I've been breastfeeding my triplets for 10 1/2 months now, and I love it. It makes me feel ... well, I feel like my body isn't betraying me. And I love that my babies are bonded to me, even Abby who doesn't breastfeed, but gets my milk. She shows a definite preference for my milk over formula.
I never thought it would be possible to do this. I thought I'd pump for them while they were in the NICU and I thought maybe I'd struggle through a couple weeks at home, but I never really thought I'd make it through a whole year. And now I find myself wondering if I'll be ready to give this up when they turn a year old next month.
I have these three babies - these three that started out teeny, tiny, helpless babies, that have grown from as tiny as 2 1/2 pounds (Abby) and are now as big as 20 pounds (Sam) and I helped do that!
Fever? Check. Mysterious Breast Pain? Check. Hard, warm, red area on my breast where the pain is? Check, check and check.
Hello? Déjà vu much? Haven't I been there, done that? Like just recently? The last few times this has happened, I've just let it go. I'm wondering if I should call my OB since this is so close on the heels of the last episode. I just feel ridiculous.
My babies are nine and a half months old. Do you know what that means? It means they are rapidly approaching a year. How is that even remotely possible? How did this happen? With the rapid approach of their first birthday, and the dramatic changes in their eating patterns recently (much more solid food, much less milk intake), I've been sadly collecting my thoughts about ... (*gulp*) weaning. Ohmygosh. Just typing that word makes my eyes brim up with tears. I never thought I'd be this attached to breastfeeding - particularly with triplets. While I've grown a little tired of my pump (Maggie Moo), I'm not sure I can imagine the day I actually decide to put her away for good (until the next time?). In fact, the very thought of it, though I have thought of it, makes me physically ill.
Nevertheless, the time is coming and will be here sooner than I know it. There are some things that I'll definitely miss.
Sam, no matter how frantic he is beforehand, will snuggle right in and calm down immediately once he finds exactly the right position. Lately, though, he's taken to wanting to nurse in the MOST awkward positions: his most preferred position is to be kneeling in front of me, which isn't comfortable for me AT ALL; if he can't kneel, he wants to lay on his stomach facing me... I don't know if you can QUITE imagine how awkward a position this is, but trust me, it's awkward. Still, once he's settled, he snuggles and snoozes and eats to his heart's content; he's so lovable, it's hard to deny him this simple pleasure, even if it IS very uncomfortable for me. Lately, at night, he's fallen asleep nursing, and I know they say never to nurse a baby to sleep, but it's so yummy, and I don't care what "they" say, it works for us.
Ellie, despite all her problems in the beginning, is no longer failing to thrive. She's a champion nurser and so much calmer than her brother. While Sam will frantically and voraciously climb toward me, Ellie patiently waits for me to be ready, but then eats like it's her last meal ever! She holds my thumb with her little hand while she's nursing and doesn't let go and she crosses her little feet down on my other side and it's so adorable. When she's done, she's so drowsy and calm and beautiful I sometimes just stare at her until I realize how much else I have to do, but I never feel like I'm wasting time staring at my precious baby. This is time I earned, after all. This is time I begged for. If I don't enjoy it now, time may slip away and I'll miss it all together.
While I rarely nurse them together anymore - they're too big and unwieldy and seem to prefer the individual attention anyway - the times when I do it I realize that it truly is something I should do occasionally, because they are so precious together. They each eat at their own pace, with their own style, but together they form one unit, as their hands find each other in the middle. When they grow tired of holding hands, sometimes Ellie will place her hand on Sam's head and just hold it there; if she moves it, he starts to fuss and doesn't calm down until either her hand is replaced or their hands find each other in the middle again. The same thing happens if I nurse one on one side and bottle feed Abby on the other side, if I lay her down football-style on the side of my lap. It's a thing of beauty, really, to see them so attached to each other.
Even Abby, though she doesn't nurse, gives me reason to pause. She still shows a true preference for my milk versus formula, which gives me the strength to keep pumping, even on the days when I can't figure out how to fit it in. I find the time, because I know little Abigail loves my milk and drinks it happily, while fussing if given formula. While I'm sorry that I ever had to do any supplementing at all, I know that I did the best that I could. Abby almost never gets any formula anymore, because her preference gave me the strength to re-double efforts to pump and pump often, no matter what. Sam and Ellie do still get supplemented some, but far less than they used to, particularly since their volume of milk intake is going down now that they're eating three pretty sizable solid food meals per day.
