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."


  1. Hi!
    I am a fellow twin boy mom, and I did exclusively breast feed for the first 6 months. Like you though, my kiddos weren't getting enough and we ended up supplementing them with formula. I hated doing it too; everyone said I should be able to just breastfeed, but for some people, it's just not possible. Once we started supplementing them, they gained like crazy and began to look like normal 6 month old babies. Don't get stressed by it; your doing the best that you can. One of the things that really helped me out was that our pediatrician told us that they don't need that much breast milk to get the immunity benefits, which for me was a huge relief. Keep doing what you can and keep chugging along! Soon they'll be eating solids and it'll be a distant memory!

  2. I'm currently breastfeeding my almost 16 month old twins. I have never used any bottles or formula, although I wonder how much that would have cost me! The first 3 months were the hardest for me because I breastfed them separately since that was all I was used to with my 3 older kids. Insane I know! I just couldn't get any of the positions showed to me to work. After I figured out my own way of nursing them both at once it was smooth sailing ever since! It also helps that i'm so darn stubborn and determined LOL.

  3. Hi!
    I breastfed my twins for about 7 months. They are a little over a year and now it's the solids and everything that goes with that. Just (and I mean today!) started a blog on what Iam trying to feed them….

  4. So proud of you! Even though I do not know you...I know the struggle you are going through. I breastfed my twins after a breast reduction surgery and went through the same struggle of pumping, nursing, pumping in between, herbs, baby with milk allergy and more. My husband worked all night and went to school during the days so it was me alone with newborn twins...scary to think of now LOL!! It was VERY difficult but when you set your mind to something you just do it!!

    You deserve a pack on the back MoM!!!! Way to Go!!!

    I stopped at 11 months when we moved to a new home! They are now 4 yrs old...sweet, brillant, and healthy kids!

  5. 成功多屬於那些很快做出決定,卻又不輕易變更的人。而失敗也經常屬於那些很難做出決定,卻又經常變更的人 ....................................................

  6. Hi! I found your blog on Multiples and More and loved this post. I'm 20 weeks pregnant with twins and I have a daughter who will be 2 at the end of March. I breastfed her exclusively for 13 months and would love to—and am determined to—do the same with the twins but I know supplementing will be a likely scenario. It's nice to read someone's perspective who has achieved breastfeeding success and congrats on having made it this far!

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  8. The most important benefits of breastfeeding are it is the main food that the baby requires after birth for its growth and good health development.