Finding out that I was expecting twins was definitely the biggest (and best) surprise of my life. Those emotional weeks after the big ultrasound reveal were filled with lots of plan changes of both the birth and life variety, yet there were two constants for me: I wanted a vaginal, unmedicated birth and I wanted to breastfeed my babies as long as possible.
Preparing for Breastfeeding Twins
With lots of preparation, an amazing care team and some good luck, we welcomed our healthy, full term twins Tobias and Elena in December 2015 after a short, peaceful and drug-free labor and delivery. It was amazing to finally hold the children I had longed for in my arms, but after a bit of a snuggle they let it be known that now that they were earth side they were hungry! Thus began my 14 month journey with having both breasts out, pretty much all of the time.
Four Things I Credit for Our Successful Twin Breastfeeding Journey
Despite the constant nudity, our experience was overwhelming positive. Peering back in time through the milky, poopy, joyful, teary haze that surrounds the first year of Toby and Elly’s life, four key components contributed to our twin breastfeeding success: protection, organization, nutrition and hydration.
Protecting Our Twins Breastfeeding Space
Feeling safe seems to be a primal prerequisite for successful lactation. For me stress, anxiety or pain negatively affected my ability to produce milk for my babies. Essential to my emotional safety was establishing a strong support network early on. My mom was able to come to stay for 6 weeks postpartum and helped so much with my older son, cooking, cleaning and getting babes latched. After she left I had an inner circle of friends who I felt comfortable asking to come for a couple of hours to pass me babies or just sit with me and chat while the twins nursed.
During this time I also paid a lovely lady to help with cleaning and laundry when things got out of hand which they did, often. I view this investment as invaluable. I recommend that expecting twin mamas budget in advance for a postpartum doula or a cleaning lady for the first few weeks at least. Having this network in place prevented me from getting lost in the moments when I felt overwhelmed: of course those moments happened, but I knew who to call when they did. Accept help when it’s offered and if it’s not offered, ask.
Getting Organized for Breastfeeding Twins
Researching and consulting with my midwife during pregnancy helped me to feel prepared and to have the necessary supplies on hand for when the babies were ready to eat, most importantly: nipple protection cream, a good quality electric pump (don’t forget you should be able to get one for free through your insurance) and a large C shaped breastfeeding support pillow. We were so fortunate to be able to hold our twins skin to skin as soon as they were born. My midwife helped to get both babies latched on and nursing, and showed my partner how to support me to get babies nursing at the same time.
In the days immediately following the birth, she was also able to watch the twins nurse and to verify that they were latching well with no physical barriers to success. She encouraged me to protect my nipples with lanolin cream before and after every feeding; keeping my nipples from cracking made things more comfortable for all three of us, and helped to prevent mastitis (infection of the milk duct) from developing.
Logistics and Schedules with Breastfeeding Twins
I am naturally a pretty laid back go with the flow type of person—our kids are always teaching us and my twins got me organized! My first son breastfed on demand which worked well for us, but I didn’t think that I could keep up with two babes on two different schedules. From the beginning I chose to always feed both babies at the same time so if one baby needed to eat (usually my son) but the other was sleeping (usually my daughter) I would gently wake the sleepy one to top off as well.
This system worked well for us and at their one week appointment with the pediatrician the twins had both gained weight—putting on ounces for the win! At 4 weeks I began to pump at the same time every day. This helped to establish my supply and I felt safer knowing that I had a backup stash in the freezer if I needed to step out for a few hours—no one wins when mama feels chained to her babies.
At 8 weeks we were ready to start a feeding schedule. I consulted with my midwife to make sure we were setting appropriately timed feeds and then began to be more firm with feeding times. My partner supported us a lot in this transition—walking and soothing babies until feeding time arrived etc. In just a few days we settled into the schedule of feed, burp and into their crib, with very few complaints and more sleep for everyone. The more comfortable and relaxed I was the better things flowed.
Feeding Station and Breastfeeding Positions with Twins
I set up a cozy feeding corner in our bed and had it stocked up with snacks, water bottles, iPod with podcasts cued up and my ever faithful C pillow. The position that worked best in the early days was for me to settle into the feeding nook with pillows propped up behind me and the C pillow wrapped around me.
Then I would have someone pass me the first baby and get him or her latched with their head in the center of the pillow and their legs in the crook of my left elbow. Then I would have someone pass me the second baby and we would latch him or her with their head also in the center and their legs in the crook of my right elbow. I marked their first initial on the hand that corresponded to the side they were feeding on so I would remember to alternate them, which is important for neck safety.
Learning to Breastfeed Twins without a Helper
As they got stronger and I gained confidence, I would place them both on the bed with enough room for me to wiggle in between them with the C pillow wrapped around me. Then I would scoop up one with my left arm, get them latched using my right hand for support, then reach down with my right arm to scoop up the other one, and get them latched using my left hand for support. It takes practice but I got to be a pro!
A supportive partner makes all the difference for the night time feeding productions. By the time the babies were sitting up independently, around 5 or 6 months, the C pillow wasn’t crucial and we could feed by side lying for one with the other draped on top, and by the time they were crawling they would just pull down my shirt and go for it on their own!