All of these things make it very hard for me to even consider weaning a possibility. I so want to just let them dictate to me when they're done. But I admit, it's getting harder, and with everything going on with the J-man it's even harder still. So, my guess is that I'll be shelving Maggie Moo in late September, and slowly (oh so slowly) moving Ellie and Sam to a point where they don't nurse at all after that. I'm sure I will sob and sob when the time comes.
I'll miss the time I have with my babies. I'll miss the closeness and the snuggliness I have with my babies. I'll miss knowing that my body isn't, for once, betraying me, but rather, finally doing exactly what it's supposed to be doing. I'll miss being able to directly nurture my babies - Oh I know I'll still nurture them in a myriad of other ways, but it's different, and you know it, too. I'll miss knowing that I can, in an instant, fix all the world's ills at least in my son's universe, just by moving my shirt up and letting him snack. I'll miss being their favorite. I'll miss watching them snooze on my lap in a milk coma. I'll miss all that and more.
Still, there are things I won't miss...
Have you ever heard of Raynaud's Phenomenon? It's something I've dealt with all my life, but I never actually thought much about it. Until, you know, I gave birth. Did you know Raynaud's Syndrome can affect you while breastfeeding, too? Ouch. I won't miss that. Seriously, it bears saying again: Ouch.
I won't miss the constant battles with thrush that we had for the first six months.
I won't miss the several bouts of mastitis that I had.
I won't miss that mysterious pain that I had several times that no one ever managed to explain (though I didn't mind seeing the young, hot OB/GYN to help diagnose...or fail to diagnose... the problem).
I won't miss being bitten, or scratched, though I know that the babies don't intend to hurt me.
But I'll still miss it. And I'll still be so sad when we move on to a new chapter of our relationship. I cannot believe that they are old enough for me to even consider that word. That evil W word. And if I didn't so desperately want another baby to share my love with, I might not even be willing to consider that horrible word, but I know that everything I do in my life is a choice, and a matter of balancing options. You take some bad with all good, and for me, nursing has been a world of good.
So you'd think after nearly 8 months of breastfeeding triplets, I'd have this breastfeeding thing down pat, right? No problems, no issues... I'd be an old pro. But when you ask a question of a woman who has PhD, APRN, CPNP, and IBCLC next to her name and her answer is "Unfortunately, there is much we do not know about breastfeeding and some of the breast issues that can accompany it," well, then you just know you're out of luck, don't you? And when you ask the same questions of your OB, and he also shrugs and says, "Unfortunately, there's a lot we just don't know about breastfeeding," well, you know you're totally screwed.
Let me back up. There is much you don't know, and some you do, so let me review and fill in the blanks.
So to review, in the NICU all the babies had TPNs and then eventually gavage (NG Tube) feedings until eventually I was able to breastfeed them. When they left the hospital, they all freaked out and said, "This breastfeeding thing is hard work" and they all forgot how to do it. After many tears, Sam and Ellie became champion breastfeeders. Abby never figured it out again. She was my tiny baby and always had the hardest time forming an effective latch (let's face it, her tiny mouth, my, um, not-so-tiny breast? It was destined to fail). I worked hard with her, but it never happened despite repeated efforts with various techniques, various tools (SNS, finger feeding, cup feeding, syringe feeding, etc.), multiple lactation consultations, and 7 months of trying. Now that she's got two teeth, well, I've officially given up with her despite assurances from multiple sources that they've seen babies figure it out as late as 8 or 9 months. Nope, she causes me significant pain just biting down on my finger (she actually broke the skin on my finger tonight!) with those little teeth, no WAY am I subjecting my nipples to that abuse. So we're done trying with her, end of story. So she gets pumped milk.
I call the pump, who's name is Maggie Moo if you'll recall, my fourth baby. That damn pump. I used to love pumping, because I'm a total freak. I got a weird satisfaction out of being able to SEE that my body was actually doing something it was supposed to be doing for once. Watching the bottles fill up with this strange white substance that nourished my babies made me feel like I was accomplishing a great miracle, and I absolutely loved it. But I've really come to hate pumping, which I admit makes me feel somewhat guilty, because what right do I have to hate something so crucial to my babies' basic needs? But hate it, I do.
