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    Two of Everything: Breast feeding is best?

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Breast feeding is best?

Isn't it?

When I was pregnant I was adamant I was going to breastfeed my children exclusively, at least for the first 6 months.  There was no swaying me, and I even turned down my mum's offer to buy us a steriliser because I was utterly convinced I wouldn't need it.  Breastfeeding was going to go swimmingly for me and I couldn't understand why anyone would want to use formula when you've got the perfect food for your babies on tap and, what's more, free.  Oh, how I would end up eating my words...

The first setback came when my babies arrived early, at 34 weeks.  I gave birth to them naturally but after about 20 minutes they were taken down to the NICU, initially because they were just so tiny.  One of the paediatricians explained to me they would need to give them some formula so their blood sugar didn't drop but they would start giving them my milk as soon as I could provide it.  I didn't like the sound of it but I agreed because I knew it was important to trust the doctors and they were certainly too tiny to feed.  When I was finally wheeled round to see them (I'd had an epidural) I couldn't believe how tiny they were and it was awful to see them with feeding tubes up their noses and cannulas attached to their tiny little hands.  I knew the best and only thing I could do for them for now was give them my milk.
Little Miss, 6 hours old
Little Man, 6 hours old
Back on the ward I spent ages trying to get one of the midwives to help me hand express.  Finally someone came to me at about midnight (having given birth at 9.40 and 9.52 that morning after a 30 hour labour - I was a little tired and emotional by then) and helped me get two tiny 1ml syringes full of colostrum.  I was very proud of them and took them up to the babies early the next morning.

Later that day one of the midwives suggested setting me up with a pump as I was producing so much colostrum it wasn't worth using syringes any more.  I had to set The Daddy off with the task of tracking down a pump I could use at home and I spent the next week pumping every three hours, day and night, as well as driving half an hour to get to the hospital and back.  When I was visiting I started to feed them myself and they took to it really well, although they still weren't very strong, and when they started asking for food more the nurses offered me a room to stay in, with the babies, so we could get feeding established.  It took two whole weeks of living in a 9ft square cell (it certainly felt like a prison) to get them to the point where they were putting on weight with exclusive breastfeeding.  It didn't go well to start with - we started to get dry nappies and had to resort back to the feeding tubes to top them up.  There are a few photos of me at this time and I literally look grey.  But finally things swung in our favour and we were allowed to go home.

'Rooming in' at the hospital
Those early days at home were good.  The babies would feed for about 15 minutes each every three hours which worked well as they could only latch on to one side so had to take it in turns, and I would then express from the other side (no one looks good with wonky boobs...)  However early evenings were hard as they would cluster feed - not easy with two babies and one boob!  We had a couple of evenings where I would be feeding one baby and rocking the other, screaming, in a moses basket with my foot, while The Daddy fed me my dinner.  One night it reached about 1am, both were screaming and I had been feeding constantly since about 4.30 in the afternoon.  I was exhausted, my 'spare' boob was ready to burst and we had no other way of getting milk into our babies.  I phoned the hospital in desperation, who offered us some teats which we could screw on to the bottles which stored the expressed breast milk.  I then phoned my poor dad who had to drive to the hospital to collect them!  They both downed their bottles of milk and fell asleep and we decided we would start giving them both a bottle at bedtime to draw a line under the cluster feeding.
A milk-drunk Little Miss, 5 weeks old (and an exhausted Mummy!)
It helped, but only a bit.  They both started to feed for longer and didn't seem to be getting enough for them to settle between feeds.  I was desperate to avoid using bottles any more than once a day - I was scared of 'nipple confusion' and them getting lazy because the bottles were easier.  On the night of Christmas Eve I didn't sleep at all.  It was getting awful.  On Christmas Day I phoned a breastfeeding helpline (I was so grateful they were there on Christmas Day!) and they suggested alternating breast and bottle.  I was still having to express from my right side anyway, so it made sense to feed one myself and feed the other with what I had expressed.  But I knew it was the beginning of the end.  The Daddy was due to go back to work and I couldn't fathom how I was going to manage one breastfeed, one bottle feed and one express every three hours.  It just wasn't possible.

Our feeding diary for 24th-25th December.  You can see the evening bottle near the top.  These times were feeds only and don't take into account nappy changes, winding, settling back to sleep and expressing my 'spare' boob!  The Daddy helped as much as he could but unfortunately they haven't managed to get men lactating yet...

