Best of Breast

I promised a separate post on our breastfeeding experience so far. I want to start with an apology for my pre-mommy pre-conceived ideas and judgements. I do think that the key to successful breastfeeding is the right support, I’d now add at the right time. And I do think that a lot (not all) of the success of breastfeeding lies in your head space. Let me elaborate…

We did not get off to a good breastfeeding start, I think there were a lot of factors which contributed to this including my drugged up state after the anaesthetic, my ignorance on how to get started and how important that start would be, me trying to be very relaxed and not stressing (who would have thought I would look back and think that was a bad thing), and not having the right help at the right time.

I have mentioned my superstar breastfeeding friend and she deserves an award for stepping into the void on our very first night and helping out when no one else did. She was the hero who realised that it wasn’t “cute” that Pudding was sucking her thumb but a sign that my baby was hungry and came over to help try to get her latched. By this stage my babies were about over 5 hours old and had not fed at all! Now sober I shudder at this, but I had tried earlier when they were put on my breast and when it they didn’t latch easily I just thought, no stress, give them a chance it will happen. I had no idea what I was doing and now in retrospect I would pay just about any amount of money to have a GOOD breast feeding consultant help us out in those first few hours. In retrospect I should have gone for a consultation prior to their birth to get advice and guidance on the first few days.

From there we kept trying each baby separately, together, separately again, but weren’t getting a good latch and the babies weren’t actually getting much out. I know they don’t need much but without a good latch my breasts weren’t getting the right stimulation either. Enter the worst thing to happen… Bad advice, mixed advice and poor breastfeeding consultant!

The stupid breastfeeding consultant at the hospital suggested nipple shields as I have flat nipples, but never gave advice or guidance on how to use them. Well result, even less stimulation on my breasts. Then a midwife suggested getting rid of the shields, but by this stage the twins were used to the shields and struggled even more to latch. But we persevered and the fact that my babies were sleeping VERY well (up to six hours) I thought meant they were getting enough food. In the mean time they were getting weaker and had to have formula top-ups when their blood sugar dropped below 1!

I so wanted to be the Earth mother who fed on demand and so thought all was fine with them not waking up to eat. Thank heavens the non-breastfeeding consultant staff at the hospital were great and picked up what was going on. I kept going trying to feed and realised I needed to wake my babies to feed every 4 hours. Then came the jaundice, making them even more sleepy, making it even more essential that they feed well and yet leaving them with even less energy to feed. And while all this was going on my supply was dwindling.

Add in another factor, thanks to the sleeping tablets I had been on for the last 10 days of pregnancy to get me to the safe place for their arrival, I couldn’t sleep at all without them and was getting about 1-2 hours a night and no naps during the day. And so supply dwindled more.

Finally by the Friday (them having been born on the Monday) when they were readmitted into hospital for the jaundice I was an emotional wreck, totally in pieces. So when the nurse offered to feed them formula (from a syringe) and let me sleep, I grabbed it. I don’t regret that night’s sleep, it gave me back my sanity and strength to be their Mommy but was almost certainly the final nail in the coffin of my milk supply.

On the Sunday morning, once again back at home, I couldn’t understand why Sausage was latching to my breast briefly then pulling back, shaking his head and moaning. I thought maybe my let down was too slow and he was getting frustrated, so I decided to try express to get let down. And there was the evidence… No milk! Almost nothing at all. Yes my milk had come in so this was not the very little of colostrum, I had dried up.

I was devastated but pragmatic enough to get them onto formula immediately and me pumping as often as possible.

And so here we are almost three weeks after that and thanks to some supplements (prolac and fenugreek) and eglynol and an intimate relationship with my fabulous breast pump I manage to express about half their feeds and they are on formula for the rest.

I have tried putting them back on the breast from time to time with mixed success. You see there is one more aspect of breastfeeding the pre-mommy could not have foreseen, the emotional side. When your child cannot or will not get sustenance from you, you feel like a failure. When your child rejects your nipples it feels as though they are rejecting you. Your rational brain knows this isn’t true, but the hormonal emotional side can’t help how it feels. All this resulted for me in each offering of the breast being fraught, scary, stressful and often sad. An emotional and sometimes physical battleground, that of course left me exhausted and the twins stressed. So for now we stick to bottles with as much expressed breastmilk as I can give them.

It’s so not what I wanted, but it’s giving them the best of my breasts that I can. I regularly remind myself when I get down about not exclusively breastfeeding that I do have enough milk for one baby, but two is perhaps just a step too far for my body.

On the upside my babies are thriving, growing well and happy and contented and mostly sleeping very well. And expressing and bottle feeding has some great upsides; I can get help with feeds, Chris gets to bond with them as he feeds them skin on skin when he is home, we know exactly how much they eat and feeding time is no longer an emotional battleground that leaves me exhausted and emotionally drained.