Breastfeeding itself is a strangely satisfying experience also. I love to watch my babies eating and going from frantically hungry to patiently satisfied in just seconds. I love to hold them so close and know that I'm nourishing them. I hated when Ellie was "failure to thrive" that I had to give her a certain number of bottles per day no matter what, because I really missed that time breastfeeding her, and I'm grateful to have that time back. I love the middle of the night and morning feeds that best, because we're not in a rush... we lay in bed together and I let them nurse to their hearts' content and switch of babies whenever the first one is done (for the morning, that is... Ellie never eats in the middle of the night... Sam does, and he's very snuggly for those feeds).
And it's that closeness and snugglyness and the knowledge that in this way my body has chosen not to betray me that makes the rest of it worth it. The rest of it? Oh yes, the rest of it. Let me tell you about the rest of it, because therein lies the mystery.
I remember while the babies were in the NICU I was running ragged one day and I'd been at the NICU so long that I'd missed one pumping session (I was still then pumping every 2 hours religiously, so they kind of ran one into the next back then). I came home to change and eat dinner during the NICU's shift change before heading back over there and as I was pulling my shirt off over my head my arm brushed over my left breast and I screamed in pain. What the Hell Is That?? I cried out to my husband. Fortunately, Seth is smarter than me, and he immediately jumped up and said, "You must have a plugged duct. You need to pump and you need a heating pad." How the friggin' FRICK does my husband know this stuff??? Sure enough, he was exactly right. I will never forget the pain from that plugged duct, though, because it was really shocking how much a little milk backed up in a duct can hurt! I vowed never to allow that to happen again (hah!). Little did I know, that was just the first of the many times that I would experience breast pain over the course of my breastfeeding experience.
Oh yes, there were the two, possibly three, bouts of mastitis that I had. And I can't begin to describe the JOY of mastitis. Hard, red, ouchy horrifying region on my breast, high fever (104+!), pain, pain, pain. The only thing you can do is breastfeed constantly (fortunately, I had lots of babies to help me out with that one, but who wants to breastfeed babies when you're running a high fever?), use warm compresses, massage (OUCH) the area, and pray for death until it goes away. Oh, and take antibiotics. There's that, too.
We had the standard latch issues which led to sore nipples (hey, this is my blog, if you don't want to read about my nipples, go somewhere else!), but we eventually got past that. What no one told me was that when the babies got to be a certain age (oh, say, I don't know, 7.5 months?) the babies would become somewhat distractible, to say the least, and they become big slackers when it comes to latching. This leads to lousy latches, and SERIOUSLY PAINFUL nipples.
And the thrush. OH, the thrush. Thrush is a yeast infection, but what they don't tell you about thrush is that it's a bitch to get rid of and it comes with sharp, knife-like stabbity pains that radiate through your breasts and make you want to DIE A MISERABLE DEATH because at least then it would be over! And when you've got three babies who keep passing it back and forth and back to you and then you give it back to them, and you keep sterilizing their pacifiers, but you can't sterilize your own breasts, and it just goes on and on... Well, it's a vicious cycle. I went through at least five separate incidents with thrush, and each was more miserable than the next. I was in tears every time I breastfed, but if I stopped breastfeeding, I got a plugged duct (and hey, if you keep doing that, you can end up with mastitis! See the vicious cycle here?), so suffice it to say, not breastfeeding and just pumping was not an option (and besides, pumping wasn't so pleasant, either). So yeah, THRUSH SUCKS. Nothing really seemed to help thrush either, though two weeks on diflucan did finally wipe it mostly out and that combined with Nystatin and a lot of prayer, well, I don't have it now, so clearly soemthing worked eventually. The pediatrician said eventually babies just seem to outgrow their propensity for developing thrush, so hopefully we're done with it for good. Here's hoping.
Then in March I had pain in my left breast that wouldn't go away. The only way I can explain it is that it felt like a deep bruise in the breast tissue, but there was no external bruise. There was no hard, lumpy spot, so it definitely wasn't a plugged duct (plus it lasted about 3 weeks). The LC I spoke with at the time thought it COULD be related to the thrush that I was battling (I doubt it), or COULD be low level mastitis (who knows), or COULD be oh who knows what. The bottom line is that it ultimately resolved itself.
