Monday, April 4, 2011

Breast-feeding twins

There's an item in the news today, about how more help is going to be provided to mums of multiples trying to breast feed.  The report featured real-life stories of how these women's cries for extra help went unheard by various professionals yadda yadda.....'

Firstly wasn't my experience. Secondly, is it just me, but we seem to be blighted with this 'woe-is-me, why isn't someone heeeelp-ing me, sob sob' attitude these days, instead of just getting on with it.

when i was in hospital following the birth of my twins I had a bed that at the press of a button would slowly fold to prop me up to sitting, where I could feed, watch telly, chat, issue orders.  Nurses would appear like clockwork to administer painkillers (post caesarean) apologising profusely if a little late.  I had a nurse from neo natal visit every three/four hours throughout the night to check the babies were feeding/I was feeding them. but if I still needed help there was another button by the bed which you could ring for assistance.  I considered this emergency only.  Others were more liberal, regularly reaching for their bell, and I would hear nurses running up and down the corridor as pumping on the alarms got more impatient.  Notwithstanding there were certainly some valid cases for which urgent help was required, I can guarantee the vast majority weren't.  It was like bloody upstairs downstairs. We had our meals provided, a caretaker would bring tea and biscuits morning and afternoon and we could summon our exhausted servants/nurses to our attention at a whim.  All courtesy of the NHS, and all, from what I could see, blithely taken for granted. 

Maybe I was lucky.  Everyone I encountered in the birth of my twins was extraordinarily helpful.  the hospital provided me with a giant U-shaped cushion that I could happily balance both babies on to feed simultaneously, and I had lovely comforting midwives whose mission it was to latch them on should I have target trouble, and ease my pain. i have no issue, only praise for the hospital care, after care all the plentiful care, so much care, I received from the state. 

My problem with breast-feeding was two-fold and all my own.  Such was the double demand on my somewhat modest mons that after a few weeks they would become so engorged between feeds they'd be rock hard.  Twin domes that were stretched so full, they were like pumped up Pamela Anderson beach balls fit to burst.  Very tricky for a little mouth to latch on to.  Come feeding time, I'd extract each from my bra and like garden sprinklers they would spray pressurized milk across the room.  It would be a frantic race to get the babies on before quantities of the stuff was wasted.  My mother in law who'd regularly visit to coo over her little granddaughters adoringly, frequently got it in the eye, but ever polite would just dab it away, pretending not to notice.

As the weeks went by my breasts would get fuller and harder, and more excrutiating to carry around.  I  would need a crane to prop myself up in bed as using my arm to lever myself vertical was sheer agony (and there was no mechanical folding bed at home, or button to press).   Not only that but something about my prolactin levels (hormone responsible for milk production) would cause me to have night sweats. Like you wouldn't believe.

It started the first night in hospital when I'd felt a little damp but put it down to the hospital-regulation plastic pillows and bottom sheets.  As the days passed it got worse.  After a few weeks I'd have to wear a towelling robe to bed, such was the deluge.  Like clockwork the sweats would start at 1am and continue for a couple of hours until I was literally lying in a cold pool.  If awake I could feel it happening, like taps under my skin all turned on to full simulatneously. One minute I was dry, the next drenched.  Each night I would get up looking like I'd just emerged from the shower, hair dripping, and bleary-eyed discard wet towelling robe for one that was dry, then feed the babies.

this went on night after night for months, about three, until I started combination feeding.  At three months my twins were on formula, and before I get all those breast evangelists cussing, it was because they weren't getting enough from me, something they made abundantly clear by punching and clawing and howling at each emptied breast they'd ravenously sucked dry.  It was either formula or hungry babies, and personally, not least because it's bad for all our nerves, three-month-old hungry babies, in stereo, can never be a good thing.

so there you go.  My problems with breast-feeding were all my own.  I was very grateful for the help I received which was plentiful, but I don't think any additonal multiples-related help would have, well, helped.  As a grown, relatively intelligent adult who had managed to get pregnant, I'm not sure further twin-specific spoon-feeding's really necessary when it comes to breast feeding.  Is it?  Really?  i mean, our mothers weren't, nor theirs, nor all the others preceding us, throughout civilisation. 

It being a blame culture though I will blame them for my short-lived breast-feeding.  My antecedents that is.  It is they who are collectively responsible for not making me better endowed, and probably, the minxes, for that prolactin nightly charm offensive.  They have a lot to answer for.

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