Monday, 1 July 2013

feeding the masses

The tiny babies aren't so tiny anymore. My little sparrows are starting to get chubbier cheeks, vague hints of fat rolls around their arms and big strong kicky legs.

I'd love to say it's because I'm snuggled up tight with them breastfeeding like a champ but it's not. It's because they're mostly on formula. And though I'm so glad to see them growing and thriving it's been pretty emotional.

From the very beginning the breastfeeding was the hardest part of this whole ride. Due to the prematurity (35 weeks isn't so premature for twins but is still preemie enough to lack some basic abilities in the feeding department), to the emergency c-section, to the preeclampsia etc etc I had no milk for the first five days and they had to learn to suck and breathe, and yet still needed to eat at the same time.

This meant that the babies were bottle fed on formula in the hospital, as there was a huge amount of pressure to get their weight up quickly given they were so small. Maybe I could have resisted this more? But I wasn't going to have them on feeding tubes unnecessarily.

Since then it's been a constant process of trying to play catch up. Of trying to get enough milk stimulated, of trying to latch either of them on. Of destroying whatever semblance of a routine we had in favour of 10 days of straight on-demand feeding to try to wean them off of the bottles, which therefore meant every 2 hours feeding in the night, but not the same hours (i.e. resulting in about 35 minutes of sleep at a go). Of trying to carve out time to pump during the day - taking me away from the babies or from sleeping or laundry or anything else that needs my attention more.

And in the end, it just hasn't worked. The lure of the bottle is too much, they're too used to it and frankly I can't figure out how the heck I would breastfeed them both at the same time, even if they would feed. They don't latch consistently, they don't really eat much when they're there, one of them is always starting to scream when I'm trying to feed the other one and so simultaneous feeding without topping up is receding as an ever-more-obvious pipe dream.

This probably sounds like a nothing thing, but after all that I felt like I'd already given up to the infertility, donor, high-risk pregnancy process, for some reason I had a vision that breastfeeding would be the one thing that would work. 

I didn't grumble (much) about having a c-section - I didn't love it but it wasn't horrible either - and there's a lot of other parenting things I'm not precious about. 

But this was something I really wanted for us all. That I felt I needed to bond with my babies, that I knew would be the healthiest thing for them and for me, and frankly, also the most convenient. Every time I'm up sterlizing bottles in the middle of the night or I see a friend pop their baby on their boob this point is hammered home to me, yet again.

For some reason I had this fantasy that this would be the thing that would finally work. After the infertility and the tough, tough pregnancy and the slightly traumatic birth... breastfeeding was going to be my jam.

Yes, that's giving it too much power and yes, we all know breastfeeding is hard, but it was there nonetheless.

So I've spent far too many hours in the last seven weeks weeping as a little face screamed and cried at my boob. Around week 5 I decided it was enough, that it wasn't working and that I'd focus my energy on pumping instead. I've been taking dom.peridone and fenugreek to try to get my supply up but I'm still only managing to find time to pump about four times a day (which is really hard even still) and not really trying to latch them on at all any more. So the supply is dwindling, which makes me feel like I've let them down all over again.

It's familiar, right, this feeling of wanting something so much to work out but being powerless to make it happen?

I was reading Jenny's post the other day about her similar situation and of course it reminded me that as much as I feel like a failure, I would never think it of someone else. I need to acknowledge that this situation is working out as I hoped, but rather than sitting her obsessing about what isn't working try to think about what is - that the babies are healthy (though their almost constant tummy issues make me feel so insecure yet again - this spitting up is from formula right? probably not but it feels like underlining what I'm not giving them...).

I'm trying hard to move on and appreciate the gorgeous babies that I have. But like so much else about this process it's hard for me to acknowledge that I wish it could have been otherwise, that I wish for once something could have been just a bit easy.


  1. I'm sorry breastfeeding has been so hard for you and the babies. Preemies are so different from full term babies in so many ways (and prone to reflux, by the way, which could be the cause of all the spitting up). The important thing is that they're thriving. But I know what you mean about wanting one thing to finally go the way it's supposed to. Sending you and those babies lots of love an hugs!

  2. Hey there lovely. Firstly your babies are so utterly gorgeous! And I adore their names! Secondly, glad to hear you're all doing ok even if breastfeeding is not quite working out how you planned. As Daryl says the main thing is they're thriving but I totally get wanting to have ONE thing just like everyone else gets. I want to try and induce when/if we ever get there so I totally understand that desire.
    Secondly the questions people ask about who looks like whom etc, of course you will figure out your and s' way to deal with them but don't beat yourself up at all if you find that actually you don't want to be 100% honest and you tell some little white lies, or just let people say stuff and not correct them. It's your babies' story more than it is anyone else's business. You will find a way that you both can deal with.

  3. WOW this post echoed so much of what I felt on the breastfeeding situation. My babes came full term (37w3d) after a healthy pregnancy, but with a (for me) traumatic birth under general anaesthetic and still breastfeeding proved to be just too hard for us. My boy had a small tongue tie which made it very difficult to latch and very painful when he did and my supply completely dried up on day 5 (for a whole long list of reasons). I too had convinced myself that breastfeeding was the one thing that was going to go smoothly after our struggle with infertility etc.

    It was just not to be. And that was so hard (still is some days) for me to accept. I managed to get my supply re-established with Eglynol and fenugreek and prolac and jungle juice and any other supplement I could lay my hands on. I was feeding either a baby or a pump every 2 hours in a desperate attempt to get my supply high enough to feed two hungry and very fast growing babes. Also at around 5 weeks I said no more. I went to alternating which baby got the boob (with work we got my boy drinking) and then would pump straight after every feed and the other babe got a bottle of either formula or expressed milk. By 12 weeks I had my supply as good as it ever got with my supplying about 80% of their milk, but of course their needs kept increasing and once again I found myself behind.

    I eventually made peace with the fact that my kids were thriving and doing so incredibly well. And I was emotionally very sad that we never got it 100% 'right'.

    But here we are at 20 months and my babes are healthy, well balanced, well developed little beings who have thrived. Because somewhere along the line I realised that what they needed most was a mom who was a little more relaxed, a little more present with them (and not the pump) and a mom who needed to just let things be what they are.

    So try as best you can to let go of the dream of how you hoped it would be and focus on how awesome it is to have two healthy babes after everything you have been through.

    Big hugs