In the Hospital: Tandem nurse, skin-to-skin, immediately after your C-section. Nurse all day and all night. Pump in between. Get a cracked nipple. Stay in the hospital for four days waiting for your milk to come in, but it won’t come before you leave. Tearfully ask for formula, which will never be offered without your request, so your babies can stop losing weight. First, you feel frustrated, inadequate, and worried. Then you just feel angry.
At Home, the Early Days: Nurse one baby for 15 minutes, then bottle feed both babies a combination of pumped milk and formula, then pump for 20 minutes. Apply sheep grease to nipples. Wash nipple shields and pump parts. This routine takes about an hour. Repeat every two hours, alternating the baby who nurses. When you do this routine alone, it takes longer and the babies will scream inconsolably while you pump because you cannot pick them up. Your supply gradually increases for a while, but never on pace with their demand. Give up hope of getting rid of the formula supplement and decide to stop complaining about the cost.
Exclusively Pumping: During and after a wickedly painful case of thrush (on both sides) at about 2 months, stop nursing at all and switch to pumping. Bottle feed both babies a combination of pumped milk and formula. Apply sheep grease to nipples, then pump for 20 minutes. Wash and dry nipples, hanging around topless and feeling incredibly uncomfortable. Wash and dry pump parts. Repeat every two hours. You’re insatiably hungry all the time and you think maybe if you can manage to eat enough you will be able to produce enough milk or at least to feel less tired, but neither of these turns out to be true.
The Nursing Honeymoon: Desperate to comfort your inconsolably wailing baby when nothing else has worked, try to offer him the breast. He takes it and nurses better than ever before. Huh. Try this another day with the other baby with the same good results. Decide to try nursing again. Tandem nurse both babies for as long as they like or until they’ve emptied everything out, then follow with a bottle of a couple ounces of formula. Babies are nursing well, cooperating, holding hands with each other, and only occasionally clawing the shit out of your chest. Deal with your spouse’s surprise and confusion at your return to nursing by explaining that being sucked dry by two hungry wolverines is vastly preferable to being sucked dry by a plastic machine. You only pump once a day now, a massive improvement over your previous high of 8-10 pumping sessions per day.
Weaning: The babies are almost six months old. Return to work a few times a week. Drop a couple of daytime nursing sessions when you’re not home, and, after one disastrous attempt, opt not to bring the pump to work. On the days you’re home, decide to keep the dropped sessions dropped. You’re now still nursing the babies in bed first thing in the morning every day, which is your favorite session of all. It’s quiet and peaceful and you get to snuggle them one-on-one and they don’t need a formula supplement after, because your overnight milk production is enough. Nurse again in the late afternoon, with a small formula bottle afterwards. Decide to stop pumping at night. Drop the afternoon session some time soon, whenever it becomes inconvenient or the supply at that time is too low. Hope you’ll be able to keep the morning session going since it’s some of the most enjoyable time you spend with the babies, but you don’t know. First you feel relieved, free, and preemptively sad. Then you just feel confused.