i had this idealistic notion about breastfeeding while i was pregnant. i thought it would be this serene, beautiful, as-nature-intended action. and while nursing two would add a second dimension to it, what would stop me from tandem nursing?
the reality of breastfeeding, for me, has been a shot in the arm. albeit i sit here today, at 5.5 weeks post silverboys birthday, able to tandem nurse at every feeding and provide the boys mom’s milk exclusively. but i’ll tell you this, it hasn’t been a walk in the park.
because the boys were technically born as preemies just shy of 36 weeks, they lacked the strong sucking motion of a full-term babe. they could still nurse, and did from day 1, they just weren’t stimulating my milk to come in. so i pumped. and pumped. 8-10 times a day to replicate what a strong nursing baby would feel like. but no milk came in. after 7 days of no milk, i started getting desperate thinking i wouldn’t be able to breastfeed the boys. it was a rollercoaster i care not to repeat. i talked to lactation specialists, our doula, and wonderful friends who assured me life would go on and our boys would be perfectly healthy if we had to formula feed them. of course, all the books you read say that any normally functioning woman can produce enough milk for their babies. i have grown to be disenchanted with this kind of dogma. i started to feel like a failure.
it wasn’t until the boys 2 week birthday that my milk came in. i don’t know what did it – maybe all the herbal lactation tinctures and teas? all the pumping? nursing the boys even though they were barely getting anything (and trust me, they were frustrated to suck on a boob with no gratification!)? whatever it was, my prayers were answered.
since then, it’s been a journey to teach the boys to be better nursers. with the help of silicone nipple shields, it’s become a lot easier. at our last lactation appt. we discovered i had a fast “let down,” which means when the boys start sucking, the milk comes out really fast at first. i went from no milk, to too much milk, and it was overwhelming to the boys. the shields help them control how much milk they take in, similar to a bottle nipple. last week we achieved tandem nursing (both of them “on” at the same time), and we are now starting to ween them off their supplemental bottle (they’ve been each getting about an once of pumped milk as part of their feed). i’m also weening myself from this foresaken pump, as i’ve been cleared to transition to pumping every other feeding (down from EVERY feed!). in some ways, it feels like i’m going through a separation and divorce! of course, weening the boys from their supplement means possibly more nursing sessions per day, but i’m willing to give it a try.
along the way i’ve experienced lots of tenderness, plugged ducts, tons of frustration and heart ache, but ultimate success. it hasn’t been easy, i’ve felt like quitting, but i’m really pround of myself and boys for sticking with it. i’ve also learned that what i experienced isn’t the most uncommon thing in the world, especially for preemie babies. thanks to the amazing support of our hospital’s lactation department, where i’ve received FREE consultations (as many as i need/want), and the support of my family and friends, i’ve been able to do this. i’ve also realized that while it’s awesome to be able to nurse our boys and give them this nutrition, it’s not the end-all-be-all that some folks make it out to be. you ultimately need to do what works for you and your family.
p.s. i was pumping the whole time i wrote this thanks to my porno tube top (aka hands-free pumping bra)!