Breastfeeding twins.

by

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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18 Responses to “Breastfeeding twins.”

  1. Maria Says:

    Don’t torture yourself – you did the best you could for your babies (and for yourself). I don’t read failure here – I read a mom who did everything she could to make sure her babies were being nourished. It is not failure to give your babies milk from a bottle – it just isn’t. What is important is that your babies are growing and gaining weight and thriving. At the same time, you need to be able to maintain your sanity and know that you should be PROUD of yourself!! You are a GREAT mom – be proud of that!

  2. Loukia Says:

    You are not a failure at all. I think you are being way too hard on yourself! You did the best you could for your beautiful twins. They will be nourished and fed and they will grow and they will be healthy and happy, no matter how long your breastfed them for. Even if you had only done one day, that is great, too. Just enjoy being a mom to your little darlings! Be happy, and don’t beat yourself up over this. No one should ever make you feel about how long you breastfed for, or if you breastfed at all.

  3. PB and Jazz Says:

    Sometimes what we think is best isn’t best. Breastfeeding while it is great, is not the end all. Do not feel like a failure. Do not feel like you are not doing the best for your kids. Do not feel like if they have allergies it is your fault because you did not breastfeed. You are doing the best for your kids to make them the healthiest kids they can be. This means no breast milk for them. I have 3 kids. 2 of my kids have allergies. I breastfeed them both for 12 months exclusively. My first born, only breastfeed for 6 months, he was on formula for the rest. He is the one without allergies and is the healthiest of all of my kids. I did what I need to for all three of my kids just as you are. It is different for all and the outcome is not always what you think it will be. Be encouraged. This is a difficult time hormonally, emotionally, and physically. You are an excellent mom and it takes courage to do what you are doing.

  4. Parent Club Says:

    You are being the very best mom – taking action on what is best for all of you. Bite your tongue about failure – no talk of failure – there is no failure.

    When my baby was about 4 weeks old – I went for a nap and my prince gave her a bottle of formula instead of waking me up. He told me “they will eat without you, they might talk without you, they may walk without you, and they will definately have sex without you one day…” Silly – but it opened my eyes to the fact that things change, my baby’s needs changed over time, and that I needed the ability to change too.

    Be strong. You can do it.

  5. nicole Says:

    Doing what is best for you is most often what is also best for your children. They need a happy, healthy mother. I had a similar experience with only one baby when I had my first child. I tortured myself trying to breastfeed and was mentally breaking down. The day I made the decision to give her a bottle and be done with it was a turning point in my motherhood journey. I was able to nurse my fourth and fifth children for a year, but it took me a long time to get there. Taking care of your children to the best of your ability is loving them–regardless of how they get their nourishment. I hope this rough patch is merely a bump in the road and that as you move forward you look back and realize you made the right decision for YOUR family.

  6. kaydee Says:

    absolutely DO NOT torture yourself! you have done SO MUCH ALREADY! I had a problem (at 42) producing enough for my son and just had to go to formula–he is a strapping 100 pound 8 year old (almost as tall as I am)–and he is incredibly bonded to me and to his father who had the delight of getting to feed him–we both did bare chested to give him that experience as a baby. There is SO MUCH more to mothering than breast milk and you will find it out in so many ways. your love is most important!

  7. jenni/mom2nji Says:

    You are NOT a failure at all. Despite the fact that you are going through an extreme physical stress, you have done the best you can for the twins. Breastfeeding is great for a baby, but not at all costs. If formula feeding makes things easier for you or most importantly helps the babies gain weight and stay hydrated, it is not a failure (hell even if you just plain CHOOSE not to breastfeed anymore its not a failure). You do whats best for you and the twins and screw justifying it to anyone (including yourself). Two of the things having three kids has taught me are 1st and foremost do what ever works for you and yours, in the end all that matters is healthy happy kids. And second forget what other people say. What it boils down to is YOU and your partner are the ONLY people who get to have a voice in how your children are raised. So eat a snickers, take some real pain pills, and shake up a bottle of formula. The babies will be just fine.

    as a side note. I quit nursing my 3rd son at 5 weeks, I was a wreck and pumping was killing me, but when he was three months I started nursing again with the help of a lactation consultant. I was in a better place, he was much bigger (he was TINY 5. 4 when he was born), and it worked out great for us.

  8. Barbara Madre Minutes Says:

    O how I have had your same feelings. I breast fed all six of my daughters. Your children are beautiful. What a precious gift from God. They got the immune colostrum from you so they are set on that. With my sixth, she lost wait too, so I know what you went through. Some weight loss is normal and the stress of taking care of two can effect your production. What is best is when you feel peace. Follow the peace. If they were content, sleeping and gaining, for me that brought peace. They did not come out with tags on their toes with instructions. Each one is different as you already have discovered so their needs will be different for the rest of their life. We are all figuring it out most of the time as we go. Sounds like you are doing what is most peaceful for your sanity, your ability to mother, your ability to rest and be able to take care of these adorable beauties. When mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy. You take care and peace be with you and your sweet family.

