Admittedly my first venture into the world of breastfeeding didn’t quite go as planned.
Twin Boys born six weeks early and residents of the Neonatal Unit for almost four weeks was not the greatest of starts.
I had always planned to breastfeed but I’d be lying if I said finding out I was having twins didn’t make me think twice about it. The Midwives were lovely and very supportive – if a little over enthusiastic – and I had no qualms about getting started once the babies arrived.
I, very stupidly, thought it was going to be easy. I mean, you just put the baby there and ‘hey presto’ right? Wrong! Because I didn’t have access to the Boys for the first 16 hours due to recovering from an emergency caesarean and the Boys needing urgent medical attention I had to use a pump.
A pump my Husband now tells me (two and a half years later) he didn’t put together right. He basically left off the valve needed to create suction because he didn’t know where it went. Anyway, once we solved that problem – 3 days of pumping and not a drop later- I was on a roll. My milk came in and I was given plenty of opportunities to try and feed my babies.
Now, here’s where it got tricky, because no one told me that sometimes baby doesn’t want to feed.
At first I assumed it was because they were small and poorly but as the weeks dragged on it became clear that one boy in particular just didn’t feel the need to feed. An NG (nasogastric) tube and EBM (expressed breast milk) put down it every 1, 2 then 3 hours was all this child needed.
Baby One was better at latching on and feeding for all of 5 mins – it probably took me longer to get him in the correct position – but it was so hard. Did I mention I was sat in the middle of the neonatal ward with various, lovely nurses helping me and giving me advice while I had my bosoms on show? Not quite the calm, quiet, private experience I was hoping for.
As the Boys improved I could have them in my room so I had more privacy but the nurses had to come in after every feed to check how long they’d fed for. Going home became goal number 1.
I vividly remember one night; it could have been the first night they stayed in my room overnight. It was about 3am and I’d fed one boy, this would be the least enthusiastic feeder, and was feeding his brother.
Mr Unenthusiastic began crying and ‘rooting’ around on Daddy (who was thankfully staying the night with us). I finished feeding number 1 and tried number 2 again 3 mins later he’d apparently finished. Wrong. The crying and feeding went on for a while until we admitted defeat and called a nurse for help. She took one look at him and said “he’s got wind and he’s hungry”. Thus disproving the theory that breastfed babies don’t get wind.
She winded him and asked if I had any milk in the fridge – the last thing I wanted to do was latch this baby on again. He took a bottle of EBM without suffering from ‘nipple confusion’ and went to sleep. I think from that moment on my husband became the bottles biggest fan………….and maybe so did I.
The final straw with breastfeeding came when I tried a weekend of exclusive breastfeeding. This meant no tubes, no top ups and no expressing. Two days in and the tubes were back in due to high sodium levels brought on by lack of fluid.
That was it, I felt so useless and like a failure. Feeding was the one thing I was supposed to be able to do and I couldn’t even do that in fact my attempts actually did more harm than good. Or so my crazy hormonal self thought at the time. I started expressing again but wasn’t producing half as much as had previously pumped. This depressed me even more.
All I wanted was for someone to tell me to stop and give them formula. For someone reason I felt I needed permission from someone¸ anyone! I know my experience could have been different but it’s a lot of ‘Ifs’ really. If the boys had gone to term. If I had taken them home at 3 days not 3 and a half weeks. If my milk had come in straight away. If they had ‘read the book’ as my Mum likes to say. Yes, if all those things had happened then maybe I’d have persevered and breastfed for longer?
Who knows? I had lots of support and advice on how to breastfeed but in the end all I actually needed was for someone to say its ok to breastfeed but it’s ok to bottle-feed too. The choice is yours.
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