Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Breastfeeding Rant

We took the twins in for their first pediatric appointment last Wednesday and then for a growth check this Monday. Things are looking good for the Hatchet Twins!

At the hospital, they were born at 6 lb 12 oz for Logan and then 6 lb 14 oz for Emma. Over the course of their 4 day stay, while I was swimming in colostrum but not yet milk (until the 3rd day) they dropped weight rapidly. The ped got upset when Logan lost his 12 oz and said it was time to start supplementing. They also began showing signs of jaundice. Solution to jaundice? Supplement.

Or produce more milk.

There, you see, is the problem. The breasts never received the telegram from the uterus that there were two on board, so there wasn't enough milk for two. Nice going, breasts! You're so fired!

We started off with donor milk while at the hospital and pulled their weights up to 6 lb 3 oz and 6 lb 5 oz before we left. This included several crying jags over feeling worthless, betrayed by a body part, being in searing pain and sitting through 1.5 hour long nursing sessions in order to get more milk in faster. We went home with 8 oz of donor milk that were gone by the end of Monday night. The next day, Eric went out and bought formula since there still wasn't enough milk for two. One and a half, maybe, but not two.

By Wednesday I was (Surprise!) an emotional and physical wreck. Every time the twins would latch on to nurse, my body would dump adrenaline into my system in response to the pain. Somehow I don't think this was assisting my milk let down reflex. I can't quite get them to open really wide and this after talking to 3 or 4 different lactation consultants who seemed to see nothing wrong while I was in the hospital. So it's probably just the break in period. At the pediatrician's, the twins weighed in at 6 lb 8 oz each. Hurray! The ped told me I had 2 weeks to have them return to their birth weight and not to tear myself apart doing it faster.

Then she took a good look at me, sat down and gave me The Chat. I think she may have saved my life, if not just my sanity and breast tissue.

She suggested a moderate position on breastfeeding. Feed each baby for 30 minutes on "their" breast (switching up once a day so no one develops side preferences) and then if they're still hungry, supplement. The breast tissue will produce more milk through the regular emptying and filling than it will through 1.5 hour marathon sessions. Also, those sessions serve to tire out the babies, since nursing takes work on the part of the infants. It would also help my breasts to recuperate. The twins, you see, have sucked the chrome off my bumpers and it's Pain City around here.

Am I informed about breastfeeding? Yes, yes I am. And I'm here to tell you that breastfeeding twins is not like feeding a singleton, only "more so".

With a singleton, you have a recovery period while they (presumably) sleep in between nursing sessions. You can also split the nursing between both breasts - 15 (20? 30?) minutes on one, then 15 on the other. I don't have that luxury. Two breasts, two nursing, full term, full sized twins means each one has to get their own breast. This also means that until I get them to stop biting me and can nurse tandem, that my nursing sessions drag out longer and I get even less of the down time (and sleep!) between sessions than you do with only one child.

I nursed Caitlin for 13 months, after which she was over it and we bid our nursing days a fond farewell. It wasn't without its measure of pain and suffering, blocked ducts, swelling and engorgement. Oh and an attempted mutiny at 5.5 months because I was back at work and bottles were so much easier than nursing. She expected me to pump and fill bottles for her instead of nursing directly. We fought it out over a weekend and I triumphed: back to nursing and off bottles for the time being.

What I noticed in the very beginning of our nursing career was this: 3 days of suffering, waiting for my milk to come in while Caitlin cried with hunger and chewed me up. Finally, my milk came in with a vengeance and there was milk everywhere. The breasts didn't know how much to produce, so they were set to Firehose for Caitlin.

Six years later, they still don't know how much to produce, but the Firehose setting for one isn't enough for two. I'm supplementing about 3 out of 12 feedings for each twin (Yes, that does mean 24 total feedings a day.) and this will continue until my breasts finally catch up and get with the program. Yes, I am pissed off that my body that worked so hard to produce two healthy babies would let me down in the milk production department.

And the guilt? The guilt sucks.

Let me try to put it differently for you. You know what cutting is, right? Well, after following that link, you do now!

I cut myself every day, because I feel like I'm a bad mother.
I cut myself every day, on the breasts, because I feel like I'm a bad mother.
I cut myself every day, 24 times a day, on the nipples, because I feel like I'm a bad mother.
I cut myself every day, 24 times a day, on the nipples, with a grater, because I feel like I'm a bad mother.

