I Didn’t Breastfeed My Twins, And We All Survived

Breastfeeding didn’t work out for me, and I was okay with that. It’s easy to feel guilty or depressed when you realize your infant will have to be nourished from a source other than yourself, but luckily I didn’t feel this way. I was a bottle-fed baby, so I never viewed breastfeeding as the only “right way” to feed an infant. And as someone who was overwhelmed by my twin pregnancy from the start, my mantra was “I’ll do what I can do” and whatever that was, I’d be happy with.

My body has never been big on doing all the amazing things a female body can do, so I never actually expected to be the lactation queen. It took two years of infertility treatments to get me pregnant, so the chances of my body figuring out the whole milk production business seemed slim to me. I did hope that after gestation and birth though, something would “click,” and I’d be the female goddess of flowing milk and honey.

But that didn’t happen. Once my babies were delivered through a scheduled c-section, I tried to breastfeed and pump, and nothing came out. The NICU doctor came to my room and very gently told me that they were feeding my babies formula. He looked like he expected me to fling a vase at him or something. “Sure, whatever is best for the babies,” I said, and he backed away like someone who had just avoided a land mine.

What he didn’t know was that he was talking to someone who was hospitalized for pre-term labor at 26 weeks and spent the final 11 weeks on bed rest with a portable IV in her leg. By the time my little ones arrived at just under six pounds each (hooray!), I’d already crossed the finish line and won the gold medal. Anything else I could do was gravy. Can’t hold them both at the same time? Oh well. Can’t breastfeed? Too bad. Some things you just have no control over. My twins were perfect and healthy and I wasn’t going to ask for more.

Of course I kept on pumping and trying to get my babies to latch on and, within a few days, something appeared—liquid gold! But only a measly three ounces every few hours. Not enough for one baby much less two. But if this was all I could do, it was enough.

For the first month of parenthood, we had a baby nurse live with us and while she stressed the importance of breastfeeding, she was far from encouraging. When my son wrinkled his nose at the tiny bottle of breast milk I had pumped, she told me, “Your baby don’t like your breast milk.” (This is a wonderful way to make a mother of two-week-old infants weep!) She later said that my son was “too lazy” to breastfeed, which was also abysmally inappropriate. She did however, treat the babies like royalty and allowed me to sleep every night, so I couldn’t fire her. I decided that when she left, I’d stop trying to breastfeed because pumping would take up too much time in a day that was filled with bottle-sterilizing, formula-measuring, water-adding, bottle-shaking, diaper-changing, burping, rocking and putting to sleep (times two).

So for the month that I had help, I pumped what I could and breastfed my daughter when I could. I did love those special moments of closeness — it was amazing to look at this tiny perfect person I brought into this world being completely nourished by me alone. But I never produced enough for even one baby. So when the baby nurse left, I stopped my attempt at breastfeeding. I did what I could, and for all three of us, that was enough.

(photo: Stephen Coburn/ Shutterstock)

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  • lemerne

    Good for you. I am sick of people pretending like not breastfeeding is some sort of child abuse. If you can’t do it, you can’t do it. If you don’t want to do it, they’re your boobs.

  • CW

    After months of feeling like a failure as a mom when exclusive pumping wasn’t enough to keep my milk from drying up at 6 weeks post-partum, the lactation consultant finally admitted to me that about 15% of women are not able to produce enough milk through pumping alone. I asked her why on earth she hadn’t told me that when I was struggling with producing milk. She responded that she didn’t want me to give up prematurely. I wanted to smack her because I still would’ve pumped as long as I could (as formula is very expensive). I just wouldn’t have felt guilty about not being successful at pumping.

  • JMS

    Bravo! Your story is so similar to mine (aside from having a baby nurse) and my twin girls are happy, healthy and more than I could have ever dreamed of! I only just discovered (almost seven years later) that my having been on magnesium sulfate three times (twice to combat PTL and once due to preeclampsia) could very well have been the reason for my inability to produce.

    I love your last line, that you did what you could and it was enough. It took me awhile to get to the point of feeling that, but when I did, we all benefited from it.

  • angiedb

    I didn’t breastfeed my children and I refused to let anyone make me feel guilty. I still don’t feel guilty to this day. I will encourage my own daughters to breastfeed, but if they do not, it will be OK. They and their babies will be OK and I won’t let anyone make them feel guilty. Not within MY earshot, anyway.

  • Ellen

    Good for you! With both of my kids I tried nursing, tried pumping, even rented a pump from the hospital, and I got nothing for all my efforts. My boobs just don’t work. Thankfully we now have the option of formula so our babies can stay healthy. Healthy babies, healthy mama – that is the point!

    • Gloria Fallon

      Hear hear! I agree wholeheartedly!

  • LiteBrite

    I also didn’t breastfeed, and somehow we all survived too. We went through six weeks of pregnancy classes at the hospital and even took a separate breastfeeding class. Both made breastfeeding sound like a cakewalk: just put the kid up to your breast and watch him latch on!

