This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.
The three of us, at 2 weeks, around 5 a.m. after tandem nursing for one of 12 times a day.
Before I was a Mom, my goal was to breastfeed my baby. When I found out there were two babies, I still wanted to breastfeed exclusively. Breastfeeding was tough, much harder physically and emotionally than I could have ever imagined. One of my sons had a terrible latch and it hurt every single time I fed him until the very last time. My twin boys were born at 38 weeks and were nearly 7 lbs each, but by the time my big babies were five days old we were told we had to supplement them with formula, they were not only not gaining weight, but had lost more than 20 percent of their birthweight. Despite sitting topless in my living room in the flotation raft of a twin nursing pillow around the clock for the first few months, they didn’t exceed their birthweight until nearly a month old and struggled to gain an ounce some weeks. We hoped we could get back on track and drop the formula. We never did. By the time I went back to work at 6 months I was nursing and pumping and not coming close to meeting the demands of two growing boys. My breastfeeding journey was long and difficult, but I fed them some breast milk every day until they were almost 9 months old. By that time, I was pumping less than 5 oz a day, which could not feed one bottle to one baby. They were eating foods and finally gaining weight and on the growth chart for the first time in their lives, but it wasn’t from me.
I charted their weights for the first 6 months because it was so challenging.
Quitting was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I felt like a huge failure. I cried and cried. (It has been three years and re-reading this letter I wrote brought back the tears.) I didn’t want to give up but my body did. I talked to the lactation consultant I had been seeing since my boys were born and she suggested I pump to comfort in order to quit. I only had to pump one more time. I was done. I wrote this letter to my boys that day, three years ago. I wanted them to know I did everything I could for them.
This photo was taken on the day I wrote this letter. It was a setup for a BBQ invitation, but fitting since they were moving on to different culinary pastures.
July 24, 2010
My dear little boys, I love you so much. I want you to know that I quit breastfeeding today. It has been a long time coming I am afraid, but I want you to know that I tried everything to make it work for us. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I have only wanted the very best for you.
When we found out there were two of you I knew it would be hard at times, and wonderful and amazing. I still wanted the best for you. It would have been easy to forgo breastfeeding entirely, but I know that it is the perfect food for a baby and I wanted you to have it. I managed to carry you to full term, which gave you a great start. You were both big and healthy and perfect.
Even in the hospital, though, the three of us had difficulties feeding. We struggled with latch problems, some of which were never resolved. Those early weeks were rough. I was in pain, I got an infection, you both lost a lot of weight, I never seemed to produce enough and you were weak and shrinking and it was heartbreaking.
Dad was amazingly supportive and helped with all those feedings, every two hours. For the first two months, we fed you on every even hour – midnight, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, noon, etc. around the clock. I nursed and pumped and we gave in and gave you formula. Your weight would go up an ounce or two then down, then stay the same, for weeks on end.
You were healthy, though, and doing all the milestone things you were supposed to. I was told time and again that I wasn’t feeding you enough, and it killed me to hear that because I was doing everything I could to feed you as much as you needed. When one of you developed a milk allergy Joshua, it wasn’t easy to completely eliminate dairy in all its forms. I have missed cheese and ice cream and butter. But knowing it would make you so sick, it was easy to stick to a dairy free existence. And I hope it means you will outgrow it and you’ll be able to enjoy those things too.
The three of us went to the hospital every Wednesday to weigh you and see how you were growing. And those early months the change was gradual. You stayed in your Newborn clothes until you were more than 3 months old. The 0-3 months stuff just started to fit at 3.5 months. Winter was nearly over by the time you got into those 3-6 months clothes at 5 months. I charted your weight gain each week, and the graph was moving up, but very slowly. We would go to your pediatrician appointments and were told you were both 1st percentile in weight, or sometimes not even on the chart. At one point Justin, you were a full pound and a half smaller, even though you were the bigger baby at birth. I was so afraid they were going to think I was a bad mom and take you away or put you in the hospital or something.
At six months you were both finally on the percentile chart. You had doubled your birth weight. You were in the 3rd percentile. And for the first time since birth, Justin was heavier again. For the next two months you took turns, sometimes Joshua was heavier, sometimes Justin. Several weeks you were exactly the same. But once you added solid foods like cereal and veggies you really started to grow and grow.
Now you are almost 9 months old. You are amazing little boys. You are both so curious and sweet and loving. You are both becoming mobile and are crawling around on your tummies.
I hope I have given you a good start to a long life of health and love. I hope that you know I have done everything I could to make your first months the best I possibly could. I have taken herbal supplements, I have resorted to prescription medication, I have rented a pump, bought a pump, eaten nearly any food any wives tale suggested might increase milk supply. I have only ever managed to make about half of what you have needed.
Now that I have gone back to work, though, it’s just not working out anymore. I no longer produce enough to feed you each one bottle a day. I take extra breaks and drink a ton of water and do all the things that are supposed to help. I pump five times a day and often in a small closet where the door doesn’t shut all the way. I do this because I love you.
