Monday, May 24, 2010

The Tale of Bibliosaur's Boobs

I wrote in my last post that breastfeeding our twins has been a huge problem, worthy of it's own post - so here's that saga!

Because I was incapacitated with an epidural headache for several days in the hospital, early breastfeeding efforts were hampered a bit. I did pump on those days, but not nurse - I couldn't sit up to hold the babies and couldn't nurse them well while lying on my side because of the headache. And even pumping was difficult because I was so sick and stressed - not good conditions for expressing milk!

On top of that, establishing supply is quite difficult for many women who have multiples because your body doesn't immediately understand that you have two babies instead of one. Take all of the stresses and uncertainties that come with starting to breastfeed one baby and complicate that with having serious supply issues, and I had some extremely rough days before my milk came in - I have never felt more like a failure in my entire life than when I would try to nurse the babies and they'd only get half the amount they needed, and then have to be supplemented with formula. I don't think I've ever cried so much in my life - here were these two perfect little people and I couldn't even provide their most basic need. It was heartbreaking to feed them and then watch them desperately cry with hunger afterward.

Even now that they're nearly 5 weeks old, it's an uphill battle. The boys are still getting about 1/2 - 3/4  of their food from formula (depending on the time of day, as my supply is significantly lower at night). I nurse them at every feed before they get their bottles, being careful to make sure that they fully empty both breasts so my body gets the message that it needs to make more milk, but it's slow going.

I had originally set a one month breastfeeding goal for myself so I wouldn't give up too soon, and we reviewed our options when we hit that mark. The choices I had in mind were:
#1 - continue as I was (nursing and pumping to try to increase my supply, along with supplement feeding)
#2 - switch to exclusively pumping (most likely along with supplement feeding)
#3 - switch to exclusively formula feeding

When the 4-week mark arrived, I was strongly leaning toward #2 - so much so that I did a ton of research on it and was thisclose to buying a more hardcore pump than the little one I was currently using. Then I decided that I'd trial it for a day, just to see how I liked it. Exclusively pumping is one of those things that sounds easy, but really isn't - it's not just the preparing/washing bottles, but the dedication of forcing yourself to pump every 3 hours regardless of the time of day or night, etc. I wanted to make sure I would be OK with the schedule, so for one day I committed to pumping and bottle feeding instead of nursing.

I hated it. It wasn't even the schedule that bothered me - I just hadn't realized how much I loved nursing them. Just the closeness of's so hard to describe what I mean. I love looking down at their little heads, even when I'm exhausted and they're being difficult feeders (and ohmigod tandem feeding is hard when they're fussy - one will drop off and then start screaming, then the other will, and you're left frantically wavering between them trying to get them both to re-latch and failing because you don't know who to pay attention to first!). I deeply resented being hooked up to a machine instead of my babies and couldn't even make it through the whole day before I started nursing them again. This isn't to knock exclusive pumpers at all - in fact, now I have even more respect for women who stick it out, because it's HARD! It's just not for me - I would rather 100% formula feed (and thereby get that extra play/snuggle time with the babies that I would otherwise spend pumping) than exclusively pump.

So then I looked at option #1 and realized that I don't want to keep doing THAT either. Nursing AND pumping AND bottle feeding is soooo hard. I mean really, incredibly time consuming. I felt like literally all I ever did was worry about feeding the boys, that I never got to actually enjoy my babies or enjoy being a mama. I want to be able to play with them and cuddle them without looking at the clock and saying, "Oh, it's halfway between feedings - time to pump" and having to put them down.

That left option #3 (100% formula feeding), but I wasn't really happy with that either since, as I said, I'm still enjoying the closeness of nursing them. So for now, I've changed to a modified version of #1 - but instead of nursing, pumping and supplementing, I'm now just going to nurse and supplement. No more pumping. I am going to spend that time with my sons, not hooked up to a breast pump. If my supply ends up decreasing because I've dropped the pumping, that's fine - it's worth it for my happiness and sanity, because I believe I will be a better, happier mother for my boys even if I end up having to swap entirely to formula. But interestingly, my supply seems to have increased after I stopped pumping in between nursing sessions, presumably since I’m less stressed and getting more rest now. That said, it still just won’t catch up to what the boys need even though I’m nursing them at every opportunity and my boobs are getting drained every time.

I saw my doctor this morning and got a prescription for domperidone, which is pretty much my last ditch effort at breastfeeding. Domperidone is not a magic pill - it does stimulate lactation, but you still have to do the hard yards and keep up a diligent nursing schedule.

So where does that leave us? Well, my domperidone prescription is for one week, so at that point we'll review yet again and decide what we want to do (I know I keep saying "we" - this is because although they're my boobs, I value Mr Bibliosaur's input). If the drugs didn’t work, we’ll probably stop and go to 100% formula, if only for my own sanity. I know that might not be a popular choice, but it will be what's right for our family.

It's difficult to express just how exhausting and frustrating this process is and I can absolutely understand why many women give up when they have multiples. Some days are easier than others and on them I feel very positive and hopeful that eventually we'll be able to exclusively breastfeed. Other days (like today) I just start sobbing and want to give up entirely. Breastfeeding may be natural, but that doesn't mean it's easy!


  1. Just a thought here...feel free to tell me to buzz off!;) Could you fully nurse 1 child, both breasts, at every other feeding and bottle/formula feed the other? Then switch for the next feeding? Does that make sense? I've never had multiples, only 2 individual babies, 5 yrs apart. But I did nurse both of them. I only made it 5 months with my first, but nursed my second for 2 yrs!:) I also supplemented both of them with formula...nothing to feel bad about! You are still caring for and loving on those babies and that's all that matters! As long as they are fed, who cares where it comes from!? You enjoy those babies!:) And thank you for sharing your story...your boys are gorgeous!:)

  2. I have been exclusively pumping for 3 months, and it is VERY hard. Daily I have to convince myself to stick with it. I want to quit all the time, but I set small goals each week. Sometimes each day. Sometimes each pump. I have been able to drop pumps to where I now pump 5-6 times a day, and it seems more managable. My baby was 5 weeks early and never properly latched, and I was too exhausted to try getting him on the breast, then pumping, each time. Breastfeeding is one of the most difficult things I have ever endured, and no one tells you that! I have been able to exclusively breastfeed for these 3 months, but I take it one week at a time. My goal is 6 months, and then we'll see. I get very upset with people when they say "Why don't you just nurse!?!" as though I hadn't thought of that! My baby is getting my breastmilk, which was the goal anyway.

    Don't beat yourself up on not being able to stick with the breastfeeding... not having a sufficient supply can be very devastating, a girlfriend of mine went through the same thing and she was torn up about it for weeks. It gets better, and she loved that she and her husband could share the feeding duties. Hang in there!! Millions of healthy, strong, thriving formula-fed babies can't be wrong! :D

  3. I just want to tell you what a trooper I think you are. Breastfeeding is very tough at the beginning and almost daily I think how tough it would be with twins. I also hate pumping, I find it tedious, and I agree with you about nursing over pumping. It's a great experience and so good for closeness. Whatever you end up doing you're doing a great job so don't give yourself a hard time. Your boys are delightful by the way.