Friday, January 8, 2010

Nice work - if you can get it...

Apologies if this sensitive subject makes you uncomfortable. I feel a little weird writing this knowing my Grandparents will read it, but I'm a big girl now, and thus, coming to terms with the fact that I can discuss adult subjects and hope it doesn't shock them or anyone else too much!

Yesterday, a chain drifted around the Facebook world. A secret email, supposed to only be shared with other women, asking you to post your status as a color, making a reference to your bra color. The email went on to say that this was supposed to be for Breast Cancer Awareness. By the end of the day, and into today, it really just got a little bit silly.

I admit, I posted a color status. But afterwards, I had to rethink and consider the fact that it really did little in terms of advancing Breast Cancer Awareness. I sort of wonder if someone didn't make a bet that they could get thousands of women to post their bra colors on FB. hahaha....

Today, I saw and re-posted this message

I hesitated a little to post this. I have been a big breastfeeding advocate...


.... my twins are formula fed.

Before the twins, I had been able to nurse all 4 of the older kids for almost a year. I thought I knew what it was to struggle with breast feeding.

After all, my oldest, was 5 weeks premature, born lacking the ability or desire to successfully nurse. He came home from a couple days in the NICU feeding from a bottle. After many weeks of struggle, soreness and frustration, I was finally able to get him to nurse exclusively. The first feeding took 6 hours. Then we slept for 2. Then nursed for 4 hours.... and on it went until 3 days later he was satisfied after about 45 minutes at the breast. I nursed Noah to 12 months.

I also struggled with #2. She was classified as having a "failure to thrive." Most babies lose an average of 10% of birthweight in the first few days before beginning to gain again. Hannah had the doctors worried, and consequently, she had my emotions in shambles! She was an 8 lb baby at birth, dropped a little over a pound and didn't gain it all back until week 3. (I found out later this is MUCH more common than the doctors presented) Her latch needed help, but really it was more that despite her 'healthy' birth weight, she is a slender girl, and has always been healthy that way.

#3 and #4 were what I would call easy breast feeders.

I will honestly tell you that I assumed that breastfeeding was difficult, but, because of my experiences with Noah, if you REALLY try hard, it can work. It wasn't wrong if someone didn't want to try, but if you really wanted to make it work, with the right support, anyone could. I am certain that my assumptions and cavalier attitude unintentionally hurt people that I cared for. I may have been ignorant to the reality, but that is no excuse. For my hurtful words and thoughts, I am deeply sorry.

When I came home from the hospital with Nathan and Micah, I was expecting breast feeding to go well. They both latched well, and I was excited to be able to successfully tandem nurse. But a trip to the doctors office at 4 days old gave us a huge wake up call, things were far from well.

Both boys had lost almost 20% of birth weight and were extremely yellow. My milk had still not come in, which I assumed was because of the c-section. It just was taking too long. We came home from the appointment planning to start bottle feeding them and pumping every two hours, as well as putting them on wallaby light blankets to treat severe jaundice. I expected that, like with Noah, we would fix the problem with the boys and then fix the breastfeeding and continue on to nurse as long as possible. The jaundice and weight issues showed improvement within a day, and were completely resolved by 3 weeks. The nursing was not.

The twins were both taking 2 or 3 ounces of formula every 2 to 3 hours. I would pump and pump and pump and put the babies to breast all day long, and still could not produce more than 5, maybe 6 ounces in a day. I tried almost everything I knew how, short of taking drugs that might or might no increase my supply (but were not FDA approved).

Aside from the practical challenges of the situation, I was coping with an unbelievable amount of hormones. I did not anticipate two times the hormones, but quite literally that is what I experienced. Another mom of twins told me she cried for absolutely no reason at all for a full month after her twins were born.... and I knew exactly what she was talking about. Not sad tears, not frustrated tears (although I had those too), just tears... washing away all that build up of hormones.

I wanted to breast feed my twins more than anything. And I was failing. I could not make my body produce the nourishment that my babies needed.

I realized that my thoughts of it being possible for anyone to breastfeed were not only ignorant, but at that moment, I realized how hurtful those thoughts were. They had hurt others and they were now hurting me.

By God's grace and the sweet encouragement of a fantastic community of friends and family, I pulled out of the hormones, made a decision to feed my babies formula, and put the girls into retirement. I gave Nathan and Micah as much breastmilk as I could provide, which sadly was less than a month. Yet, I have found a surprising amount of peace about formula, that, I didn't expect. And I know now, that I did not fail. My children are healthy - that is a measure of success.