    Only that didn’t happen with me. After two days, my son was not latching and even if he had I wasn’t producing any milk. He was hungry, and we were exhausted. Most of the nurses were supportive and tried to be helpful, but one was terrible. She actually smashed his head against my breast, holding him so hard that he was practically choking. My husband saw this and nearly blew a gasket (and trust me, this is not a man who blows a gasket all that often). After that, I admittedly gave up. We gave him a bottle. Yes, I felt like a failure at first, and yes, I agree that perhaps if I had stuck with it, I would’ve been successful. However, I was tired and out of sorts from trying to recover from surgery (I had a C-section too), so I just did what seemed right. I will say though that I got over my guilt once I realized not having the stress of trying to breastfeed allowed me the opportunity to start really bonding with my child.

    I agree the research bears out that breast is best; however, formula is not poison. Four and a half years later, my son is above average in height (well, genetics plays a huge part in that), considered quite bright for his age, and rarely gets sick. If he suddenly sprouts two heads and the doctor attributes that being bottle fed, then I’ll let everyone know and be the first to recant my feeling that we did the right thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/heatherjames1016 Heather James

    Of course your children survived… formula is meant for survival when breastfeeding doesn’t work. Pumping isn’t a good indicator of what you produce though… a pump is never as effective at milk removal as a properly latched baby. However, some women really don’t produce enough… in those cases, there are things called Lactaids and SNS’s that your child stimulates the breast while getting fed formula or donor breastmilk (look up Human Milk 4 Human Babies on facebook). Breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing.

    • BigBlue

      Thank God for unsolicited advice from strangers on the internet! I don’t know if you read the article, but the author stated (more than once!) that she would give it the old college try and if it didn’t work then it didn’t work. I don’t understand why people feel compelled to “educate” women on breastfeeding in the comments section of every article ever written that even mentions the word breastfeeding. It’s so lame.

  • Cristin Lees

    I loved reading your story–it’s very similar to mine. I’m so fed up with all the “breastfeeding is the only way” crap out there right now (and the thought of lawmakers wanting hospitals to HIDE formula?! What in the hell??). I was very overwhelmed at the thought of twins also, and the thought of being the ONLY one who could feed them was about to send me over the edge before they were born. I hated the lactation consultants in the hospital–over-bearing, pushy and downright intolerable to a new mom who couldn’t even sit upright for the first 28 hours of my kids’ lives due to a spinal headache. How else were my kids (born at 7.5 and 5.5 lbs) going to eat?! Oh yeah–Daddy and the grandparents fed them formula!

    I pumped for three weeks. Then I had a mole removed on my breast that had become a good bit larger throughout my pregnancy and was starting to worry me. That was the end of the breast milk, and my now 20-month-old twins are incredibly healthy and bright. Thanks Gerber Good Start!

    I will say–we did take a breastfeeding class (for multiples)… something NO ONE ever mentioned was that if you have a c-section, it can delay your milk coming in. I didn’t find that out until well after my kids were born and it frustrated me to think that no one bothered to say anything about this. Most moms having a multiple birth are more than likely going to have to go the c-section route. Would it kill someone to mention this?

    Anyway–just wanted to say thanks for writing something I could relate to!

    • LiteBrite

      If you have a C-section it can delay your milk coming in? Yeah, count me in the group that didn’t know that. In fact, your post is the first time I ever heard that.

      Would’ve been nice to know at the time. Perhaps I would’ve been more inclined to stick with it.

    • Gloria Fallon

      Thank you Cristin—I love hearing that someone can relate to something I’ve written! I didn’t find out about the milk delay until after my kids were born too. Bizarre that even in a breastfeeding class specifically for multiples they didn’t address that!

  • Marci

    First, your kids, your business how you feed them.
    That said, I went through 5 years of infertility treatments before I was able to bring home a baby, and my breasts may have been the only thing that actually DID work. It took me and the baby 3 weeks to figure out how to latch, but I think it was well worth the effort and the first few days, I did supplement with formula, but by day 3, my baby was exclusively breastfed. Admittedly, one child, not twins, and many mothers find it difficult to maintain supply for multiples.

    I just wanted to make the point that infertility doesn’t equal lactation failure and for expecting mothers who are “recovering” from infertility, they should not immediately assume they will be unable to breastfeed.

