by Joelle Farkh
I am the proud mother of breastfeeding twins. We live in Lebanon, which does not have a strong breastfeeding culture. With the help and support of my husband, I have overcome many obstacles. We were both determined to give our babies the best nutrition possible so they would grow up like normal and healthy singletons. We ended up successfully breastfeeding for seven and eight months exclusively, and in a few days’ time we will celebrate two years of breastfeeding.
It took a lot of effort to get both babies started with breastfeeding. They were born slightly premature at about 36 weeks and had great difficulty latching on. When they were diagnosed firstly with low blood sugar and later with jaundice, we battled with the medical staff at the hospital, who wanted to separate us and to supplement with formula. We refused, and persisted with syringe feeding and pumping.
I had to use a special nipple-inverter device to pull my flat nipples out before every feed, then breastfeed directly on one side while pumping from the other, then administer the pumped milk by syringe, then do it all over again on the other side with the other twin. I was exhausted beyond comprehension during the first few weeks. Added to that, my C section scar got infected and I had to cope with one of my nipples being severely damaged.
Our strong belief in the advantages of breastfeeding kept us strong. My husband and I learned how to get some rest while co-sleeping: I laid one twin on my breast while my husband laid the other on his. Our sleep was interrupted constantly but was enough to keep us sustained. Every hour or so, a baby would start rooting for mommy's breast. My husband would wake up, change diapers then wake me up; I would turn to the other side and switch babies.
We relied on my parents all this time for help around the house; they were the only help we had. It's even safe to say that they were the only people we welcomed into our home for weeks, for the sake of success in exclusively breastfeeding the twins. My mother was cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, hugging and loving us on demand. My father was burping and walking the babies to sleep for hours on end. In other words, their presence was simply priceless to us.
Our biggest problem was convincing them why we were doing all the nursing. My father was convinced from day one. It was not really a subject he knew a lot about, but he was very respectful and trusted us when we said we were doing what we believed was best for our babies. He was also always defending our decision in front of the rest of the family and friends who thought we were crazy for wanting to exclusively breastfeed twins.
My mother, on the other hand, would not accept the idea easily. When my brother and I were babies, she was encouraged by my grandmother to stop nursing at an early stage. Many Lebanese women of her generation are advocates for formula feeding. They believe formula is the gourmet, vitamin-packed food only rich and well- established people can afford, and that nursing a baby prevents a mother from being a modern working lady and from assuming her social responsibilities.
My dear mother could not understand. She just thought we were torturing ourselves, starving our babies, and denying her the joy of bottle-feeding them herself. The battle was draining and endless. Fortunately, being a teacher makes her open to scientific studies. I had to keep on digging up research after research and translating them to her, in order to convince her. I progressed slowly but steadily and, when my milk supply was finally established, she eased up and started finding other ways to bond with her grandchildren. She enjoyed telling them stories, changing them, singing, making future plans, taking them outside, showing them the flowers, the moon and the sea. She was amazed at how calm they would be and how positively they would react to her and to the world around them; she had never seen such curious, peaceful and attentive babies at this young age.
I can proudly say today that after two years my mother has become a fierce advocate of breastfeeding. She can talk endlessly about all the benefits of nursing. She has seen it with her own eyes. She has witnessed the unbelievably smooth raising of one happy, calm and bright set of twins. She has seen that exclusively breastfeeding has given them strong immunity - they virtually never get sick! She now swears by mothers’ milk.
I will be forever grateful for her understanding and wisdom. I know how hard it was for her to admit that her generation was wrong and that breastmilk is the healthiest and most natural food an infant (or two) can have.
Close to the Heart Vol. 15, No. 2 (Mid-Year 2014)
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