The Nursing Strike

I have a whole new sympathy for mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding.  When Siren and Imogen were first born, it took a couple of days for the babies and I to really get the hang of it, but after that we were good to go.  I have been very lucky in that I’ve never had to use formula.  Last weekend I had a scare, though, and I was afraid that Imogen was going to be done nursing for good.

On Saturday morning last weekend, I was nursing both babies when Imogen bit me.  It took me by surprise, and I cried out.  That caused her to cry as well, although Siren continued nursing.  Will took Imogen, who had been just about done anyway, and I didn’t think any more of it until it was time to nurse again. Around 9 that morning we sat down to nurse, and Imogen would NOT come to the breast.  If I got close to her at all, she would look away and even get upset and start fussing.  We heated up a bottle to get her to calm down so she would take a nap, and I pumped afterwards.  At this point I started to worry.  She had literally never not nursed before.

We tried again at 12 to no avail.  This time we didn’t give her any milk. The babies have been eating three meals a day since December, so she wasn’t going to starve.  I wanted to encourage her to come back to the breast, though, and I didn’t think giving her a bottle would help with that.

We drove up to Snohomish to see my sister’s new house that afternoon.  The babies took their afternoon nap in the car on the way up.  When we got there Siren nursed and Imogen still refused to.  She was in a good mood, though, and she loved crawling all over and exploring the new house.

We fed the babies dinner there. Imogen ate normally.  Around 6:30 We changed the babies into their pajamas. I nursed Siren and offered it to Imogen, and she refused again.  At this point I was starting to get worried.

During the 90 minute drive home the babies slept, and I googled “nursing strikes” trying to learn what I could.  The internet is not much of a comfort when it comes to trouble with breastfeeding.  A lot of moms struggle with it, and a lot of the time it ultimately results in switching to formula. I found several cases of babies who “self-weened” at this age or even younger.  While the idea of not having to struggle with weening, with at least one of the babies, was somewhat appealing, I realized that personally I am not ready to stop breastfeeding yet.

Before I was ever pregnant, I always assumed I would breastfeed my children.  When I found out I was having twins, I tried to prepare myself for the possibility that I wouldn’t make enough milk to support both babies, and that I may have to use some formula too, but I never truly considered the possibility of not being able to breastfeed.

I was very fortunate in that I did make enough milk to support both babies, and I’ve never needed to use formula. 11 months into this I’m very glad to still be breastfeeding, but I am incredibly tired of pumping.  Beginning around the time the babies turned two months old, I began pumping at least once a day to build up a supply for when I went back to work.  When I started back at work I pumped twice a day, once when I got home after feeding the babies (I miss one nursing session every day while I’m at work, so I wanted to get any “extra” milk that I was still producing during that time) and once before going to bed.  During the worst period of our bedtime struggle when I spent most of the evening nursing, I switched from pumping before bed to pumping in the morning before the babies woke up.  Once the babies started going to bed around 7 p.m., I began pumping at night again.

I stopped pumping after work sometime in January.  The babies began taking their nap (or at least seeming tired and READY to take their nap) earlier, so it was hard to get home, nurse them, eat lunch, feed the babies lunch, AND pump before I had to get them ready for their nap. They had begun drinking less milk during their 9:00 feeding while I was at work, switching from 5 or 6 ounces to 3 or 4, so I didn’t need to pump quite so much, which was a huge help in allowing me to continue.

Anyway, all of that to say that the thought of trying to pump milk for Imogen every time I nursed Siren, even for just one month, stressed me out. I’m not sure I could have done it.  I have great admiration for any mothers who pump exclusively for any length of time, especially with twins, because I’m not sure I could have done it.

We got home that night and attempted to sneak the babies from their carseats to their cribs, but they both woke up.  I nursed Siren, Imogen still refused, so Will sat with her until she went back to sleep. We got the babies into bed around 8:30.

At 11, though, Imogen woke up again.  I attempted nursing, and she still refused. Not sure what else to do, I heated two ounces of pumped milk.  Then I gave her the bottle, but held her close to my breast the whole time. She sucked down the 2 ounces very quickly and then started crying again.  I offered her the breast, but she wouldn’t take it.

I asked Will to heat up 2 more ounces while I sat with her.  He went downstairs and took care of it.  I gave her the bottle again while holding her close to me. She finished the bottle quickly again and was upset for a minute, but then she seemed to notice me, and she nursed again.  I remember just feeling so relieved and saying, “Thank you, God.” After that she went back to sleep, and I was able to lay her in the crib with no trouble.

Imogen woke up around 4 in the morning, like usual. I changed her diaper and offered her the breast.  She kind of turned her head away. I brought her downstairs with me and held her close to me while I heated up water to warm up a bottle.  After about 3 minutes she got tired of waiting, though, and she started nursing.  After this, the strike was over, and Imogen has gone back to nursing normally.

Thank goodness it only lasted a day, and thankgoodness it’s over. I feel fairly confident (although now I realize I can’t just take it for granted) that I’ll make it to my goal of nursing them for one year.  Now that the year mark is in sight, I’m considering continuing to nurse through the summer, until I go back to work full time at the end of August. At one year, the babies can begin drinking cow’s milk, so if I get completely burned out on pumping, I can stop. The idea of nursing them just in the morning and at night before they go to bed, seems pretty easy, comparatively, and that’s what I’d like to switch to, although I’m not quite sure how. I guess that’s something to figure out in the next month.

I realize I have little advice to offer mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding because I have been so lucky. The advice I got from other mothers that was helpful and that I would reiterate, though, is to keep trying.  If it’s something you want to do and you are committed to, keep trying. I have a friend who tried and tried to breastfeed, and at 4 months, her baby FINALLY grasped latching on.  She had been bottlefed for 4 WHOLE MONTHS, drinking both pumped milk and formula, but now is finally able to breastfeed.  Now that’s dedication! I’m not sure I would have been able to keep it up that long.  And obviously if you don’t want to, you shouldn’t. But if you do want to, if breastfeeding is personally important to YOU, don’t give up.

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About Twins Happen

My husband and I learned that we were having twins in October of 2010. I started this blog so that family and friends could follow my pregnancy and the development of our children. I'm continuing to post about my girls, parenting, and trying to balance work, family time, and fitness.
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3 Responses to The Nursing Strike

  1. GradBaby says:

    I’m glad this nursing strike resolved itself – thanks for following up and sharing your story 🙂 I wonder if she just got upset after she saw your reaction from biting. Hard not to react when they bite! I’m totally impressed with your success breastfeeding twins!!!

    • Twins Happen says:

      Thanks! When I was reading online, I found a couple of message board posts from women who had the same thing happen: they cried out when the baby bit down, which upset the baby, and then the baby refused to nurse. Very fortunately my situation turned out differently from the ones I read about.

      • GradBaby says:

        I really appreciated your comment at the end that sometimes it just takes time – if you really want to breastfeed, just keep with it and more often than not these problems ease themselves (or you can trick baby into doing what you want when sleepy).

        I look back at my own breastfeeding struggles for the first 8 weeks and it really was my stubbornness that got us through it. Now N. feeds easily, but there were nights filled with pain and tears (from both of us)!

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