Tuesday, December 18, 2012

From the Nursing Chair: Breastfeeding Twins

There is a throne in my house these days.

Double-wide nursing pillow, iPad, tea...it's the base of operations. This is where I feed my 12-week-old twins.

Breastfeeding twins has been a horrible, wonderful, sweet, uncomfortable, intimate challenge that I am finally enjoying. Most of the time.

As of 4.5 weeks old, I have exclusively breastfed my twins. Prior to that time, four days of extra hospitalization for me (due to an infection), 8% weight loss for Squeak, and general exhaustion necessitated some formula supplements and expressed breastmilk by cup and bottle, in addition to breastfeeding. Imagine feeding two babies on demand, at least every hour and a half, individually, round the clock, for at least 30 minutes per feeding, and one of them had a poor latch. While healing from emergency c-section/infection/twin pregnancy. Oh and then I had an allergic reaction to a vaccine and couldn't move my arm...followed by an absess on my tailbone that made sitting painful.

It. Was. Insane.

Maybe if I can remember more than a hazy blur of awfulness, I'll tell you about it sometime.

I had planned to breastfeed my children, but accepted that I might have to supplement with formula because there were two of them. I didn't think it was a big deal either way.

It turned out to be a huge deal. I was totally unprepared for how emotionally charged, how tied to a sense of self-worth, breastfeeding would be for me.

Breastfeeding is food, comfort, intimate communion with these people that have been growing inside you for almost a year. It's the center, home, the wellspring. After becoming accustomed to toting around two extra bodies 24/7, I find tandem feeding to be one of the only ways I can comfortably feel complete - that both my babies are close, safe, where they belong. So if it's not going well, or you're a new mother so you have no freaking clue how it's going, because it hurts and feels weird and you can't see the milk and your babies eat totally differently, well...let's just say there are many deep, primal emotions that rise up from the back of the reptilian brain and surge over the rational parts, drowning them out completely.

When I read up on breastfeeding prior to giving birth, I constantly had to wonder: does this apply to twins? How do you do that (feed on demand, get into position, get a full feeding) with twins? I also heard nothing but doomsday prophecies about supply shortage. This cuts to the core of a mother's fears: I can't feed my children. Yes, I have googled "signs of starvation in newborns" at midnight...and again at 2am, just to reassure myself. It's so easy to pass over that first teeny tiny sentence, "Most women will be fine," and skip right to, "but there can be complications," which are described in agonizing details over the next 300 pages or so. This is especially true for multiples.

Despite reading everything ever written on pregnancy, birth, and childcare, I never did find the book I was really looking for: a whole volume of the positive mantras designed to build the new mother's confidence and shore up her emotional fortitude, with a tiny chapter in the back for the few facts you need to know, like get nipple cream and football hold is king.

Meanwhile, we need more stories about variations of normal. So I offer you my normal.

This post is the first in a series of musings on breastfeeding twins. It's based totally on my experience. I have no expertise other than my own experience. I pass no judgement on families who decide to use formula, or expressed breastmilk, or any combination of loving healthy ways to nourish their children. And I readily admit, maybe double breastfeeding isn't a big deal to everyone. But it's a big deal to me, and if it is for you too, hopefully I can offer some encouragement. Or make you laugh a little. Or make you glad you never did it.

In any case, this is my truth about breastfeeding twins. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this. You touched on much of how I felt in the early weeks of breastfeeding. It's terrifying and wonderful all at the same time. I experienced many of the issues you had (fear of not having enough milk, how to latch correctly, what if my baby's not eating enough),and I only have one baby to deal with. I can only imagine those issues multiplied!


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