Most moms know the debate that rages between formula feeding and breastfeeding. Sure, scientifically breastfeeding offers some advantages. It can help build immunity and is customized to your specific baby. And formula feeding isn’t without its merits. For one it is a literal lifesaver for women who can’t produce enough breast milk. It takes pressure off of moms as the sole food source and lets moms get back to work more easily. I think the logical thing to do is offer up education on both methods, the pros and cons, and then focus on helping each mother do what is best for her family. Sounds easy enough, right? Yet it doesn’t work that way. So I’m going to introduce a new perspective into the debate. Twins versus singletons.
I have a singleton and I have twins. They have all been fed adequately. But I had very different experiences when it came to how I was going to feed those children. Is formula vs breast milk that different when you consider how twins are treated compared to singletons? What can twins teach us about breastfeeding attitudes?
Before I go too deep into this, I want to point out that this was my experience. That means it is not the only experience out there. But it is also what I have observed from researching and seeking out help as a mother of both a singleton and twins. So I don’t think it is an uncommon experience. Why are twins treated differently than singletons in terms of breastfeeding? And what can this teach us about how we handle the whole breast vs. formula debate?
Here are the particular circumstances that stuck out to me.
Information overload! I was told all about how amazing breastfeeding is, how great it is for babies health, how it helps mother’s health, how it will make my baby smarter. There were pamphlets, websites, and groups to join. I was assured a lactation consultant would be available 24/7 while I was in the hospital after giving birth, and I could call any time I needed to once home. Basically, I was given every factoid and tip on breastfeeding anyone could think to give me.
I will put in a caveat here that this was my second pregnancy, so it might have been assumed I had all the information on breastfeeding down pat. But I did not get inundated with information in the same way. Yes, there are a lot more potential complications with twin pregnancies so maybe the focus was on that. But I had to ask if I wanted any information, and even then it was minimal. Even the lactation consultants I met with admitted they didn’t have a lot (if any) twin experience. I was on my own to seek out what I needed to know.
If you are a good mom you will breastfeed. Most moms can breastfeed, it is rare to not produce enough milk or have problems. Babies are able to latch and know what to do. If you don’t breastfeed your child you aren’t trying hard enough, you don’t care enough, and you will most likely damage your baby.
Wait, can you breastfeed twins? More or less I was told I could try, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work. Have a backup plan just in case.
Huge pressure! Society demands that you nurse your baby to be the best mom ever. There was a lot of internal pressure too. I felt like I had to make nursing work or I would give my child a terrible start at life.
This was kind of nice, there wasn’t any outside pressure to nurse. I’m not complaining, that was a nice change. But the internal pressure was still there. If anything it was a bit bigger because I wanted to prove people wrong. It is possible to breastfeed twins.
Treatment of Formula
Don’t you dare. Don’t even look at it. Don’t sign up for free samples, you will end up using them and ruining your child. Formula is for quitters. If you pump and give a bottle make sure to announce that it is not formula to everyone around. No one should think you are using formula. It is just chemicals that will destroy your baby. Do not supplement after nursing, the formula will seek out and destroy any breast milk it finds in your baby.
Get all the free samples you can. Formula is just as good as breast milk. It is scientifically designed to be as close to breast milk as possible. It will not hurt your baby. Good moms do what they need to do to feed their babies. Feel free to supplement, your body might not make enough for two babies. It won’t hurt them or cancel out any good the breastfeeding is doing. Fed is best.
Feed on demand. Don’t you dare schedule that baby. You will ruin your supply. Baby knows what he needs and will eat accordingly. Your job is to be a 24-hour buffet ready at a moments notice.
Get those twins on a schedule! If one is hungry feed the other. It doesn’t matter if one twin doesn’t want to eat, they both eat. If you don’t get a schedule down you will always be nursing and won’t be able to function as a human being. It will not hurt your babies, you are doing them a favor by scheduling out their feeds.
What can we learn from this?
Things were handled very differently when I had a singleton and when I had twins. One thing that I find very interesting was how easily formula was handled with twins. No pressure, no feelings of being a bad mom, no concerns of hurting the babies. And twins are often born earlier and smaller than singletons. So if a baby that starts off facing these challenges can benefit from formula, and in fact not be damaged by it, why is it so damaging for a singleton? If a mother having a single baby can be given all sorts of information and support in her quest to breastfeed, why can’t that be provided to a mom of multiples? Surely that mother would benefit from the added support.
I think the differences between how we treat moms who want to nurse a singleton and those who want to nurse twins show us that we don’t need to take an all or nothing approach to breastfeeding. We can teach mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding. Education is important, and I know as a mother I wanted to do what was best for my babies. But while we do that, we can also be understanding of mother’s who can’t or don’t want to nurse. We can admit that formula is a very important advancement, and it does not harm children or make you a worse mother. You can even do both without causing harm.
Maybe what these differences show us is that we can try something crazy and meet mothers where they are when it comes to feeding their babies. We can provide information on the pros and cons of both breastfeeding and formula feeding. Then we can look at each situation individually and find a way to benefit baby, mother, and the whole family. We can listen, really listen to mothers. How they feel and their insight into what is best for their baby is important. We can support mothers without judgment.
If you are looking for more information on breastfeeding twins, these posts will help you out!
Monday: Chronicles of a Babywise Mom- How I Breastfed For 12 Months Even When Everything Went Wrong