This got really long, really fast, so I'm splitting this into different posts about different topics. Today - all about feeding babies and managing your boobies.
I'm using links to Amazon when I mention products so if you can't see something, your ad blocking software might be wiping those links out.
So here we go - tips, tricks, and observations!
Try every brand. For Tina, the Dr. Browns work really well because she pushes with her tongue a lot and other nipples are too mushy. The wide neck Dr. Browns allow her to really get her mouth around the nipple and she pushes less of the milk out the sides of her mouth as she does with the thin Dr. Browns or other bottles. Charlotte, on the other hand, gets bad gas and is hard to burp. She does better with a softer nipple that conforms to the shape of her mouth so she's good with Tommee Tippee's. Both do pretty well with the Playtex Nursers.
If you go with Playtex Nursers, buy extra nipples. That's really the only part that needs to be washed between every use so if you have extras, you can quickly make up a new bottle if you're behind on the dishes. I have the box of drop-ins taped to the side of my fridge as a make shift drop-in dispenser. Saves counter space and I can grab a fresh one with one hand.
If you hear a sucking noise when they're eating, try lightly pressing on the cheek to help seal the lips around the nipple. They'll take in less air and less air = less gas.
When they start to suck so hard that they collapse the nipple, it's time to move up to the next level of nipple.
Keep a bucket of soapy water in the sink. Dismantle and toss all of your bottle and pumping parts into that as soon as the kid(s) done eating. Breast milk is greasy and will stick to the sides of bottles, so sometimes the dishwasher doesn't get it all. If things are kept wet all the time, the milk won't get a chance to stick and washing will be a lot easier.
We warm our bottles by filling a large cup with hot water and dropping it in there. Like the kind that they make milkshakes in at restaurants.
Swirl, don't shake to mix the bottle. Shaking introduces air bubbles and air bubbles in the milk = air bubbles in the tummy.
You don't need to buy a ton of pumping bottles and parts if you keep the bottles and connector thingies intact in the fridge. Keep two or three sets and then just wash and sanitize one set every day or so. This will reduce your dish washing immensely.
Do get extra flanges. I have three sets that are the right size and I'm constantly washing them. I don't mind keeping the bottles in the fridge, but the flanges would be mighty uncomfy if they were cold all the time.
Invest in 2 hands free bras (because you gotta do laundry eventually). Your pumping time might be the only time you actually sit down for 20 minutes, so have your hands available to eat or play at the computer.
Make hands free bras from old sports bras. Put on the bra, mark where your nipple actually falls within the bra when worn comfortably. Sew a horizontal rectangle, about an inch long, like a button hole, with the mark in the middle. Cut the fabric in between the sewing lines to make the hole for the flanges. If you just cut a hole, it will fray and get bigger over time, but doing it this way keeps the hole relatively flat against the breast so you don't have a raggedy frame of your nipple showing through your tshirt.
If it feels like pump is pulling your nipple off, or chaffing horribly, try a larger flange. Your boob is probably getting squeezed too tight into a flange that's too small for you.
Pumping will get faster. I used to take 25-30 minutes to empty out. It now takes about 15, even when I've gone several hours between pumps. This is a recent development.
Keep a bucket or drawer full of food and water bottles where ever you set up your pumping station. It's only when you sit down that you realize you're hungry or that you left your water on the other side of the room but by then you'll be all hooked up and not really able to move. Tissues will also come in handy for a variety of uses. It also makes hand washing that one item you need right now really convenient.
Pointing a light of some sort at the flanges so you can see the streams of milk coming out - everybody does it, you're not weird.
Boobs in General
If you start getting lumpy spots, press those really hard when pumping. Those are the beginning of clogged ducts and the sooner you unclog them, the happier a camper you'll be because you don't want mastitis. As soon as they start, massage that area hard when pumping, nursing, or hand expressing in the shower. They can hurt like hell, but it will hurt worse if you do nothing. When pumping or in the shower, if you really press on those from a variety of different directions, and I mean press so hard that you want to cry, you can work them out pretty quickly. But sometimes you suddenly unclog something and it just squirts a ton out really fast, so I dunno if you can do that while nursing.
