worth revisiting. I exclusively breastfed my twins for the first year, and I can look back and see the choices we made which made it work, and potential roadblocks that would have derailed breastfeeding for good. I’m glad we did it, but it certainly was challenging at times.

One comment I hear from new moms of twins a lot (and probably from new moms of singletons too, if all the babies in my life didn’t come in pairs) is that their babies take forever to eat. As in an hour. Or more. And I’m not talking about babies who are a week or two old. I’m talking about babies who are two, three or four months old and still latching on and chowing down for a significant amount of time. With a newborn, you already feel like you spend all of your time nursing—how in the world are you ever going to do anything else? And I’m not talking big projects, like dissertations (shudder–mine is still not complete) or other ambitious projects—I’m talking shower and empty the dishwasher and maybe eat lunch.  By 2 months or so, my kids were eating for maybe 15 minutes a meal. By 4-5 months, it was down to 5 minutes.

So, when people ask me how to get their babies to eat faster, I tend to just pass on the advice I got from the fantastic lactation consultant who ran the breastfeeding group I attended. Obviously, this isn’t a problem for everyone. If you’re content with your kids eating for 45 minutes to an hour, then read no more. It’s not an issue! However, if it’s driving you crazy or making you contemplate stopping breastfeeding, then read on. And, readers, if you have good suggestions that worked for you, please put them in the comments section!

1. The breast is not a place to hang out and get comfy. As soon as you stop hearing swallowing or the baby starts falling asleep, you can pull them off. Babies will tell you (loudly) if they are still hungry.

2. Be comfortable having baby go back for round two. If you cut baby off after 15 minutes and now she won’t go to sleep, it may be that she’s still hungry. Feed again. No problem.

3. You may find your babies need to eat every 2 hours for a long time. Mine certainly did, at least during the day. However, this is much less of an issue if the feedings are pretty quick.

4. Offer a pacifier after feeding if they are still fussy, but not eating much. It may be that they are looking for the comfort of sucking, not the food. However, the benefit of the paci is that Daddy or Grandma can do that, it doesn’t have to be you. Thus, time for you to eat lunch!

These are just my thoughts on this and what worked for me. Obviously, all babies are different and I am certainly not an expert in breastfeeding. However, I found this lactation consultant so instrumental in giving me the tools and information to be able to keep breastfeeding my kids. I’d recommend a lactation consultant to anyone. Other ideas? Please chime in.

7 thoughts on “Foodie Friday: Breastfeeding takes forever?

  1. Amen to the need for a lactation consultant! Were it not for the one that made a visit in home for us and for the LC/nurse prac at our kids’ pediatrician, we’d NEVER have been able to breastfeed our two that first year!

    What is also wonderful about LC’s is that they assess each unique situation and don’t have a “one size fits all” answer.

    For ours, we had to keep ‘em awake during nursing. Had to. Tickled feet, naked babies, whatever it took. No lengthy snoozing allowed. (Sorry if it sounds mean, but they HAD to eat, they were teeny!)

    AND, ours advised (and DO NOT DO THIS WITHOUT YOUR OWN DOC’S AND LC’s ADVICE) to limit nursings to no more than 20 minutes per session — so long as you are feeding them tandem (massive let down) every 2.5 – 3 hours round the clock. Before that visit, I was doing 45+ minutes per feeding and sticking to that 24/7 schedule. My supply declined from exhaustion and the babies weren’t gaining as much as they should have for so much nursing because they were working off the calories by sucking so long, so hard!

    Once we “cut” the feedings to 20 minutes, put in pacis afterward if still needing to suck, the babies gained more, my supply surged, and we ALL fared far better.

    Cannot recommend an LC (and the support of fellow twin moms) enough!

  2. #3 is key – and something I couldn’t do. I just couldn’t do the every 2 hrs feeding. It was hard enough doing 3 and now that we do every 4 hrs (starting at about 2 months old) I couldn’t go back. It was TORTURE trying to get them to stay awake to BF – I think it took almost 12 weeks before they’d stay awake to eat. Maybe if I have a singleton next time. :)

    Because of the feedings (every 3-4 hrs) we supplemented after each BF. Now my little guy does eat pretty well in 15 mins but still not perfect. I’m in awe of your 5 min eaters.