I was also starting to get really sore.  Little Man had always had a really strong suck but he was starting to make me feel like he was dislocating my nipple.  I just couldn't take it any more and, after two days of tears, I decided to stop.  The babies were 6 weeks old.  I carried on expressing until my milk supply dropped off and they didn't have any formula until they were 8 weeks old - we had about 3 litres stashed in the freezer!

My babies thrived on formula.  I was able to get them in a routine, I could have people (mainly my Dad) to help me with feeds while they were still too little to feed in bouncers, and they both slept through for twelve hours by 16 weeks old.  

On a pillow, on my lap.  I decided to give this method a miss after Little Miss was sick all over all of  us and I was stuck, covered and unable to clean us up until they'd finished their feed...

This method worked much better, but I learnt to put them either side of me so I could lean against the sofa!

For me, it was the best option, and meant I had the energy to care for two babies all day long by myself.  I still feel guilty about it, no matter how many times people tell me not to.  But I think I made the decision for the right reasons - I was starting to lose the plot, I wasn't enjoying my babies, and I felt like I would never be able to leave the house again!  

So is breastfeeding best?  Not always.

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At 30 June 2012 at 16:16 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a fab story. I'm sure we all have the same intention and hat's off to you for trying with twins!!
Like you I was determined to breast feed but when my oldest boy was born I was put in a ward of 6 ladies and was the only one who wanted to breast feed. The senior nurse was fantastic and supported me but we both agreed after the first day that it wasn't for me. I felt really guilty but as soon as you see your baby thriving and happily sleeping after being well fed all the guilt fades.
Second son was formula fed from birth. Both of them are now fine young men!

At 30 June 2012 at 18:50 , Blogger Jenny Paulin said...

Wow! Loved this post and story about your breast feeding journey.
Firstly, having twins is hard enough but to have them early must have been very hard going. I think you did so well to keep breast feeding for as long as you did . I am in awe of mums who breast feed multiple new babies so I think you are brilliant! I am also in awe of mums who feed and look after more than one baby born at the same time, full stop!
Breast can be best for some , for me as I had positive experiences with not my boys, BUT if it doesn't work for you then formula is best .
Really great read xx

At 30 June 2012 at 19:46 , Blogger Two of Everything said...

It's so similar to breast milk really and once I'd got my head round it, it was definitely the right thing for me. In hospital I also found I was definitely in the minority in wanting to breastfeed.

At 30 June 2012 at 19:47 , Blogger Two of Everything said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed reading it - you've really made me smile! :)

At 30 June 2012 at 19:48 , Anonymous Rebecca said...

6-8 weeks is amazing. I was about the same and it was a real struggle. I understand you feel guilty, I felt awful first time around when I only managed a week - but it's ridiculously hard for something which is supposed to be natural.

At 30 June 2012 at 20:37 , Blogger Two of Everything said...

It really is incredibly hard, no-one ever tells you that while you're pregnant and the antenatal class advice I had was woeful... They made it sound really simple and straightforward, so that's what I thought it would be, you just latch them on and off you go; my reality couldn't have been more different.

At 1 July 2012 at 00:48 , Blogger Trouble Doubled said...

I got to eight months BF with the twins, but they were full term and easy feeders, and I had done it before with the older two children. With two, breastfeeding is very, very hard, so well done for even trying. People, even the midwives, used to look at me like I was potty when I told them I was exclusively breastfeeding, like I was mad to even consider it. But it worked. For us. It was exhausting sometimes, and I wasn't entirely sorry when they self-weaned. That was with very easy babies - hat's off to you for trying with all the issues you all had. I'm not sure I could have done it for very long under the circumstances either.

At 1 July 2012 at 19:26 , Blogger Two of Everything said...

I think it must make a massive difference if you've done it before - you're more prepared for how hard it's going to be, apart from anything else!

At 2 July 2012 at 05:56 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am currently writing a blog post on my experience. I completely understand the guilt. I still have it partly because I couldn't with my first and because I stopped at 5 months with my second. I should have the post up tomorrow if you want to check it out.
You and your babies are beautiful!

At 2 July 2012 at 13:36 , Blogger Two of Everything said...

Aw thank you! Will check out your post :)


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