So, when this opportunity to plug breastfeeding arose on FB, I wondered if I wanted to join in. If you didn't know this - breastfeeding DOES decrease the risk of breast cancer and IS the most ideal food a baby can receive. But things don't always work out as they should. I am now aware of how blessed I was to have been able to nursed my children as much as I did.

I am also blessed to have a nutritious formula to provide to my babies. I am blessed to have had the experience of it not working, to know what others might have gone through - I'm always thankful to be humbled.


  1. I relate to this soooo much... I would be devastated to not be able to nurse, and even just my little hiccup with Max totally opened my eyes to what a GIFT it is for it to be possible, and to embrace that with thankfulness. It is a gift, but more than that, our CHILDREN are the true gifts and we are blessed to have other ways to nourish and protect them when our bodies cannot. God help those women around the world without access to food, water, formula in these situations. Now that's the real tragedy, not our debate about breastfeeding vs. formula amongst well-fed, well=clothed circles of women. I just feel grateful we have healthy children and have what we need for them to grow.

  2. Not that I'm glad you struggled Sarah, but I'm glad you gained awareness. I couldn't believe the comments made to me when people saw me feed Nathan formula. One of the worst being the pediatrician's nurse!! Between Nathan being 'tongue tied', my c-section, 2 emergency surgeries, 2 blood transfusions and 3 weeks in the hospital the odds were stacked completely against us. I was determined to nurse but when he hit 6lbs (born at 8 lbs 6oz) the dr said it's time for formula or he would have to be hospitalized and given a feeding tube..... we brought out the formula. My plan was to pump and supplement in hopes of eventually going back to exclusive nursing. After 3 weeks of pumping every 2 hours, taking countless supplements and seeing specialists I was only able to pump between 3-4 oz a day!!! Not nearly enough to care for my little angel. Thru prayer and support I learned that it took more than breast milk to nurture my child and began exclusive bottle feedings. Within 2 weeks he was back to birth weight and thriving! I was able to let go of the guilt and be thankful for his health and the amazing blessing that he was!! I still had the occasional comment from people about how breast feeding was better... eventually I learned to just turn the other cheek.
    Sometimes.... God has different plans for us than we have for ourselves and we just have to learn to trust him.

  3. I really like what Gina says:
    That it takes more than just breast milk to nurture a child, and that letting go of guilt and being thankful for baby's health.
    I agree totally.
    Sarah, I know first hand you are an excellent mother and that the twins are growing up very loved, in the way that they should go, and very healthfully. Keep up the great work, mama. And thank you for the reminder that humility is a virtue. You are so graceful.

  4. I randomly came across your blog a while back and try to follow when I have a moment. I enjoy reading about your experiences as a young mother of (now) six children, and although I was only blessed with one (a daughter), I know only too well what you've experienced with your twins. Aside from the light wands & blankets for jaundice, I went through ALL of this with my daughter. Thank you for this post. I am sharing this with my family; my mother was a 20+ member of the La Leche league and I felt the biggest amount of guilt from her, and recently from my brother, who also "doesn't understand". Thank you again, and keep being the great mother your friends (and some strangers, like me) can see you obviously are.

  5. What an interesting post, Sarah {and by the way, thank you for your sweet comment on my blog - not too many crows feet yet!}.

    I was criticized for formula feeding Grace. The fact was, I had a severe case of postpartum depression and received treatment for it. So the medication would have come thru the breast milk. I decided not to nurse. My heart just broke because I knew I may not have anymore children. But God changed the pain to joy because she was healthy, thriving and so very loved. We have a wonderful bond now, she gets no sicker than the average child {she actually hardly ever gets sick}, and when it comes down to it, I don't think the fact that I didn't breast feed her is what she'll remember me for. Great post. xo

  6. Great post Sarah! I keep writing a comment and then rewriting it because it is so hard to put to words the hurt that comes with feeling like a disappointment in birth/breast feeding. I couldn't deliver naturally and I had a hard time feeding my almost 10lb baby. I supplemented with formula and I received comments about how yucky it was. I worked really hard to breast feed. Eventually, we were able to do so exclusively. Unfortunately, I have passed judgment towards other moms who chose purposely not to breastfeed. Your post is a good reminder to remain humble and empathetic with one another. Mothering is not an easy job! “ I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone". -Bill Cosby


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