Before I start I will tell you a little about me. I am determined, decisive, and generally once I decide something that is that. When it came to breast-feeding I always wanted my child (ren) to have breast milk. It is best, and it is free! I thought I would just pop my baby on and bam we would be breast-feeding.
Then came a major curve ball. At our 8 week ultrasound we found out we were have twins. TWO babies??!! My mind wasn’t big enough to wrap around that. How was I going to do this? I didn’t know how to take care of one baby, let alone two! (I had never changed a diaper before my boys were born). What a wrench.
I decided I would try to breast feed, but knew more realistically I would be pumping. Twins are almost always preemies so they have a harder time latching, as that is one of the last skills to develop. Because of the preemie status they almost always go to the NICU straight after birth to be at least checked out. Mine were born at 36 weeks. 3 days and as promised went straight to the NICU. I didn’t get to see them until 12 hours later (because of my c-section and the fact that I gave birth at night). All of these things were strikes against us in getting them to latch.
In the hospital they did latch…kind of. I found pumping less stressful then having two hungry babies and trying to get them to latch. I will admit that I was okay with the idea of pumping; I saw my breast as sexual objects not as vending machines (and, frankly, so does my husband). I thought it would be less conflicting for all involved without their mouths actually on my breasts. So I started exclusively pumping, and decided I wanted to make it at least 6 months. About 30 seconds in, I totally understood why women quit. It H-U-R-T. There was no support except the help I asked for from the nurses. I was surprised they didn’t encourage it more without prompting. My nipples bled. Even still I rented a pump and my husband picked it up before I got home from the hospital.
We went home three days later with one of the boys. I pumped and wasn’t making enough for anyone to have a full meal. We had to supplement with formula. And the guilt began. Did I bring the milk to the baby who was still in the NICU? Did I split it evenly? I pumped every three hours around the clock. Thankfully Baby B came home only a day and a half later. We made a schedule and stuck to it as if our lives depended on it (it very well may have).
Every three hours they needed to eat. I would sit on the floor with a baby on each side of me and bottle-feed. Then I would change them and get them back to sleep. Then I would pump, split the milk in two and put it in the fridge for the next feeding. If my husband was nice enough to get up in the middle of the night and feed them, but I still had to wake up to pump. My teeth didn’t always get brushed, a shower was optional, but I pumped no matter what. For a little while there I did make enough for both of them, and even had a tiny freezer stash. However, soon enough they started eating a lot more and I had to supplement again.
Guilt. Guilt that I didn’t make enough. Pain. It felt like someone was trying to rip my f&(@)#g nipples off. Exhaustion. Sleeping in 1.5 hour stretches is not really satisfying. I fantasized about quitting every time I hooked up that pump. I hated that pump. I wanted to throw it out the window. No one could talk to me when I was pumping because I was straight up angry when I was pumping. During the day I would put the boys in their bouncy seats and bounce them and sing to them while I pumped. I would always be on the internet when I pumped, it distracted me just enough. Did I mention the pain?
Around 10 weeks old my boys started sleeping through the night. I never knew 6 hours sleep would feel SO good! Except on my boobs! They were SO full in the morning. Despite my best efforts I began so see my boobs as food machines for my babies and not as sexual objects. My husband wasn’t allowed to touch them, or even look at them. They were sore. I felt like a cow; hook me up, and pump me out. But I pumped on.
By four months my boys had made it to the 95% in weight and height. They were getting about 50/50 breast milk/formula. Then they hit a growth spurt, and wanted about 40 oz. to drink a day. I couldn’t keep up so we started solid foods to get them down to 32 oz. a day. I felt good about the results. I felt like I accomplished something, that the breast milk helped get them where they were. I was still determined to make it to 6 months even though I still fantasized about quitting every second of it.
Then they got RSV and again I felt guilty. I felt like maybe if they had gotten 100% breast milk they wouldn’t have gotten sick. (I know these are not logical thoughts, but I am pretty sure mommy guilt is not based in logic). Still I kept pumping. Then I got a clogged duct. Oh, the new fresh pain. I massaged, I sat under the shower and rubbed. My husband offered, in jest, to help me rub them…. I almost hit him. I had no sense of humor regarding the pump or my boobs anymore. It finally unclogged. My poor poor nipples. Pump pump pump.
By six months the boys were wearing 12 month clothes, and still in the 95% for weight and height. They were eating solid foods by now and they were eating a lot! But I made it 6 months! On the one hand I gave myself permission to quit, on the other I had….you guessed it….GUILT! I had made it this long, why not keep going? It is still the best thing for them. I started to reduce my pumping times, from 15 minutes, to 13 to 10 to 8, etc, until I dropped a session.
I loathed being tied to the pump; “Nope sorry, I have to go home so I can pump.”, but I loved giving them breast milk. I loathed the discomfort, but I loved the free milk. I loathed my husband touching about or thinking about my boobs. I loathed/loved the pump. Even though I had started to wean off the pump, I had a really hard time finally giving myself permission to quit. It was at this time I got another clogged duct, and I had to start pumping more again to unclog it. It took a few days, but it finally unclogged. (Sitting in the hot tub one night cleared it up the best). Over the course of the next few weeks I weaned off the pump. The boys didn’t mind, after all they had been getting formula the whole time. We started going through a can of powder every 3-4 days! Yikes! That is about $60/wk on formula. I started fantasizing about starting pumping again. But I didn’t, and instead I returned the rental pump.
Even though it was so bittersweet, I had made it! I was proud of myself for making it that far, and at the same time ashamed I didn’t make it further. I could have done a year if I had tried, but I hated it so much. I was done, and it was over. I decided to just not think about it anymore. What’s done was done.
Once I stopped pumping my boobs deflated like a pair of old balloons left out in the sun. I have never been big or full-chested by any means, but what was left on my chest looked like the before picture in a plastic surgery picture. The kind that are so sad that you don’t wonder why the woman had the surgery. I was so depressed. Even though my husband was glad to have his boobs back, I still wouldn’t let him touch them because I was so insecure about them. I had never felt so unsexy (yes, never). He told me he loved them, that I was beautiful. Blah blah blah.
Slowly my nipples healed, slowly the guilt faded. (It did not go away; it never goes away.) Slowly I decided that I should listen to my husband. (Even though I still thought he is lying). Slowly I began to see my boobs again as the sexual objects they used to be (PS-I now know what Victoria’s Secret actually is). I can once again claim my body as my own for the first time in a year and a half. That feels good. I think it is no coincidence that when I stopped pumping, I started doing my hair again, wearing make up again, and worrying about plucking again. I no longer had to get up early to pump, or stay up late to pump. I got more sleep, I felt better.
I have decided that pumping is a mind over matter situation. For me it was my stubbornness (aka determination) that served me well in this venture. I absolutely understand why women quit. I didn’t have to go back to work so I could sit home and loath/love my pump. My husband was beyond supportive even when I was sitting there barking at him while I was pumping. My babies were both calm and quiet and gave me time to pump while they hung out in the swing/bouncy/play mat. If any of these things hadn’t lined up I don’t know if I would have made it.
My boys are 9 months now and wear 24 month clothes. They are off the charts in height and in the 90% for weight. They are still doing great, even without the breast milk. Although, as I reduce the amount of formula I give them, my thoughts still turn to the fact that I would be making enough breast milk to not have to give them formula at all at this point. I am hoping that I can stop thinking about it all together when they turn one, and they can have cow’s milk.
But knowing me, I might just be sitting here when they are 18 thinking they might have gotten better scores on their SATs if I had pumped more.
Lisa 28, Mom to Identical Twin Boys – 9 months