So much of the conversation on infant feeding focuses on first-time mothers and their breastfeeding experiences, for understandable reasons. But that also makes it easy for some to dismiss these experiences as simply “misconceptions”, “nervousness” or “inexperience with breastfeeding”.
But what happens when a third-time mom has twins, and despite the fact that she breastfed successfully twice before, she finds herself dealing with unexpected complications? Turns out, in Michelle’s case, that mother ends up dealing with the same emotional turmoil, conflict, and confusion as the first-timers. Because breastfeeding problems are not the sole property of any “type” of mother, of any age, socioeconomic group or ethnicity, or parity. These problems can strike any mother – and when they do, each and every one of us deserves support, respect, and the opportunity to make the best decision for our families.
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
When I found out that baby #3 was going to be baby #3 and #4 I was understandably excited and nervous. One one the first things people commented/questioned me about was whether i was going to try to breastfeed them. My answer was always that I would play it by ear and see how it went.
The twins developed something called TTTS (twin to twin transfusion syndrome, which can happen when identical twins share a placenta) and I was hospitalized for 6weeks with daily ultrasounds and monitoring, to make sure the babies were still okay. Every day I worried that one or both babies had died. It was not a relaxing pregnancy.
My babies were born at 31 weeks….tiny but perfect. They spent 6weeks in the NICU and I spent those six weeks pumping every 3-4 hours and making trips back and forth to the hospital while also trying to care for my other two kids who were not quite 2 and 6. I was generally NOT at the hospital for feedings, but the girls were getting my milk, first through an NG tube and then when they got better at suck/swallow/breathe, through a bottle. When they were getting close to discharge, the nurses told me to buy bottles and I was clueless and overwhelmed because I had always breastfed my others and had never used a bottle. I had requested a lactation consultant to help me transition them from bottle to breast, but she told me to nurse them and give them bottles afterward if they still seemed hungry. Prior to their discharge, I had attempted putting them on the breast exactly one time and it was not what in would call a rousing success.
They were discharged at 37 weeks and they were still incredibly sleepy and not interested in working for their food. I continued with nursing, bottle feeding, pumping every 3-4 hours. I was attached to the pump. I was miserable . I got in touch with a different LC who was more helpful and over the course of a week or so, I got the girls to latch and eat and finally I could be rid of the infernal pump.
Around 40 weeks the girls woke up. And they screamed. They screamed and they screamed and they screamed. They were miserable. I contacted the same LC again and she thought maybe I had oversupply. I worked on that. The babies continued to be miserable. I took them to the pediatrician who said some babies are just miserable and despite the fact that I had experience with two other babies, I had not had experience with twins. The girls still screamed. Finally when they were around three months old I read about milk protein intolerance and decided to eliminate dairy from my diet. There was much less screaming. There was still some though, and their stools were still showing signs of further intolerance, so I stopped eating soy also. That seemed to be the magic thing. Finally, I had happy babies (their bowel movements still seemed weird, but they were happy, I was happy…everything was finally good in our world). They were five months old at that point and I was finally enjoying them.
Fast forward to their weight checks. The older they got, the less they were gaining. They started out at three pounds, were almost five pounds when they came home at 6weeks old, and at five months were eight pounds. At six months they were up a couple more ounces each. We were going to the pediatrician for weight checks weekly and they were gaining, but slowly. Nobody suggested formula (I had on occasion used nutramigen when I got too touched out and needed a break. They also suffered from pretty severe reflux and wanted to nurse ALL THE TIME. I had tried a “gentle” formula once and it had resulted in immediate screaming that lasted two days, so that solidified my belief that these babies could not tolerate any dairy).
At their NICU developmental follow up appointment at almost 8months, the neonatologist was very concerned about their weights. At first they were recommending physical therapy, but he thought that if they started growing that it would not be necessary. They were 8 and 9 pounds and had been within 6 ounces of that same weight for at least 10 weeks. He suggested me doing an elimination diet and also supplementing with puramino formula 2x a day to see if that would help. I was already struggling without dairy/soy and feeding the rest of my family, so I was not thrilled about an elimination diet. I was not thrilled about the prospect of formula either. I thought long and hard about it, and decided to give them the formula and go back to eating what I wanted. I continued to pump just in case, for about three weeks. I watched my supply dwindle. I initially struggled with guilt, despite the fact that in the month they have been on the formula, they have each gained THREE pounds. There are rolls of chub on their legs! They are finally thriving and I love seeing them grow (they are almost 9months old now).
Nobody says “Good for you for feeding your babies!”. People insinuate that I didn’t try hard enough, that if I were a really good mother I would have gone on the elimination diet. One lady told me that I finally gave in to the evil medical establishment and that I should go back to breastfeeding. I don’t think I have ever felt quite so judged about any other parenting choice. I hate that I feel like I have to explain how we got to this point and despite me resolving NOT to explain, I feel oddly compelled to anytime anyone comments (which they all do immediately upon seeing a bottle).
One thing these babies have taught me is empathy. I never really understood empathy like I do now. I am much better able to put myself in someone else’s shoes and not be judgmental (secretly or otherwise).
I am so incredibly grateful that i found FFF when I did. My healthy thriving babies are glad also!
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