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My Physical & Emotional Agony of Breast Feeding

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20170621_182015Throughout my first pregnancy I did absolutely no research or preparation for breast feeding. It was one of those things I just assumed was going to be easy. I did attend one of the free NHS classes on breast feeding where they make you hold a doll and a knitted titty for practise, which I'm sure we'd all agree is pretty useless. There was no mention of difficulties you may come across and it was all made to sound very dreamy and beautiful.


Dreamy and beautiful it was...for perhaps the first couple of weeks. Junior was born with an infection which meant he was rushed to the hospital’s neonatal unit for special care. Despite the tubes in his mouth and nose to help regulate his breathing, I was able to breast feed him with ease. After a week, he had responded well to antibiotics and gained enough weight for us to take him home, where the feeding continued to be a success. After week two however, his appetite increased to the point where he was feeding constantly, probably around 90% of the day he was latched on. This obviously took its toll on my nipples and I was in absolute agony. I found the Community Midwives and Health Visitors quite unsympathetic and unhelpful, simply telling me it was normal and to persevere, rather than recommending any helpful solutions. As a new mum, I knew nothing about products available that might help like nipple shields and lanolin cream, and there was no mention of these from the medical staff.


By this time, I was really struggling with the pain and Junior was clearly starving. My husband suggested trying some formula, which I really didn’t want to do but seeing how distressed both me and Junior were, he insisted. So off he went to buy all the kit we needed and after just 2 ½ weeks old, Junior had his first taste of formula milk. He gulped it down in seconds and fell asleep for hours. After this we never looked back. Obviously I had the guilt almost every day, and I have to say, I know a lot of people talk about public breast feeding shamers but I found the amount of criticism I got when formula feeding in public far outweighed when I breast fed. Seeing how much more content Junior was made it worth it though. For the following 4 to 5 months, I persisted with a small amount of breast feeding alongside the formula. I still feel regret sometimes that I should have tried harder, but I look at Junior today and he is a happy, healthy boy with good eating habits so we must have done something right.


Following this challenging experience with Junior, I have felt super determined and motivated to make it more of a success with my twins. During the pregnancy I focussed a lot of my time on preparation for breast feeding, making sure I had all the right kit and getting myself well informed by reading loads of books and info online. I bought a brilliant twin feeding cushion made by Peanut & Piglet, something I genuinely don't think I could have tandem fed without! Other things on my shopping list included a decent supply of nipple cream, nipple shields, washable breast pads and a double electrix breast pump. I began hand expressing colostrum during the final couple of weeks before the birth and froze it; this meant I had a small stash for those first few days, which just took the pressure off me a little at a time when milk production and supply can be unpredictable and often insufficient. I wish someone had told me about colostrum harvesting first time around! It was also so nice to later see my husband feed them in the hospital with the colostrum I'd expressed. 


The twins are now more than a month old and as I write this I'm sat on the sofa breast feeding them. I'll be honest, it's not been easy (particularly during the hot weather!) but I think I have a better attitude this time around and have not put any pressure on myself which has ultimately made me relax into it better. I think it's also helped that the girls are nowhere near as hungry as Junior was. The key thing about the twins has been feeding them in tandem; if I didn't stick to feeding them together I would literally be feeding every hour of the day. I've also discovered some great tips about "lactogenic" foods from Hilary Jacobson's book 'Mother Food." I've been amazed at how much diet can affect my supply and fenugreek supplements have been my saviour. We've introduced a bottle of formula at bedtime every night and unlike last time, I feel absolutely no guilt about this. The girls love their bottles and it's nice to share the work with my husband, not to mention the extra sleep they get when they've had it! It's a welcomed moment of peace and calm that the whole household appreciates. I'm now focussing on expressing more so I can build up a supply in the freezer. This will give me more freedom both at home but also when I go out. As I'm trying to keep the girls fed together, I'm forced to use bottles when out and about as tandem nursing in public is pretty impossible, so that supply of expressed milk is really important for my sanity!


I'm still on the journey and I know there will be highs and lows ahead, particularly as the girls go through growth spurts, but I'm proud of what I've achieved so far. If you'd told me during my son's first couple of months when I was a hormonal and emotional new mum with no idea what I was doing, that in 4 years time I'd be successfully breast feeding twins, I would have laughed in your face. My biggest advice to anyone about to embark on a similar journey is just to prepare as much as you possibly read read, learn as much as you can about what to expect, talk to others who've been through it and absolutely 100% do not put any pressure on yourself; that way you'll actually be able to enjoy the experience.

Post submitted by Amy, a thirtysomething brit mum of three (including twins!)

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