Sunday, August 4, 2013

I Support You

Well, as I predicted, the blog hasn't been updated in a long, long time.  Not since I quit my middle-of-the-night breast-pump and blogging sessions.  But I've found a good reason to resurrect it!

It's National Breastfeeding Week this week, and most of you who know my story will wonder why on Earth that is inspiring me to write.  And, you're right.  When I heard that this week was all in celebration of breastfeeding, I did want to crawl under a rock and plug my ears until it was over.  But, then I saw this article in Huffington Post.  Three bloggers have teamed up to create the I Support You event to encourage us all to support each other, regardless of how we feed our children.  The bloggers involved span the spectrum of feeding methods, the Fearless Formula Feeder at one end and Jamie Lynne Grumet (of Time Magazine Fame) on the other, with Kim Simon, who has formula fed one child and breastfed her second, in the middle.

I think it's wonderful that people are beginning to talk openly about the difficulties of feeding (bottle or breast!) and that we're moving towards more support, rather than judgment.  Cause y'all know how much I love mom-judgement and mom-competition.

So, to get involved, I've decided to interview a friend of mine who took a different feeding path, despite some fairly extreme early difficulties.  I was happy to support her in her early feeding days, and still support her feeding choices, even on days when she wavers. ;)  And she, in return, has supported me whole heartedly through all of my pumping and massaging and tears and marathon breastfeedings and formula mixing and donor milk dethawing and mastitis and...well through everything. :)  In fact, it was a lot of her own milk that fed little Ebba in the early days, and for that I will be ever thankful.

So, enough babbling on (but, hey, the site IS called Babble Fluff...) and without further ado, I'd like to introduce Candace, my best friend and breastfeeding mum of two gorgeous and healthy twin girls.

Mother's Day 2012, when the girls were just over 2 months!!

So, Candace, could you share a brief summary of your feeding experience.

Sorry...this isnt very brief at all!

Our feeding experience was INTENSE but all the work eventually paid off.

My goal was to EBF and when the birth didnt go anywhere near as we had hoped, I was desperate to be able to syccessfully breastfeed the twins. I had spent several weeks prior to their birth painstakingly hand expressing colostrum and collectig the tiny golden drops in syringes (this was suggestd to me by our midwives, as we were having twins we were considered "higher-risk" and if I wanted to avoid/reduce formula/ bottle feeding after birth, I could collect and freze my own colostrum so it was available for them). I am glad I did! I had an emergency c section and the babies were with their dad and our doula and midwives after their birth was i was in recovery. Their first feed was finger-fed colustrum from a syringe by their daddy and a nurse...that made me happy, but, the pressure was on!

I began tandem nursing as soon as I could, and started pumping right away. every nurse had a different suggestion about how to hold them, how to latch them, how to hand express, etc. It was frustrating and exhausting  The babies cried. A LOT. They were hungry. I couldn't make enough fast enough. They were getting jaundice and losing weight, I refused to formula feed over and over, until we passed the recommended 10% weight loss. Then we gave them formula, which was again finger fed using a tube by their dad and a nurse (I couldn't get out of bed). I felt horrible. I felt like a failure. I pumped like a fiend.

When we got home, we developed a routine where I breastfed  fed any and all expressed breastmilk, then gave donor milk and then formula if needed. (The donor milk was a good option and we used it for a couple of weeks until one time when Frank called to see if he could get some and was told there wasn't that much and they needed to keep it for the preemies,....we realized at that point that there were other people who were in greater need than us). I pumped after every feed. For weeks they just drank what i pumped, but slowly once in a while, their wold be an ounce or two left over. If someone came to me and said, "There's no more milk....I would burst into tears.: I nursed, and pumped and pumped, and took fenugreek and pumped some more. I couldn't nurse them on my own as they were too little. I always needed help and then would be trapped behind my enormous breastfeeding pillow, holding their tiny heads, scrutinizing their latch, back aching, thirsty, exhausted. 

Over time, my supply increased and they needed less and less formula; by 9 weeks, they were exclusively breastfed...then I had oversupply....and recurrent plugged ducts...and they would choke on the milk that sprayed out too fast. We soon had milk stored in the fridge and then in the freezer. I was almost obsessed  I was so scared of "running out of milk" I just couldn't stop....I continued pumping after every feed, even at night, for months and months.. 

In the end, I relaxed. I got over the thought that giving them formula was bad and meant I was a failure. I enjoyed feeding them I stopped pumping. :) And now, we are still nursing at 17 months....:) 

I have to say, everyone who was around me was very supportive and helpful. Almost all the pressure was from me. And some from society.:)

I guess you already touched on this, but could you summarize your original plan for feeding your children, and how that compared to what you ultimately ended up doing?

Our original plan was to EBF, and that was what we ended up doing, thankfully! We talked about how we would likely have to supplement with formula, but when it came to doing it, it was brutal for me....I felt like if I have the formula, they wouldn't want my milk, and my supply would go down, and then we would start a viscous cycle that would ruin our plan. 

What was the best part about how you fed your girls?  What was the worst?

At the beginning.....I am not sure...losing weight!? I think for me, just feeling successful, and like by BF I was making up for not having the vaginal delivery that I should have had that made me a "real woman." I know...that sounds f*cked. :) The worst was feeling trapped and helpless and like I was solely responsible  and if I took a break or chose to sleep or go for a walk, I was being a bad mom. "What if they need me!!??"

What myths about how you fed your child were the most hurtful?  What is your "truth" that counteracts those myths?

Hmmm....that they would get nipple confusion and not want to breastfeed (I dont know if that is a myth, but I was told there was no empirical evidence to support that...). That they would prefer formula over milk and refuse to nurse. My truths: It is my job to take care of my babies, and if they are hungry, I am obliged and entitled to feed them...whatever way I can. 

What would help you (or would have helped you) to feel supported/understood in your choices?

More general and widespread acceptance of supplemental feeding. I felt like if I couldn't do it instantaneously, I was a fraud and a failure. I would like to think I would have put less pressure on myself and accepted more help. We would have all been happier.

I totally agree with that!  I think a lot of non-mums and mothers who didn't have trouble with supply when they began breastfeeding don't realize that it's not as easy for everyone.  It's not their fault, though, as I feel there's a lot of information out there really hammering away that breast is the most natural and easiest way to feed.  When it works, it is, but when it doesn't, all that information just makes mum feel like they've failed!

But anyway, back to the interview. :)  Think ten, twenty years into the future.  If you could give your grown child one message about how you chose to feed him/her, what would it be?

I would tell them that I wanted what I felt was the very best I could give them and I worked very very hard to do so, but that I wish I had been more relaxed about it and patient and kind to myself, and that I was lucky that my efforts paid off, but I could have done things in a gentler way. 

What could I have done to better support you in your feeding journey? 

Honestly, I don't know that anybody could have done anything differently for me, except to constantly remind me that In was doing a great job and my babies were heatlhy and happy. :)

Your babies ARE happy and healthy and you ARE doing a great job!  :)  Thanks, Candace!

I know it's kind of funny because in those early days (or even still, for me, now at 7 months) sometimes no matter how much people remind you how amazingly awesome your baby is and tell you you're doing a wonderful job as a mum, it's hard to really internalize that.  And I think that's why this "I Support You" project is so important.  Because we, as mums, are hard enough on ourselves.  It makes it quadruply difficult when there's all sorts of judgement out there even from (or especially from?) other mums.  

So, I hope now that this discussion is coming out, that we can all work to support each other!  Because, as all of us mums now know, motherhood is hard...too hard to go it alone.  So, to Candace, and to all you other mothers out there, I Support You!