I never intended to nurse my kids; it happened quite by accident, almost organically. For as far back as I can remember and even several months into my pregnancy, I had always said that I would be a formula-feeding mom. I won’t go into the reasons as to why I had decided this, but I’ll say this – my not wanting to nurse had nothing to do with the extreme personal and time commitment required to do so. Nursing was just one of those things that I didn’t think I ever wanted to do.
As I learned about the benefits of nursing, my resolve not to nurse softened but never actually changed. I understood the logistical and economic benefits of it – never having to pack or wash bottles, ALWAYS having “food” on hand when your baby was hungry, not having to spend all that money on formula (and with twins on the way, all of these reasons were compelling). I also understood the health benefits, starting with giving your baby a “good start” in the form of antibodies, immunity and other healthy nutrition-related things. Yet still, the idea of physically nursing my children kinda gave me the heebie-jeebies – I just couldn’t picture myself doing it.
As we approached our due date, my husband and I decided that I would at minimum nurse the babies until they were 4-5 weeks old and then I’d be done. 4-5 weeks was the “milestone mark” that parenting magazines, articles and books say that you strive for if for nothing other than giving your babies some brain food and a stronger immune system.
“OK,” I said to myself, “I can deal with it for 4-5 weeks…”
But when my babies were born at 35 weeks, that target of 4-5 weeks proved to be all but impossible. I had had a c-section and also wasn’t able to feed right away because I had been given magnesium and narcotics in the O-R. I had forgotten to request a pump when I checked in, so one wasn’t made available to me until almost 48 hours after delivery. When I did receive a pump, it seemed futile because NOTHING came out. When I tried to nurse my babies in the NICU, it seemed futile because neither child latched. I was destined to fail Bovine University and really considered dropping out.
Because my ego and laziness wouldn’t let me, I didn’t drop out during those first 5 weeks. Eventually with a LOT of effort, tears, and some help from a lactation consultant, my 5 week target turned into 10 weeks (5 weeks prematurity-adjusted age). Then we discovered that my son had a severe case of milk sensitivity / reflux and every time we tried to wean the babies onto specialized formula, my son would vomit almost violently (note: sadly, also because of his dairy sensitivity, I had to eliminate all dairy proteins from my diet which included all dairy (ice cream!!!), casein, whey, anything with starting with “lact,” AND beef). At that point, I decided I’d exclusively nurse until I returned to work at 4 months. But once again, at 4 months, we tried to wean the babies to formula with disastrous results, and those 4 months of exclusive nursing turned into 10 months of pumping during the day/nursing at home. It wasn’t until the bulk of my kids’ daily calories came from solid food was I able to say goodbye to nursing bras and my yellow breastpump forever.
To tell you the truth, I hated nursing. I never had one of those “golden light” moments where I heard angels singing and a sense of peace waft over me while my children peacefully filled their bellies. It was hell – stressful, time consuming, and painful. The only benefit that I personally got from it was alone time with my twin babies, away from my family (my in-laws were staying with us) and a short nap because inevitably, all three of us would fall asleep for 15 minutes or so. The benefit to my children given my son’s formula/dairy sensitivity was obviously much broader. So when people say to me, “Oh my gosh, you’re amazing for nursing twins for TEN MONTHS…” I feel like telling them that I didn’t really have a choice – it was a means to an end; a way to help my children grow and thrive. Sometimes things just…happen.
So, remember this – when you see a mom who is nursing or formula feeding or has made a choice of one sort or another that you may or may not agree with, don’t always assume that her choices are choices of principle. Sometimes, we moms make these choices because it is the only thing that works for us, or because that’s what works best for our little babies. We are, after all, all human.