Pre-babies I had a lot of thoughts about breastfeeding. Some of them still hold true. I don’t need to see other people breastfeed. I am a very modest person in terms of nudity and seeing other people’s boobs is not something I’m into. However, I would never put another mom down for breastfeeding wherever and however they need to do it. It’s my issue so I look away. If I ever heard any one give a mom a hard time for breastfeeding in public I would immediately come to their defense.
Some stuff I learned about breastfeeding twins for twelve months is important. As a society we don’t talk about breastfeeding because it has to do with boobs and we as a society are extremely closed to these discussions because apparently we only like talking about boobs if they are sexualized.
There is a lot of pressure on new mom’s to do things certain ways. And the right way varies depending on who you talk to. People become very judgmental and invalidating. I’m writing this blog post to hopefully provide some encouragement and validation to new mom’s.
I decided to breastfeed my kids because I work in healthcare and I knew it was the healthy choice to make. I was not going to put a lot of pressure on myself to “make” it work though. Because I knew my mental health was more important when starting a journey as a twin mom. So here’s my breastfeeding story.
Immediately after being cut open and having two babies taken from my uterus and while I was still intermittently puking I had two beautiful little beings put onto my boobs. One of them took it to it right away, the other was not very interested.
They were born at 36 weeks, they were both 5 lbs. Having been a pediatric nurse I knew they were at high risk for weight loss and feeding issues. That is what would keep them in the hospital. So I was determined to make this breastfeeding thing work. I also agreed to supplement with formula until my milk came in. I wanted to bring them home.
Enter in pre-eclampsia. I had high blood pressure which is why we did the emergent C-section. The next morning I lost all peripheral vision in both eyes. I was put into maternal special care and started on a magnesium drip as they thought I was having full blown eclampsia. The next twenty-four hours sucked ass. I got no sleep. They check vitals every hour on a Magnesium drip. I was on bed rest, so I had the freaking catheter still in. My incision freaking hurt, and they would still come in every two hours and throw the boys onto my boobs. They also encouraged me to pump between feedings to help bring in milk supply.
So I had no vision, I was on a drip that made me feel shitty, and I was fresh post-op. People were texting us wanting to come to see the boys. I wanted everyone to go away and leave me to die. It sounds so dramatic but it was totally awful.
So that was my introduction to breastfeeding.
Luckily after some force-feeding of the boys with medicine droppers and the 24 hours of Magnesium we were all cleared for discharge. One of my boys was breastfeeding like a champ, the other one not so much. Every two hours it was an ordeal. One boy on each boob, and extra attention to the one boy who needed it.
About five days in my nipples felt like they were going to fall off every time they nursed. I’m not exaggerating. I actually had nightmares where they fell off. Because they didn’t get a break. There was no switching boobs, it was one baby on each boob every time they nursed. No breaks. Around this time we realized both my sons could not tolerate formula. We tried milk based, soy based, anti-allergy etc. The only thing they could keep down and sleep after having was my breast milk. No pressure.
After the first two weeks of me crying through every feeding because my nipples hurt I wanted it to be over. Now. But we literally tried every formula and it was not happening. They were both in pain afterward, up for twelve to twenty-four hours sometimes just miserable. So onward we went with breastfeeding. I did get my lazy feeder to start nursing well, so by about five weeks in they both were at least nursing easily but I was living life as a milk machine. I was always crazy about my supply. If I took six hours to sleep at night, I would wake up in the middle and pump. We were building up a freezer supply which thank God we did because we needed every last drop to get us through to a year.
Enter blocked ducts. I was making milk for two babies. My boobs were overloaded so I continuously would get blocked ducts. It feels like a hard lump in your boob. It’s extremely painful. The solution- nursing. One of my sons was a very vigorous nurser so he’d have to nurse on that side until the duct cleared. He did clear it every time. But it took a few tries sometimes.
Then we had family and friends over and they were sad they couldn’t give the boys bottles. They wanted to know why I couldn’t just not breastfeed them one time. It made me want to scream. I was working so hard physically and emotionally to keep up with twin supply. Every time they had a growth spurt my supply had to keep up with them. I also knew I was going back to work at eighteen weeks and we needed a freezer supply. I was working all the time on making breast milk to feed my sons. I didn’t want to hear it from anyone about giving them a damn bottle.
