Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cost-benefit of Breastfeeding Twins.

In my 2nd go-round w/breastfeeding and BFing issues, I can't help but think a lot about it. All I think about is the feeding process of the babies--how can I not, I am constantly nursing, pumping and/or mixing bottles, burping babies, taking herbs and medications to keep my supply up and monitoring what I eat to ensure I get enough calories to feed the babies and don't drink too much wine that the babies get drunk. People say the first 6-8 weeks is the hardest when breastfeeding. For me, it is more like the first 6 months.

It never helps that all my babies are slow-gainers. How can I have confidence in BFing when they go on streaks gaining 2oz or even nothing at a time. BFing enthusiasts I turn to for support say, "But they are GAINING, they are not losing." But they don't see the dry diapers and skinny legs that I do that tell me something is up. Even on the maximum amount of galactogogues, including Domperidone which I have to order from Canada, I don't produce enough milk to feed the babies exclusively 100% breastmilk. I think if I didn't work and sat at the couch all day with them at my breast, no toddler to look after, it could work. But when I go out the door and they get the bottles, they get formula and I think that is just fine.

However, my avid desire to exclusively breastfeed and subsequent disappointment two go rounds now to have it be a more natural process have me thinking long and hard about what lies beneath this desire. It is hard to separate out all the pros and cons, some are so emotional and not something you can quantify.

So tonight I am of the mind to break down the numbers. Strictly on the financial side, I have no idea what it would cost to 100% formula feed, but am curious. I read once in a twin parenting forum that their 5-month-old twins go through 20 cans (27.5oz mixes I assume) per month. I just bought a 6-pack of the Vermont Organics Formula, which is one of the more affordable ones, that was $140, so full time at 20 cans works out to be something like $460ish a month, or roughly $5500 for 12 months on formula.

That is quite a lot of money, however, as someone who has run into "issues" with bf-ing, I have found it has its hidden costs as well. For me, this is in having to take herbs and meds to keep my supply up--I spend about close to $200 a month on that. I also have had multiple trips to see my LC which is now decreasing in frequency (as a result of increased bottle-feeding and thus weight gain) but that was $50 a pop. I think I spent about $200-300 total so far. I also hired a postpartum doula to help me get started, which was another $300, bought a pump for $300 and wound up renting a hospital grade pump for $70/month per the first three months. Then you figure there is the cost (if you need them) of lanolin, breastpads, storage bags and pumping parts & accessories, bottles, etc. books you may buy, job's tears, you get the picture.
My estimate brings us right up to the $4,000 range per a 12-month-period.

Let's not forget time is money. While it takes time to make, buy and give formula--that can be delegated out. When you are BFing, only you have the breasts! Should you go this route, my advice is to make sure hubby knows what this will entail. In the first 7 weeks I had my husband in charge of diapering, bathing, rocking, etc while I sat on the couch and worked on latching. He also had to take on the housework as well as doing a lot more parenting of my toddler.

I have several friends who have exclusively BF successfully, singletons and twins and never had to deal with above associated costs, but I think that is where it can vary dramatically by individual. I think that if these twins were my first children and I did not have to return to work but was a SAHM with a support system the chances of success would have been, and could be, much higher. For me having to look after a toddler and working part-time were complications that may have derailed me.

Despite the struggles I have, I am hoping to nurse them and pump while at work for the year and I would make that choice again. To me, the bonding that occurs is an amazingly beautiful experience. Every drop of EBM I give is just liquid gold. I love the snuggly, cuddly experience and am looking forward to experiencing the BF relationship evolve as they grow. But I have to say, I just love giving my babies bottles too. And I even enjoy mixing formula (though not so much the cleaning part :). Knowing I don't have to BF 100% to have a successful nursing relationship takes away the pressure and reminds me that it can go far. Eventually you are breastfeeding along with giving the babies food and solids etc and they still nurse it is just those first 6 months where the most pressure to provide is on you b/c you are their sole source of nutrition. I think my key lesson learned after everything is flexibility.

Despite my growing sense of peace with it, I still cringe when I hear people saying that formula feeding costs more than BFing and the claim that it is "very rare to not be able to produce enough milk for twins or even triplets." It may be true that BFing CAN be simpler and cheaper for the vast majority of those that BF without complication. And I envy that lot. Based on the factors above, I think I will continue to walk the middle line. I am so proud of my success with BFing, but yet I do hear where Rosin was coming from in her Atlantic Monthly article, "The Case Against Breastfeeding."

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

We made it to 2010! Amazing to me how different this year looks from last.

The boys are doing great, John will soon have doubled his weight, as he is approaching the 9lb mark! Funny to see them at 4 months still the size of some full-term babies. But they are looking quite wide-eyed etc. lately.

The biggest challenge with my twins remains getting them into a schedule and my balance between breastfeeding and the return-to-work bottle feeding. They have shown to do best in the weight gain arena when getting bottles. However I don't pump enough breastmilk so despite my initial seemingly abundant supply of milk, I am now relying on formula to make up the difference. For some reason, I would have thought having twins the formula companies would have targeted me immediately and sent me home from the hospital with samples and coupons. Yet I have yet to receive a single coupon! I am on the prowl at the moment, although the formula I am leaning toward using, Vermont Organics does not advertise as aggressively as the big name companies. Still, I would certainly welcome some freebies!

I find both bottle feeding and breastfeeding very satisfying bonding experiences, yet feel very strongly that I would like to make it to a year nursing them. However I think John just loves his bottle! He fusses quite a bit when offered a breast at a feeding. Walter keeps on chugging at either. In this way, I am seeing their personalities emerge!

They are starting to play more too and they play in very different ways. Walter likes to sit in his pod and play with the toy on the tray. John likes to be on his back on the playmat and grab at the mobiles. Walter likes to be held during the day, but sleeps very independently, whereas John can entertain himself alone for good stretches during the day but turns into a cuddle bug creature at night. It will be a long road to get this guy in a crib through the night! Hopefully soon he will realize he can cuddle with his brother and be good to go.