And then about two weeks ago, the pain came back. And it's pretty significant pain. IT HURTS. Like owie, owie, ouchy hurt. The pain was accompanied by fever... as one escalated, so did the other. And since the pain lasted for over a week, I finally gave up and called my OB/GYN's office. They completely misunderstood my initial description and offered me a nipple cream and I reiterated that this is not nipple pain that this is pain IN the breast tissue and it hurts like HELL. The nurse recommended that I come in for a breast exam. Well, why the hell not? I mean, after all, I've had doctors poke and prod every other part of me... I may as well have some random doctor handle my breasts, too, right?
And, so, in I went. And basically? The doctor, who was rather nice (I'd never met this member of the practice before), shrugged and said, "Unfortunately there's a lot we just don't know about breastfeeding." He said that producing this much milk for my little army for this long is probably putting a lot of strain on the breast tissue, and that hurts. He gave me a script for pain medicine and told me to treat the pain as needed when it happens, but couldn't give me any other answers.
As a last ditch effort, I checked with the lactation consultant at the agency where I work. You know, the one with that LONG list of initials after her name? Yeah, her. And even she seriously just said, "Unfortunately, there is much we do not know about breastfeeding and some of the breast issues that can accompany it." It astounds me that something that seems so basic - breastfeeding - can be such a mystery to doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, women, babies, everyone.
And THAT is the mystery of breastfeeding. For what it's worth, the pain in my left breast cleared up on Monday. Today I'm in serious pain on the right side, and hey! Just for fun, we threw in a fever, too. I give up.
When all is said and done, though, I still think it's worth it. I love feeding my babies. I love that I can. I love that I do. I love that my body didn't betray me this time. I love that I'm the only one that can do this for them. I love the closeness that I have with them. Even with Abby - because even though she won't latch... I'll tell you one thing, that baby LOVES my milk. She seriously prefers my milk over formula. She HATES formula and LOVES my milk. And I love that about her. It's really great. It's totally worth it.
Can I just say how truly SICK of having thrush I am? This is, I think, the third, maybe fourth, time that I've had it in the five months that I've been breastfeeding. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. It is quite possibly the most painful, but most definitely the most unpleasant, thing I could possibly ask to experience. It hurts like hell, I'm bleeding, I cry nearly every time I nurse my babies, and pumping isn't any more pleasant than nursing, so it's not like I can just pump and forgo nursing for a bit.
It's not enough to make me stop nursing, but ohmygodpleasemakeitstopseriouslyplease!
I still hate that Blogger doesn't do threaded comments, so I'll respond to Anonymous' questions on pumping here:
While driving to and from work can you steal some additional pumping sessions using something like a Whisper Wear pump?
My commute to work, thankfully, is really too short for this to be useful. And I do pump while at work, of course, but there's just only so many times I can do that. I'll point out that the Whisper Wear Pump has been discontinued by the manufacturer. While I don't know why, my guess is it's because it doesn't work. I actually have a Whisper Wear Pump and my experience is... it doesn't work (and, oh by the way, it's LOUD). From the reviews I can find online, it seems that it definitely does not work with women who are, uh, how shall I say... ahem... well endowed. And people who are small breasted seem to have only minimally good experience with it. I'm in the well-endowed category and I can't get a drop out of it, so I found it to be a phenomenal waste of money.
While a baby nurses from one side can you hand pump the other?
If I'm nursing only one baby, and I haven't recently pumped, I nearly always pump the other side. But I don't use a hand pump, I use my hospital-grade electric pump for that. But it also depends on whether I'm about to nurse another baby. My experience is that if I pump and then feed a baby, the baby doesn't get enough (remember that I weigh Ellie before and after feeding her, so I do have a quantitative way of measuring this), so if I'm feeding Sam and I know that I'm going to be feeding Ellie immediately afterward, I might pump for a few minutes on the other side just to get to the hindmilk stage (higher calorie), but I won't do a full pumping session. I am often, however, feeding two babies at once, so there's nothing to pump at the same time. (I've backed off on simultaneous feeding recently, because I'm finding Ellie doesn't eat as much if I feed them both at the same time... I'm not sure why this is, but it seems consistently true)
I do often pump AFTER nursing the babies, because in THEORY this is supposed to boost my supply. However, my experience is that I nearly NEVER get more than a couple cc's if I pump after feeding the babies. They're pretty good at fully draining me, which is a good thing. I can't pump after nursing them EVERY time they nurse, because, honestly, there are only so many hours in the day.
You're pregnant with triplets? Well, you're obviously not going to breastfeed them, you're going to spend a fortune on formula!