    • BigBlue

      Reading comprehension fail. The author never said that infertility = being unable to breastfeed. She stated that HER body had failed her in the past and therefore she had no reason to trust it. She is speaking about her own personal experience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/emily.heikkila.3 Emily Heikkila

    I did my best to breastfeed for the first three weeks of my son’s life,
    and it was a disaster. I wasn’t producing enough and was constantly
    stressing about the whole thing, spending tons of time pumping to try and increase my supply, and
    STILL having to supplement with formula because he wasn’t getting enough
    to eat. Basically I was miserable, strung out emotionally, and wasn’t bonding with my baby at
    all. Then when he was 20 days old, I had to go back to the hospital for
    an emergency appendectomy, and that was the end of breastfeeding. All the anesthesia and antibiotics in my system necessitated good old “pump and dump” for 10 days afterward.
    I did my best to keep up with pumping (thanks to a very fancy Medela Freestyle double pump on loan from a friend), but my supply never recovered. I got 1/2 ounce at most each session. Then when I fed it to
    my son, he either drank a tiny amount and didn’t want the rest, or drank
    it them vomited it up. Finally it occurred to me that I was wasting
    time I could be spending bonding and playing with my baby, not to
    mention taking care of myself, my home, and my partner. Now my son is a
    content, healthy formula baby, and we are all much happier as a family.
    I’m glad he got some breastmilk for the first three weeks, but if I
    could do it over again, I wouldn’t have stressed so much about it in the
    first place. As a commenter before me said, formula feeding is NOT
    child abuse or inferior parenting. Anyone who has a problem with what I
    feed my baby can kiss every inch of my ass and his too. To any mom struggling with what I went through, I would remind you that a happy, healthy, mentally present mom is way more beneficial to your baby than a few ounces of breastmilk.

  • http://twitter.com/sarahbeth6bee Sarah Bohr

    Thanks for sharing your story. While I appreciate that breatmilk is best, we all aren’t blessed with equipment that works as nature intended. I too had both of my children cesarean, &that comes with it’s own set of issues. I tried to breastfeed. When I had my son we tried everything to get that kid to latch on. Nothing. At some point you have to do what you think is right for you and your child. The only real negative feedback I had came years later. My son was diagnosed with autism. I actually had someone suggest that it was because I didn’t breastfeed. Some people are so rude & clueless..

    • Gloria Fallon

      Thank you for sharing too Sarah! I agree 100% that at some point you have to do what you think is right for you and your child, and it would be great if everyone respected that. I’m so sorry you received such an ignorant suggestion about your son’s autism—hopefully you were able to roll your eyes at that person!

  • C.J.

    Good for you for doing what was best for your babies. The only thing that is important is that they have enough food. It is just terrible the amount of pressure and guilt put on new mom’s about breastfeeding. I was a formula fed baby and in the 70″s my mother was told formula was better unless she kept to a very strict diet. I turned out just fine. Now we are made to feel like our children will have all sorts of problems if we don’t breastfeed. I’m sure in another 35 years they will be saying something else. They constantly change how you are supposed to do everything with babies. I don’t put a whole lot of faith in studies, it is not that hard to influence the results of them. What I was told for my first child (10 years ago) was totally different than what I was told for my second (7 years ago). I did breastfeed my children.They were very large babies (1st-11lbs, 2nd-10lbs) and was told to supplement with a small amount of formula after they breastfed because of concerns they might lose too much weight after birth. I made lots of milk and was still told to supplement so to me breastfeeding isn’t everything. I continues to give them one bottle every day, they were used to it from the beginning so didn’t have a problem going from breast to bottle and back. It made it so Daddy could do the 5am feeding before he left for work and I could sleep for 3 hours straight. Big babies eat a lot! There will always be something that some people will use to try to make new mom’s feel guilty. Only you know what’s best for your baby and your family. Mom’s need to follow their instincts (even if they don’t have a problem breastfeeding but choose not to, it isn’t for everyone) and ignore all the people that insist on judging them for everything.

    • Gloria Fallon

      Thank you C.J.! I don’t put a whole lot of faith in studies either, as they tend to go the way of the group that’s funding them! Congrats to you on those big healthy babies, and for following your instincts!

  • E

    “But only a measly three ounces every few hours” – three ounces every few hours is perfectly sufficient for a newborn, possible even two, depending on what you mean by ‘few hours’.
    That being said, you’d find me shuffling off to Buffalo if I found out I was having multiples – it sounds like the biggest challenge EVER and I feel for anyone going through that, especially those early days. But lets not let misinformation swirl around like a hazy mist instilling doubt in the minds of women: 3 ounces every few hours is perfectly fine for a newborn. And milk not coming in until day three is totally normal.

    • BigBlue

      My son ate 4-5 ounces every 3 hours at 2 weeks old. Thanks for your useless advice though!

  • Ian

    Thanks for sharing your story, I agree too much pressure placed on mums to breast feed. It’s worth mentioning that formula companies give huge numbers of free samples to hospitals seemingly to get infants hooked on the expensive stuff from day 1. Just try switching to Costco brand formula when you get out of hospital and it gets spat back in your face!

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  • k

    good for you and your babies! such a much more reasonable and enlightening article on not breast feeding than the drivle rebecca eckler recently posted

  • http://twitter.com/mamaonetothree Wendy Bradford

    Great post!! I *completely* relate and I agree. Because nursing had gone pretty much “eh” with the first, I had a 2-week goal with the twins. I am not sure I even made it that far. Love your attitude & wisdom!

  • Jenna

    Thank you for sharing your story! I couldn’t breast feed either of my kids and got a lot of grief about it from a lot of people so I really appreciate it when I hear someone stand up for the bottle feeding moms out there. :) Thank you.