Vera is 34 years old and lives in Gent. She's the mother of Maya and Elin, who are 11 months old.
How has the breastfeeding experience been so far? Did you have difficulties and if so, how did you get through?
Wow, the first few months were a nightmare... The girls were born quite small, so they had trouble drinking enough, and one had a tongue-tie and difficulty latching. I was breastfeeding and pumping around the clock for nearly two months to try and get my milk supply up, while my very supportive husband was supplementing them with bottles and generally trying to keep me sane. I was quite close to giving up but I really wanted to have this experience, of what I imagined to be such a peaceful and natural aspect of motherhood. I kept telling myself that it's just gonna be a couple more weeks now and then we'll be able to reap the benefits. Finally, around three months, it came true - I no longer needed to pump, and both babies were happily drinking day and night. It's been a piece of cake ever since. I'm glad I stuck it out!
I was breastfeeding and pumping around the clock for nearly two months.
How does it feel to breastfeed in public?
I'm quite comfortable breastfeeding in public, though at first I wasn't sure if it would be culturally acceptable here in Belgium. It's a bit more complicated with twins though - to breastfeed both simultaneously I need a pillow and to get basically half naked, so that's not very practical outside the house. So for the first 8 months or so I only took them out if there was someone with me who could hold and distract one while I was feeding the other.
Did you ever get a remark or funny look while you were breastfeeding in public?
After having breastfed on trains, trams, park benches and street corners, in cafe's, bars and restaurants - no, not even once.
You were born in Russia, but grew up in Israel. Do you notice any specific cultural differences when it comes to breastfeeding?
That's an interesting question. On one hand, I feel like breastfeeding in public is more common in Israel - perhaps because women have more children on average, or because the climate is friendlier; either way, I used to see many mothers breastfeeding in public, while in Belgium I don't think I ever saw another woman breastfeeding outside except for myself!
On the other hand, if someone in Israel doesn't like something you're doing they'll say it to your face, and so I've heard many of my friends back home complaining that they got a judgmental comment or stares while breastfeeding. In Belgium people are definitely more polite (or less outspoken?), so even if my breastfeeding did bother anyone, they kept it to themselves.
How do you feel about your breasts? And did your image of them change because of breastfeeding?
I have always loved my breasts - they are definitely one of my most prominent features. I still love them, but maybe in a slightly different way. It's like they went from being sexy-breasts to being useful-breasts. I do feel I look a little less good naked than I used to before the pregnancy and breastfeeding, but surprisingly it doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would. This is a new and different stage in my life, and I accept it with love and appreciation to the gifts it brought with it.
This is a new and different stage in my life, and I accept it with love and appreciation.
Imagine there's a soon-to-be mom of twins sitting right next to you, what would be your advice for her regarding breastfeeding?
First of all, think long and hard whether you want to do it, because breastfeeding twins is definitely a lot of work. But if the answer is yes, don't be scared - it's totally doable, and once the breastfeeding is established, it's even fun! You get a double doze of oxytocin every day and you're basically swimming in lovey-dovey hormones.
On a technical note, I would recommend spending the first weeks after the delivery just staying in bed and breastfeeding on demand, even if it means not getting much sleep. That's the best way to build up your milk supply, and the sooner you can be done with the extra pumping and supplementing the easier your life will be. Oh, and invest time in mastering simultaneous feedings - it will save you hours each day!
Oxytocin, there's nothing quite like it!
How long do you wish to continue breastfeeding?
I was thinking of stopping sometime between their first and second year, but we'll see how it goes.
Do you remember a funny moment during breastfeeding?
At some point the two of them started interacting during the feeding, which was very cute at first, but their gazing and hand-holding quickly escalated into pushing, pinching and even occasional punching. So now I have to find a way to guard their four hands with the two of mine while breastfeeding, which I imagine can look quite funny from the outside.
What role does your environment (partner, family, friends) play when it comes to breastfeeding?
There's no way I would have made it through the nightmarish first months of endless feeding and pumping if my husband wasn't incredibly supportive, both practically, by doing more or less all the baby chores that did not require boobs, and emotionally, by being 100% behind me in whatever decision I wanted to take with regards to the breastfeeding.
If you could summarize the whole experience in 1 sentence or word, what would it be?
Oxytocin, there's nothing quite like it!