    Another key I recommend is find an LC who COMES TO YOU. The ones I visited didn’t and it was hard because they don’t know my home set up – key when you spend most of your day on a couch. As it is I still think the chair I have in my nursery is crap. Since we still do middle-of-the-night feedings I’m tempted to go buy a real nursing rocker.

    I’m impressed how many twin moms attempt (and especially those that succeed) BFing.

  3. Yes, to all of the above. The only rule I’d add is “if one eats, both eat.”

    We always (unless I just have a bunch of free time and am so inclined – like on the odd afternoon at Grandma’s house) tandem feed. Mine now take about 15-20 minutes to eat (at 7 weeks old adjusted age, 3.5 months actual) but even that would be prohibitive if I had to do one, then the other.

    And yes, a good LC is worth her weight in gold.

  4. I definitely found the use of the paci to be critical in the whole BF of twins process. I exclusively breastfed my ID boys for just over 2 years, and certainly in the first six months, I plugged that paci in after feeding each baby ( tried hard to tandem nurse, but just didn’t work out very well–so hard to get everyone comfortable, etc.) and it worked wonders. Certainly if either baby was still hungry, that became apparent very quickly, but far more often than not, they just wanted to suck for soothing purposes. I highly recommend the use of the paci.
    Additionally, aside from the LCs who stopped by while I was in the hospital following the boys’ birth, I didn’t have any further consultation–likely to my detriment as it was really a challenge both physically and emotionally–certainly for those anticipating breastfeeding twins I would recommend it!

  5. The first 3 months I was essentially semi-topless. If you come to my house, don’t be offended if you catch a glimpse of my stuff. If one nurses, they both do and no playing around. You wince, you almost bite, you fall asleep…you’re done. I was a huge fan on kellymom.com because of all the infections, issues, pain. It was a great source, not so much twin focused but at the rate I visited I would have drove a LC nuts. From 3 mo on I was nursing one or the other while back to life as usual. Oh, and get an adapter to pump while driving…I stocked the freezer due to driving.

  6. So I was the mom that made the comment last week about nursing and napping and I have spent the last week experimenting. After talking to some La Leche Leaders, which have been a huge help in getting me through the first few months of breast feeding my twins, I’ve come to the conclusion that some babies just have to grow into being faster eaters. A lot of mom’s at the latest meeting I went to said that had been the case for their singletons, who eventually became five minute eaters.

    I am working harder to make sure they are 100 percent awake through the nursing sessions, which combined with good naps and a little growing, I think will make them faster. I have learned though that for my twosome, taking them off when the slow down makes them screaming mad and frantic to re-latch effectively making the nursing session longer and more chaotic. It’s a little bit of a trade off too. My girls have always gone a full three hours for nursing sessions start to start, so I have appreciated that. They may take a while, but after they are done, I know I have a full two hours before we start again and in the mornings even longer.

    I would recommend going to an LLL meeting anytime you have questions or are feeling down. I always feel like a rockstar when I leave there because the women are so encouraging and thrilled to see breastfed twins.

  7. hi,

    i’m the mom of twin 8 week old girls. BF is getting easier, in fact they do it quickly (have never fed longer than 15-20 mins), the downside always was that they get hungry again in a short period of time. This was extremely difficult int he first few weeks.

    Feeds would just never end, by the time one was done, the girls burped and settled to sleep, another would start, often after an hour and a half. I didn’t have an LC consultant, didn’t realize they existed, much less had the time to look for one. I was really getting down, as I had time for nothing at all, i seemed to be forever sitting on the sofa. My milk supply was patchy due to exhaustion and no time to even feed/hydrate myself properly. My aunt suggested when things got that way (i.e. several feeds in a row that are only 1.5 hours apart) I stopped BF and fed them formula.

    I was concerned this would create issues with my milk supply, but it actually worked out. The formula filled them up, and they took more (remember they would not feed longer than 15 mins)/ This menat they would sleep for 2 to 3 hours, and that would give me time to express and shower!!

    Now the BF pattern is a bit more established, and we are feeding every 2.5 to 3 hours. The problem is getting them to settle between feeds. Have not been successful at this at all. I seem to forever have one or both of the girls in my arms. Often not sleeping at all between feeds, or at least not longer than 10-15 mins. Nights are better, they do sleep 5 to 6 hours in a row, but days are exhausting. Anyone has advice on that?

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