My tribe may only exist on the internet.

Last night we attended an “expectant parents’ meeting” of a local Parents of Multiples group, hosted at a private residence in a very upscale neighborhood. When we got out of the car, Husband pointed at two tiny chairs on the porch, each with a boy’s name painted on it. They were the sorts of names you associate with hulking teenagers wearing polo shirts and backwards baseball caps. “These are not our kind of people,” he said morosely.

I glared at him. “Can we just give them a chance, please?” I’ve really been wanting to meet other parents of twins, and I wasn’t prepared to abandon hope of meeting kindred spirits before I’d even walked in the door.

Unfortunately – and as usual – he was right. The meeting was led by two mothers of twins, who were very eager to share their stories about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and sleep issues. Most of these stories were pretty negative, which, okay – pregnancy and parenting of multiples is different from singletons, and who am I to judge another parent’s experience? There was a round of introductions, and everyone cooed enviously over the woman who, at 32 weeks pregnant, had only gained 26 pounds. I tried not to let my incredulity show too much; low weight gain is not particularly healthy for a multiple pregnancy – the goal is typically a bare minimum of 35 pounds, with 50 or so considered optimal for higher birthweight babies. But this is LA, after all, where Thin Is In no matter what the price.

Sleep and time management were two of the biggest topics. The solution? Nannies and night nurses. “So worth it,” was the conclusion, “especially if you like your sleep.” We expectant parents received copious information on interviewing nannies, checking references, and paying them (“You’ll pay more for an English-speaking nanny, but don’t you want someone who can communicate with your kids?”). The possibility that such alternatives were not remotely affordable – or desirable – for some parents was simply not addressed.

Breastfeeding was presented as a virtuous-but-often-unattainable goal, and one that we shouldn’t feel too much pressure to pursue. “How long can you exclusively breastfeed twins?” asked one woman. “Well, I did it for nearly five months,” replied the host, failing utterly to answer the question. I timidly raised my hand, and suggested La Leche League as a resource for information about breastfeeding multiples. We had attended a meeting there the night before, and had come away with some really great information and resources. The host made a moue of distaste and jumped in to warn the group that “La Leche League is pretty militant and hardcore.”

All in all, we came away feeling like a couple of uppity, barefoot hippies who would get our comeuppance when these babies were born and we suddenly discovered that it really was impossible to raise twins without a big house, a stay-at-home mom, and paid help – oh, and lots and lots of formula. As much as I want to connect with other parents of twins, this group is clearly not for us.

If anyone knows of any hippie parents of multiples in the greater Los Angeles area, please let us know. I’ll invite them all over to our small, patchouli-scented apartment. For potluck, of course.

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16 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Annika said,

    You hippies and your silly ideas about putting the babies’ needs first and giving them what is best for them. Not to mention having the nerve to have babies without being independently wealthy! (Don’t worry, it is all considered crazy even if you just have one. Just, you know, half as crazy. With one breastfeeding exclusively is OK if you really, really want to.)

    Check the bulletin board at Dr. Fleiss’s office, maybe. I know there were notices for some get-togethers, and chances are parents at his office will be like-minded. Or perhaps try gong through the dreaded LLL – they may have meetings specifically for parents of multiples.

  2. 2

    You know, I’ve got to agree with the “La Leche League is pretty militant and hardcore” comment you heard. I would also add “opinionated and alienating.” My experience is the experience of one, but it was negative.

    When I had Evan, I was really excited to become involved in the group, as you know I breastfed him and was eager to meet other like-minded moms. When Evan was about 3 months old, I attended one meeting of the Mar Vista chapter. I went to get breastfeeding information and support, as I was led to believe I could find there. I did not feel I fit in with the other moms there, as many were breastfeeding their kids way into toddler-hood, and I do not agree with that. Nor do I breastfeed in public, which all of them were doing. But I wasn’t going to judge them – as long as they didn’t judge me.

    When it was my turn to ask my question, I explained my breastfeeding schedule: I fed Evan every 3 1/2-4 hours on both sides. No snacking, no on-demand. This worked very, very well for both of us. My question that I asked the leader and group was “how do you drop the last feeding in the middle of the night so my kid will sleep all the way through?” I was met with gaping mouths and astonished looks. Clearly I was some kind of breastfeeding heathen or borderline Republican.

