Breastfeeding. People have really, REALLY strong opinions about breastfeeding. Really strong.
I am not one of those people.
I fully believe in a mother’s right to choose what works best for her, her baby and the rest of her family. I don’t judge and I don’t condemn – mostly because … honestly … I don’t care. Okay … maybe I do care a tiny little bit; I mean, if there are any “Game of Thrones” fans reading this, then you’ll understand when I say I was kind of creeped out by the fact that Lysa was still breastfeeding Robin long into his teenage years … but I digress. When it comes to a mother’s right/choice/preference to feed her child, I say, it’s up to each individual mother and no one else.
When I found out we were having twins, I worried about a lot of things. I mean, twins means two of everything: two car seats, two cribs, two highchairs, two sets of diapers … you get the picture. One thing I never worried about, however, was breastfeeding. I mean, come on – two babies, two boobs, what could be the problem?
Well, for starters, my little nuggets of heaven arrived 8 weeks early – so that put a damper on things from the get-go. Since they were being fed from an NG tube for their first few weeks of life, my ability to participate was limited to pumping every 3 hours around the clock, a task which I was more than happy to do. As anyone who has experienced the NICU for even the briefest time can attest, anything you can do to feel “normal” is helpful; setting my alarm to wake up every 3 hours so I could pump was something tangible I could do to help my babies, so I did it.
Once the boys were a bit older, the lactation nurses were AWESOME at helping me figure out how to feed both babies. They were helpful and encouraging and supportive of me as a new mother. If I could have brought them home with me, maybe I would have lasted longer as a breastfeeding mom; then again, maybe not – because here’s the thing … and I have never said this to ANYONE. I may even catch all kinds of flak for saying this out loud … but I hated it. I hated every second of it. I did not enjoy breastfeeding. I know, I know … it’s not about me – it’s about the boys and what was best for them. I know that. I do. But at the end of the day, what’s best for my children is a mom who isn’t frustrated and worried and resentful and angry – and that’s what breastfeeding was doing to me.
In our case, breastfeeding was frustrating because there were two of them and only one of me. I tried feeding them both at the same time, but I never got the hang of it. I had one who was a grazer and wanted to eat for 5 minutes, then sleep for 10, while the other one would only eat from one side. I felt like I never slept. As soon as I fed them both, got them changed and back to sleep, I had about an hour before I had to get up and do it all over again.
Breastfeeding caused me great worry. Babies brought home from the NICU are required to maintain and/or gain weight or else they can end up back in the hospital. I could never tell how much they were getting to eat. It stressed me out to no end! I constantly worried that they weren’t getting enough to eat. Breastfeeding also caused me to be resentful and angry because no one could do it but me. Yes, I could pump and other people could feed the boys, but at the end of the day, it still ALL came down to me – and with all the stress that comes with being a new mom, that was one stress I just didn’t need.
So, after 9 weeks and one very tearful visit with my doctor, I stopped breastfeeding. The weight that lifted from my shoulders when my doctor looked me in the eye and said “stop breastfeeding” was enormous. I walked out of her office with a smile on my face and a spring in my step.
Breastfeeding didn’t work for me – not because I didn’t have the supply, or because my babies couldn’t latch, or anything like that.
Breastfeeding didn’t work because I wasn’t comfortable.
For a long time, I carried quite a bit of guilt over my feelings – or rather, over my inability to get over my feelings. Two and a half years later, though, I have happy, healthy, thriving toddlers. I don’t regret my decision to stop breastfeeding because I know that it made me a better mom for my boys. At the end of the day, that’s all we can do – be the best possible parent we know how to be, and let go of the guilt over all the mistakes we make along the way.