Nutrition for Mama When Breastfeeding Twins
In order to produce enough high quality milk for two growing infants it is essential to eat high quality food, regularly and lots of it! I followed the Brewers diet for twins during pregnancy, which incorporates high protein and low sugar. This eating plan is strict but for breastfeeding I made it even more so. My first son was fussy and didn’t sleep well, and some research I did indicated that gluten and lactose in breast milk can be major gas culprits causing discomfort for newborns.
I was willing to try anything to maximize my sleep and minimize the twins’ discomfort—my diet for breastfeeding was high protein, no lactose and no gluten . I stuck to it firmly for the first 6 months and my twins definitely slept better than my first baby, so it was worth it in my book! I had lots of high protein snacks ready to grab between feeds: nuts, hard boiled eggs, hummus. My sweet friends brought over lots of meals and snacks in the early months which was a life saver. I recommend setting up a meal schedule before birth and if people ask what they can do for you tell them honestly “feed me and feed my family”! Your loved ones will be glad to have a specific way to support you.
Drinking enough water when you only have to hydrate yourself can be a challenge. When you have to hydrate for three, the quantity of liquid intake needed can seem ridiculous, but it is so necessary in order to lactate efficiently. A rule that worked for me was that if the twins were drinking, I was drinking. I had a water bottle in our feeding corner and did my best to pound back a full liter at every feed. Adding lime or other flavors and drinking coconut water helped to keep it interesting. My midwife gave me a recipe for a lactation boosting oatmeal drink which I liked so much that I drank it almost every day.
Oatmeal Drink to Boost Breastmilk Supply Recipe:
- Soak a cup of whole organic oats and a dash of cinnamon in 2 liters of water overnight.
Strain in the morning and mix in a tablespoon of honey.
Eating and drinking for three takes creativity and commitment!
“Success” When Breastfeeding Twins is Different for Everyone
I define my breastfeeding relationship with my twins as successful because it was emotionally and physically safe for everyone involved. My babies got the nutrition that they needed to grow strong, and nursing was connection time for us. I certainly do not feel that breastfeeding is the only way to achieve success in nutrition and bonding. If exclusive formula, exclusive breastfeeding or a mixture of the two is what works, I encourage mamas to follow their intuition and to do what feels right for their optimum mental and physical health and that of their babies.
By the time my twins were 14 months old, I no longer felt present and joyful while breastfeeding. Resentment started to creep in, so the three of us talked about it, said goodbye to that phase of our time together and we stopped breastfeeding, ready for the next adventure. Spoiler alert—it still involved a lot of poop. If breastfeeding your twins interests you, research your options, make sure you are protected, organized, nourished and hydrated and go for it—it IS possible and can be so very beautiful.
One of the biggest concerns for new moms after having a baby is whether or not the transition back to work will go smoothly. Worrying about the transition consumes an unfair amount of time that you should spend bonding and relaxing with your newborn. It is an added stress to worry about continuing to breastfeed and all that comes with arranging a pumping schedule and keeping up milk supply. The key to a successful transition is to create a plan and to find the breastfeeding cheerleaders in your life.
Create a Breastfeeding Plan
Much like a birth plan, writing down your key information and organizing the details of the transition is a big help. Here’s a template to address the major considerations you will encounter during the transition back to work. This includes a list of supplies to take with you, what to provide your baby’s caregiver, how to set up a pumping space at work, and how to talk to your employer about it. If you are aware of the potential obstacles, you will be able to navigate around them more easily when they pop up.
At Work Supplies Checklist
Pumping at work is sort of like camping. You want to make sure you have everything you need so you aren’t stuck without a tent in the rain – or without a set of nursing pads during an unexpected let down. Three weeks before you plan to return to work, make sure you have a full set up of supplies. An example of the things to gather:
- Double electric breast pump
- Extra set of pump supplies
- Nursing pads
- Pump cleaning supplies (i.e. wipes, soap, microwave steam bags)
- Milk storage containers with lids
- Milk storage bags
- Manual hand pump (just in case your electric pump isn’t working or you have no power)
- Cooler bag with ice packs
Every mom is different and some prefer to wear nursing bras and clothing designed for pumping, and some prefer to wear loose fitting or maneuverable clothes. It doesn’t matter what you decide to wear, as long as you can pump easily enough and you feel comfortable.
These people are the ones that keep your spirits up when you’re feeling overwhelmed or are doubting your ability to continue nursing. They can be family, friends, other moms at a breastfeeding support group, a lactation consultant, or your doctor. Have their contact information ready in the event that you need a pep talk. It can be incredibly helpful to hear the stories of other moms who have struggled with breastfeeding — you can learn what they did to overcome the challenges.
Practice Makes Perfect
Your new routine will become second nature once you get started, but it may feel a little bumpy in the beginning. Practice using your pump in the weeks leading up to returning to work and start stocking your freezer with breast milk. Set up your pump like you would at work, imagining how you would store your pump and the milk you expressed after a pumping session. It is good to know in advance whether you will have access to an outlet, a sink, or a refrigerator so you can plan around it.
