Thursday, February 2, 2012
30 before 30: I breastfed twins
I am blogging my way through 30 things I have done before I turn 30! Today's post is partially a recycle from a post I wrote a year ago (almost to the day!) (you don't really need to read the link since most of the post is here).
My girls were born at 33 weeks, 5 days. I knew I wouldn't be having that amazing bonding experience where they place the baby on the chest and have that immediate connection when baby starts to nurse. Nope, my experience was even close.
In fact, I was still recovering from my c-section and hadn't even seen my girls when the nurses rolled in a hospital grade breast pump and got me started on expressing milk. Although I planned on breastfeeding, no one ever really asked me. So I diligently started pumping every three hours, even through the night. Very quickly I was producing more than enough milk for my little preemies in the NICU.
It wasn't until my girls were nearly ready to leave the hospital that the nurses suggest that we give breastfeeding a try. Until that point I was pumping and they were eating expressed milk. Grace tried to nurse first and really had no interest. So she went back to the bottle. Several days later we tried with Ana. She was better but clearly still needed to take a bottle as well. My babies were less than 5 pounds and they sent me home with them without any clear plan on how to feed them. I had never successfully breastfed before bringing them home at two weeks of age.
Despite what "they" say, breastfeeding is at first completely unnatural. It feels awkward and strange. Add in an enormous pillow for support and there is nothing discreet or normal feeling about holding a baby to your boob. There was no way for me to fail at pumping, so I stuck with my machine for the first few weeks my girls were home. Eventually pumping became a chore while breastfeeding felt unsuccessful. The girls had a painful latch and ate poorly from the breast. I had to give them a bottle after every feeding. It was time consuming. It was awkward. It was painful.
I hated breastfeeding. While I was also not particularly fond of my relationship with the pump, at least it didn't hurt and wasn't frustrating. The nurses, lactation consultants and the books all said that breastfeeding should never be painful. They are full of shit. It hurt and it hurt badly. There were moments of pure pain when I cried as the girls latched on. There were moments where I wanted to scream and give up.
To top it off, I felt no bonding as a result of breastfeeding. Everything I'd read said that breastfeeding allowed for a special bond between mom and baby. I saw it only as a means to an end.
I don't know why I didn't give up. At 3 weeks I was miserable. At 4 weeks I was still in pain. At 5 weeks I was sure that I was going to give up. So I started setting small goals. Instead of thinking about nursing for 6 months, I gave myself permission to reevaluate every week. I started to increase the number of times I tried to nurse. In the beginning I only nursed once a day. By 12 weeks I nursed 7-8 times a day (per girl). At some point it just clicked for us; suddenly the girls' latch improved, eventually the pain disappeared and slowly but surely I replaced the bottles with the breast.
By the time we mastered nursing, I didn't even like the one time a day that the girls get a bottle (pediatrician ordered-- a formula supplement for preemies with higher calorie content). I came to appreciate that there was no prep work, no dishes and my ability to do it anywhere.
And most importantly, I fell in love with that time with my girls. Occasionally I tandem fed (read: feed both at the same time), but usually I prefered to take my time with each girl. Sure, it slowed down the pace of my day, but it gave me a moment to observe each one. They were distinct in their eating style, in their sounds and in their needs. With twins I spent most of my day bouncing between the two of them, so I learned to appreciate the opportunity to just be with one for a few short minutes.
By the time I went back to work, we were nursing nearly every session. I went back three days a week and reestablished a relationship with my pump. I desperately missed nursing my babies when I was gone, but I looked forward to any time they wanted to nurse in the mornings, afternoons or evenings.
In the beginning of August Grace started to refuse me. By the middle of August we were done nursing. I was so sad to be done nursing her. I was scared it would cause problems that I was only nursing Ana. But it went on fine and I continued to love my moments with Ana. I found other ways to share quiet moments with Grace. Just short of 14 months Ana also stopped nursing. I was devastated to be totally done nursing my babies. Many days I still miss those quiet, peaceful moments that only we shared.
But I am also proud. I nursed my babies. For nine months I nursed twins and I nursed Ana for almost 14 months. I feel accomplished and I am proud.