One Maid A-Milking

I don’t know if it makes me a bad person/woman/mother, but I don’t actually want to exclusively nurse. Maybe because there are two babies and it sounds too daunting. But it makes me feel like I’d be too tied to them. I want some freedom. I want and need a second person to do feedings. I don’t want to be the exclusive food source–that’s intimidating! I don’t want to deal with the drama of public nursing (I don’t have a problem with it, but it seems kind of stressful to do it and be discreet and also deal with other people’s comments or whatever. Ugh). Before they came, I didn’t know how my body would do with breastfeeding at all, let alone how it would work with twins. I definitely wasn’t married to the idea of breastfeeding, but wanted to give it a try. If it worked, good, if not, no big deal.

When we were all in the hospital, the nurses kept trying to push breastfeeding right away, trying to get the babies to latch right after birth and at every feeding. It never worked, because there was never any milk there. Duh! For two days every feeding involved using a syringe to inject donor milk while the baby sucked on a finger, and the other baby would be attached to a nipple shield while the nurse did the syringe. (Two days doesn’t sound like a long time, but when the feedings are every three hours or so, that’s what, close to twenty feedings?) It was always a long and irritating process. I was still so out of it that I didn’t know what to do about it or if there were other options or even that I could think about/ask about trying something else. Finally one of the overnight baby nurses, when I was asking–and starting to cry–about the nursery so we could get some sleep, took pity on us. They no longer ‘offer’ a nursery, in order to be baby-friendly. (This is a very trendy thing, “baby-friendly” hospitals. It means the baby always stays with the mother in the room, for bonding and such.) But she finally said, “Here, I’ll take them for a couple hours and do one of their shots; that’ll be my reason to keep them a bit.” I also asked about the feedings or using bottles or something. (Or maybe she suggested trying bottles? I can’t remember.) I asked if someone (the lactation people that were supposed to come but didn’t for at least three days) would give me grief about nipple confusion and sabotaging breastfeeding and shit like that. She was like, no, whatever, don’t worry about that. She took the babies, we slept like the dead, and the babies came back two hours later *silent* with pacifiers and bottles of donor milk. Our lives got much better after that. Hallelujah for nurses taking pity and taking charge!

As an aside, I’ve never been a super shy person physically, but I wasn’t sure how I would be in the hospital about breastfeeding. I thought I would be a little reserved at least. But starting from the recovery room, my boobs were out there and all kinds of people were not just seeing them, but actively manipulating them. And I wasn’t self-conscious at all. It was like they were just business equipment being used and they weren’t really private or mine anymore. I didn’t mind, which surprised me. Also, I was probably too tired to care. Also also, I don’t think I had a choice.

My colostrum finally came in on Saturday and milk followed on Sunday (babies were born on Wednesday). The lactation consultant finally showed up on Saturday and helped us get going with tips and info. I rented the hospital-grade pump and pumped every few hours at the hospital and then after we went home on Sunday. The right side produced a fair amount, while lefty was producing next to nothing. After a few days, both sides stepped up a bit. Since then, one or the other side has dropped to very low, or both have done a lot, or neither has done much. All over the place. For a day or so, we were almost a day ahead with pumped milk, and some days we’re only a couple hours ahead.

We usually do a formula feeding in one or both of the overnight feedings so that the stockpile of pumped milk can keep ahead. We’ve gotten some free sample cans of formula, so that hasn’t cost us anything as yet. Full-time formula feeding twins would cost a lot of money, so it would be really great to have as much milk as possible for as long as possible. That would be ideal financially as well as for health reasons for the babies (assuming there are no allergy or sensitivity issues), not counting the value of my time.

Earlier this week I started trying to nurse the babies (with nipple shields) occasionally to see how they did. Started with like four or six minutes one day, and the next day they each did over 20 minutes! That made me feel pretty good and hopeful.

Here’s a fun tip: if the baby stops sucking, you can move his arm–in a chicken-wing motion or in an up-and-down/hand-raising motion–and he’ll start sucking again.

This Wednesday I returned to the hospital to see the lactation consultant I’d worked with. She tried to get the babies to latch, but neither of them quite got it. Since they were both starting to get fussy hungry, we got them on using the nipple shields. And for the first time, they both nursed at the same time. It was kind of neat to see both of their little heads right there, getting some nourishment from mama. However, I hold no illusions that I will be able to tandem nurse–nor do I want to. At least not right now.

(I have finally just started using the double nursing pillow though, and I really like it. I’d been using a pillow over a boppy, which was awkward. And I still need some extra blankets/cushioning with the nursing pillow, but it’s more stable, and since I’m only using one side of it, I can use the other side as a makeshift table for snacks!)

The consultant told me that basically I have three babies right now–the twins and the pump! Gah, I hadn’t thought of it that way, but yep, is that ever true. So she wants me to nurse at least one of them at every single feeding–even for just ten minutes–and then follow with a bottle, and then follow with pumping. At every single feeding. According to my log–yes, I keep a chart in a little notebook with the pumping times and amounts, like a little nerd–I’d been pumping about four times a day, while they eat about eight times a day. So the idea of doing all those things literally twice as often is quite intimidating. And tiring.

On Thursday morning I did as she suggested. And I was on the couch for literally four hours. It was the second day of each of us taking one of the night/morning feedings solo so the other person could sleep. Andy did the last evening feeding, we both did the overnight one, and I did the first morning feeding. Emmett nursed while Malcolm had a bottle while propped in a boppy. Emmett still needed some more milk from a bottle afterward. Then I pumped for about 30 minutes, and then I did skin-to-skin with both of them on my chest while I watched a tv show and dozed off for a nap. Half an hour later Andy was up and it was time for the next feeding. So Malcolm nursed, Andy fed Emmett, Malcolm took more milk from a bottle, and I pumped for another 20 minutes. I hadn’t eaten anything during the first part of that, either.

This kind of schedule sucks. Obviously the extended skin-to-skin time was my choice and won’t happen very often. (But seriously, it’s one of my new all-time favorite things.) Since feedings happen every three hours or so, and generally take close to an hour, now that hour is even longer if I’m doing all three of those things. So then I have two hours, or less, left to do things like eat, shower, or things around the house (or let’s face it, on the internet. These posts, for example, all get written in bits and pieces ahead of time.). Really I should be napping for at least one of these breaks. Basically, I want to or have to be in several places at once, during the feedings and in between. And that sucks. I feel pressured and annoyed. And thank god the babies are easy right now (PLEASE STAY THAT WAY, BABIES), so it’s easy to do those other things between feedings (PLEASE STAY THAT WAY, BABIES).

This morning (Friday), it took two full hours to do a solo feeding and pumping. The feeding part went well and quickly, and then my heart sank when I remembered that I wasn’t done yet. Plus I always like to hold a baby or two for awhile after they finish eating, and now I can’t do that. It makes me really sad that a pump has to override holding and bonding with one of my babies. Or if I do hold them, that pushes back my time that much more.

However, what else am I going to do? Not do my best to nourish my babies with the ideal food? (That was a little sarcastic. As you can tell, I’m not a die-hard breastmilk person. Plus I have twins; my milk has to go twice as far!) I’m in a pretty damn privileged position–I don’t have anything else to do all day, and thank god my husband is around this month to share the feeding duties. And I guess this part is short-term, to establish my milk supply. So I can try to think of it that way, that this won’t last forever. And I won’t beat myself up if I miss a nursing session, as long as I do a pumping.

Sigh. I guess I just need to push through. Good thing I have a Roku (Netflix on tv) and a laptop. And that the babies can sleep through music and tv.