So to all those out there who are simply doing the best your breasts will allow, give yourself a break you are not alone. And I had a paediatrician tell me straight that while we are told breastfeeding is the most important thing we can do for our kids, actually it is just one of the very many very important things we need to do for our kids. We do the best we can, but formula is probably the most researched food to ensure it is as nutritional as possible and our babies will not end up imbeciles writhing on the floor unable to speak because we gave them formula when we couldn’t give them breastmilk. They can still grow up to be astronauts, rugby players, ballerinas, or whatever they were meant to grow up to be.

I want to end by giving a thank you to a few friends. My rockstar breastfeeding mom who has helped in so many ways, not just support and advice! And my friend in the cyberspehere over at TasIVF (sorry can’t put in the link, still blogging from blackberry) who wrote an awesome balanced post on expressing breast milk, that helped me to gain and keep some perspective. Thanks.

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About MommyAtLast

Finally a Mommy to our Medical Miracle IVF Boy / Girl Twins who were born in November 2011. We overcame azoospermia using hormone therapy for my hubby to conceive our precious Hope Babes on our 4th IVF.
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13 Responses to Best of Breast

  1. Gwen says:

    All the “breast is best” stuff pisses me off sometimes. For a full-term baby raised in “first world” circumstances (if not a “first world” country), the benefits are really small. Can you look at a group of Grade 1s, or preschoolers, or even toddlers and point out which were breastfed and which formula fed? Breastfeeding is great (but expressing really sucks) and I hope that you build up enough supply to have a better experience of it, but it’s NOT essential to your babies’ development. There are many things out there that are more deserving of the title “the best thing you can do for your baby”. You’re ticking all the right boxes – they’re loved, they’re warm, they’re safe, they’re nourished and everything else is just garnish.

  2. Aralia says:

    Wow! What a tough time you’ve had.

    I was lucky to have done a lot of research preBFing and my SIL helped since she BFed her son until almost 3 yrs old.

    Well done for finding a way to give your babies some breastmilk.

    Reading this post had me shuddering at how poorly you were supported in breastfeeding. There was an amazing nurse at the hospital we were at who could get Leo to latch so easily. Copying what she did was how I learnt to latch a difficult latcher. Without the amazing support of the nurses I would never be where I am now.

  3. Sweets says:

    I used to, and still, get annoyed with people who advocate that breastfeeding is the best you can give you baby. I understand that it may have better nutritional benefits for your child and so forth, but the way I sometimes felt judged that I did not do it was horrible. I will admit, GASP, that I did not really want to breastfeed to start off with, and that the reason I ended up giving it a shot was because he came early – it was guilt more than anything else, in that I felt guilty for not keeping him in longer, so I had to do something to make up for that. And then I got the – “giving you child the best start in life” bit, and I thought that that was what I was supposed to do. And I tried. I had a pretty good consultant helping in hospital. I admit I may not have tried hard enough, or that I should maybe have given it more time or a chance to work, but I couldn’t physically do it. Expressing must be one of the most awful things to do – and for me sitting in that room every few hours and doing it with no results was terrible.

    I think the annoyance is more about the judging. The fact that people judge you because you did not do it or decided not to do it. I was terrified of telling the nurses that I was stopping, I cried and cried to my husband asking him what I was supposed to do (and if you knew him you would know he would never answer me that…).

    So happy that things are going fine with you guys now after all that. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

  4. Mash says:

    My friend is a real earth mother, like complete card carrying hippie. One of her biggest life’s dreams was to have a natural birth and breastfeed. After 40 excruciating hours of labour, they did a C sec (it was in the UK) and after two weeks of breastfeeding she realised her little girl was not getting enough food. She said to me that the one thing about parenthood that she is really getting now, is that it’s humbling. You have to let go of those preconceived ideas!

  5. darylfaure says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more about seeing a b/feeding consultant prior to and almost immediately post birth. I also have flat nipples, and my breastfeeding story was almost exactly the same as yours, with blood sugar levels dropping, and everyone offering an opinion, but not really helping. If I have another baby, I will definitely take my pump to hospital and start expressing immediately, so that even if baby is not latching< I can still give expressed milk. I was also using nipple shields initially, and the ones I had were too large, and only on the 3rd day did one of the nurses tell me you could get smaller ones, and that turned the corner for us.
    Dylan cried a lot as a newborn, and we thought he had colic, but it turns out the poor guy was just hungry, and when I finally supplemented with a bottle of formulae at night, we turned another corner. Hang in there, give them what milk you can, and don't feel bad at all about supplementing with formula. You are a great mom.