But happy, healthy babies need more than just breast milk. They need a Mommy who is happy and healthy too. I know it hasn’t been perfect, and it hasn’t gone how I had hoped, but I truly did the very best I could to give you every drop I could manage. I am sure this is not the only time I will fall short of my hopes for you, I guess being a parent means having the highest hopes and doing the best you can. You are truly wonderful little boys and I am glad to be your mommy. I hope you will always know I will always do what I can for you. This Mommy business is hard, but with two great kids and a wonderful husband, I am the luckiest Mommy ever.
Jen W. is the mom of two very energetic, and on-the-percentile-chart 3-and-a-half-year-olds who leave me asking at the end of every day, “How DO I do it?”
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:
(This list will be updated by afternoon August 5 with all the carnival links.)
- An Unexpected Formula-Fed Attachment — Kyle (of JEDI Momster and) writing at Natural Parents Network, exclusively breastfed three healthy babies. So when she was pregnant with her fourth, she assumed she would have no breastfeeding troubles she could not overcome. Turns out, her fourth baby had his own ideas. Kyle shares her heartfelt thoughts on how she came to terms with the conclusion of her breastfeeding journey.
- It Take a Village: Cross Nursing — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares how cross-nursing helped her baby in their time of need, and how that experience inspired her to create a community of cross-nursing and milk-sharing women.
- Random little influences and Large scale support communities lead to knowing better and doing better — amy at random mom shares how her ideas and successes involved with breastfeeding evolved with each of her children, how her first milk sharing experience completely floored her, and how small personal experiences combined with huge communities of online support were responsible for leading and educating her from point A to point D, and hopefully beyond.
- Mikko’s weaning story — After five years of breastfeeding, Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how the nursing relationship with her firstborn came to a gentle end.
- My Milk is Your Milk — Lola at What the Beep am I Doing? discusses her use of donor milk and hhow she paid the gift back to other families.
- World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Celebrating Each Mother’s Journey — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy lists her experiences and journey as a breastfeeding mother.
- Working Mom Nursing Twins — Sadia at How Do You Do It? breastfed her twin daughters for 7 months. They made it through premature birth and NICU stays, her return to full-time work, her husband’s deployment to Iraq, and Baby J’s nursing strike.
- So, You Wanna Milkshare? — Milk banks, informed community sharing and friends, oh my! So many ways to share the milky love; That Mama Gretchen is sharing her experience with each.
- Milk Siblings: One Mama’s Milk Sharing Story (and Resources)Amber, guest posting at Code Name: Mama, shares how her views on milk sharing were influenced by her daughter receiving donor milk from a bank during a NICU stay, and how that inspired her to give her stash to a friend.
- Humans Feeding Humans — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births shares ideas on how we can celebrate all the different ways modern mommies feed their babies. While we are comfortable with the breastmilk-formula paradigm, she proposes that we expand our horizons and embrace all the different ways mamas feed their infants.
- When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Go As Planned — MandyE of Twin Trials and Triumphs shares the challenges she faced in feeding her premature twins. She’s still learning to cope with things not having gone exactly as she’d always hoped.
- Taking Back My Life By Giving Away My Milk — When Amanda Rose Adams‘s first child was born, he was tube fed, airlifted, ventilated, and nearly died twice. In the chaos of her son’s survival, pumping breast milk was physically and mentally soothing for Amanda. Before long her freezer was literally overflowing with milk – then she started giving it away.
- The Tortoise and the Hare — Nona’s Nipples at The Touch of Life discusses why we care about breast milk and formula with everything inbetween.
- Finding My Tribe of Women Through Milk Sharing — Mj, guest posting at San Diego Breastfeeding Center shares her journey breastfeeding with low milk supply and supplementing with donor milk using an at the breast supplemental nursing system. She shares the impact milk sharing has had on her life, her family, and how it saved her breastfeeding relationship. Her article can also be found at her blog:
- Human Milk for Human Babies — Sam at Nelson’s Nest shares her perspective on milk-sharing after an unexpected premature delivery left her pumping in the hopes of breastfeeding her son one day. Sam’s milk was an amazing gift to the other preemie who received it, but the connection was a blessing in the donor mom’s life too!
- Sister, I Honor You — A mother feeding her baby is a triumph and should be honored, not criticized. Before you judge or propagate your own cause, go find your sister. A post by Racher: Mama, CSW, at The Touch of Life.
- Every Breastfeeding Journey Is Different, Every One Is Special — No two stories are alike, evidenced by That Mama Gretchen’s collaboration of a few dear mama’s reflections on their breastfeeding highs, lows and in betweens.
- Quitting Breastfeeding — Jen W at How Do You Do It? share a letter she wrote to her boys, three years ago exactly, the day she quit breastfeeding after 9 months.
- A Pumping Mom’s Journey — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares about her journey pumping for her son, who was born at 29 weeks.