    The leader of the group, in front of everyone and with a slightly patronizing tone, scolded me and told me in almost specific language that I was a bad mother for a) not feeding on demand, and b) that “women’s bodies are designed to nurse every 2 hours and you should be doing that, all through the night.” Kind of shocked, I managed to respond that today, with 2 working parents in most households, that plan is a bit outdated and doesn’t work for those of us who don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding in public. Also, I added that I was pretty determined to keep my 3-4 hour feeding schedule and get Evan to sleep through the night. So if they didn’t have any suggestions, then I would just have to seek help elsewhere. Then I shut up and she moved on to the next person. At the break I left.

    So my point is this: if you’re going to be a group that supports breastfeeding, you should support however a woman chooses to do that, as long as no one is starving or getting hurt. I felt excluded even though I should have felt included and welcome. Really after LLL there was no where for me to go for support. I did a lot of silent suffering during the first few months. It’s pretty sad.

  3. 3

    uccellina said,

    I’m sorry you had that experience and felt as alienated by LLL as I did by the uber-mainstream Parents of Multiples group. I found the Silverlake/Hollywood Couples’ meeting of LLL to be very helpful. One woman did come to find out how she could drop a mid-day feeding, as she has returned to work, and the leaders talked for quite a while about pumping and storing for her. I also explained that I was worried about getting both babies on the same feeding schedule, and that concern was addressed without condescension or disapproval. I think the groups probably vary from meeting to meeting, and for women who are planning to breastfeed multiples, I’d say they’re an invaluable resource.

  4. 4

    Nora said,

    You can tell them you’re going to pay for the nanny with all the money you’ll save on formula…

  5. 5

    miss kendra said,

    i hope you are able to find all the answers and support you need, but don’t disregard the idea of supplemental formula. as you know, breastfeeding takes a lot of caloric energy and commitment- and in my experience with nannying multiples, the mothers had to give it up earlier than they wanted based solely on their bodies inability to keep up. i’m so excited for your babies though!

  6. 6

    Annika said,

    It’s true that supply can be a difficulty, especially for women with multiples – but there are breast milk banks out there; formula is not the only option for supplementing, and is not right for everyone. Anyway, Sam does not seem to ever plan to stop nursing, so I can always donate extra. As is the case with most women (unfortunately not all), my body makes however much milk gets used, so if I pump I will make more.

  7. 7

    Diane Dawson said,

    And I know two twin mommies still nursing (at 1 year and 2 1/2), so more of your tribe to connect with. Too bad they’re over in Pasadena… but still… they exist :)

  8. 8

    SilliGirl said,

    I will try not to write an essay, but I have so many things to comment on. First, I am sorry you didn’t find the support you were looking for. I have met women with twins who experienced the same thing: the “alternative” parents can’t relate to the twin experience, and it’s difficult to find parents of multiples who are parenting in an AP way (for sad lack of a better label). Good luck, and I am sure that in a city as big as LA you will be able to find someone.

    (Although I understand why you felt this way, I am highly amused by the thought of you and Husband as hippies, since you are practically Republicans compared to some of the hippies I know. Oh, and rich, too. ;) )

    I’m glad to hear LLL was helpful and would love to hear more about that meeting. I loved LLL when I was a new parent. Also, I’m glad you liked the couples’ meeting. The one in AZ was awful, but then, they are run by volunteers and each meeting is only as good as its leader.

    To Allison, it sounds as if the LLL leader did not handle your question with sensitivity, and I’m sorry to hear that, because the group’s reputation as “militant” often turns off women who could benefit from the support.
    LLL is very straightforward in both their printed literature and online about their goals, which do include promoting extended nursing and nursing on demand. In addition, it is widely accepted that scheduled nursing can contribute to decreased milk supply in the mother, and potentially insufficient caloric intake for the baby, particularly in the first three months. If this kind of schedule was working for you, that’s great, but it isn’t necessarily fair to call the entire group militant, hardcore, opinionated and alienating when one woman did a poor job of disseminating information. You asked for advice, and didn’t like the advice given, but that doesn’t mean that the information was wrong, just maybe not right for you.

    As new mothers we are so sensitive to criticism, and with good reason. Every time we turn around there’s someone else telling us we’re doing it wrong. Support is essential, and yet so hard to find. I have realized only recently just how defensive I felt as a new mother. I loved being a mom and felt great about all the decisions we were making, but after an an entire pregnancy of people telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about I was definitely not in the mood to hear anyone tell me I should be doing something differently, or was making a mistake.

    You will find people to support you, Uccie, and you will do your research and follow your instincts, and you will be a fabulous mama to those babies. And really, in a hundred years, is any of this going to matter?

    (p.s. if supply becomes an issue, you should definitely be able to find people willing to pump for you. I’ve known many women to do this.)

