And it was still kind of a disaster.
Because they were two weeks premature, D and Z were sleepy and disinterested in eating. Because they didn't eat much, they didn't stimulate my breasts enough to feed two growing babies. By the time we left the hospital, they had lost between 10% and 12% of their body weight, and we were strongly encouraged to supplement with microscopic amounts of formula via syringe, administered usually into the corner of their mouths while feeding at the breast to inspire more vigorous sucking.
But their weights continued to plummet. I was put on a strict 2 hour feeding schedule, around the clock, no breaks. Due to poor latches, they weren't able to feed simultaneously, so I fed one for about 45 minutes, then the other, then I took 30 minutes to nap or poop or cry hysterically before starting again. Before long, I was hallucinating from the sleep deprivation, lashing out at family with paranoia and envy. As bad as the schedule was, it staunched the weight loss, and I was rewarded with a 7 hour nightly block of feeding only on demand (so...every three hours).
By three weeks, they were still refusing to gain, despite the fact that I was spending nearly every waking moment with one attached to my breast. I was demoralized and terrified that my doctor would pressure me to give up breastfeeding entirely (or make me supplement with so much formula that I might as well give up). Instead, she put us on a program I later learned was called "triple feeding." Every two hours went like this:
Breastfeed D (10 minutes)
Breastfeed Z (10 minutes)
Bottle feed D 2 oz (10 minutes)
Bottle feed Z 2 oz(10 minutes)
Pump (20 minutes)
Eat, nap, poop, and/or cry (one hour)
Rinse and repeat 10 times a day while caring for two babies
It. was. brutal. Furthermore, I wasn't pumping enough after feeding to give them four ounces every time. Enter my dear friend Temple, my angel, who generously shared her freezer stash of breast milk with me so we wouldn't have to resort to formula. Obviously, she couldn't give us extra milk forever, and Jake, who would eventually need to go back to work, was HIGHLY instrumental to making this insane schedule possible. I was miserable all the time, fearing we would never drop the bottles and supplementation, that my supply would never pick up, that my babies were suffering constant hunger and frustration.
On the one hand, I've never been more proud of myself. Whenever I see that roll of fat around Z's wrist or bury my face in D's full cheeks, I sigh with the satisfaction that I DID THAT. I made them with my body, and now I'm helping them grow big and strong. It's mind blowing. On the other hand, I feel like I've had a loss of faith. Going in, I believed in the sanctity of breastfeeding. I believed that if you followed the rules, you would be rewarded with years of happy, easy feeding. I believed that the lactation consultants had the answers. But it's not always true. Sometimes, it's a real, honest-to-god failure.
Yes, we're finally finding some success, but it's not because I'm so great or because breastfeeding is so perfect a system. We're finally getting this to work because we had a boatload of support. And I want to thank those people openly. First, my husband, who took a full THREE MONTHS off from a brand new job that he loved to change two dozen diapers a day and soothe screaming babies with his mad baby-wearing skillz. Next, to Temple and Simone, for sharing their liquid gold and ensuring that my babies never had to go hungry while I challenged my supply to keep up. To my mother, who made and bought and delivered countless meals, who opened her house to us that first hellish week and slept in shifts with my dad and Jake so there was always someone to sit with me while I fed, even at 3am. To Becky, my mother-in-law, for taking on the Herculean task of being my day-time help three days a week, and of course, for all the coffee!!! To Hannah, who held my hand and wiped my tears when I thought I could not handle the guilt and fear one more minute. To Cheyenne and Lydia and all the girls at The Nappy Shoppe, our home away from home, for simultaneously cheering me on and teaching me patience. So many other people: Dr. Agrawal, Melissa and Courtney from NDDA, Autumn and Tom at Cafe of Life, the LCs of Baylor Hospital, the Facebook support group Breastfeeding Multiples...thank you, thank you, thank you.