Giving it up

It’s been a while since my last post (as I realize that my 7 month letter will need to get written here pretty soon), and the reasoning is really lack of time, rather than lack of stuff to share. We (and by we, I mean Ben) is just about to finish up our new deck, the chickens (and rats–more to come on that) have been in their new house for a while, and the dudes are growing like crazy. All of these stories will be in the following posts, but today’s post is dedicated to my boobs. Disclaimer: this post is about breastfeeding, not boobs, so keep reading at your own discretion and/or interest.

When the boys were born, I decided that I was going to try and breastfeed for one year. I have no idea where this magic number came from, but it sounded good. Basically they would only ever get breast milk. We rented a Medula Symphony pump from the hospital, which thankfully was paid by the insurance for six months. Now I had bought a Medula pump-n-style, but all the lactation nurses couldn’t stress the importance of having a hospital grade pump–mainly because I had twins–and I am soooo very happy that I took their advice. General pumps are fine for now and then, but if you are pumping exclusively, then you need something with a little more umph.

So anyways, here is how it goes with twins (or at least with my twins). You nurse, and then you pump, nurse-pump, nurse-pump-basically so you have enough milk for two babies. In the beginning this almost did me in. I would nurse Elliott, while I bottlefed Mason (so we knew how much he was eating), pump for 30 minutes, sleep for 45 minutes, and do it all over again. Exhausting. Sorry, one more time…EXHAUSTING. Well after about six weeks, I decided to make a change. The pediatrician kept telling me that Mason needed to nurse too, so I decided (with the help of the best bra and pillow in the world) to make a change. I would bottle feed both babies at the same time while I pumped. This gave me back about 45 minutes more sleep each feeding which was life-altering. Then I would nurse them twice a day at the same time (and then pump afterwards). On a side note, I met a woman in Fred Meyer who had 5 week old twins (this was when the boys were 11 weeks) and I asked her how she was doing. With tears in her eyes, she said, “I am so tired. No one understands. No one can prepare you. So tired. I bottle feed one, bottle feed the other one, pump, and then barely have 30 minutes before I do it all over again.” With tears in my eyes, I told her I understood, and then tried to stress the importance of the magic bra, and feeding both babies all at the same time (FYI–you prop them up on pillows facing you). She sniffled, and said, “you multitask?,” and I told her there was no other way with multiple babies.

Anyways, so with my new system something or someone was attached to my boobs 4-5 hours a day. As time went on and the babies dropped down to 6 feedings, this went down to 3 hours, but it was still a lot. As the boys started to drop their night feedings or push them later, I took full advantage of the extra hour or so of sleep until I realized it was affecting my milk supply…because as with everything else, the milk supply is based on demand. So even when the babies were sleeping 8-10 hours a night, I was still waking up every four hours to pump. I always had to insert this into conversations too, even if people didn’t want to know, because they would hear how long the babies were sleeping and say “oh, good for you,” so I had to clarify–THEY were sleeping for 8-10 hours, not momma.

Anyways, although I occasionally complained, it really was okay, but I got tired of being tired. Tired of pumping twice a day at work. Tired of having something attached to my boobs, and again, just plain tired. And on top of that, the boys started to eat more than I was producing. So at 5 months we integrated a small amount of formula (like 1 oz of an 8 oz feeding) into their diets. But at 6 months, I decided that I needed to start sleeping through the night, and I once and for all gave up the 2 a.m. pumping, which quickly led to a dramatic decrease in supply. The boys currently still get a little breast milk each day, but that will end here very soon.

I never thought I would have as much of an issue with this as I am. I feel bad that I cannot provide this for my boys. I feel bad that Elliott will still nurse, and once I stop pumping, this won’t be an option (Mason has lost interest with his new teeth, etc.). These are my own personal issues, and not pressure from society or anyone else. In fact, everyone has been so wonderful, complimentary, and encouraging–I couldn’t ask for better family or friends. And on the lighter side, I keep joking with myself that providing 7 months of breast milk for two babies is like 14 months for one baby, which is well above my goal.

I will say that I am in awe of those mothers (especially the ones that work) who go the distance, but to be honest, this is a very personal, circumstantial thing, where no one should ever judge, and I am in awe of all of those who do it for at least a little while. Thankfully my work supported it. Thankfully I had good insurance to pay for the pump. Thankfully I had a very supportive husband. And thankfully, my body could provide, as some bodies cannot. To this day, I am convinced my milk gave Mason the strength he needed to start eating, because as soon as he was able to get my milk (day 4 in the NICU), he rallied like a champ. I am happy, and will soon have to be content, that I provided milk as long as I can. I will probably miss it more than they will, but all things must come to an end.

So here’s to my boobs. Thank you for providing as much as you could…now take a much needed rest.