We’re about to get real up in here and talk about something I think is so important to talk about publicly. So, if me talking about nursing my babies ain’t your thing feel free to exit now…otherwise, prepare yourself to get a tiny bit little personal.
(P.S. Mind On Medicine could be abbreviated to M.O.M. Can we all take a moment to relish how ridiculously fitting that is?)
I knew when I was pregnant that I wanted to give breastfeeding a good ole college try. I would give it a go, see how it went, and hope for the best. When I found out we were having twins I became even more okay with supplementing formula or completely formula feeding if nursing didn’t work out. My number one goal was happy babies and happy mommy, however that happened was fine. However, I did know I wanted to give it my best shot, since breastfeeding is the best thing for babies and has some awesome benefits for mom as well (lower rates of some cancers, weight management, lower risk of post-partum depression, etc.).
Somewhat out of character for me, I didn’t read a bunch of books or investigate a bunch of websites. I read up a little and went to Twitter for tips and tricks and hoped the lactation consultants (LC) in the hospital could guide me through the early days. What I didn’t expect was to be sick before and after delivery, to be recovering from a major abdominal surgery, or to have two slightly premature babies with immature lungs in the NICU on respiratory support. But, we rolled with the punches and moved forward.
After my c-section I was started on Magnesium for pre-eclampsia (my blood pressure was really high – 180/110 when they put me in the hospital – and I was losing protein in my urine) and had to stay in bed for monitoring, so I wasn’t allowed to go to the NICU and see my babies until they were over 12 hours old. All the Twitter peeps had told me to put the babies to the breast early and often so I could establish good feeding habits, but clearly that wasn’t an option for us. So, now what?
When the (amazing) L&D nurses finally wheeled me to the NICU the (equally amazing) neonatology team was rounding and asked if it was okay if we started feeding the babies. I can’t remember hardly anything about the first 24 hours after my surgery, Magnesium does weird things to your brain, but I do remember asking if we had any options other than formula. They told me we could use donor breast milk (um, freakin’ awesome that moms choose to donate their extra…THANK YOU) and we all agreed that our number one goal was getting some weight on these babies so I could take them home, so donor milk it was.
At some point in that first day a LC came by and hooked me up to a breast pump. Holy weirdness, people. Those things are strange. She explained it to me and told me not to expect more than a few mL in the first days, especially with the babies away from me in NICU. She wanted me to pump every 2.5 hours around the clock for 20-30 minutes at a time in order to establish a good supply. Welcome to mommy-hood!
So, I diligently followed orders with the overwhelming love, support, and encouragement of my husband. I’m so thankful he was so helpful when I was sore, exhausted, and sad in those first few days.
They mixed what I pumped with the girls’ bottles of donated milk and 6 days later we were leaving the NICU…with no decent amount of milk in sight from me. I was sure I had a milk-dud situation on my hands.
The NICU gave us feeding guidelines and loaded us up with bottles of Neosure, so that when we got home they’d have something to eat.
Almost instantly as we got home my milk came in. Something about having the girls with me kicked my production into high gear and I was able to start pumping enough for them.
It was a rough road and I won’t discuss it all here, because it would be the longest post ever, but it involved a month of exclusive pumping, a slow transition to nursing with a shield, a long process of weaning off shields, and finally mastering exclusive nursing in time for me to put away the pump a couple weeks before going back to work.
I’m now back at the hospital with 180+oz of milk in my freezer (oh, did I mention the massive oversupply once my milk finally came in?), pumping enough for them to eat while I’m away, and incredibly proud of my decision to breastfeed despite our obstacles.
Another thing I’ve gotten out of all of this – a very clear understanding of why exactly people choose not to nurse their babies. It’s freaking hard, people.
If you’re pregnant or have a new baby and have questions, shoot me an email. I’ve picked up some tips and tricks along the way and I feel like since I’ve made about 60 gallons of milk (yes, seriously) in the past 18 weeks I am somewhat of an emerging moo-cow extraordinaire.