Fed is best. Beyond the mommy wars of breast vs bottle, we all know that a full baby is a happy baby. When people found out I was pregnant with twins, the line of questioning typically went like this:
– Do twins run in your family?
– Two boys, are you going to try for the girl next?
– Are you going to breastfeed?
My answer to that last one was always “of course!”. How hard could it be? In the hospital, I rocked the breastfeeding. I had my pillows, my husband and nurses who helped me, they were latching like champs. I thought to myself “Why was everyone so worried, I got this.” Fast forward to the day we went home. We had no idea what day it was, nobody was sleeping, and these babies needed to eat every 3 hours. All of a sudden my little breastfeeding babies forgot how to latch, or they both wanted the same boob, and would just scream. My hospital stay was a long lost fantasy memory. I reached out to a friend who said a lactation consultant saved her life, so I called her. She said she couldn’t come over for two days, but to in the meantime pump and keep trying. Pump?
1. It’s ok if breastfeeding isn’t for you
I felt like a failure because I wasn’t living up to my own expectations of doing the ‘best thing’ for my babies. News flash. FED IS BEST. They were angry, it was making me angry, and I felt solely responsible for their lives. Of course my husband was up with me at every feeding, helping to position them around me, moving their heads to help them latch if they came off, but it wasn’t enough. I was stressed, unhappy, and experiencing tons of anxiety. All of this just days after a c-section. This was no way to start my relationship with my babies.
2. Exclusively pumping is a thing
I had a pump, and the supplies (I thought) to use it but had I learned how to set it up before the babies were born? Of course not. I had to google this, and while I was waist deep in research I discovered this thing called ‘exclusively pumping’. Turns out, 5% of new moms choose this route. I had no idea! This pumping thing seemed to be working out for me, I could just sit there and let this machine do the work for me, and then I was still proud to give my babies breast milk. I joined Facebook support groups, and learned a ton from those ladies. I was so grateful for the support and knowledge from moms across the country who I only knew from online but they truly saved me. (I called off the lactation consultant, I didn’t need to be pressured to try breastfeeding again. I had found my path.)
3. You need a LOT of stuff
When you EP (what those in the know call exclusively pumping) you essentially need the supplies of houses who breastfeed, and those who bottle feed. I had two pumps – my industrial ‘hospital grade’ pump that I kept at home (this was covered by my insurance with a letter from my doctor, definitely explore this option!!), and my regular pump that I kept at work. I had a million bottles, nipples, cleaning brushes and a huge drying rack at home, and a supply bag at work with storage bags, a hands-free pumping bra, sanitizing microwave bags, extra pieces and a freezable keep-cold lunch box to transport my precious cargo home.
4. There are milk rules
There are so many rules regarding milk storage, heating, freezing and serving. Who knew? The key is to figure out a system that works for you. It took me a few months to develop my rhythm, and it will change over time as the feeding habits of your babies change. You need to know that milk lasts in a freezer for up to one year, that it lasts in the fridge for a few days, that you can only warm it once, and that it lasts on the counter at room temperature for several hours. Twiniversity Tip: How to Safely Store Your Breastmilk
5. You can do this, and you’re not alone
When I first started exclusively pumping, I told myself to try it for one week. I set a short and attainable goal because God knows I needed a sense of accomplishment. I hit my week, and set myself another goal of one month. Then it was three months, then six months, then nine, then I saw the light at the end of the tunnel when I was close to making it a full year. It is hard, but it gets easier. I cannot describe the sense of relief I felt when I didn’t feel the full weight of keeping my children alive on my shoulders. My husband felt useful because he could help with the feedings, along with our parents. I felt proud that I was still giving them breastmilk, and felt like a superhero when I saw all of the milk building up in the fridge and freezer. I did what was best for me, and my children and have no regrets.
Exclusively pumping is not the easy way out. There are feelings of reclusiveness when you have to excuse yourself from a family gathering to go pump in another room. There are feelings of failure when you wonder why you couldn’t just push through and try a bit harder at breastfeeding the ‘real way’. But there are also feelings of immense pride when you pump 24 ounces of milk in one morning. And accomplishment when you finally figure out a system that works and you hit your milestones. And a sense of intrigue when you tell people that you exclusively pump and they ask you what that’s about.
No matter the direction you choose, know that you are doing what’s best for you and your children. I recognized that the pressure of breastfeeding was creating a chasm between my sons and me, instead of experiencing that bond everyone talks about. When giving them a bottle, I could still stare at them, hold them close and feel confident that they were getting the nutrients they needed to thrive. Fed. Is. Best.
Mallory Kerley is a first time mom to two-year-old identical twin boys. No, twins do not run in her family, yes she’s sure they are identical, yes her hands are full. She lives on Long Island with her husband, works full-time as a public relations professional for a non-profit organization and volunteers with homeless animals with all of her spare time.
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