Breastfeeding twins who are not on the same schedule meant I was breastfeeding upward of eighteen hours a day. Mostly they were on the same schedule. But they never had growth spurts at the same time which meant those weeks were rough. Then one of my sons cut his first tooth at ten weeks. Yes that is rare. Yes it totally sucked. They didn’t use pacifiers at that time, and instead he was gnawing on my boob.
I couldn’t leave the house because if we left the house one of them needed to nurse. They weren’t the quiet nursers. They made a lot of slurping noises, they looked around all the time, and unless we were sitting alone on the couch at home it was not relaxing for me or them. Thus it was an incredibly isolating eleven months. The twelfth month we made it through on all frozen milk.
Had I not had two babies who were extremely sensitive to formula would I have stopped breastfeeding? Yes. Did I receive many opinions about my breastfeeding journey from many different individuals? Yes. Did this want to make me isolate even more? Yes.
Around the tenth month I was back at work already and had been sharing a double office with another new mom. We would both hook up our boobs to our pumps and do our notes while we pumped. It was a nice set-up because we could lock the door and we were both going through the same thing. But then there were some major office changes and we were told we would be put into a group room with three other employees, some males. When I asked my boss and the woman in charge of office space where I would pump they said well we don’t have a space. I said you have to provide me a space, and they said, “Well you can use a bathroom.” I said, “You want me to pump milk, food for children, sitting on an open toilet in a nasty public bathroom?” They both said “yes.” I informed them that this was against our state and federal labor laws to suggest I pump on a toilet. I ended the meeting, waited until I walked out and burst into tears. I was still pumping three times a day at work at that point.
I worked for a hospital, and both of those individuals were women one a mother. I could not believe I was being treated this way and I felt violated. I had come so far in this breastfeeding journey and put so much work into it and it literally was how we fed our children. I was angry and stressed and hormonal and I also knew it was illegal. So then I had to set up meetings with human resources and our executive director. I couldn’t believe that the three men I spoke to (while crying) about my whole experience were more understanding and more willing to help me than the two women.
The psychiatrist I worked with at the time and our chief resident immediately came up with a solution for me to use in the interim until the hospital got it’s shit together. I remember feeling so angry though that I had to even involve them. That my breast-feeding journey became this spectacle and source of gossip at work.
The whole experience was incredibly eye-opening for me. The more I talked to other women at work and online and in my life the more stories I was told about women being told there would be no accommodations made for them to pump at work. Teachers and nurses had it the worst or maybe that’s just who I was surrounded by. Women came forward having been told they could not take pump breaks or there was nowhere for them to pump, or use their car, the bathroom, etc. It was shocking to me.
Why do women not make a stink about this? Why are women treated this way by employers? Why as a society do we not empower women to feed their children in any way they want instead of making it impossible for them to do so without it being a battle? My place of employment should not dictate how I feed my kids. I should.
By the time the boys were eleven months they were big, healthy, eating solid food, and the last time I nursed them one of them bit me (he had a full mouth of teeth by twelve months) hard, and I was done. One of them was clearly ready to be done, one of them would probably still be nursing if I let it go on, but it was time. They went from 5 pounds at birth to over twenty pounds each by one year. My boobs will probably never look the same but it was worth it. There were moments when we would be nursing and they would cling their little hands together or hold onto my fingers. They would sigh and fall asleep on my chest. They would look at me and really see me with their big blue eyes. There were beautiful moments I wouldn’t trade for anything.
When a friend became pregnant with twins they asked me for advice. I said the number one thing I’d do is not stress about nursing. If it works it works, if it doesn’t and they tolerate formula just move on, the first year will be happier and easier and less isolating. Do I regret nursing? Never. Do I wish I was less isolated for the first eleven months? Yes. Do I wish I never had that experience at my job? Absolutely. It was horrible. But it also made me more aware of a problem our society has.
Breastfeeding is an incredibly vulnerable act. It exposes our bodies, it exposes our babies. It puts us into the position of not being able to defend ourselves if needed. It also makes us vulnerable to people’s judgements. Any mom who breastfeeds for any length of time deserves a medal. She deserves encouragement, pride, support, and NO judgement.
It’s taken me a long time to write this blog post. I stopped breastfeeding one year ago. But it still causes me to feel raw when I think about those eleven months. It was so hard for so many reasons. I could not have made it through without the support of my wife. I also would not have made it through if my son’s hadn’t absolutely loved nursing. That’s what kept me going. But I’m not going to lie. I’m very happy it’s over.