  9. Kathleen Says:

    Congratulations on your twins! You have support and encouragement from this mom, regardless of how you choose to feed your babies. You’ve gone above and beyond to make breastfeeding work, and should not be made to feel guilty that it didn’t work out. Wish other moms would not be so judgmental.

    For what it’s worth–I breastfed my first for a month, and he doesn’t have allergies. I breastfed my second for 15 months and she has allergies. Both are healthy, bright and fun to be around (most of the time!) They’re now 17 and 14.

    Hang in there. My best to you and your family.

  10. Jinxy Says:

    You are doing great!!! Do not feel bad about not breastfeeding any longer if that means you can heal and take care of your babies. Heck don’t feel bad about the decisions you make period. As Moms we make sooo many, if you felt guilt over even half of then you’d go crazy.

    I can not even imagine how hard it would be to nurse twins, I’m having a hard enough time with my one baby.

    You and TMD are great Mommys (Mummys) and it shows.

    Love and hugs!

  11. CJ Says:

    The BEST is what WORKS for you and YOUR babies. Not what works for anyone else, not what the “professionals” say you should do, but what works out best for YOU. Four weeks is a wonderful accomplishment with twins!! Don’t focus on what you aren’t doing, focus on what you did and know that from this point on, you ARE doing the best. I also had a reduction approximately ten years ago and am concerned that if I chose to have another child, I won’t be able to breastfeed fully….whether it was four days or four weeks or four YEARS, your post has given me hope that I will be able to bond in that manner with any future child. Hang in there!!

  12. theremotejen Says:

    I hear you. BF twins is really, really hard. ours are slow feeders too, so much that they came home (and are still on) feeding tubes. Won’t take bottles except for once each. So I BF, tubefeed, change babies, and then start all over again. no time to pump, and the supply in the freezer is dwindling…I feel guilty about that.
    We think my boy is toungetied, too–have you tried a nipple shield? it helps both of them latch so much! and while i feel a little lazy for not working harder to wean them off of it…it’s just too hard to encourage 2 latches at once(i feed simultaneously–when 1 wakes, I wake the other to feed, too)
    my motto: babies need a sane mother. i repeat it to myself over and over again, every day.
    btw, re your twitter about crying in front of MIL: i did it just about every day. they’ll get over it. postpartum hormones are hell.

  13. Andrea Says:

    You and your spouse should be so proud of yourselves – you’ve done a great job.

    It’s so important, as women and as parents that we support and recognize that every child, every parent, ever situation is different and there are so many different plots and twists that the chapters of our life melt into.

    I’ll be having my own little boy any day now and I’m still struggling with the guilt of “what if I can’t do it?!?” (bfing). Well, what if? I will try and whatever result our little boy will be fed and loved. That’s the best anyone can do. 🙂

  14. ninefirefly Says:

    I was so close to giving up breast feeding. And I only have one to deal with! I couldn’t imagine if I had had to do it with two. There really is no replacing the time with your little ones, it is so much more important to be with them mentally and physically than it is to supply milk. Good luck.

  15. mommyme Says:

    Do NOT feel like a failure!!!! You have done the best you can!! Breastfeeding is not easy and is not for everyone. I had a tough go at it with one, so I can only imagine how difficult it was for you. Giving your children LOVE is BEST!!! Don’t beat yourself up about it, you are a great Mommy!!!! Hang in there!! 🙂

  16. Tatiana Says:

    I’m sad that you can’t continue your breastfeeding relationship with the twins. But I understand that you genuinely CAN’T, for your mental & emotional health.

    Love you.

  17. Katie Says:

    I have been asking and asking people for a long time if there are any reasons that would cause a mother not to be able to breastfeed, and no one would tell me. You answered that question. You answered it long and clear and obviously.

    The very best thing ought to be that everyone is comfortable and happy, right? Stress and no sleep and no healing can’t be good for anybody- you, TMD, the babies- and I imagine that you need every little bit of serenity you can get. You have tried, and would have continued happily and heartily if you possibly could, right? If it’s not working, go with what works.

  18. Felicity Says:

    I know I’m getting to this late so I’m sorry. First of all you have nothing to feel guilty over, you’ve tried your best with breastfeeding and it obviously hasn’t worked for you. Some women just can’t breastfeed for whatever reason but unfortunately midwives and health visitors in this country seem to push the slogan that breast is best down the throats of every new mother and for the ones that are unable to feed in that way they’re often made to feel guilty for not persevering with something which isn’t suitable for them.

    The fact is you’re not a bad mother, you’ve made a very hard choice for some very sensible reasons. What needs to come first is your needs and your health as well as that of the twins. As others have said if you could you would.

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