I had every intention of breastfeeding my babies. In addition to the benefits that breast milk has, I also wanted that connection with them. Not to mention the amount of money it would save us not spending so much money on formula.
It started off so slow. I pumped the recommended eight times per day, but was barely getting anything. I was lucky to get a syringe full, but the nurses were very supportive and used every little drop I was able to muster out of my boobs. They kept telling me that even the thumb nail amount I was getting was beneficial to the babies, so I kept pumping. And pumping. And pumping some more. Finally I was able to get more than just a syringe full and I was so proud.
I started off just nuzzle nursing the babies. I would hand express a few drops and rub it on their lips. Neither baby was able to really latch on at first, so we just practiced. It didn't take long before Rylee actually did get a latch. However, she wasn't able to nurse for very long. Ayden never really latched on, until one of the nurses suggested a nipple shield. Woo-Hoo! That worked! He was able to latch on to the nipple shield and I actually was able to feed him for a short amount each time.
Because they were preemies, they did not have the endurance to nurse for very long. But I stuck it out and would try nursing both of them. Once they were done on the boob, we initially would finish by gavage feeding them through their feeding tubes. When they got strong enough to transition to a bottle, we finished their feedings by giving them a bottle. After each of these feedings, I finished by pumping.
It was pretty grueling, both mentally and physically, because of their three hour feeding schedule. While they were still in the NICU and I was staying at the hospital, it wasn't too bad because I would skip going to the NICU for one or two feeding times every night, letting the nurses take care of them. Although, I was still pumping in my room. The difference was that I could take the 20 minutes to pump, send the milk down to the NICU, and go back to sleep.
We tried several different ways to feed them, trying to find the one that would work. I nursed one, then bottle fed. Nursed the other baby, then finished that one off with a bottle. Then pumped. This whole process took about two hours, and that was with the help of the nurses. I tried nursing just one baby at a feeding and bottle feeding the other, switching who got the boob each time. We still had to give the nursing baby a bottle to make sure he/she was getting enough. And of course I still had to pump. We weighed the babies before and after nursing to see how much they were actually taking in off the boob. It wasn't near enough. They didn't have the endurance to breast feed and take in enough milk to gain weight. My plan was to eventually nurse both babies at the same time, but this was impossible at this stage because neither one was capable of latching without assistance.
Once the babies were discharged and we got home, I lasted a week. By the time I nursed one and finished with a bottle, nursed the other and finished feeding with a bottle, then pumped...it was taking close to two and a half hours every feeding! And then I had to turn around and start the process all over again. Tony was helping with the bottle feeding part, and occasionally I pumped and we only bottle fed in an attempt to get me more sleep, but it wasn't working. I was slowly dying from the lack of sleep.
The lack of sleep wasn't the worst part though. What made it all so horrible was that I still wasn't producing enough milk. I barely was able to pump enough to feed one baby, let alone two. Quite often, we had to supplement with formula just to get one baby the right amount.
If I was able to nurse even just one baby at a time with enough to satisfy them, I would have stuck it out. If I could have pumped enough to feed them at a sitting, I would have continued. I know it would have gotten better. But I didn't have the milk supply, and without that, it just wasn't worth it.
I did meet with the lactation nurses several times while we were in the hospital. I even had an appointment with one a week after being home. But after that one grueling week at home, I was at my breaking point. I knew I had made the right decision when that lactation nurse agreed with me. There was absolutely no way I could continue with that schedule.
I tried. I eventually gave up.
So now we go through almost a full can of formula every day. HOLY MOLY. I sure wish it worked out for me to breast feed them because a can of formula cost $17.99. We go through six cans a week. That's $107.94 every week. That will be $431.76 per month. But wait....these babies are going to start needing more and more as they continue to grow. Oh. My. Garsh. I really, really, really wish the breastfeeding would have worked out.
However, my time (sleep) has got to be worth something too. Those were my husband's words. Those were the words that helped me to accept that my boobs failed me, because he was so right. We are a much happier family now.