I am fortunate that I have been able to exclusively breastfeed my twin boys for the first six months of their lives. Well, they had a little formula in the first week of life when I was re-hospitalized for a uterine lining infection after an emergency c-section. On the plus side, I never had to rent that hospital-grade pump, because I was in the hospital! Seriously, that was what I kept repeating to myself as I desperately sought a plus side to being separated from my 4-day-old infants. I was so committed to getting my boys that breastmilk.
And I did. I managed to successfully navigate soreness, scheduling, supply-building, growth spurts, cluster feeding, and nursing tandem. Breastfeeding has been a huge source of both pain and pride.
However, at the boys’ recent 6-month check up we learned that they are not gaining weight adequately, despite growing in length and hitting developmental milestones (ahead of schedule, cough cough brag brag). I sort of suspected something was up because over the past couple of weeks, they have increased to 10 feedings per day and are starting to fuss around feedings. I hoped it was the 6-month growth spurt, or maybe due to a recent round of colds we’ve been sharing, but the scale doesn’t lie. They weren’t getting enough.
This was devastating news because somewhere along the way, I let breastfeeding get pretty wrapped up in my worth as a mom. Maybe even as a woman. In that light, I was a huge failure. I mean, with twins you do basically have someone on the boob 800,000 times per day. It’s easy to feel like it’s all you do, even though it really isn’t.
We decided to start with one bottle of formula per day. We picked the most stressful feeding, the one right before bed. Usually, I’m tired and frazzled, they’re tired and want all my attention, dad stands there helplessly. Awesome way to make bedtime as stressful as possible! That night we each took a baby and a bottle and snuggled in. I’ll admit to some silent tears (I’d never fed my babies a bottle before) and then a different kind of sadness when I realized how damned big my ego had gotten over this breastfeeding thing. It was so peaceful cuddling one baby while dad cradled the other, knowing they could get all the attention and food they needed. For the first time since they were born, there was no pressure to be everything to everyone.
The next day I was able to celebrate the benefits of supplementing, as well as give myself a hearty congratulations for making it to 6 months. I also scaled back the hyperbole and reminded myself it’s literally one bottle per day, Miss Perfectionistpants. But I also mourned a little. My role as a mom was shifting slightly. Would I still be special to my sons?
How I underestimated myself and those little fellows.
The next day, both babies were under the weather – vaccinations plus a lingering virus had them pretty run down. At bed time, M downed a 7 ounce bottle. R took only a couple ounces, but he’d been snacking all day because I let him stay attached during naps (this stopped being cute like 2 months ago but I can’t seem to break the habit for good). Knowing they were good and fed, we sang a little song and put them in bed like always. But my sick little guys started fussing right away. Couldn’t possibly be hunger! Meds were already administered. Rocking, patting, nothing was helping.
Finally I nursed R while dad rocked M. I couldn’t think of anything else to do. He quieted immediately. I have no idea how much food R actually got, but I’m convinced it wasn’t calories that he needed. It was being wrapped up in mommyness. He needed me, plain and simple. When I laid him down, he fell right to sleep. Then I took M and did the same. The kid just had 7 oz and his brother had surely drained whatever was in my breast, but he nuzzled in just the same and became calm and peaceful. After a few moments I was able to lay him down too.
Thank God for formula. If the boys hadn’t had a bottle, all of that comfort-needing would have been totally mixed up with hunger and they would have gotten hysterical. I would have had to juggle them both at once, tandem feed, and try to comfort simultaneously. I wouldn’t have been able to indulge in that peaceful, individual time with each baby, no rushing, no concern about “saving” some milk for the other. They each would have gotten only 50% of me.
Isn’t this the toughest part about being a twin mom? When they both just need you and you have to figure out how they are going to share?
Being a mom is so much more awesome than being food. However we comfort our little ones, in our own special way, satisfies them deeply. By letting go of being the only food source, I realized I can be even more abundantly a comfort source.
My current goal is to make it to a year mostly breastfeeding. And my second goal is to appreciate the space formula allows me to exercise other dimensions of being a mom – including more flexible comfort logistics.
Are twins just cosmically given to control freaks to teach us a life lesson? Any other Type-As out there trying to accept that you can’t do it all?