I simply cannot write a blog about babies without writing something about breastfeeding. I know that many people are curious about the logistics of feeding twins. If I say that I’m breastfeeding, firstly they look rather surprised and then they ask shyly, “So, uh, well, how exactly does it work and how do you cope?” In order to maintain a slight air of mystery let me just say that there are two football holds, a lot of pillows and a few bottles of formula involved. That and a lot of patience and will!
During the 37 odd weeks that led up to the arrival of the boys, I obsessively trawled websites. First it was all about babies and after the shocking news, all about twins. I always knew I would breastfeed and just assumed it would be a piece of cake. Once I had figured out the practical aspect of the process, I assumed everything else would be a wonderful, intimate experience. It is the most natural thing on earth, after all. So I concentrated on finding out about colic and c-sections and crying. I did research on twins and teething and tantrums. Then on the 23rd of June the boys arrived and I was ready with all the knowledge Google could provide. Or so I thought.
A maternity ward is such an unnatural place to gauge your abilities as a mother. There are nurses waiting on you hand and foot. You’re fed, bathed and clothed, much like a baby yourself. Babies are brought in to be fed, with the help of numerous hands. You’re given lots of encouragement and advice. When it all gets a bit much, the babies are whisked off again. I thought to myself how easy it all was. Then I got home. Reality check!
Breastfeeding two hungry, needy babies has really been quite an undertaking. It’s constant and intense and I’ve cried as much as the babies have, at times. So, as with all my problems, I’ve needed the help of trusty Google to find solutions. On my endless searches I’ve come across some galling information, however. Quite a number of sites say that breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful. What?! Breastfeeding has been one of the most painful activities ever. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, try to pull a dummy out of the mouth of a 6 week old baby. Now multiply that by two. Enough said!
Another thing I noticed about most breastfeeding websites, is that there seems to be the attitude that you MUST do it exclusively until your child is about 7 years old, irrespective of the fact that you have to work or ever want to drink coffee again. If you are not at your child’s beck and call, then you must be expressing milk for it. The same obviously goes for twins. What they don’t mention is the fact that you’d have to express about 5 litres at a time to feed them both. Who has the time and energy to do that? I appreciate the fact that breast milk is the best you can give your baby, but it’s not always possible for everybody. You can feel terribly incompetent as a mother if you read all the literature out there. I still feel a guilty twinge when giving my boys bottles of formula.
La Leche League comes up time and time again in connection with breastfeeding. It’s an NGO that has been dedicated to helping and encouraging women to breastfeed for the past 55 years. Their book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, is said to be the ultimate go-to book on the subject. A very noble organisation, without a doubt. Yet it fills me with unease. If I don’t breastfeed am I not womanly? Am I setting my children up for failure if I don’t breastfeed them exclusively for the first few years of their lives? I have visions of a league of earthy super moms, nourishing their kids continuously, painlessly and happily with liquid gold while holding down high-powered corporate jobs. Their super powers are to make women feel guilty about their breastfeeding choices and inadequate about their breastfeeding abilities. A bit too much pressure for me but obviously I know, they speak some truth.
In the last 16 weeks of breastfeeding I’ve learnt that it hurts like hell, it’s messy, it’s time-consuming, it’s exhausting and the equipment will not be left like it was found. It’s a real labour of love but when the boys stopped looking like gangly frogs and started looking like Michelin men, I really felt like I’d achieved something. Despite all the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into these last few months, I’ve come to realise that I’m doing the best that I can and will in fact go on as long as I can. I may start a new league in the future. It will be called The Breast Friends Forever League and it will be dedicated to making women feel okay about their breastfeeding choices and abilities.