Thank you to guest blogger, Vera C. Teschow, for this month’s post on bottle feeding twins. Vera is an educator and mother of identical twin boys. Read her full bio below.
The other day, while in a movie theater public restroom, I overheard some mothers of toddlers discussing their experiences with breastfeeding. “I breastfed Caleigh until she was three, but Sam was done at six months, and so was I!” laughed one mom. Another added, “Everyone kept telling me I should breastfeed for a year, but my first two were biters, and I just wasn’t putting up with that, so we switched to formula at around five months.”
I emerged from this unusual place of public discourse after washing my hands, and marveled at my boisterous twin boys, who were waiting for me out in the theater lobby. Somehow they had survived to the ripe old age of eleven, despite my own somewhat tumultuous early struggles with feeding them.
Before my twins were born, I had a firmly established plan to breastfeed exclusively for at least one full year before introducing other types of milk into their diet. But reading about breastfeeding is very different than the act of breastfeeding, especially when you have two fussy mouths to feed. Instead, there were tears and frustration, screaming and crying (both theirs and mine). Alas, our breastfeeding adventure lasted about a week, after which I pumped halfheartedly for another ten days or so. Finally, I took a different turn. From then on, I fully immersed myself into parenting my two, new babies with bottles full of formula and plenty of warm, loving snuggles.
No More Breastfeeding Guilt
There is so much guilt and mom-shaming surrounding those who can’t or choose not to breastfeed their newborn twins. But there doesn’t have to be. Yes, “breast is best” for many families, and if I had it to do over again, there are some things I would probably do differently early on to ensure a greater likelihood of breastfeeding success. (For instance, I would have let go of my ego and my inhibitions, and opened myself up to the practical advice and hands-on help from other women. But I was stubborn and wanted to do it all on my own.) But bottles may be better for many families, and rather than beating oneself up over a perceived failing, new moms (and their partners) who bottle feed should give up the guilt and instead focus on feeding effectively, and bonding with their twins.
One of the primary advantages touted by advocates of breastfeeding is the opportunity for mom and babies to establish a much closer relationship sooner. Interestingly, I recently saw a woman breastfeeding her baby with one arm, while holding a cell phone in the other arm, and fully engaged—not with the baby—but in the conversation with the person on the other end of the line. Not much mother-and-child bonding going on there.
Bottle Feeding Tips
Bottle feeding intentionally offers both parents (and grandparents, and siblings, and aunts and uncles) of twins the opportunity to bottle up and snuggle in close with one or both babies. I myself never mastered the double hold that I’d observed some bottle feeding twin moms achieve, but I took full advantage of various volunteers to bottle feed and engage with one baby, while I held, fed and chatted with the other. Once I stopped stressing about breastfeeding, I came up with ways to make bottle feeding more intimate, deepening my bond with my boys. For instance, I often bottle fed naked so that I could share skin-to-skin contact with my little ones. (The research cites many advantages to skin-to-skin contact such as regulating baby’s heart and breathing rates, and body temperature.) Their dad did this, too, during the first several weeks, and was able to engage with his new babies in ways in which fathers of breastfed babies are excluded.
One thing to remember when bottle feeding is to “rotate” babies for each feeding. That is, if your preferred position is holding to the left, make sure to hold your babies to the right for half the feedings, if possible. This will ensure more equal ocular development, as each eye will have a chance to be the “up” eye that gazes around while baby feeds, helping to strengthen the muscles in each eye. (With two or more babies to feed, it can be helpful to develop and use a tracking sheet, with not only the quantity consumed at each feeding, but also which side each baby was held on.)
No need to defend your choice to bottle feed. You can take heart in knowing that most commercial formulas are so nutritionally complete now that they even offer some vitamins and minerals that need to be supplemented for breast-fed babies. Furthermore, most brands are carefully formulated to reduce or eliminate gassiness. And although it’s true that breastfeeding is free, and bottle feeding is not, it’s not uncommon or impolite to suggest a case of formula to visitors eager to see the new babies. This “entry fee” can help to offset the admittedly hefty cost of double formula.
Less time beating yourself up over your feeding choices, and more time bonding with your babies helps to ensure a positive parent-child relationship early on.
Whatever you end up doing, have fun, and enjoy the ride!
Vera C. Teschow is a certified teacher licensed pilot and mother of now 11–year-old monozygotic twins. She is a former TPOMBA volunteer coordinator, and currently teaches web-based prenatal classes for families expecting multiples, which includes an in-depth look at both breast and bottle feeding. Visit Vera online at www.BabiesinBelly.com or www.verateschow.ca