(what I wished breastfeeding looked like every day)
I joined a La Leche League for Multiples support group when I was pregnant with my twins. I hate it. And yet I continue to stay. Why? I stay because I seem to be the only one who says, “Don’t worry. Just do what works for you and your family!” to the poor new moms who are consumed with worry and guilt and stress. The rest of the members seem to piledrive them into ground with the “Crying-It-Out Makes You the Devil” and “Not-Tandem-Nursing Makes you a Terrorist”.
Breastfeeding can have some weird challenges. My mom says, “I don’t know what the big deal is. You stick them on the boob and they eat.” But there are a thousand things that complicate nursing – latching problems, NICU stays, tongue-ties, engorgement, mastitis, plugged ducts, low milk production. In my case, what happened to get in the way of nursing was almost dying. I needed two blood transfusions , which messed with my pituitary glands, and, therefore, my milk production. My milk finally came in on the tenth or eleventh day, which is later than any lactation consultant ever heard. To complicate matters, I was sedated in the ICU for the first 48 hours after the birth and had one baby in the NICU. I spent a week total in the hospital, and was mostly unable to care for my babies during that time. (You can read more about my birth story here.)
Multiples further complicate the breastfeeding. How do you feed two babies at once? How do you make enough milk for two? How do you physically maneuver in the middle of the night alone? I read a lot of books about all that during my pregnancy and kind of just adopted a wait-and-see approach. I joined an online La Leche League for Multiples support group, to get ideas and friends in place before I had any problems.
If I had given birth in my twenties, I might have been one of these LLL know-it-alls. I saw the world as a little more black and white back then. I assumed I would get pregnant when I wanted and nurse how I wanted. Ha! I had a more one-size-fits-all approach to the world. Now that I am well into my thirties, and have made God laugh with all my plans, I know that everyone deals with problems we can’t see. I would never assume that I can predict my future or my reaction to problems in my future. I especially would never assume that I know what is best for another nursing mother and her family.
So where the heck do these LLL members get off?!
I would like to point out that I am not including the leaders of the LLL in my rant. The leaders – professional lactation consultants – have all been well-trained and reasonable. They have supported any of my questions, problems, and solutions. I am specifically complaining about when a member posts a question for the group and the members all leap on top of her.
I absolutely, 100%, completely, wholly, wholeheartedly HATED tandem nursing. I most certainly had to supplement my twins’ breastmilk with formula. I most certainly had to give them bottles. I most certainly had them cry-it-out when the twins were ready – and when I was about to stab someone with a fork or get really really sick from not sleeping. (Apparently, two or three hours of sleep for seven months was my limit.) I most certainly was happy to stop nursing at seven months. I had a challenging (and sometimes very sad) two-year-old who seemed to know instinctively that breastfeeding was more intimate than bottles – and hated it. I also dealt with the sorrow of not nursing him, since he came to me through adoption.
All of these things, apparently, have made me a complete rebel in my LLL group. However, I have NO GUILT for feeling or doing any of these things. (Thank goodness for my church sisters and my friends!) Only me and Mr. Okayest know what is best for our family.
Today, a worried mom posted on my LLL group that her pediatrician, who is also a twin mom, suggested that she stop feeding her 6-month-old twins in the middle of the night. Although she said she loved the idea of more sleep, she was unsure of what to do. Many members immediately posted things about how crying-it-out should never, ever, be done under any circumstances and that it raises babies’ cortisol levels. First of all, these women are not doctors. They are just moms! How dare they contradict a doctor before they have all the facts? Second of all, this mom was truly hurting and struggling with her decision, and, if she were to choose to cry-it-out, now she would have more guilt piled on top of her guilt. I simply added to the commotion that we cried it out, it worked for us, and to just do what works for her and her family.
A few day ago, a worried mom asked the LLL group what she could do to increase her supply. She was exclusively pumping, not putting the babies to breast, because her babies had had an extended NICU stay. The members immediately criticized her for not putting the babies to the breast because, in their opinion, it was the only way to increase your milk. She eventually replied to all the comments that people might look down on her because she is a nurse and has to pump to get through her 12-hour shifts at work. How horrible is that?! A new mom is already struggling with the guilt of pumping, babies in the NICU, low milk production, and going back to work – and these women made it worse! She was apologizing for having to pump! WTHeck?! I chimed in to say that taking fenugreek worked for me, and that no one should ever make her feel badly about her decisions and that she should do what is right for her and her family.
I could go on and on with stories like this. Mr. Okayest is used to saying, “Why don’t you just leave that group?” after every time I exclaim with frustration at the comments. It’s because someone has to tell a mom to just do what is right for her and her family.