Friday, December 7, 2012

Adventures in Feeding Twins

One of the most difficult things I've faced with the twins has been not being able to meet certain expectations I had set up in my head prior to their arrival. I knew breastfeeding would be difficult, but I was determined to make it work. I expected to be cloth diapering quickly after they came. I thought I'd be able to have dinner ready for my husband when he got home from work most nights. I thought I'd still be to keep the house clean and stay on top of the laundry. The list goes on and on...what the hell was I thinking?!

Ha! Who was I kidding?! I typically have high expectations for myself and others around me. Does this lead me to be disappointed from time to time? Sure. In the beginning of this parenting journey, I was creating a lot of added stress for myself and my husband by trying to be perfect. I was trying to meet all of the expectations I had set up in my head. However, I was driving myself crazy trying to make everything happen. I faced a lot of days filled with sadness and tears because I couldn't make things be the way I thought they should be.

I quickly learned that although I had ideas of how I wanted things to work, I needed to adapt and do what worked best instead of what I wanted to work best to make us ALL happier in the end. You know what they say...if mama ain't happy ain't nobody happy. Here's how mama is staying happy with feeding the twins:

In the hospital we worked with lactation consultants throughout our stay and during most feedings. Both babies were small and sleepy and were having difficulty staying latched. Plus, they both had low blood sugars and slightly elevated bilirubin levels and since my milk hadn't come in, we used formula to correct these issues and keep them out of the NICU. We did all the feedings with a SNS system (supplemental nursing system) to teach the babies to latch and feed.

Fast forward to our arrival home...I didn't have an ideal birth experience (this is why I haven't written about it...). The incision from my c-section was closed but leaking fluid and blood regularly because of the immense amount of fluid I had on board prior to the twins arrival. My OB did not want to use staples in my incision, but wasn't sure the stitches and glue would hold. She warned me my incision may break open and if this happened I'd need to have the area packed. Yuck. I had strict rules to take it very easy to avoid this from happening. Anyway, I had purchased the twin breastfeeding pillow and had a regular singleton pillow as well. I couldn't find a way to get a pillow and baby comfortably attached to me. We were continuing use of the SNS system, but it was cumbersome and time consuming. When you have two crying babies, this was just not ideal and we ditched it quickly. It took a week for my milk to finally come in so we were using formula to keep the babies happy and gaining weight in the meantime. Although I was still trying to BF, I had a lot of difficulty with Evan getting too angry to even latch or latching and eating then falling asleep and waking up soon after screaming and too upset to latch. Ella was sleepy and would latch but wasn't interested in working for her meal and she'd fall asleep waking up hungry. I quickly got frustrated with the whole BF'ing thing for these reasons. I'd get frustrated and cry because this was something I really wanted to do...but it was causing this tired and sore mama a lot of frustration...

From the beginning, Collin was completely supportive of any method of feeding. He was supportive while I was trying to BF, but when he saw how difficult it was we both agreed keeping the babies happy and fed was our main objective by any means necessary. I ended up turning into an exclusively pumping mama. The BF'ing just didn't work. I didn't have the time nor patience to attach myself to the couch with babies at a boob the entire day-this is what it felt like I'd need to do in order to get the BF'ing thing down.  By pumping I could still provide the nutrients of breast milk, but avoid the frustration of trying to teach TWO babies to breast feed. I was pumping every 2.5-3 hours and producing 4-6 ounces per pumping session. I would even get up in the middle of the night to pump, not because I wanted to necessarily, but my boobs would ache and leak if I didn't. I was able to pump enough to provide breast milk for both babies throughout the day. At night we used formula-no warming and much faster!!

Evan has always had difficulty eating. At 1.5 months we started to try different formulas (per our pediatrician) because he had reflux issues. After several tries, we found a thick formula that has rice starch in it (E.nfamil AR) and he showed improvement in his eating. Feeding 2 babies at one time has always been the most difficult part of the day for me when I am alone with them. Top that off with a baby who cries and screams, grabs at his face and eats only intermittently because he is in pain...  I had difficulty switching him from breast milk to formula. I felt inadequate...wasn't breast milk supposed to be best? How can I not provide for my baby? It was hard, but I saw improvement in how he ate and quickly got on board. I continued pumping for Ella.

During the day, while I was home alone with the babies I found it difficult to find time to pump. I'd frequently hook up because both babies were calm quickly to find one baby being fussy and requiring attention so I'd have to unhook and tend to the baby. I'd have to do this several times throughout a pumping session sometimes. Cue the frustration... There were also times when the hours would fly by and I could not find time to pump. Cue sore boobs and more frustration. I kept it going though.

At my 6 week check up, my OB asked about birth control to which I laughed. I know I couldn't get pregnant for years, but I really don't need it spontaneously happening now so I went on the mini pill since it was safe to use while still providing breast milk. It's not supposed to decrease your milk supply, but once I started the pill my supply drastically reduced. I was no longer even able to pump enough milk for one baby-we were doing 1-2 bottles of formula. My supply continued to dwindle and I started drinking Mother's Milk tea. It helped increase my supply some, but I still was not able to pump enough to even provide for Ella.

I started thinking about returning to work, which I intend to do in Jan, and thought about what pumping would be like at work. I work with critically ill patients in the ICU unit and I'd have to hand off report and my pager to a co-worker before I'd be able to pump. I could also see myself having busy periods of time where I physically could not get away to pump...what if we were in the middle of a code and it lasted for 1.5-2 hours? Not to mention how uncomfortable and down right painful engorgement can be...

