Our precious boys...

Our precious boys...

Monday, October 18, 2010

BREASTFEEDING: BREAST IS BEST, BUT NOT ALWAYS BETTER

I had planned on breastfeeding all along, even after I knew we were expecting twins. I figured I’d be one of those super moms, walking around double breastfeeding twins while cooking. Okay, of course that’s not possible, but it sounds exciting. Ha! I figured as long as I stuck with it, breastfeeding two babies at the same time would work out. I wanted to because it was best for the babies and because let’s be honest – buying super duper expensive formula to feed two babies vs. free breast milk – hello!!! And of course breastfeeding for two would burn a lot of extra calories and who wouldn’t want that? I had planned on breastfeeding and also pumping so that Nick would be able to bond and feed the babies as well. I had purchased everything we needed: the pump, bottles, pads, nipples, bras, boppies, etc. We were ready!

Let me preface by saying that breastfeeding isn’t easy. I don’t care what anyone says. (And I guess if it really was easy for you - consider yourself blessed...very blessed!) I’ve learned that breastfeeding a full term baby is hard. And breastfeeding one baby is hard. So put two preemie twin babies together and that makes breastfeeding extremely hard.

For us, three days after the babies were born, their glucose levels dropped horribly low. This is due to the fact that basically they weren’t getting enough milk, therefore "starving." As a result, we had to turn to breastpumping and bottle feeding them my breastmilk after each breastfeeding session, so that we could track better how much milk the babies were consuming. I’m not sure if this played into the whole thing as far as “nipple confusion” goes, but maybe. The nipples for the bottles were so much easier for the babies to suck from, so of course it was harder for them to take from my breast nipple. Therefore, that didn’t help the whole breastfeeding situation. That very well could have made them "lazier" and made it a lot harder for the babies to breastfeed. And not to mention that the sucking reflex doesn't fully develop until 36 weeks of gestation. Therefore, premature babies can have a weak sucking ability. This would help explain why nursing was so difficult for them as they were born at 35 weeks 6 days gestation.

Breastfeeding the twin preemies was a task. We had to strip each baby down and coax them to wake up. I felt like we were torturing them. Once we finally got them to latch on, I had to keep prodding them to stay awake and/or massage my breast to help the milk to come down. I would have one hand supporting the head and the other hand half massaging my breast and half stroking the baby's chin and cheek.(Sometimes I'd have others there helping to touch the babies to keep them awake and trying. They would tickle their feet and rub their hands, etc.) Therefore I had to use both hands, so double breastfeeding was out of the question. Or at least until they got used to it and were pros! I'd also have to watch and listen to see/hear if the babies were swallowing while breastfeeding. That is way harder than it sounds! After that was finished, on to baby #2 and repeat everything all over again for the second time. Then after breastfeeding, both babies then were given 20cc of breast milk in bottles. Next, we changed their diapers. And then I pumped to express breast milk for the babies to drink in bottles.

Since the babies were eating every 2 hours at this time, about the time we got finished with that round of breastfeeding/bottle feeding/diaper changes/pumping; it was literally time to start all over again. It didn’t take long for me to feel overwhelmed and very trapped. I started to realize that breastfeeding may just be what I do all day, every day. And that didn’t appeal to me at all. I mine as well have just stopped wearing a shirt because my boobs were always being used!

The best word to describe how I felt about breastfeeding was TRAPPED. I began to realize that I could never be away from the babies. I would be the only one able to feed them and I’d have to be home every 2-3 hours by the electrical pump in order to breast pump. I was a slave to my own breasts! I imagined never being able to leave the house. I imagined never even having time to put a shirt on in order to feed two babies all day and all night. I imagined a life that was pretty scary to me.

There is so much out there about how breastfeeding is best. I understand that and do agree. But I feel as if everyone goes a little too far about it. I already feel guilty enough, and everywhere I look I’m reminded. It’s like the breastfeeding Gods are trying to give me a sign! Even on our formula container, right on the front it reads, “Experts agree breastfeeding is best.” Seriously?! Stop making me feed bad! Also, on the Medela bottles I pump into (and we use to bottle feed both breastmilk and formula) have various statements on the side of each bottle such as, “Breastfeeding: from mother with love.” “Breastfeeding: nature’s perfect food.” “Breastfeeding is baby’s best start.” And “Mother’s Milk is #1.” I don’t need to feel guilty every time I bottle feed the babies, do I?