  9. 9

    Annika said,

    I had some additional thoughts about supplementing, inspired by Kendra’s comment earlier. This all may be incredibly arrogant of me, since I am the mother of a singleton and have had zero supply issues. But, well. I know you’ll tell me if I need to shut it.

    Breast feeding can be very hard. A lot of women feel better knowing they have an other option, that they are not failures if it doesn’t work. (For the most part I think that is great, by the way. So many new mothers feel like failures for so many reasons, and I think that 99% of the time they are doing a great job, and whatever helps them to feel like they are doing well is a good thing.) I felt the exact opposite: formula was never an option for me. At all. And because it was not an option, I never even considered the possibility of supplementing, and Sam and I established a great nursing relationship. Again, I know I have just one kid, and that makes my experience totally different. But if I’d had trouble I would have looked to supplement with donated breast milk or with goat’s milk.

    I did consider supplementing with disposable diapers an option, and so I used them. On Sam’s first birthday I decided they were no longer an option, and I have not once considered using them since. And I don’t feel at all limited by that, because it’s just how it is.

    OF COURSE this is not how it is for everyone, and I do not think supplementing is evil or anything like that (especially the diaper kind, which I am so glad was an option even if I would not do it again). But I do think it’s an interesting and different way to look
    at it — that if something is not an option, it just is not an option.

  10. 10

    Diane Dawson said,

    That is how my other twin mommy was – supplementation was not an option. Then she ended up in hospital with a life threatening infection and couldn’t even pump very well. Both babies on formula for almost two weeks. And then, when she was out, fed both formula and breastmilk. for a while. And then once her supply was back, supplementation was not an option anymore…

    I call it the philosophy of “whatever works best at the time.”

  11. 11

    Pam said,

    As a nanny, I have encountered many of these moms. My favorite families have been those that utilize me to be able to take naps and for lack of a better term, get their own stuff done while I am occupied with their kidlets. Having a nanny is not necessary but I can see why anyone would say that it can help. As a nanny, I am more of a helper for the parent than for the child in a way. I think that nannies can really add to a family but I can also see how they would not be desirable if they are called upon to raise the kids in lieu of the parents (which is something I refuse to do).

  12. 12

    Helen said,

    I get that a lot too – how can I raise babies without outside help? Or, to be real about it, without anyone but my partner and I?

    You just do it, that’s all. Night nurses, nannies, live-in family, bah. Yes, in the early days, the sleep, she is light.

    It’s whatever works for you two, honestly.

    (And don’t be angry, but I only gained about 30 pounds with my twins. And I ate like a HORSE. I wasn’t starving myself, honest, I guess some multiple moms just don’t gain that much.)

  13. 13

    uccellina said,

    Helen, I would never be angry at anyone for their weight gain in pregnancy! I just thought it was a little disturbing that everyone at this meeting was jealous of the woman who hadn’t gained very much weight. The woman later volunteered that she had hyperthyroidism, which is certainly nothing to envy.

  14. 14

    Allison said,

    The first 3 months of breastfeeding were very hard. I put Evan on a schedule right away and I’m so glad I did. It worked SO well. But your boobs hurt, you don’t produce enough milk one day and are engorged the next. And I have just one kid, so I can probably imagine it will be a challenge with two. It’s very rewarding and does save a ton of money. But sometimes it’s not convenient to breastfeed. Like in the grocery store. In these situations, having a bottle of formula is really handy. Supplementing with formula is not a big deal in my mind. I think I used one can of powdered formula in 6 months (before Evan switched to formula exclusively at around 8 months. I know you will, but checking ingredients of every type and brand is a good thing. A lot of them put sugar or corn syrup (!!!) in formula. One I’ve found that’s quite good and with no junk is the Target store brand formula. AND it’s half the cost of the national brands.

    You’ll figure it out – it’s a lot of trial, error and success. Enjoy the journey!

  15. 15

    auntdebbi said,

    Just throwing my two cents worth in. Both my best friend and my great aunt successfully breast fed twins. The friend was a young mom and everyone tried to talk her out of breastfeeding. Those babies were huge, healthy, and happy. They are grown women with their own babies now.

  16. 16

    akeeyu said,

    Jeez, I wish you’d been at my multiples classes. We could have sat together and laughed hysterically when one of the guest speakers said “Really, having an au pair is very affordable.” Haaaaaaaaaahahaha…right.

    Breastfeeding was presented as a totally plausible option, complete with practical tips and a hotline to call for lactation consultants experienced with twins. My favorite part of the boob class was when the LC said “Look, women with singletons? Their bodies have the capability to make enough milk for two babies. The only difference between you and them is that you’ll actually HAVE the two babies to go with the supply.”


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