I heard that a lot when I was pregnant. Over and over, I heard unsolicited opinions from people telling me that there was no way I would ever be able to breastfeed triplets. It's not possible, they would say. I didn't even bother trying with my twins, I would hear. Why would you even think about it? You'll never do anything but feed them all day long if you try! the incredulous voices would cry. They'll be preemies. You can't breastfeed preemies, you know.
I never expected to be the militant type...certainly not about breastfeeding, and certainly not about breastfeeding triplets. But these constant, unsolicited words of discouragement absolutely convinced me that I was going to do everything I could to breastfeed my babies, at least for the first few weeks. My premature babies were going to NEED the benefit of my colostrum and my milk for as long as I could give it to them, and I knew it wouldn't be forever, and even during my pregnancy, I mourned the loss of the ability to just KNOW that I could breastfeed with reckless abandon, but I set a modest goal. I wanted to get 3-4 weeks of exclusive breast milk into them if I could. And if I could do that, well, we'd go for 6 weeks and after that, I would give myself permission to supplement with formula, because it would be a miracle if I made it that far.
The babies did get a little bit of formula in their first few days. My colostrum was mixed with a few cc's of preemie formula to make up for lack of volume, but they DID get my precious drops as well. In their first 3 days they received a couple ounces of formula between the three of them. TOTAL. And then I started producing enough to feed them exclusively my milk. It helped that Abby started out with 2.5 cc feeds and Ellie and Sam started out with 4cc feeds, so the demand wasn't huge from the start. They were still getting the bulk of their nutrition through a TPN at that point while they figured out the whole suck/swallow/breathe thing.
And on Day 4, my husband asked the nurse how long it would be before I could try actually breastfeeding my babies, and she checked with the doctor and got permission for me to breastfeed them. She helped me get set up with Sam and showed me how to hold him and support him, and I fretted about whether he'd be able to latch, but he did! He didn't latch on for very long, but he definitely knew what to do and figured it out pretty quickly. He tired very quickly, so we gave him a feeding through his gavage tube afterward, but it was miraculous. I had no idea how amazing an experience nursing my baby could be until that moment. It felt strange and awkward and perfect and amazing all at the same time. My tiny little three and a half pound baby knew what to do and he nursed like a little champ! How incredible. And then it was time for Ellie's feeding, but she was having a harder time, so we gave her a gavage feeding while she was nursing so that she could associate a full tummy with mommy's breast...a technique we employed a lot with her in the NICU, actually. I was shocked at how exhausted I was after nursing just two tiny babies. Abby was still too small to try to nurse, so when her turn came, I held her skin-to-skin while giving her a gavage feeding, and then I pumped afterward while gazing at my beautiful two and a half pound angel and had the best production I'd ever had before. It was amazing to see that it was all true... being around your babies really DOES improve milk supply. Who knew?
And that was my first day breastfeeding my babies. The next day, believe it or not, I was able to breastfeed all three of them, even Abby, and I breastfed them at least twice a day every day until they left the NICU and I pumped 8-12 times per day, every day. And then, on day 24, they came home. My once champion breastfeeders suddenly would not breastfeed anymore. None of them! I continued to pump 8-10 times per day, fed them expressed milk, attempted to breastfeed them at every feed, and never slept, because of the constant fight to get them to remember how to breastfeed. I thought all was lost. I developed my second clogged duct and was in misery until it resolved. And then... a few days later I woke up with painful, red, tender, swelling in my breast, a high fever, chills, flu-like symptoms... you guessed it, mastitis! The way to get through mastitis, I'm told, is to let your baby nurse as much as possible, but my babies wouldn't help me, so I gave up for a few days and just pumped, pumped, pumped, pumped and pumped some more. And gradually, it got better, and I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I thought there was no way my babies would ever return to nursing... but on the advice of a nurse, I got some nipple shields, even though lots of people told me that nipple shields would only lead to nipple confusion. Seriously...these babies were drinking from bottles, so how much more confused could they get? And lo and behold... suddenly, Ellie was nursing. Then Sam was nursing. Only Abby remained skeptical. She would latch occasionally, but would usually scream her head off at the mere mention of breastfeeding (er, that might be a SLIGHT exaggeration). And eventually I was able to rid myself of the nipple shields all together and I had two, perfectly normal nursing babies and one baby who would not nurse, but who still received only expressed breast milk.
