Breastmilk, Meet Formula

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Categories Breastfeeding, Formula, Infants, Mommy Issues

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.

Breastfeeding can get completely tied up into our sense of motherhood. If you find yourself having to introduce formula, give yourself some grace. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Great insights from a mom of twins.

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?

Read more in Part II.

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RebeccaD has 8 month old fraternal twin boys, R and M. She’s a teacher-turned-SAHM in San Francisco who loves dance, quilting, and geeking out over DIY projects. Having twins is challenging her perfectionism in the best possible way.

7 thoughts on “Breastmilk, Meet Formula”

  1. As a (extreme?) Type A, I think so often how having twins humbles you. I’m sure motherhood does that to a large degree in general, but the multiples dynamic is something even more, I believe.

    One example I cite often to myself is how — having one child — I’m guessing that I would hang every accomplishment…and every challenge…as something *I* had done. My kid can say the Pledge of Allegiance at age 2? It’s because I’m going everything so well! My kid wouldn’t take a sippy cup until she was 16 months old? It’s because I’m not cut out for this motherhood thing.

    Having TWO children…raising them “equally”…I now know what a huge role that “nature” provides. Certainly that doesn’t relieve me from responsibilities, but it helps keep things in a bit of perspective.

    I really love this post. I so appreciate your honesty and self-reflection! All the best to you and yours!

  2. I’m always happy to see people affirm that nursing vs. formula doesn’t always have to be an either/or proposition. I had low supply from the very beginning, and despite intervention from lactation consultants, changes in diet, herbs, and prescription medication, I was never able to significantly increase it. But I really loved my nursing relationships with my twins, and I was happy to continue nursing until around their first birthday, even though we supplemented with formula (eventually more formula than breastmilk) the whole time.

  3. Well said. Having twins does take the wind out of my type A sails more often than not.

    I also feel like having twins makes us great resources for other friends and mom who have questions about their kids. Raising two babies at the same time, even if they are identical, can really show you how different every child is and highlights that what is true for one baby many not be true, or may be only partially true, for the other.

  4. I cried reading this post, Thank you. While I’ve had similar feelings about my own breastfeeding early on, I started supplementing at about 3 1/2 months old out of a desperate need for sleep. I gave each girl a 6oz bottle of formula at bedtime in order to ‘knock them out’ knowing digestion would take longer. It was a tough decision to make and for a long time I beat myself up a bit for my selfishness. The following wks brought more supplementing with my return to work FT despite pumping throughout the day while away…I simply could not keep up wiith their demands. Happy to report that we learned at their 6mo appt this week that they were now both in the 45-50% vs the 15-20% at their previous visit. And now they both have the sweetest chubbiest little thighs.

  5. I am glad you spoke, how difficult it is to let go of breastfeeding but at the same time realizing that growing baby’s requiremnets changes everday. It cannot all be done by breastfeeding, their growth nutritional properties everything needs to be appropriate.

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