Having difficulty finding time to pump during the day (I'd feel myself getting angry if I sat down to pump and a baby started fussing and needed my attention) coupled with the stress I'd feel at work needing to pump if I had a busy shift meant it was time to start weaning... It was not an easy decision to come to and I felt guilty for several weeks when Collin and I discussed switching the babies over to all formula. However, I know it will make things easier for us all. Ella also has spit up/reflux issues so the thicker formula also helps her with these. Happy mama.

So after 11 weeks of pumping it is coming to an end. Weaning is not fun my friends. Ouch. I've cut down the number of times I pumped and then started reducing how long I'm pumping. I've had to take ibuprofen to help out with the pain/swelling. I am currently pumping only once a day, but I think in the next few days I will be completely done.

I did the best I could providing breast milk. Ideally I would have liked to go longer, but for my own sanity I'm stopping. I definitely feel guilty about the switch, but I'm hoping I can get over that once I feel freed from the breast pump. It's like a ball and chain and it definitely wore on my as the weeks progressed. No more outings where we have to rush to get 2 babies ready and I then have to pump for 20 minutes before I can leave.  I will be able to leave the house without having to plan ahead for how long I will be gone so I can make it back to pump. I won't be sore/uncomfortable and leaking in public anymore. I can have a cocktail or glass of wine after a long day without feeling guilty about having to pump and dump (let's face it twins are difficult and sometimes mama needs a glass of wine to unwind). I think I will feel a lot more freedom not trying to find time to pump every 3 hours. Hopefully I can get over the guilt and it will mean a happier mama in the long run.

13 comments:

S said...

Oh Amber. Your guilt and sadness about this turn of events comes through in your post. :-(

From a twin mom who could not breastfeed her sons (I wrote in detail about my experience here: http://conceptionmisconceptions.blogspot.com/2012/05/one-where-i-talk-about-not.html), I say, let go of the guilt. We have all taken the "breast is best" thing too far when we start feeling bad about not being able to do what we "should" for our babies, what is "best."

It took me time to come to terms with this myself, and reading this post really helped me, so I'm sharing it with you in the hope that it will help you, too: http://andmom.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/the-controversy-of-breastfeeding/

Amber said...

I read your post and it made me feel so much better! It's amazing how much guilt I've felt over the process and how much of a struggle it has been. I also took comfort in the fact that myself and my husband were strictly formula fed and I think we turned out fine...
Thank you for sending me the links. I feel guilty, but like you said this is probably just one of many things I'll feel guilty about as a parent.
Thank you!!

S said...

Oh, I'm so glad I made you feel better! I wanted to add, too, that my sons are 10 months old now and are THRIVING, despite my failure to provide them with the "best" nutrition. At their 9-month well-check, their pediatrician said they are completely "caught up" and that no one would know they'd been preemies (34-weekers) based on their growth and development.

Oh, and P.S. my sister and I were both exclusively bottle-fed and turned out fine. ;-)

Mrs. T said...

Congratulations to you for making the best decision for you and your babies. I did a mix of formula, pumping and breastfeeding with Toddler T. I was not prepared for the emotional duress breastfeeding would cause. I think it is wonderful that you are factoring your own emotional health into your decsion. I agree 100% with the happy momma = happy family. Cheers!

Mrs. F said...

I just wanted to let you know that breastfeeding has been an emotional struggle for me as well. Intellectually I know that the most important thing is to give my son the nutrition that he needs. That doesn't happen with breastfeeding for me. It never has, and at this point I realize that I never will be able to sustain my son's growth through breastfeeding. I have been meaning to write a post about it, but I'm not sure where to begin. There is so much pressure we feel as moms that breast is best. But what about when it is not best? There really isn't much support online for formula feeders, but when talking to my friends I find there are a lot more formula feeders out there than one might guess based on all the hype about breastfeeding. Choosing how to feed your baby (or babies in your case) is such a personal decision. Try not to feel guilty over using formula. It is very nutritious, and if eliminating pumping frees up your spare time, then you will actually have more time to bond with your babies, play with them, and hold them. What a gift!

Allison Henak said...

Don't feel guilty!!!!!! You know what's more important than breast milk? A happy mommy. You are doing what is best for them by doing what is best for you. Xoxo.

Nichole said...

You're doing your best and that's plenty!! One of my girlfriends just found out that she is having twins. I'm going to have her read and learn!

Jules said...

I could have written this myself! Can I just copy and paste on to my blog??? Except I only made it 4 weeks with pumping and I think I did a damn good job! We are twin moms! The game is totally different. Think about how easy BFing would be if we had just one. Cutting yourself some slack was the best thing you could have done.

Jen said...

Hey there, thank you for the comment on my blog. Your twins are adorable!!! I will definitely follow along :)

I didn't BF mine either, BTW. I tried to pump when they were in the NICU, but I just couldn't produce anything to make it worth anyone's time and effort.

You are doing great!

Jen said...

Hey there, me again :). I am gathering by quickly perusing your posts that you have your babies in separate rooms? What made you decide to do that? Something we have thought/are thinking about.

also.... I am in Madison, WI :)) I see you're from WI too.

robin said...

Happy mommy and fed babies is the right combination, however it is achieved! Good for you for making the decision that is right for you and your family! Formula is an amazing invention and it is a wonderful tool to have at your disposal. Sometimes I think the rabid breast is best people forget that. I hope you start feeling better soon :)

Nichole said...

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your family of four!! :)

Jules said...

Hope you're doing well Amber! Happy new year!