Archive for September 8th, 2009

Breastfeeding twins.

September 8, 2009

Today is, quite possibly, the last day my children will receive my breastmilk. At exactly four weeks old, they are too young to get anything but the best from me. But the past month has made me search and explore what my idea of ‘the best’ is. It’s been painful, joy filled, confusing.

When the twins were born, they were both very healthy weights. By five days old, both had lost dangerous amounts of weight. This was due to a number of things we knew then, as well as discovered afterward. My past breast reduction did cause a problem with milk supply and delivery, my little boy has a tongue tie, my SPD was not healing because breastfeeding required me to stay in the same position most of the time. And there’s that word: time.

In a land without two infants, time is plentiful. (Or at least I imagine.) I have never had just one baby, so I have little to compare having two with. My mother in law is here again; she described caring for the twins as ‘relentless.’  A harsh word, perhaps, for something I embrace….but also true.

We were forced to stay in hospital because of the weight loss, and emergency measures put into place. We were forced to start topping up, which I resisted, cried about, felt like a failure because of. Words like ‘dehydration’ and ‘failure to thrive’ were said. So were words like, ‘You have done better at breastfeeding than most mums with only one.’ None of these words made me feel good. It was a huge responsibility for two mums with no idea what they were doing, really, to make emotional and demanding choices when there was so much at stake.

When we got home, the topping up lessened, and they lost weight again. We paid for a renowned lactation consultant to come to our home and help us; she was fabulous. She said we would need to continue topping up, taught us ways to make their feeding more efficient, spoke with me about ways to get them more breastmilk.

I felt very positive when she left, but it took fifty minutes to latch on my son that evening. I was in a huge amount of pain from the SPD, I was tired, I was emotional. We caved and gave them bottles, and my god, it was great. I felt like a sinner of the worst degree. Relief and regret were there in equal portions.

But: time.

In the three hour cycle that is an infant’s life (and ours were on a longer cycle at first, even), it is tough. If your babies are not synchronised, you breastfeed a baby, top that baby up, breastfeed another baby, top that baby up. Then you are expected to pump for twenty minutes. By the time you have done all of this, you have exactly twenty minutes before the whole schedule starts again. Sleeping, showering, eating, coherent thinking – there is no room for it.

If your babies ARE synchronised, well.

We need two adults for breastfeeding. Our little girl latched on excellently, but both babies were slow and sleepy feeders. And then there were the problems with my breasts. Feeding one baby required me to latch him/her on and stimulate them to keep them feeding; TMD was required to manipulate my breasts in various ways in order to encourage the milk to keep flowing. Imagine doing this for TWO babies at the same time; you cannot. It’s simply not possible. So our daughter would get ignored and often fall asleep at the breast, while our son required both of us to even latch him on.

I don’t want to write too much, because I feel like crying. My mother in law is out pushing the babies around the neighborhood right now. Just before they left, they each had the last bottle of expressed breastmilk. I wish I had been able to feed this to them both, to watch my body nourish them in this way for the last time.

I only pumped once yesterday. I did not pump today. I am still feeling slightly tortured about it; my breasts and heart ache.

But ‘best’? Best is a mother that can walk. Best is babies who are gaining weight and not at risk. Best is having time to cuddle and love the babies, not spending every minute of the day and night in a military operation, forcing the babies and my body together in a way that soothed us all emotionally, but left us all physically drained. Best is not weeping in the middle of the night because I cannot produce enough food for my children.

Two sessions of fifteen minute pumping a day takes about an hour in total. From this, I do not get enough milk to feed them even one full bottle. Not even half a bottle. It is a lot of time spent tied to an expensive machine while TMD cares for the babies.

I just ate a Snickers bar – my first peanuts in months. Does this mean I will not pump? I don’t see what carrying on the facade of one pump a day will do, it will only draw out my physical discomfort while not actually producing any real milk. In this struggle to do what is best for my children, I took drugs to increase my milk supply, I pumped hours and hours with a hospital grade pump, I cried on the phone to the lactation consultant again and again, I felt crazy and depleted and hopeful and crushed. I still feel many of these things, but in reality, I am now walking in the house without crutches. I am enjoying feeding my babies, talking and having little staring contests. TMD is able to feed her children as well. We have time to (occasionally) talk. At nighttime, we might have the chance to hold hands while we both sleep for half an hour.

I don’t know what ‘best’ is. I won’t pretend I didn’t want to exclusively breastfeed both babies until they were six months old and solids entered their mouths. I also won’t pretend that it wasn’t hard…and amazing.  In the hospital, before we realised they were losing too much weight, it was a joy. They slept on either side of me at night, we cuddled. I fed them and they fell asleep on my breasts, smiles milky and dribbling.  I loved breastfeeding my babies with a fierceness I could not have predicted.

Perhaps I made the decision to stop feeding at the breast too early; we had only been home a few days. Perhaps I was lazy in not pumping a zillion times a day, but I felt so much happier and connected to the babies and TMD when I spent time with them instead of that pump.

I teeter and totter, knowing that at this point the decision is made anyway.

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I’m sorry, babies. I feel like this is something best for me, but best for you? I only want to do everything out of love, to give you everything I can. It seems I reached my body and mind’s limit in this one area, but I hope it can help me expand what I can offer you in other ways. I love you both.

Forever.

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