As soon as I found out we were having twins, I thought I would have a laid back approach to feeding them. If breastfeeding worked, great! If we fed them with formula, great! I felt quite indifferent to the whole thing. Fed is best.
But then they were born early and had to spend two weeks in the NICU. I left the hospital with a gaping hole in my abdomen and two empty car seats. The ONLY thing I could do for them was provide milk…
Within a few hours of delivering the twins, a lactation consultant visited me. She swiftly grabbed my boob and instructed my husband on how to extract tiny droplets of life-giving food into itty bitty tubes that he would deliver to the NICU. And then from there on out, I pumped around the clock. Every 2 hours without fail for 20 minutes. Over those first few weeks, I obsessed about pumping and milk supply. It’s the only thing I could do for my NICU babies. I would sit in the sterile pumping room at the hospital and desperately wish to be able to fill a bottle like the other supermoms.
And then it happened. My milk came in and I was engorged beyond belief. I went from pumping 10 ounces a day to 50 ounces over the next several weeks.
Once the twins reached their due date, I decided to give breastfeeding a try. I hired a lactation consultant to come to our house because, guess what, it doesn’t just come naturally. I was able to get Baby B to latch successfully but Baby A wanted no part of it. And forget tandem nursing.
So then my routine shifted. I would make a bottle for Baby A and prop her up on a pillow. Then I would get Baby B and get him set up to nurse while making sure Baby A didn’t drop her bottle. Then I would nurse Baby B while holding the bottle for Baby A. When Baby A was done, inevitably before Baby B, I would put Baby B down (screaming) and burp Baby A. Then I would resume nursing Baby B who was still pissed. (Are you still with me?) Then, when all that was done, I would crack out the pump and pump for 15 minutes so that I would have milk for Baby A’s next feeding. I’m exhausted just typing this!
But 50 ounces of breastmilk wasn’t enough for my two babies. They regularly needed a combined 60 ounces. So we supplemented. And that was fine.
But then my husband, Craig, went back to work, family flew home, visitors dispersed, and I was on my own. Alone with two helpless, hungry babies. I was bottle feeding, and nursing, and pumping, and mixing formula, and washing bottles, and changing diapers, and cleaning spit up, and soothing sore nipples, and I lost it. It was too much.
If I wasn’t pumping then I was nursing and if I wasn’t nursing I was washing bottles and the cycle never ended. I never got to just sit and snuggle a baby. I was tired, so tired. I desperately wanted to just sit and do nothing.
So I quit. I reached my limit. After four months and various visits with specialists, I made the decision to quit pumping/nursing and exclusively use formula.
Over the next eight weeks, I started the process of weaning. Slowly but surely I pumped for less time, fewer times a day. I could feel my sanity slowly coming back. I added in formula to our routine. The babies didn’t seem to notice a difference and happily ate what they were given.
I’ll never forget the day I gave them the last of my pumped milk. I was not prepared to feel so emotional about it. I tried to act like it wasn’t a big deal, but I was crushed. I second-guessed my decision, and I felt guilty for being so selfish. Surely, I was a bad mom.
Here we are, almost eight months later, and I know it was the right decision for me. I have the freedom to leave the house without my pump. My body belongs to me again. I get to spend so much quality time with my babies because feeding them isn’t a source of stress and frustration and anxiety. I’m a happier, healthier mom, and I’m raising happy, healthy babies.
I know twin moms who tandem nurse, exclusively pump, use strictly formula, or some other combination. ALL of these choices are the RIGHT choice. At the end of the day, I learned that I can only be a good mom if I’m taking care of myself. I made the choice that was right for us, no explanation needed.