This is what we do to ourselves and call it breastfeeding. All of the literature tells you that it doesn't hurt if "you're doing it right". I dare you to then find anyone who has ever done it correctly, right off the bat. Nipples are made of very sensitive material and they've never worked a hard day in their lives until suddenly a newborn is let loose on them. If you somehow think that won't hurt, you're smoking something the rest of us probably want. After several weeks it will get better. I know it will - it did last time and does to everyone that can persevere long enough to make it past the breaking point.

Err...break in period. Roughly 6 weeks, if I remember correctly. However, it's the longest 6 weeks you'll ever spend thinking about one body part and wondering whether you're going insane or not. You're doing it for the good of your child(ren), but that doesn't mean it makes it any easier to get through.

Suddenly puts formula use into perspective, doesn't it?

Not everyone can breastfeed. Not everyone wants to. Not everyone should have to, either.

We are, all of us, individuals. Some of us want to have kids, some don't. Some find it easy to get pregnant, some don't. Some find it easy to give birth vaginally and without drugs and some don't. This being the case, if we can agree that those statements are true, why can't we also accept that not everyone can breastfeed? Sometimes it's because of lack of information, lack of desire, fear of pain, the need for prescription drugs, illness, lack of milk production, etc. Any way you look at it, those women that aren't breastfeeding? They have their reasons and those reasons are their own.

Formula is a tool. Right now, it's a tool that I'm using.

If you have twins, let me know how you did it. Did you breastfeed? Did you supplement? How long did you go and do you have any advice on making it through the first 6 weeks?

Oh and in case you're wondering, at yesterday's doctor appointment, the twins were past their birth weights as of Day 12: Logan at 6 lb 15 oz, Emma at 7 lb 3 oz. Things are getting better. Each day it hurts a little less. Each day I produce a little more milk. Each day the twins open their piranha mouths a little wider. Each day we seem to use a little less formula. Each day the twins get a little cuter and plumper.

I'm taking it one day at a time.

But I still want to log a grievance with Mother Nature.

So if you are planning on nursing, I recommend you take a class or two and get a good book on the topic and try to take it easy on yourself.


Scylla said...

I love you!
Nursing with Marlena hurt like hell. There was cracking, and bleeding, and intense pain for months.
Then there was bliss.
With Oliver there was no pain. I have no idea how or why, all I do is count myself lucky and thank the PTB's.
I am sorry it's rough right now. You are one of the most wonderful mother's I have ever met, so use the tools you have to take the ramp up time you need. You know what is best for you, and ultimately, that is what is best for your children.

A miserable mommy is never the best thing for her babies, so you walk to the beat of your own drum, and I will applaud you.

Swistle said...

I breastfed the twins. I supplemented with formula the first week while my milk was coming in.

BUT--they didn't nurse 12 times a day, or for 1.5 hours each time. If I remember right, it was 8 times a day, and more like 45 minutes each time. If it had been more/longer, I was fully prepared to use formula. I had two cans in the cupboard, all set to go.

The boobies will learn about the milk. They're like the economy, and only operate on supply and demand--the communication line from the uterus is completely down.

In the meantime, do formula to help you. There is nothing wrong with that, and everyone who says there is should refrain from biting you, since you are getting bitten often enough already.

Missy said...

Good for you for taking care of YOU and your babies.

I remember thinking with #2 that I was an old pro at the nursing thing,since I had nursed her sister for 15 months and was surprised and disappointed that it still took a few weeks to get into a good and pain free groove with the second.

I was surprised by the pain too. The lacatation consultants gave me a little gel insert thing for my nippples to keep in my bra in between nursing sessions to help ease the pain. They were helpful too. I seem to recall having what looked like scabs on the end of my nipples too for awhile too, until they were broken in so to speak.

This mommy stuff is hard. I hope that it gets easier soon!

Mom's need to support each other and not judge. What works for one does not necessarily work for all.

ellen said...

I know this is hard. It was hard for me nursing just one. I will never forget the deep breath I had to take and the curling of the toes as Seth latched on to my cracked and bleeding nipple. I cried.

You are doing what you can and it is enough. Relax, drink water like you are still pregnant and eat like you are still pregnant. Take advantage of that wonderful mom of yours and eat, eat and drink. You will make the milk. If you have to supplement for a while so be it.

You can do this. Your breasts will heal. Please take the time to look up your local La Leche League. Those wonderful woman are insightful, supportive and answer their phones at 3 am!