Keep a manual pump in the car. Otherwise you'll one day find yourself leaning over a toilet in a restaurant milking yourself like a cow to relieve pressure when you've been away from home too long. You can't always plug something in, so a cheap manual pump in the car is a good thing to have.
Your boobs will calm down in time. I'm an over producer and I was having all sorts of leaking and hardening issues in the beginning. I'm now at about 12 weeks and I've cut back on how many times I pump every day (every 4 hours or so) and I massage while I pump to prevent hard spots. I hardly ever leak anymore and can go a few extra hours if need be. If my pumping schedule is at odds with my schedule for the day, I'll hand express in the shower before going out to buy myself an extra hour or two. But again, I produce so much that I can afford to see some milk go down the drain.
If you want to take a break from bras, get a pair of Lilypadz. The adhesive wears out pretty quickly so I only wear them once in a while because they are expensive. But I'd prefer not to leak all over K during sexy time, so these allow me to feel naked without having to worry about being icky.
Keep an extra bra and shirt in your car. This is just good advice in general. If you don't leak and soak yourself from within, a baby will likely puke down your cleavage and soak you from outside.
Feeding Babies and Burping in General
For twins, you really need a way to feed both at the same time. I have no advice for those who are nursing, but for the billionth time, I'm showing off the double feeding station I created out of an old bassinet that we were given. Anything to hold both kids safely that you can reach while sitting on the couch will make your life so much easier.
I am often paralyzed by indecision - both are done eating and both need to be burped, but I can only properly burp one at a time. I've started laying one baby tummy down on a boppy with a burp cloth while burping the second one. Being on the tummy will sometimes cause the baby to self burp and if not, it will still help work the bubbles up so when you can burp her, it's much faster.
You can also lay one tummy down across your knees while burping the other on your shoulder. Lightly bounce the knee that's under the tush to encourage some bubbles to work themselves out and rub or pat the back from time to time.
Rotate the baby every which way. Over the shoulder, laying flat on the back, laying on the tummy, folding them in half by pushing the knees into the chest, back over the shoulder, etc. Remember that the bubbles are in a tube that twists and turns throughout the baby so sometimes you need to move the baby every which way to get the bubbles to float up and around various loop de loops.
Sometimes it helps to lightly massage the tummy.
Cover your couch with towels or something. Spit ups will often go over your shoulder and into the nooks and crannies of the couch. Laundry is a lot easier than steam cleaning and if you don't clean it pretty quickly, you'll be living with the smell of sour milk for the rest of your life.
A tip from K - buy your man an extra pack of tshirts. Somehow the girls manage to move every burp cloth he tries and get his shirt instead. He's kind of given up on burp cloths and just expects to change his shirt after a feeding.
Keep dozens of burp cloths piled up unfolded on the back of your couch for easy reach. Don't even bother finding another place to store them, this is where they'll be used and reached for, and this is where they'll end up anyway.
My boobs are usually a bit sore and I don't really like holding a baby against them. I do kind of a football hold with the baby in my armpit and bring the head up to my shoulder from there so I can still do the basic over the shoulder hold, but without so much pressure against my chest. This also keeps the babies body more vertical, it's so easy for the baby to go horizontal when laying on your chest the normal way and vertical is better for burping.
Another tool to keep in the fridge -Dr. Brown's Formula Mixing Pitcher. Even if you're going with straight breast milk, it will separate in the fridge and you'll need to mix it before serving. We mix in Neosure with the breast milk because our girls were preemies and need the extra calories, so used a sharpie to mark lines on the side of the pitcher at 18oz, 27oz and 36oz. We mix in one tablespoon of Neosure for every 9oz, and these lines on the pitcher make it easier to know how much to add when making up batches in bulk.
By the way, preemie parents - if you were told to mix the breastmilk to the 24 calorie ratio, or one teaspoon for every 90ml, that equals 1 tablespoon for every 9oz. 30ml = approximately 1oz and 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon. My babies have generally eaten about 18oz a day for a long time, so you can mix up an 18oz batch with 2 tablespoons of Neosure. I'm hoping leaving that little bit of math here will save you some mental energy.