When Breastfeeding Twins Doesn’t Go As Planned
Moms everywhere have a perfect picture of themselves having a special bonding experience with their little ones. Breastfeeding is such a close, intimate moment with your babies, and it’s an amazing feeling being able to do it. It’s a very selfless act – you give up your precious time (and boobs, they’re never the same after that) to nurse your little sweeties and give them the nutrients they so desperately need to grow and be healthy. It’s truly amazing. That is, if breastfeeding actually happens for you.
As a baby, I was breastfed until I was 9 months old. I loved the idea of breastfeeding and I wanted to to do it like my mother, so I was ready to give it my all to make it happen. My twin daughters were born 12 weeks premature and spent 2 months in the NICU. My body just knew I had given birth to twins, even that early, and my milk supply came in like a boss. I made so much milk, I never once worried about what I’d do if it were to disappear. I was even asked by some NICU nurses to stop bringing in milk for them because I was taking up so much room in their freezers.
While in the NICU, I was able to breastfeed them and the nurses bottle fed them as well. They had to have supplemental formula mixed in with my breastmilk. I was also happy with the bottle feeding, since my husband could help at home with feeding time.
When they came home, I breastfed one at a time. That alone made my stress levels skyrocket, and my supply tanked dramatically. I then tandem breastfed them as much as I could and pumped religiously, hoping to see an increase in my milk supply. My husband, who was exclusively formula fed, was the most supportive person when it came to my breastfeeding twins. He woke me up to pump when my alarm didn’t go off, he would bring me snacks and feed me while I was attempting to breastfeed. He even researched ways to increase my milk supply. I tried everything – lactation cookies, milkshake mixes, making sure I was eating good meals, drowning myself in water, power pumping, listening to classical music. It wasn’t working.
When I finally threw in the towel with breastfeeding twins, I did it with no guilt. Originally, I thought I had it all down, that I’d be the Super Mom of Multiples who would be able to breastfeed them for months with no problems.
But I was wrong. I would the be Super Mom of Multiples who would express her love and care to her babies by making sure they were fed, period. I recognized that I had done my best and that I needed to get off this unhealthy obsession with my breasts for my own sake.
It was causing me to be constantly depressed about my vanishing supply, I spent way too much money on items that did not work for me, and I shed too many tears while my babies would scream at my breasts because my milk wouldn’t let down.
So, I patted myself on the back and went to the store to buy formula. I knew I had an overabundance of breastmilk I had saved in my freezer from when the girls were in the NICU. I was able to bring 4 full gallon bags home from the NICU when they were discharged. We had a great stash of frozen breastmilk that lasted a while that I used along with formula.
We found a gentle formula that the girls ended up loving, and it took us a little while to get there. At first, I started giving them the preemie formula they used to drink mixed in with my milk, and they rejected it entirely.
After trying another brand of preemie formula, only to have them scream from gas pains and still not drinking their whole bottles, I angrily left the house and made my way to the store one last time. I got them regular formula, the gentle kind, and looked up how to prepare it so they both received the correct calories per serving, as per their pediatrician. The girls loved it and they got chunky. They were growing and thriving and that is what was ultimately most important.
Though not every mom’s situation or support system is the same, I highly encourage mothers to think for themselves on this one. Follow your instincts. I can’t tell you how many people would tell me “breast is best” and how much negative feedback I have gotten and have seen being thrown around over formula feeding. I’ve seen mothers shamed, judged as awful and uncaring for giving their babies formula, and that has got to stop.
Only you know your own situation. Only you know how your body is reacting to stress and lack of sleep. And only you know when your baby needs more milk than you’re able to make. Don’t feel bad about it one bit – this is 2017, almost 2018. Formulas have come a long way to be as nutritious and close to breastmilk as they currently are. Try different brands and give them time, it usually takes two weeks for your babies’ bodies to respond to them.
The whole mentality of the sanctimommies has no ground – formula will not make your babies sick (mine have yet to get sick, actually). It will not prevent them from gaining weight the way they should, nor overly gain weight and they are filled with the same essential nutrients that a mother’s breast milk contains. Studies have shown that formula may be equal to breastmilk in brain development.
Fed is best. If you’re able to exclusively breastfeed your twins, that’s amazing. If you breastfeed and supplement your twins that’s excellent. If you feed your twins formula, that’s wonderful. FEED. YOUR. BABIES. A fed baby is a happy baby, and they will love and bond with you just the same.
Camila Servello is a mother of identical twin girls, human to a pup, wife to an amazing man, Brazil native, airline employee who loves her job. I’ve always loved writing, and I’ve found the perfect reason to do so – my crazy, perfectly flawed life. Honesty is key when it comes to handling all the curveballs life throws at us, so don’t expect any less from me. You can read more on her blog Confessions of a Working Mom of Twins.