Keith Snyder
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Julia Roberts had help

No, not IVF. I'm referring to the photos. There's no way she got those two babies up into her arms by herself. Trust me. Without third-party baby arrangement, their little heads clack together like a Newton's Cradle.

It's amazing, the way people who don't know a simple thing like that feel comfortable lecturing a mother of twins about breastfeeding. It's also amazing (though not surprising, on reflection) what a militant, obnoxious bunch the pro-breastfeeding people are. They're like the most obsessive, righteous proseltyzing Christians or feminists: There's only one way things can be, and they love to catch you while you're feeling insecure.

Like, for instance, when you're trying to breastfeed twins.

There's a well-known store in Manhattan called the Upper Breast Side. Good store, nice space, wide selection, and so on. They came up in conversation the other day when, killing time while a DVD burned on my laptop, I ended up in the middle of a baby stroller cluster at Starbucks. The name of the store was mentioned, I said they'd made my wife feel really bad, and the woman who'd brought it up immediately said, Oh, I know who you're talking about. Yeah, she's really bad about that, really intolerant of any way but hers.

Don't get me wrong; it's a great store. Lots of nice people in it. This particular person is probably nice too, and probably well-informed; but she makes life unnecessarily unpleasant for people who are already uncertain. And although somebody who works in a store isn't exactly an authority figure in the sense of bureaucrat, she's certainly positioned herself as an authority, and that's an easy position to abuse, even without meaning to. Especially when you're talking to mothers fighting feelings of guilt and inadequacy because they're--

What, again, class?

Right. Trying to breastfeed twins. It's not just like breastfeeding singletons twice.

Roosevelt Hospital is also obnoxious. We spent money on those classes they get you to take before your babies come. Half of some of these classes--no kidding, that's probably a low figure--were pro-breastfeeding brainwashing and propaganda. If you don't breastfeed, you're a failure. There are a few disclaimers in there about how if you try and it doesn't work, at least you tried, but they're overwhelmed by the air time given the single, obsessive, repetitive, monomaniacal theme:

Thou Ignorant Heathen, Thou Shalt Breastfeed.

Good cause. Shitty behavior. Because as soon as a woman hits a bump (like, for instance, when she's trying to breastfeed twins), she's got a big psychological load to maneuver under.

The La Leche League is also obnoxious. They mean well, they do good work, and I know they have been successful in promoting breastfeeding, which is a good thing. However, they brook no backchat. There's their way, and that's that. Thou shalt have no bottle, nor pacifier, nor anything that is not thy own nipple before Me, for I am Breastfeeding, thy God!

There's always a way, they say if you're having any problem at all. Sometimes you just have to try harder.

And they're right. Given infinite time, infinite money, a body that heals instantly, and a brain that doesn't need sleep, anyone can accomplish anything.

However, given double the diapers, double the feedings, double the soreness and damage, double the burpings, and double pretty much everything except the number of changing tables you have to buy, always a way just isn't a useful suggestion. In fact, it's downright irritating. Some people keep their twins synchronized by waking them up every X hours. For reasons of our own, we don't do that. According to last week's chart (yes, we have to keep one, so we know who got fed when; if you give advice to mothers of twins, did you know that?), one of ours gets six feedings a day, and the other gets seven. For the first six weeks, they were on a three-hour cycle, with each requiring a full hour, and those full hours didn't overlap.

If you didn't know that, please be quiet about breastfeeding twins. (Also please be quiet about how twins are no harder than singletons. Your delusions are enjoyable only to yourself.)

Now. If you did know that, and not just second-hand, maybe you have something worthwhile to say. And (obviously, I hope) sharing techniques that worked for you is never stupid, whether you're the parent of a singleton or the parent of triplets.

The preaching has its place. I think there is a real value to encouraging breastfeeding, because many women don't try, and it's obviously the best thing to do, if it's possible. When someone doesn't know that, they need to be educated.

When they do know that, they don't need to be educated. If you choose to educate them at that point, you just like hearing yourself talk. If, at that point, you speak to convey principles rather than to share experiences, you're not helping people. You're hurting them.

And if you didn't know that--

Now you do.

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