My little girls have just turned two months old and I have been back at work in the office for six weeks now. Before the girls were born it seemed that everybody had an opinion about my early return to work, and it mostly seemed to be expressed in terms of questions about how I was going to feed them. I don’t think that I will ever forget being told to ‘stop being selfish, stay home and feed (my) babies’. Because going to work in order to be able to feed my toddlers is selfish, apparently.
We had a difficult experience with breastfeeding when the boys were born. Balthazar had a very bad tongue tie that we all missed, and was readmitted to hospital at four days old so shrunken and dehydrated that he looked like a baby bird that had fallen out of a nest. It was awful. I sat in hospital and cried non-stop for days, and my milk supply never really recovered. I expressed for a few months and then gave up, and when I gave up I felt such a sense of relief not to have to spend half of my day attached to a machine. Expressing for twins is a mission; it stole time that I could have spent bonding with the babies. To be honest it was all a bit of a mess.
So I didn’t plan to make much effort with breastfeeding this time round; it didn’t seem safe. I didn’t trust that without us measuring and monitoring how much they were eating, they wouldn’t get sick. And I knew that I would be returning to work very early so there didn’t seem much point. I decided to express and feed them the colostrum for the antibodies, and to express a little whilst on maternity leave if I could do it without feeling a slave to the Medela, but that my babies would probably be bottle-fed babies. I didn’t want to be a breastfeeding mum if being a breastfeeding mum meant risking killing my babies again.
When the girls were born they latched right away. I hadn’t planned on it, it was one of those ‘why not’ moments when they were rooting around. It was what they seemed to want at the time. Tiny Embla was quite pinchy but not in a tongue-tied sort of way; I think that her mouth was just that small. Olympia just felt – normal. Not painful, not pinchy, not ineffective in that awful way that I remember from my newborn son failing to feed. It was lovely. It was peaceful and bonding and perfect. And I realised that actually, I kind of liked breastfeeding.
So did Polly. Actually, she really liked it. Embla could take it or leave it – and ultimately as she was so tiny, Kirsty opted to give her most of her feeds via a bottle so that she could keep track of her gain. These days she’s almost exclusively bottle-fed but with my milk and she prefers that; she’s fattened up like we’re planning to eat her for Christmas, and she LOVES those bottles whereas she seems to find my slower let-down frustrating. Kirsty holds her close and tends to feed her in the wrap and I’m not sure that she is missing out on anything by being fed by bottle.
But Olympia, oh. She’s a breastfed baby. She’s one of those ‘velcro babies’ that wants to feed constantly, to feed and to be held. I make her happy. In fact, I might even say that I make her happiest. She’ll take a bottle and she’s ok with her mama when I’m at work, but she is so sweet and so easy when I’m home with the Boobs of Magic. And it’s wonderful, and much to my surprise I love it too. I love feeding her to sleep and I love those just-us moments in the middle of the night and I love that I got her first smile, plain little me, all because I came home from work with the Magic Boobs.
So I’m still breastfeeding. And still expressing from the office to maintain my supply. I have a little handheld Medela pump that I seem to use the most frequently because it’s light and easy, and a slightly bigger Symphony that comes about with me sometimes too. It’s part of the daily routine. And aside from that dreadful, terrible day where I somehow managed to drop 8oz of expressed breastmilk down the loo, it feels worthwhile. My breastfed baby is at her happiest, at her most peaceful when she is attached to me, and my bottle-fed baby is being nourished in the way that scientists tell us is best, from her mama’s arms.
Had you asked me three months ago whether I would still be expressing nine weeks in I would have pulled faces and told you that probably I would have chosen to stop by now, that I wouldn’t have the time and it wouldn’t be worth the effort. But somehow I do and somehow it is.
It feels a little strange at times. I’m sure that people finding it odd that I’m only feeding one of them ‘myself’. I’m finding it a little odd, too. But it works out well that each of us have our ‘own’ baby to be responsible for when we are both at home, although of course we get plenty of cuddles with the other one as well!
I love this picture which Kirsty took last week of the three of us, as it so perfectly depicts our relationship right now. There is Olympia, feeding as always, and our bright little Embla, inquisitive as always, happy to be with me but always, always looking at her mama. She is totally her girl. I love it.
We are a strange little family, but we’re a good one. And oh, they make me happy.
Kirsty took this picture on the day that the girls turned two months old. I have a picture of myself standing beside this window from forty weeks, one day after the birth, one week after the birth and one month after the birth too and it was supposed to be part of a series to track what my body looked like in the aftermath of my second twin birth but actually, I don’t really care what my body looks like and whether it conforms to society’s ideals right now. What I am absolutely loving is following the girls’ growth and having a very specific photo format to compare against. Thanks, Kirsty.
I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for efficient breastfeeding or expressing, how it went for you if you returned to work whilst still feeding or – well – anything really! I love a comment.