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.