Thursday, December 15, 2011

The F-Word

Dedicated to the women of the world that think "the real 'F' word is formula":

Like many expectant moms, I read plenty about how to best care for my babies. And in my reading and  research, I decided that breast was best and that because of that I would be nursing my twins for at least the first year of their life (I'd play it by ear from there...).

I ordered an EZ-2-Nurse pillow, specifically designed for nursing twins, a breast pump, and 0 bottles.  We moved to a rental house less than 1 mile from my office, so I could nurse after going back to work.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 were born 35 w 2 d.  So they were a little early, but not much (36 weeks is considered full term for twins).  They weighed 5 lb 13 oz and 5 lb 7 oz.

The first thing the hospital staff did when the boys were born was put in a feeding tube through their nose.  Apparently this was standard for babies this small.  Their first feeding was formula.  I actually was kind of pissed that they didn't consult me for any of this.  But the nurses kept insisting on the importance of bringing up their body weight.

Before I ever put the babies to breast, I used a pump.  I squeezed out the most minuscule amount of colostrum.  This went straight into their feeding tubes.

The nurses literally weighed the boys with a super scale before and after each attempt to nurse, and if they didn't gain enough ounces, they would then feed them through the nose tube.  (No sucking necessary.)

A friend of mine recently had a premature baby here at the hospital where we live now and instead of a nose tube, they made the baby suck on her finger while she slowly fed through a syringe on the side...teaching the baby he had to suck to get a full belly.  I wish we'd done that with my boys.  Because I feel like the nose tube made them lazy!  They didn't need to suck hard to get a full belly, so why bother working so hard at breast time if afterwards you'd get rewarded anyway?  (By the way, the staff is coming off very unsupportive, but this isn't true.  They all cheered me on at my insistence to nurse. They wanted me to succeed, but they also had a job to make sure the boys were as well taken care of medically as possible.)

I held out not giving my boys a bottle for 11 days!!

The doctor wouldn't sent them home from the hospital until they were over 6 lbs and feeding on their own (no nose tube).  And after 11 days of traveling back and forth to the hospital every day...I finally broke down and gave them bottles, because I just wanted to bring them home!  # 1 I'd been in that hospital for 12 weeks on strict medically prescribed bedrest.  #2 the hospital was a 30 min drive from our house, so every day I was getting up and commuting (even though I wasn't supposed to drive after my c-section) to the hospital in time to be there for the 7:30 am feeding.  Then I would pump.  Then take a nap in a room with one of the boys on my chest doing Kangaroo care.  Then feed. Then pump. Then nap with the other baby.  Then feed. Then pump. Then nap. All day. When Superman got off work, he'd meet me up at the hospital for dinner.  We'd stay there until the boys' 9:30 feeding and then drive home for the night.  (I wanted to stay at the hospital and try feeding through the night too, but the nurses insisted I needed rest.  They said that the stress and exhaustion might be part of the problem with my milk supply.)  After almost two weeks of this, I broke down and said "take out the feeding tube and just give them a bottle."

When we left that day, I took one of the hospital grade pumps home with me. If I couldn't get the boys to latch, I'd at least pump and feed them my own milk.  Heck, I could do that for at least 6 months right?

We also took home a supplemental nursing system to use with it, because I was trying to get the boys to suck at the breast to encourage production...but it was not practical for me being at home all alone with twins and I just couldn't get it to work the way it was supposed to.

As I've explained before, my supply was pitiful. My milk never fully came in. I never (ever) had "let down".  I drank Mother's Milk tea. I took Fenugeek supplements. I drank liters and liters of water. I did kangaroo care. I pumped every 2 hours, on the dot. But still I barely made enough to feed one baby, let alone two.

Then, after 8 weeks of pumping and supplementing with formula (or really I should say after 8 weeks of feeding formula and supplementing with breast milk), my supply finally gave up.  And so did I.

So I'm here to say "Don't you dare compare formula to a four-letter word!"  Formula is what kept my babies from starving when my breasts didn't do as nature intended.  Would I have preferred to feed my children 100% breastmilk, sure I would have. Because as one wise mother has said: "Breast is best, but formula isn’t toxic. In fact, its pretty damn good."


  1. I have to say that I enjoyed (most of the time) nursing both of my babies. I made enough milk for several babies, as was evident in the many blouses I stained. Both of our babies also enjoyed formula as well. After 8 months of nursing, both Bryce and Maggie quit breast feeding, opting instead for the steady, consistent flavor of the formula. I have to admit that I am guilty of judging other moms who either couldn't or wouldn't breast feed. And for that, I promise to be as non judgemental in the future as I possibly can....

  2. I will admit Sarah that I judged other mothers too. I was a big BF-ing proponent and every time I'd read/hear someone say "I tried, but..." I almost always thought that she probably didn't try very hard. Even when I was having my problems, I kept trying to tell myself mind over matter. Keep pumping (to get the supply going), keep taking supplements, get off the pain pills (I only took them for a week after my c-section), keep putting the boys to breast...and I thought if I just tried hard enough BOOM one day it is just all going to click. But it never did. It is my biggest and saddest regret about motherhood. I wanted so badly to breastfeed. I still feel like I was robbed of that experience. I used to get mad at mothers who wouldn't even try. Who had swollen breasts that they let dry up. But it isn't for everyone. And just because I wanted to do it, doesn't mean everyone does. Putting my expectations on them would be as unfair as someone who delivered their child au-natural and unassisted putting her birth expectations on me. We all just have to make the best choices for us, our babies, and our lives, and surround ourselves with people who love us and support our choices.