  6. zygotta says:

    thank you for sharing your story – as I am 2 months away from giving birth, this is very useful!

    and as for formula… both my mom and my sis didn’t have enough milk – and we all – and my nephews – turned out just fine. In fact, my nephew is a wunderkind. So… don’t beat yourself up! You’re a great mother – because you CARE. Period.

  7. KK says:

    As you know, I also had a less-than-optimal go at breastfeeding. Be kind to yourself and remember that the #1 rule is simply: Feed the baby(ies). Hang in there momma, you’re doing a good job.

  8. Crazytwinmomma says:

    You poor thing! You definitely fell prey to the “booby traps” of bad advice and lack of support. Good for you for sticking with it and doing the best you can. I do want to tell you that I have known moms who started out exclusively pumping due to poor latch, preemies, weak babies, etc who have been able to get the babies to the breast as time goes on. A friend who had similar problems to yours started with just trying to latch babies 1 feeding a day. If they got it, great, if not she just gave the bottle. Once they were latching more consistently she slowly added in nursing sessions and dropped bottles. By 3 months, the babies were exclusively on the breast.

    As for supply, pumps are notoriously inefficient. They just don’t remove milk like a baby does. It may help to do skin to skin with the babies even if they don’t latch in order to help your hormones trigger milk let down. Keep up the good work and keep your head up!

  9. zamom says:

    If breastfeeding works well it is wonderful and if it doesn’t then it’s just awful. I was lucky in that I’d had quite a few friends breastfeed babies before I had Zoe and I got lots of advice from a friend that had a very similar experience to yours first time around and then with the right approach had a very successful time breastfeeding her second. Thankfully the midwife that did our ante-natal classes was fantastic in terms of helping to get the right latch (#1 I think) and she lived down the road so I could pop in or vice versa to make sure things were going okay. The one thing I will say is that the emotional side of things (which happens no matter when you stop) do fade VERY quickly ( a few days tops) and as many people have said there is so much more to having a baby than how they were born and how they are fed. Good luck, it is a rather bumpy road at first!!

  10. I am so sorry that you did not have great support. I had excellent lactation consultants working with me for weeks and I was still not ‘successful’ with breastfeeding. My boys just would not latch on- and it always turned into a crying fest… for all of us.
    So I went to exclusively pumping and giving them bottles. It is a lot of work- especially at first- but for me it is working. In the beg. I was supplementing with 2 bottles of formula each…. we are now down to just giving them 1 bottle if that, of formula.
    Keep up the good work— and whatever you decide to do for your babies, it is the right thing 🙂

  11. TJ says:

    So sad when hospital staff ‘try’ help but just make the whole experience more daunting. I had that with my 1st.My midwife had helped me latch quick quick, no stress, no fuss. Then the hospital midwife came along the next day with her ‘technique’ and I landed up with bruised and bleeding nipples. I then had to remember what my midwife told me and we were happy again after that.

    It’s ridiculous that they don’t advocate ‘nipple pullers’ more when women have flat/inverted nipples – it really makes the latching far easier than I think a nipple shield would. I used one for about 3 weeks and then it became easier and the need subsided.

    However, as much as I advocate Breastfeeding – I got a rather stern talking to from my Gynae (and heaven knows I trust him in all things – he too advocates the ‘natural birth and breastfeeding’) But he said to me ” You don’t need to sacrifice yourself for your children” when I had mentioned I was struggling with my supply 2nd time round. As women we do worry about getting things right, you have 2 babies, not just one – it adds to the worries and we have demanding husbands leaving us with very little time for ourselves. So formula is not bad and not the end of the world if you don’t BF. What is important is having your babies fed and having Mom as sane as possible – there really is no reason to be crying over dried up milk – You have babies to cherish and love – the time passes by so fast.

  12. Although I am a huge breast feeding supporter, I also admit that sometimes it just does not work. Even me, that was a veteran breast feeder with no 1 struggled initially with the twins – C just would not latch, but later on it was stellar. We all just do the best – as you say so well, what our breasts will allow us. And yes, consultation before hand is critical – I went before the twins for tandem feeding advice even though I fed no 1 for almost 10 months. A good breastfeeding consultant is worth her weight in gold.

    You are a stunning mom, know that and believe that. You are doing the best you can – which is all that we can always do.

  13. Maryna says:

    So sorry you’ve had such a rough time, Juanita. I think it’s incredibly brave to try and breastfeed two babies. I barely had enough supply for one and I suspect two would have sucked me dry of milk and energy till I felt like an old prune!

    All the best for coping during the tough first few weeks. I find it hard to cope with a singleton, so hats off to all twin mommies!

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