I called the pump my FOURTH baby, because I spent as much time with her (I named her Maggie) as I did with my three babies, in order to make sure I always had enough milk for Abby. And pump, I did. I was able to reduce to 6-8 times per day without changing the amount I was producing, since I was nursing so much, and I still got lots of snuggle time with my beautiful Abby. Even today I still try to give her the opportunity to nurse occasionally, but she still hates it. She's got a tongue-tie, and has a really hard time latching, so it's not shocking that she won't nurse, but it's a little disappointing.
My babies will be five months old next week and today, for the first time, I'm faced with the need to supplement them with formula. I've finished my stash of milk in the freezer. And I'm pumping like mad. But I'm producing 40-45 ounces of milk per day in addition to whatever they get via nursing directly, and the three babies together are eating 52 ounces of milk per day, so I'm falling a little bit short on the supply. I've tried everything... domperidone, fenugreek, blessed thistle, some weird herbal concoction, reglan, oatmeal, breast compression before and during pumping... but I just can't produce more than I'm producing now, without adding additional pumping sessions in each day. I'm pumping about 6-7 times per day right now, and if I pump any more than that, I'll probably lose my job.
A piece of me feels like a big, giant failure, even though I'm obviously not going to STOP breastfeeding and pumping at this point. I'm not sure when my 6 week breastfeeding goal turned into a 3 month goal, or when that 3 month goal turned into a 6 month goal, or when that 6 month goal turned into a 6-month-adjusted goal, but I know now that I'll breastfeed as long as I can, as much as I can until they're a year old, and then I'll work on weaning them before moving on to my next round of fertility treatments. I'm not getting any younger, but I do want at least one more chance at this pregnancy thing. And I want my children to have lots of siblings. I had only one and he loathes me, so I've been determined my whole life to make sure that my children are surrounded with a big brood. They don't all have to like each other (though that would be nice), but at least the odds are good that they'll each find SOMEONE to love in the family.
But I digress. I do feel like I'm failing my children, though I don't feel that way toward any other woman who feeds their babies formula. I've told countless mothers of multiples that they should not ever beat themselves up over their breastfeeding decisions because it's HARD, and sometimes darned near impossible. And I know I should celebrate my five months of accomplishment, rather than focusing on my failure to continue the same pace, but I just can't get past it. I know very few women who made it through five months of feeding triplets only breast milk... so I should be thrilled, right?
But then this morning, the first morning that I was guaranteed that the babies weren't going to have enough of my own milk for the day, the guilt poured on. I thought it would be wise to try giving Abby a bottle of formula while there was still breastmilk in the fridge, just in case she didn't like it. After all... what would we do if she refused it and there were no other options? So when the nanny arrived this morning, I handed her a bottle of formula (no way was I going to be the one to give her the yucky stuff). Sure enough, Abby screamed her little head off. My poor persnickety Abby wanted NOTHING to do with the formula. NOTHING. I thought maybe she just wasn't hungry, but we gave her a bottle of breastmilk and, sure enough, she gobbled it right up. Sigh. Sam, fortunately, had no problem drinking the formula, little piggy that he is. Next week, I'll try making 50/50 bottles and see what happens with Abby, but oh gosh, my heart was breaking knowing how much she hated the taste of the formula! I was completely failing my child! Thank heavens I tried it out while there were still options!
In a couple months, we'll be starting them with some solids, and eventually their consumption of milk each day will go down slightly, so I may actually be able to return to being able to feed them 100% breast milk. But for now, each of them will probably get 2-4 ounces of formula each day. And I know that's still pretty amazing on my part. And I know there's nothing to be done, and no way for me to get around it.
And once again, I feel like a failure. Once again, I feel like my body is betraying me. It's infertility all over again, even though I know that logically, this is the polar opposite of infertility. Somehow, I simply MUST make myself okay with supplementing, because there's really nothing wrong with it. It won't hurt my babies. They'll still grow and they'll still be healthy. I'll still be able to fortify for the extra calories that Ellie needs. I'll still be able to breast feed any time I'm home and feed them breast milk most of the time. 2-4 ounces per day just isn't the end of the world, so why do I feel like the world's worst mommy?
