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.