I realized there are a lot of benefits to breastfeeding, such as; it’s always readily available, it’s free, it’s healthy for the baby, it’s a good bonding time for you and your baby, and it helps you burn a lot of calories. But at the same time, for me, and I think especially with twins, I felt very opposite of those positive benefits. I felt trapped. It wasn’t a bonding time for me because I was so stressed about getting the babies to latch on and make sure they were eating enough since they had lost so much weight in the hospital. It was imperative that the babies gained weight. It was all I could think about. Plus double breastfeeding wasn’t working, therefore it took up a lot of time and I was really stressing out. And it didn’t feel natural to me and not to mention that I didn’t enjoy doing it in front of others. I'd have to leave the room and that bothered me to be hidden away by myself. After the first two weeks, the first day Nick went back to work, I stopped because I was a complete wreck. Not to mention my breasts and nipples hurt, sometimes it was even hard to carry the babies around with them touching my chest. It hurt to have water spray on them in the shower, it hurt when the babies latched on, and it hurt when someone even hugged me. That just didn't seem right to me. I couldn't fit into most of my shirts because my breasts were so large. Plus they were leaking all over. And I was so sleep deprived, the only thing I could think of to wake me up was caffeine and you can't drink much of that when breastfeeding.

Pumping was starting to make me feel trapped as well, having to make sure I was at home and available every three hours to pump. I felt like a cow hooking up to that machine. Plus it usually worked out that when my breasts were about ready to explode and needed to be pumped, the babies needed to eat, so it was always a little off schedule and not working out just right. Two weeks after the babies were born, we started supplementing formula just in case I didn’t produce enough milk for two babies. (But that hasn’t been an issue as my milk has been great.) So, soon they’ll be solely on formula. As long as the babies are getting nutrients and are healthy and growing, that’s all we want! I was told a doctor said, "all babies really need are calories to grow!" So, as long as they are getting calories - that's good!

So, it turns out breastfeeding just isn’t for me. (At least this time...I'll think about trying it again if we have more children.) And there’s no shame in that. I tried and that’s all I could have done. I am now slowing starting to wean off pumping my breastmilk. I plan to take 2 weeks to do that. So that means the babies will have had breastmilk just for their first six weeks of life. And as they say, "every ounce counts!" so any little bit is good for the babies. And that’s okay with me.

I know that nursing can be a wonderful bonding time to both mom and baby. It’s something that is worth a lot of sacrifice and time. So, if it works for you, that is such a precious gift! (And trust me - I'm a little jealous!) But if that is not for you, there should never be any shame in bottle feeding formula. I know my sons aren’t going to grow up wondering why they weren’t solely breastfed! So I’m choosing to give a genuine smile as I’m bottle feeding them formula 8-10 times a day, rather than a forced, stressed, sad boob thrown in their face.

Ultimately, if it comes to a toss-up between giving your child the best nutrition (breastfeeding/pumping) and losing your mind trying to breastfeed(like it was for me!) or giving your child excellent nutrition (formula) and keeping your sanity – well, for me the choice was pretty straightforward. I can’t take care of two babies if I’m an emotional wreck, sobbing helpless in a corner. I know everyone says breastfeeding is best, but in the words of Catherine Connors, “Breast is best, but healthy, happy moms are better.” We all need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of our babies.

3 comments:

  1. You did it for 6 weeks. Thats great!!! I can imagine it is difficult with 2. WE want you to be a happy mama.

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  2. Hey I just realized we have the same backgrounds on our blogs. I changed mine over the weekend... attempted to get another one to work, but it didn't (a premade layout made by someone else)... so for now our blogs will be twins!

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  3. You gave them an excellent start and you shouldn't feel at all guilty about switching to formula. Breastfeeding is not an easy thing to do, especially with twins. It's not like "falling off a log," like some people think. You gave it your best shot and that's great. I'm all for sanity!

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