Thursday, October 19, 2006

The ubiquitous post-infertility breastfeeding post

When I was in elementary school, I had a friend with whom I had what we dubbed a love/hate relationship. Quite honestly, I remember very little else about our friendship except this. I’m afraid I’m going to develop the same sort of relationship with breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding challenge #1: I had always hoped to be able to BF the babies, but after everything else, I tried not to set myself up for supreme disappointment if I had problems (which I thought I might, given the whole PCOS thing). At about 18 weeks into the pregnancy, I started leaking colostrum. The first time I pumped in the hospital, I netted something like 40cc of colostrum. And then almost nothing. The attending ped had us start supplementing MissM with formula, because she was little and lost a lot of weight. At the time I freaked, but this ped had read my file, and listened to me, and told me she thought we’d be fine - that the trauma of delivery and the subsequent bloodloss had slowed my milk, but that given my history she didn’t expect problems with supply. And sure enough, probably as a result of the insane pumping at the beginning, I ended up with nothing less than an oversupply.

Breastfeeding challenge #2: Oversupply is not actually a good thing. At least not for the babies (though it does wonders for stocking the freezer). Oversupply is linked to overactive letdown (OAL), which can cause a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, which means the baby gets full up on foremilk and never gets to the rich hindmilk. Most breastfeeding resources that address this suggest fixes that don’t make sense if you’re nursing twins, but thankfully I found a resource with some specific suggestions (most useful to me: give each kid a dedicated breast for a day or longer) and made it work.

Breastfeeding challenge #3: MissM developed silent reflux. This may or may not have been connected to the OAL. There’s nothing quite like latching your baby on only to have her scream and pull away in discomfort. It’s a particularly painful cry. I only slightly prefer the cry of disgust that she gives in response to her acid meds. (Whoever thought to make medicine for babies that tastes like menthol clearly never had to force it into their child’s mouth. Why, oh why can’t they make the stuff taste like sugar?)

Breastfeeding challenge #4: Neither kid has been particularly interested in bottles. Oh sure, there’s the occasional time when they’ll accept a bottle, but for the most part they’ve turned up their noses at the whole concept. We’ve tried 4 kinds. We’re probably not persistent enough with the bottles, or so we thought, until I tasted some of my stored breast milk. Eeesh, no wonder they don’t want the bottles. But here’s the thing. I’m just now ready to leave them for a few hours, after months of being unable to conceive of being away. And it’s now that I have no way to leave, or no way to leave them to be fed.

I’ve done the research, and we’re going to do a trial run with the scalding of the milk, but given that I’ve barely had time to pump lately, I’m not sure how I’m going to add another step to the pumping process. The far easier solution would be to give them formula when I need to be away. But for them to take bottles easily, they need to do so regularly - every day or two. It was one thing to think that we’d give them a bottle a day of breast milk. It’s quite another to think about giving them formula, especially if my breasts and I are actually around. And it’s the final straw for me in thinking that even in this my body sucks just a bit.

I do love some parts of breastfeeding. I love the look on B’s face when he’s in that firmly latched, comfortably zoned out state. I love that M has conquered her latching difficulties and even with her tiny little mouth can take what she needs. I love the way their hands grasp at my bra strap, how their whole bodies get caught up in nursing. I love the moments when I’m not supposed to be doing anything else but nursing. I love that I have the ability to comfort and soothe them. (I know it’s not the only way, but it’s the way that only I can offer.) I love that for the most part, breastfeeding is convenient and portable.

But breastfeeding twins is hard. It’s really really hard. It’s physically and emotionally draining even on the best days, and on days when my breastmilk causes one of my babies to cry in pain, it’s like a knife in my gut. When I’m exhausted, but I’m the only source of food. When I can’t leave, even for a minute.

I love breastfeeding, and sometimes I hate it. And in the end, I want to remember much more than that.


  1. I hear you - I felt much the same way even with being able to give them bottles - I can imagine that it must feel stifling and overwhelming to not have that option. There were times where I just wanted to run aways, to get them off of me for a while. FWIW - it really does get so much easier in the upcoming months for most women. The urgency decreases, they feed more efficiently (for us, this changed quite late -around 6 months, but it was a huge difference when they suddenly fed in less than 10 minutes), and then, when they take solids, they gradually need to bf less and less. It got so I missed it - honest! I think you're awesome for having persevered through all the challenges. It will be something you can always be proud of, knowing you did your best to nurture your babies even though you have twins and it's hard sometimes. Even though we're done nursing, it gives me such a good feeling knowing "we did it".

  2. Not a twin mum but PCOS, oversupply and terrible reflux with both my IVF boys. Just a thought on how to get them to drink BM in bottle since the frozen stuff really does change in taste. When I plan for a few hours outside the house I usually pump in the morning and then just before I am out of the door so that the milk is still "fresh" by the time it's drunk. Also, my 2nd son does not like bottles either. He is the one with the worst reflux, don't know if that affects it but I have him on an Avent sippy cup, the one with fairly soft spout and an insert that controls flow so that he still has to work fairly hard to get the milk. In the beginning, the baby sitter would feed him with a spoon...I know, time consuming! Especially with twins, I imagine it would be impossible unless you had 2 people babysitting for you. I think it sounds like you are doing an amazing job with BF your twins. Hope you also can make it out of the door some day soon :)