I’m often in awe when I see a Mom in the park, cafe, library (pretty much anywhere) breastfeeding. They have this wondrous way of whipping the baby under their nifty top and popping he/she on the nipple without even a wince, or even a pause in their conversation with friends. Sometimes I catch myself staring, and quickly correct myself so as not to look like a total weirdo, but I honestly can’t get over how easy it seems. I wonder how much these Mom’s struggled at the start, how many times they cried through the pain, or struggled for an hour to get a nipple in their baby’s mouth. Because that was the reality for me… breastfeeding didn’t work out. And although I’m OK with that, I do think my infant feeding choices could have been made with a little more knowledge and preparation under my belt.
My first born was exclusively breastfed for all of 10 days; by which point I was in tears every time I fed her, I had thrush in my nipples, and was swamped in guilt because I dreaded feeding my own child. I abruptly stopped, and inevitably came down with mastitis, and the whole experience felt like one big disaster. On reflection, I was massively underprepared, I just didn’t realize how hard it would be, and I didn’t have any help on hand to get me through it.
Preparing for Feeding Twins
Having learnt from the experience with my daughter, when I found out I was pregnant with twins, I didn’t really know what to think. I hadn’t managed to successfully breastfeed one baby, how on Earth was I going to manage two? Yet people do manage it, frequently… so why not me? In the build up to the birth, I was recommended a lactation consultant. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to talk to such an expert; would it create too much pressure to breastfeed when I wasn’t 100% sure if I wanted to myself? If I signed up with a consultant, would she frown upon my decision to formula feed if that’s the way I decided to go? I just wanted the freedom to make my own decision, without pressure from anyone else. On reflection, this was’t a good decision, because the experience I gained with my daughter turned out to be totally irrelevant to my experience with the Twins.
When the Twins Arrived
The Twins arrived by C-Section at 36wks, and I was all set to get those babes on the boob. What my previous experience hadn’t taught me was that premature babies don’t tend to feed well. While my daughter was a fabulous feeder (it was me that struggled), the Twins wouldn’t latch… in fact they struggled to stay awake long enough to even try. I spent the first three days stripping them naked, putting a wet cloth in their diaper, tickling and pretty much anything the staff and I could come up with, to keep them awake long enough to feed. I found the only thing that worked was to ramp down the air-con in the room at feeding time, probably not recommended when you’re trying to keep a newborn warm.
When I did manage to get them awake, I couldn’t get their mouth open wide enough to stuff that nipple in where it needed to be, so I would grapple for 45mins to get things going. Bearing in mind, newborns need feeding every two hours, I had two of them, and it was taking up to an hour to get them on the boob and another hour to feed… the schedule wasn’t adding up. The babies lost weight, a lot of weight. After three days I was told if the boys didn’t at least plateau, they would have to move to the NICU. Terrified, I turned to formula… even though my milk had just started to come in.
The First Few Months
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommend only breast milk for the first six months. Looking back, I wish I had given pumping a good go, while the boys got to grips with feeding. Unfortunately it’s easy to look back and say what you should or would have done, because you’re no longer sleep deprived and healing from major abdominal surgery.
The first month was a bit of a blur; the boys took 45mins each to bottle feed and I fed them back to back. They fed every three hours, so I had a 1.5hr gap between feeds to sleep during the night. I worked my way through many episodes of Midsummer Murders… I recommend it because each episode is exactly 1.5hrs long and there are a lot of them, so you won’t run out in a hurry. It’s also nostalgic for me, having moved from the UK three years ago. I digress… I don’t remember a lot during that dark month, but I do remember Midsummer Murders.
Things became much easier as the boys began to feed more quickly and were able to lay in a Boppy pillow… I could suddenly feed two babies at the same time, hooray! However, you do miss out on the baby cuddles when you bottle feed two babies at the same time. The snuggly gaze you get from cuddling while feeding can’t be beaten, which is why at night I always fed one at a time. It’s simpler, and more calming for all, despite it taking twice as long.
Feeling Confident in Your Infant Feeding Choices
Although the result may have ended up the same, I do wish I had felt more confident about getting advice and support for feeding choices. At the time it felt like there were only two choices – either I feed both babies on my boob, or I bottle feed them formula. In reality, there are all sorts of choices in between. I could have pumped and bottle fed breastmilk while the boys gained strength; I could have supplemented with formula for weight gain, without giving up on breastmilk altogether. And I kick myself that, despite it being my second attempt, I still didn’t prepare myself properly and feel confident in the decisions I was making.
Introducing the Happy Family Infant Feeding Platform
You may be familiar with the Happy Family brand, however you may not know they offer free resources and support for parents. If you have questions about breastfeeding, supplementing, bottle feeding or infant nutrition, they’ve got your covered! The Happy Family Feeding Platform has a team of ‘Mama Milk Mentors’ on hand for live chat through their website. These lactation specialists and Cornell-Certified nutritionists are all moms themselves, and are here to support your infant feeding choices.
Learn more about the Happy Family Infant Feeding Platform –> here.
In addition to chatting in person, the team at Happy Family offer articles on infant nutrition and feeding tips. It really is a fabulous resource to feel more confident about feeding your baby.
I have three happy healthy children, and do not preach any one feeding choice. But I would recommend getting advice, support, and feeling confident in the infant feeding choices you make.