Ali said...

A-fucking-men, sister.

While I fully plan on breastfeeding, I was raised on formula and still somehow managed to become deeply, deeply attached to my mama.

I just thank my lucky stars that I don't live in a time (or a country) where formula isn't readily available. Breast is best, sure, but a healthy, happy mother is even better. (Feel free to remind me of this fact in approximately nine weeks.)

Ali said...

FYI, the nightmares? Probably due to the anesthesia. I had heart surgery when I was five which was followed by several weeks of night "terrors" (highly intense nightmares). The doctor told my mom it was a side effect of the anesthesia. Apparently it's our body's way of trying to work through the physical trauma it experienced.


Underemployed Nama said...

Hatchet, like you I had two C-sections, and I recall the additional ups and downs because of them. Having a baby is a big deal for anyone, and having two is monumental. Add to that the fact that you had major abdominal surgery, and your body is working to heal itself while providing milk for your babies. You get to take all the help you can get--guilt-free--so that you can recover. Formula supplements are no big deal, the babies are thriving and will continue to do so. You deserve all the pampering and support you can get. You are AWESOME! Love to all--

Red Flashlight said...

Oh, Hatchet - I am proud to count you among my friends. You are one tough mama!

Anonymous said...

I cried thru your rant, & thru all the comments here. What truly wonderful advice & support you have gotten. I agree - use those tools. It's true that all of us who were formula drinkers when it was not "cool" to nurse, when I was born, are still healthy, happy & close with our mama's. I loved nursing my son for 10 months, but if I couldn't do it, I would not be any less of a wonderful mother. I think what you need is some New York bagels. I will send them soon as I can. Love to you all. Janet

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Thanks everyone!

*sniffle* You're all so sweet!

Things do get slowly better, although Logan says that he hates formula and will only drink it if that's all that's to be had. Emma says Yum! Which probably explains why she's 4 oz heavier than he is.

My nursing periods are down to 30 minutes a piece, but keep on going. I've got Duracell Breasts or something: "Takes a Biting and Keeps on Fighting!"

Maya said...

I just found your blog and have started reading it with great interest. I had twins (boy and girl) in June. I'm breastfeeding them and had similar issues in the beginning with weight loss (on their part, which was bad, on my part which was good!). I did supplement a bit, not as much as I should have because I was psycho post-partum lady even though I vowed not to be (these babies are my #3 and #4 so I really should know better that sometimes formula is just needed and OMG everything will be fine and you can still breastfeed).

They are 4.5 months now and thriving. I have to say I received very little encouragement by the medical professionals I came in contact with and had I not breastfed my first two children I doubt I would have been successful. Breastfeeding them is one of my proudest accomplishments. And I agree with everything you said here.

One question for you: how long were you able to tandem nurse? Thank goodness those days of being trapped on the couch for hour long nursing sessions are LONG GONE (not my favorite) but once in a while they still get crazy and tired and hungry at the same time and I have to go for the dreaded "pink pillow" (pink my breast friend twin pillow). It's getting really hard. One of my babies is fine and the other one just seems PISSED when we do tandem. Like she's not getting enough.

Tipper said...

I'm on week five of breastfeeding twins. I have two older children who are now 4.5 and 2.5 and they were each breastfed until around age 2. Things have been going a whole lot easier than I expected, but that might be because I have breastfed twice before, and know a lot about boobs in general, so I kind of knew what to expect.

My plan of attack has been to sit around as much as possible, doing almost nothing but breastfeeding. This is hard with two older kids, but I have a great parenting community (through the Twin Cities branch of Attachment Parenting International), and we've had meals delivered almost every evening. People have helped take the older kids off my hands occasionally, even for just a trip to the park. I pretty much just park myself on the couch with a twin breastfeeding pillow and spend days feeding the babies and letting them nap on me. I've done this with my other babies, too, and the only difference is that now I have two to deal with. It is very trying for me mentally, as I like to DO things, and I have to be content with "just" growing babies.

I had horrible nipple pain for about a week as we worked out latching (you're SO right - nipples are sensitive and it hurts, at first, even when things are a-ok). Motherlove Nipple Cream was awesome during that period, though there were plenty of feeds where I curled my toes and/or cried.

I definitely understand why people want to bottlefeed twins, though. It takes a large amount of commitment, and the way hospitals are set up re: multiples almost sets women up to fail at breastfeeding every single time (even moreso than breastfeeding singletons).

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