I have had three children, but I have never breastfed. Correction, my babies have never fed from my breast. Other than a few minutes in the hospital when they might have gotten a few drops, I do not know what it feels like to nurse a baby. I pump and they do still get breastmilk, but it is from a bottle.
Somehow, my intentions to breastfeed is always trumped by some other need: for my nipples not to hurt, for the ease of having someone else feed the baby, for the speed of pumping and bottlefeeding.
While pregnant with my first, I was blissfully unaware that there may even be difficulties breastfeeding. Women have been doing it for eternity, I had friends who nurse without a problem, and it didn’t occur to me that I would be any different. After Toddler was born, nurses told me she had a great latch. But due to the c-section, my body took its time to produce milk. I think it wasn’t until day 6 when I came home that anything even began coming out. Meanwhile, the baby developed jaundice and needed to eat. Doctors and nurses told me she needed to be fed formula, and she was under bili-lights for 2 or 3 days. As first time parents, we panicked that our 8 lb. baby was starving. So though I really wanted to breastfeed, we gave her formula as directed, fed from a cup.
When my milk did finally come in, it was not enough for her. She was voracious! Her latch must have not been as great as the nurses told me, because my nipples were not just sore, they were bleeding blisters. Suffice it to say, I dreaded feeding my daughter. That is when I decided to just pump and give my nipples a rest. Oh my! She took to the bottle like a champ. Feedings now took only 5 minutes whereas nursing would be seemingly nonstop. Pumping only took 10 minutes, so altogether even adding in the time for washing the bottles and pump pieces I still made out. So somehow I just never made it back to nursing. I figured with going back to work anyway, might as well just pump full time. Spurred on with the guilt I felt for not being able to nurse her, I exclusively pumped for 8 months. By the end, I was so jealous of those women who never had to wash a pump piece or even know what a pump was.
The second time around, I knew I didn’t want to be washing bottles and pump pieces anymore. A good friend of mine had successfully nursed her twins for over a year, so I thought I could attempt it at least. I planned an extended maternity leave to relieve the pressure of returning to work. I even attended a few La Leche meetings and heard more stories of breastfed twins. I was not so naive this time, however. I knew now that it wasn’t all butterflies and flowers. Even successful breastfeeding had its drawbacks. But still, wanting to be able to nurse my twins created the most anxiety for me throughout all of my pregnancy.
In the hospital this time, I demanded attention from the lactation consultant. She visited me every day, multiple times a day. But c-section again, I had no milk. Baby boy latched ok sometimes, but baby girl wasn’t getting the hang of it. It felt kind of silly to practice latching while I had no milk, like we were just teasing them. So after a couple days we spent a small fortune on two bottles with special nipples that supposedly mimics suckling from a breast and gave them formula, still holding out hope that nursing would happen in the future.
But in my sleep deprived and hormonal-emotional state, I just didn’t have it in me to persevere. No suffering with sore nipples, wondering whether my babies were eating enough, crying with them during feedings this time for me. I gave in, went to exclusive pumping, and even ditched that stupid specially designed nipple in favor of faster feedings.
Every two hours during the day, I spend 10 minutes with my pump. It’s a love-hate relationship. I’ve managed to get to almost 40 oz a day, but with two babies to feed sometimes we still need to give a bottle of formula, and that’s ok. While not the ideal peacefully-tandem-nursing-while-I-lovingly-gaze-at-them situation that I dreamed of, pumping definitely has had its advantages. Husband can feed one when I’m feeding the other, we know exactly how much each baby is eating, I actually get some time to myself while I’m pumping, and best of all: I’ve had the chance to leave the house, tend to Toddler, and do other things in two-hour increments without having a baby on me half the time and being on-call for feedings the other half.
It’s a demanding pump schedule for sure– hopefully I can get to 3 hr increments without losing too much output. And though I plan to continue for as long as I can handle to provide breastmilk for my babies, I will not be beating myself up about it. I suppose I will always feel Mommy-guilt for one parenting decision or another, but I’m finally at peace with this one.
How have you chosen to feed your multiples, and why?
lunchldyd is a mom to an almost 3 yr old daughter and her 3 month old twin brother and sister. She is also a high school teacher. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, 3 children under 3, and two neglected dogs.