You can also find Charlie on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but please read on for her fabulous guest post on breastfeeding premature twins.
Making the decision
I can’t say that I actually considered the feeding aspect of twins when I found out I was cooking two babies. I mean, I knew that they’d need feeding but it was a while before the enormity of the fact that I would have two blighters hanging off my breasts actually sunk in.
Once my boobs started to swell in anticipation for our new arrivals I sat and weighed up the pros and cons of breast feeding and bottle feeding. Bottle feeding was definitely more practical with two to feed at once and based on the fact that no one has yet invented a detachable breast I did quite like the idea that others could help out. On the other hand, I really wanted to feel that physical closeness with my babies and knew that skin on skin would help that.
I knew that there was a lot of support (*cough* pressure) for new Mothers to breast feed and pass on essential nutrients and antibodies. I also read that breast feeding helped your stomach get back into shape and saw the appeal there too (12 years later and I’m still waiting!) Plus, there was the convenience of just whipping a boob out rather than carrying bottles and all the other paraphernalia everywhere we went.
I hear a lot of horror stories of Mothers who have felt pressured to breast feed. Sometimes they feel thrilled to have been able to master it. However, other Mums have plunged into depression when, for whatever reason they have been unable to breast feed. I was really lucky to have a lovely ‘old school’ health visitor at one point and her advice was the best I’ve ever heard. She told me that the baby will pick up on how the Mum is feeling so if I wanted to give breast feeding a go then that’s great but if for whatever reason it didn’t work then that was absolutely fine too. The priority was my health and happiness which in turn would benefit the baby. Common sense really but her words helped and I decided that I would indeed ‘give it a go’.
My boys were born at 32 weeks and weighed just 3lbs 9oz each. They looked like two little old men who hadn’t grown into their skin yet and for a few weeks they were covered in tubes and wires. Harry was also born with a very rare craniofacial condition meaning that he had no eye, eye socket, ear, nostril and a short under developed jaw. He was sent 50 miles away to another hospital for a week for more tests and I stayed with Oliver to recover from my emergency c-section and try to get my head around the news.
The boys were reunited at around 8 days old and as soon as they were strong enough, I decided to try to breast feed. I tried feeding them individually as well as the ‘rugby ball’ technique of tucking a baby under each arm so they could feed simultaneously (I did worry about the window cleaner witnessing that one as I sat helpless on the sofa so wasn’t too distressed when we had limited success). Oliver latched on after a few awkward attempts but Harry really struggled. He couldn’t breathe properly and there was some disagreement about whether his palate had been affected or not by his syndrome. In the end, I decided to express my milk and bottle feed Harry with a mixture of breast and expressed milk for Oliver.
I expected to feel like a failure but I remembered the words of the health visitor and knew that I had tried my best. I felt that I was still doing my bit for them and started expressing like a woman possessed. At one point, the staff in special care suggested I slow down a bit as they had enough to feed to entire ward but I was a woman on a mission.
Looking back, I was suffering with postnatal depression after the shock of our news and I felt that this was the one thing I was doing right so I kept going…and going. After a few weeks of 4 hourly Daisy the cow episodes with my trusty breast pump, mastitis had set in and I looked like I was smuggling a couple of bald men down the front of my top. I admitted defeat, stopped expressing and the puppies deflated. I on the other hand felt only proud.
What I learnt
I learnt that its great if you want to breast feed. And it’s great if you don’t. It’s great if it’s a beautiful experience for you and your baby but equally its great if you tried your best but it just didn’t happen. Whether you breast feed or not is NOT a reflection on the quality of mother you are. There are enough pressures on us to be Mary Poppins as it is and I don’t think that pressure to breast feed helps. What I do know for sure is that above everything a baby needs a mum who is happy, calm and loves the little person she has created. Many may say that breast is best but I believe that your best is enough whether that’s delivered by a nipple or a teat!