My first baby is now 3 years old. When I was pregnant with him, I was so excited to try breastfeeding - people always talked about how peaceful it was; how it was such an amazing bonding experience. Naturally, I assumed I would feel that instant connection the first time my beautiful baby latched on and we would have a long-lasting breastfeeding journey without any hiccups - boy was I dreaming! Oliver wouldn't latch in the hospital, and the nurses there told me "my nipples weren't the greatest for breastfeeding" and instead of helping me figure it out, pushed a nipple shield on me - as well as a supplemental feeding system (which my son didn't actually need). I felt so disconnected from the whole thing - I began to feel intense anxiety about feedings, which turned into obsessive behaviors and thoughts throughout his first few months - was he eating enough? Too much? What in the heck was I doing? I tracked dirty diapers, feedings, and pumping sessions obsessively in a notebook, convinced I was screwing this kid up regardless of all my efforts.. I didn't realize it and never would have admitted it at the time, but I was struggling a lot with postpartum depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, I ended up quitting breastfeeding very quickly (and he never once latched to my bare nipple). I exclusively pumped for a few months, but suffered with mastitis and clogged ducts often which ultimately led to me giving up completely and moving on to formula.
I'm an educated person and I know that formula is fantastic and that FED is best, however I couldn't shake the guilt that I had failed my son.. I carried that intense guilt around with me for nearly 3 years. When I found out I was pregnant again, I was most excited and looking forward to having another go at breastfeeding - I'd grown and changed and learned SO much since then, and just knew I could do it this next time around if I just set up the right support network and stuck with it. And then... we discovered I was carrying twins. While I was so excited to have twins, my heart sank a bit knowing my dreams of breastfeeding might be something I'd have to give up on yet again. As we began to share our exciting news with friends and family, time and time again I heard the same remarks: "you aren't planning to breastfeed are you??" "You can't possibly nurse two babies at the same time." "You're going to have to supplement - you'll never be able to keep up with supplying for TWO babies." And on and on. I began to feel that familiar pang of guilt that I was somehow failing these babies - and they weren't even born yet!
I started researching the topic of breastfeeding twins and discovered different holds and techniques. I met other twin mama's and got their input and advice. I met with my local lactation consultant at 30 weeks to go over my wants, needs, and expectations. I asked questions and voiced my concerns early - I set up an amazing support system for myself and began to feel confident once again that I COULD do it. When the day finally came, and we met our sweet twins Calvin and Camille, I surprised myself and everyone else in the hospital when I confidently pulled both babies to the breast, got them situated on my twin nursing pillow, and tandem latched them both onto my bare nipples. And from there it's just gotten better!
I still get remarks often about breastfeeding them - people are so surprised that tandem feeding is actually possible. But, every time I feel that somebody's negative remarks are pulling me down or making me doubt myself, I get a new surge of stubbornness- unwillingness to give up and to prove all those naysayers wrong! And here we are today... my sweet, healthy babies are 2.5 months old and our breastfeeding relationship is going strong with no signs of ending any time soon. As they grow and develop I'll have to switch up how we do our feedings, it will be an ever-changing thing as their little bodies grow and become stronger and more independent/self-sufficient. But I'm excited to grow and change and learn alongside them!
My biggest piece of advice to other mothers is this: RELAX! Don't become obsessed with trying to do everything "by the book"; everybody has advice, but only you know what's right for you and your baby... you just gotta learn to trust your instincts. If you begin to feel the weight of postpartum depression or anxiety, or know you suffered with it during a first pregnancy, talk about it BEFORE you give birth! Tell your mom, your girlfriends, your doctor - give them a heads up that you may need some extra emotional support. For me, it was much easier to talk about my mental health when I didn't have to be the one to bring it up.
Lastly, don't let negative people and/or negative talk drag you down or keep you from having the experience you've been dreaming of. Surround yourself with positive people who will lift you up, and create an A+ support system that will help you stay motivated, determined, and emotionally connected. You've got this, mama... don't let anybody tell you differently!
Thank you so much for sharing your story Maren! What an inspirational story of overcoming challenges, and moving on from your first experience which had given you so much guilt. Sometimes, a subsequent successful breastfeeding experience is needed to fully heal from a difficult one-just as in birth!
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