Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Confession Time

Okay, something has been weighing on my mind, and I need to put it out there: I'm not breastfeeding the Things anymore. It's silly that this feels like a huge, terrible thing that I'm confessing, but I think that's what has happened to breastfeeding in this country. It's become a huge, polarizing issue that everyone has strong opinions about. So many people seem to think it's okay to enforce their opinion about your breasts as soon as you have a baby (or babies), and they disagree with each other passionately!

When Hubby and I started trying to get pregnant, I had idealistic visions of breastfeeding my baby until...well, I wasn't sure how long, but I knew it was best for the baby and that's what I wanted to do. I completely believed that it would be so easy for me to breastfeed, that baby and I would know right away what to do, and it would be this magical bond between us. When the doctor told us there were two babies in there, my plans only faltered slightly. Other women can feed two at once, right? It should be easy as pie for me to figure it out!

Once the Things were born, I started to realize that it might not be as easy as I'd thought. Thing 2 latched on like a champ from the beginning, but Thing 1 had trouble, to the point that he seemed to scream in terror every time he looked at my breast. So, I started out breastfeeding Thing 2, and pumping to bottle feed Thing 1.

When I started that process, I had no idea how long it would all take. With feedings every three hours, my schedule was completely taken over by the vicious cycle of feedings and pumpings, and I frequently felt overwhelmed. Then of course, I had to find time to feed my own voracious appetite. If breastfeeding one takes a lot of calories, feeding two is superhuman (and, I can't even imagine feeding more than that!). If I'm not adequately fed, I turn into a terrible person, and there just wasn't enough time to feed babies and myself (unless someone was there to make food for me). Actually, it may be more accurate to say I didn't have the energy to feed all of us. Once I was done feeding and pumping, all I wanted to do was nap, not wrestle together something for me to eat! There were multiple occasions when Hubby found me in tears because I hadn't eaten enough to fill the wooly mammoth-sized hole in my innards.

I should take a moment here to point out that I had an amazing support system through this ordeal. Hubby was a huge trooper; making me food when I was hungry and crazed, feeding Thing 2 while I nursed Thing 1, reassuring me when I was crying hysterically because I was hungry and crazed, getting up during the night with me to handle the changings and feedings. Seriously: he is SuperDad.

I think I probably could have continued with things as they were, had Thing 2 not suddenly decided that nursing time was the perfect nap time. She'd get cozy and fall asleep, so I'd try to wake her up. When she remained stubbornly asleep, I'd try to put her down, at which point she'd wake up and scream like I was murdering her. I was already feeling guilty about spending so much more time with her than with Thing 1, and I let her poor nursing stress me out even more. Since nursing her was suddenly taking so much longer, I decided to switch to bottle feeding both of them, and only nursing her "for fun." This was around the time Hubby went back to work, so I found myself on my own for long periods of time with both babies, and trying to nurse Thing 2, and bottle feed Thing 1 wasn't conducive to keeping them on the same schedule.

That change made things feel more manageable, although it was a challenge to find time to pump when I was home alone with them. More times than I care to count, I'd have myself hooked up to the machine when one or both Things would start fussing. These babies are excellent at bad timing!

Once I got back to work, it got harder to find the time to pump as consistently as I should have, and I got so tired of the whole process. I felt like I was missing quality time with the Things every time I had to go pump. Plus, I hated that it was the first thing I had to do every morning, and the last thing I had to do every night. I started to resent my pump, and just felt stressed out about the whole process.

Once the Things hit 4 months, I decided it was time to quit the pump. It took some doing, and lots of tears, but I made it! I've stopped pumping, and I'm so glad to have extra time with my babies, but I still catch myself missing the idea of nursing. I worry that I missed out on a key motherhood experience by not trying harder, and I still feel guilty that I didn't make it longer nursing them. That's a problem. Nursing shouldn't be something that makes women feel guilty, and that's what it has become. One way or another, nursing is stigmatized, when it should simply be a way for mothers to feed their babies. Whether we do it in public or in the safety of our homes; whether we opt for formula feedings or breastmilk, we all just need to relax and let go of angst surrounding it.

I desperately need to take my own advice. Almost two months after quitting, I still feel guilty, even though I know that the only important thing is that my babies are fed by a mother who loves them with all of her heart. Whenever I doubt myself, I need to look down at this face, and realize that they will love me no matter how I feed them.

Breast or bottle, Thing 1 loves mommy!


  1. Perfectly said as I could have written this myself!!! I'm down to 2 pumps a day and hoping to quit altogether in the next several days. I hate that I feel so guilty about it, but I'm trying hard to just let it go. The extra time is AWESOME!

  2. You summed it up exactly how I feel, all the idealistic things I thought would magically happen and then they don't and you feel like a failure... I gave up pumping milk this week and you know what, my girls are still alive and thriving and happy. I love them but in order to love them the best way I am able to I have to give them formula.

  3. When I first started, I resolved to nurse for a year. With my first baby, I didn't have an effective pumping system at work and my milk started drying up around 4 months. With my 2nd, I was tired and overwhelmed (they were 14 months apart) and when my milk started drying up my little girl determined she did NOT want to keep trying. So, again, I was done at 4 months. I can relate to the frustration with eating enough. I was so excited when I was done nursing that I didn't have to eat as much anymore. I don't blame for being done with nursing, especially when dealing with twins!
    Now, my 3rd is 4 months old and I'm working full time and nursing. I'm passionate about nursing and I hope to keep it up, but, I like your perspective about not making a big deal out of it. As much as I hated stopping nursing so soon with my other two, it was good for me. A good strategy for baby care should always be something that works for baby AND mommy.