Also, a quick update on Ellie... at her appointment yesterday she hadn't gained any weight, but on Wednesday we were able to convince her to start taking 120 ml bottles, so we're hoping another week of that will be enough to boost her back toward gaining. Bigger babies need more calories to grow, of course, so hopefully that's all that's going on. For the moment, she is a bit of an enigma, but she's definitely improving. She's more alert, and smiling and cooing almost as much as Abby now. She looks good, but is still far more sleepy than the other two. We'll go back in a week to see how she's improved.
For those of you who have never had the pleasure of fortifying breastmilk for a baby, it's disgusting stuff. But it's pretty simple. You use a recipe to add formula to breast milk so that the final product equals whatever calories per ounce your goal is. When we were trying to get 22 calories per ounce, we added a half teaspoon to 3 ounces of breast milk. You could barely tell the formula was in it. Now we put a full scoop of formula in a bottle and add breast milk until the total volume equals 5 oz (so we add approximately 4ish ounces of milk). It's disgusting stuff and smells to high heaven and pours out really thickly. Yick. No wonder poor Ellie doesn't love the stuff.
But anyway, tonight I had the displeasure of going and purchasing a can of formula for the first time. Do you know how much this shit* costs??? One 16 ounce can costs $27!!! Fortunately, CVS had it on sale for $22 with your ExtraCare card, and I had a $5 coupon a friend had given me. But seriously, even $17 per can! Imagine if I was really feeding formula to my babies as their primary foodstuff! I used to say that I HAVE to breastfeed my babies because we can't afford formula for all three babies, but I had no idea that I WASN'T JOKING. I don't think I could afford formula for ONE baby if I were feeding formula full time! (Hell, I'm not sure I can afford it just as the fortifier, sheesh!)
Okay, so I have no idea how much money I've saved our family by breastfeeding triplets for this long so far, but I do know I deserve a medal. Or perhaps a new laptop. Which, um, I need because mine died a grizzly death. Now, if only I could breastfeed them all through college to save on tuition too... we'd be all set. Except, um, I don't think it works that way.
*Okay what is UP with me and the profanity lately?? I have GOT to cut this out!
Update Answer to Anonymous:
No you can't fortify breast milk with breast milk. Simmering breast milk down to concentrate it wouldn't really work and would damage the breast milk. The proteins and antibodies in the breast milk would be damaged by the cooking process. Plus, you'd have no way of knowing what the calorie concentration was. The main reason for me to keep giving my babies breast milk (aside from formula costing a FREAKING FORTUNE as I just discovered tonight) is to give them the benefit of the antibodies and other good stuff they get from me. Cooking the milk destroys that goodness. I can get the concentrated calorie benefit by simply adding formula. Processing is not the root of all evil, in my opinion. (and I certainly don't have such an excess of pumped milk that I can afford to concentrate my EBM by simmering... it would be a guarantee that my babies would end up on formula supplements, because I could never pump enough to make up for that difference)
P.S. You didn't upset me with the way your question was phrased. It's just that it's an unrealistic solution. There's no way to really calculate the number of calories you'd end up with in your breast milk concentrate, and when you're dealing with a baby who's struggling to get enough calories , it's important to really work hard to get those calories into her. Spending the money on one can of formula to use as fortifier for her isn't a big deal. It would be a HUGE deal if I were using the can of formula as intended by the manufacturer... particularly with three babies. I'd be spending a FORTUNE on formula! As it is, this can that I bought last night should last for several weeks, thankfully. I have no idea how long a can of formula would last if I were making it straight for three babies full time. I don't think I want to know!
Updated Again: Anonymous says: and what about WIC? Maybe you make too much money to qualify...but worth a try... especially since you have triplets to feed!
If we still had only one income we make too much money to qualify, now we have two incomes. (I'm quite grateful to not qualify, mind you) On top of that, since I'm not using formula for anything other than fortifier, I only need one can every couple weeks, so the WIC benefit would be wasted on us. We can certainly afford one can every once in a while. It's just the idea of having to pay for this all the time that makes me very grateful that I breastfeed.
I have pumped 7432.5 ounces of milk since September 19th, 2007. That is 58 gallons of milk. That is not counting any of milk they've gotten from direct breast feeding. My next project is to add up the number of hours I've spent breast feeding. When this is all over, I'm totaling up all the gallons I pumped, the hours spent breast feeding, and the number of diapers changed (I have a log of all of this stuff) and I'm sending them a bill before they go off to college.
But seriously folks, I do it with love. Really. Still, 58 gallons??? Can you believe it? I can't!