Long before I even thought I wanted kids I had reservations with breastfeeding (insert scoffs and eye rolls here). I never judged anyone who made the choice to breastfeed, but the thought of doing it myself just didn’t appeal to me. So when my husband and I decided we did indeed want kids, and many months down the road found us preparing for not just one baby but two, the subject of breastfeeding or bottle feeding twins came to the table.
We both had done our research and read all of the positive facts about it, and while he ultimately told me it was my decision. I felt like he wanted me to at least give it a go before completely dismissing it. The worst that could happen was I try once and decide it wasn’t for me, right? But that is far easier said than done in today’s society where pictures of smiling breastfeeding women cover every baby book and pamphlet you come across. Long gone are the days of medical professionals forcing formula feeding (my grandmother tells me this was a thing, back in the day. Women who breastfed were actually the minority) and breastfeeding being a private decision and act. Don’t get me wrong—that’s the way it should be. Whether you agree with the benefits of breastfeeding or not, there really is no denying that it is one of the most natural things in the world. No woman should be advised against it, feel ashamed for doing it or be forced to hide from it. I knew all of this and respected every woman—in person or in picture—for caring for their child in the most natural way possible, yet I still had my reservations about how I would physically feel about the process.
Fast forward to the birth of my twins, which was one week earlier than my planned C-section due to an ultrasound suggesting that my son was not, in fact, on par with his sister as far as weight was concerned. My little girl came out at a healthy 6 lbs 8 oz while my little guy measured in a 3 lbs 3 oz. While I was fortunate enough to have carried them to 37 weeks and they were both fully developed as far as brain, breathing and other organs were concerned, my son was alarmingly small and quickly sent to the NICU to gain weight.
I’m not sure if it was the weeks of reading up on babies before their arrival, or Mother Nature whispering in my ear, but I immediately knew that breastmilk was one of the best nutrients for my son. In a silly internal battle of guilt, I let the lactation consultants walk me through things with my little girl who was in the room with me. Then I quickly learned how to use a pump to start getting the goods to my little boy. That went on for a while. My little guy never really took to the actual act of breastfeeding, likely because his first couple of weeks were spent in the NICU and he was fully accustomed to a bottle by the time he got home, but I’d feed and pump as often as I could to keep up equal stores for the two of them.
It was exhausting. Having newborn twins is a whirlwind enough on its own, but when every “spare” second you have is dedicated trying to produce enough milk to keep two little humans satiated, you literally have no life. It was not long before I started supplementing with formula, and found that it literally made no difference to either baby. As long as they had full bellies, they were fully happy.
As for myself, the pre-mom me knew exactly what she was talking about when expressing reservations about breastfeeding. I hated it. I was proud of myself for trying, but I knew I could not make it to the lofty 12-month or even 6-month mark that so many others seemed to be doing. Especially with two. So as the twins’ started approaching three months, I started breastfeeding and pumping less. By the time they were 3.5 months old they were fully on formula. They were the same happy, healthy little babies, only now they had a happier, healthier (stopping pumping opens up windows for more naps, more coffee, more phone calls with friends) mommy.
Moms have all sorts of different reasons for choosing formula over breast milk. Often, they don’t even have a choice, their bodies or their babies don’t allow them an option. I could list the many reasons why a woman may choose one over the other. I could also link to several sites that back up any and all of those choices, but none of that will help you when you think you feel a judgmental eye from a fellow mom while you shake up your babies’ formula while out to lunch. Or when you keep your already sleep-deprived self up at night wondering if you’re kids are going to be as smart or as healthy or as flexible (insert some other silly adjective here) as your best friend’s kid who was breastfed for two years.
What might help you is knowing my 18-month-old twins (formula fed since day one, and exclusively since month three) are just as smart and healthy and cranky and crazy as every other toddler I’ve ever come across. And as far as criticism or comments from fellow moms or friends go, you’re going to get that regarding every single decision you ever make as a parent. Toss formula feeding right in there with opting for daycare or putting a jacket on your child when the weather is 75 degrees. Someone will always have a different opinion, but rarely will that someone be the superhero parent of multiples that you are.
So power on, super mom, and know that FED really is best.
Katelyn Heindel is a communications manager-turned stay-at-home mom two 18-month-old twins. She lives in Richmond, Va with her husband, two monkeys (err, toddlers) and the world’s weirdest cat.