Don’t Plan to Pump in a Bathroom
The default pumping location used to be bathrooms, however, there are laws now that require companies to provide a private nursing space for mothers that isn’t a bathroom. While there are a few exceptions to the law, it is not too much to ask for a space that is NOT the bathroom. If your employer requests that you keep your pumping in the restrooms, kindly let them know that it is not standard practice anymore.
Going back to work can be a difficult transition for new moms, especially if you’re planning to pump throughout the day, however having a plan and a supportive team will make the transition smoother. Feeling confident in your plan to return to work will give you peace of mind. It is totally possible to have a successful back-to-work breastfeeding experience and we’re here to help you.
This guest post was written by Aeroflow Breastpumps. Aeroflow helps you get a breastpump for free through your insurance. For more information about Aeroflow Breastpumps, go to www.AeroflowBreastpumps.com.
It’s World Breastfeeding Week and I’ve really been blown away by all of the amazing collaborations, articles, events and general awesomeness surrounding this week and bringing awareness to Breastfeeding. Here are some of my favorite things from the week.
Facebook LIVE party for supporting moms and a HUGE Giveaway with Sarah Wells Bags! I loved how real Sarah is when she shares her journey of exclusively pumping for her first daughter and how it inspired her breastpump bags (be sure to check out the newest gorgeous floral design she just released for WBW!) as well as my chat with Sarah Wells at the end of this week’s podcast episode!
Awesome article about why this week matters!
Around 2,000 women came together to breastfeed their babies in the Philippines to promote the health benefits of breast milk. If you want to attend a Latch On event, you can find one near you!
This free WBW nursing guide including a Survival Guide for the first two weeks of breastfeeding.
This kickstarter to bring breastfeeding awareness around the country – you have to see the RV and their clever #putaboobonit campaign!
Some of my favorite episodes that talk about breastfeeding struggles: one, two, three.
Travel Tips for Breastfeeding Moms Traveling without Baby
I absolutely love that the look of motherhood today is so varied and quite the mosaic. Women today have decided that they not only want a family but they also want a career, a higher level degree, time away with friends, their own business, solo trips abroad, and so much more. And I say, “Right on!”
One of the most exhilarating yet also daunting things for a new mama to do is travel without her baby while trying to also maintain a healthy milk supply. For many of us traveling for work is the first time we must leave our little one for an extended period of time. Whether you’ll be traveling abroad for work or to the next town over for a weekend getaway with girlfriends, there are a few things that you can do to prepare for your trip and feel confident to stick to your breastfeeding goals.
Before you leave
#1 Leave feeding schedule for your partner or caregiver
Detail even the tiniest of concerns you may have, as well as tips and tricks to help them sooth your baby. If you know that your little one needs to be propped up for 30 minutes after feeding, then let them know. If you want your baby to be fed in 2 oz. increments to avoid any waste of your precious milk, write it down. Be clear about your expectations so that you don’t feel a constant sense of angst while away.
Providing these details will allow you to enjoy your time away more and give you a sense of ease with the fact that the necessities have been covered. You’ve also allowed yourself time to review and think over the things you’d like done in your absence.
#2 Begin to document your baby’s normal feeding schedule
Write down the times they normally feed, whether or not they feed on one or both breasts, and if they are currently taking a bottle, how much they’re drinking at each feeding. Your baby’s caregiver can then use this as a guide for when to feed your little one and you can use it as an outline for yourself as to when to pump while away.
#3 Get the Gear
Cut down on carry-on luggage by investing in a breastpump bag that will hold your personal items (including your latptop!) as well as your pump and chilled milk.
If you’re traveling out of the country get a power adaptor! These can easily be purchased online. It’s also a great idea to have a few batteries packed with you as well. This will allow you to pump in the airport during a layover if the voltage is different than back home and not the one you’ll need for the country you’ll be visiting. It’s also a great backup in case you’re in a location with unpredictable electricity. Bringing along a car adaptor for your breastpump is a great idea as well!
# 4 Record a video of your baby nursing & bring a piece of your baby’s clothing
You can play the video during your pumping sessions and smell your baby’s clothing while trying to get your milk to let-down. These physical mementos can really spark an emotional and physiological response that may help you when trying to relax and “perform” without your baby being present.
During Your Trip
photo via @thehappypumper
#5 Stay hydrated
As you probably already know, flying can really dry you out. Carrying a foldable water bottle or grabbing a cup of water at the airport coffee shop once you’re through security is a great way to remind yourself to stay hydrated. Also, once you’re on location and having a good time, a simple rule you can follow is for every glass of wine or alcohol you drink, you have a glass of water to go with it. Remember it’s best to wait between 1-2 hours per drink before pumping breastmilk for your baby.
READ MORE ABOUT KEEPING UP MILK SUPPLY HERE
#6 Shipping Milk Home
For moms traveling across the U.S. If you’re trying to figure out how to bring your milk back home, there’s this amazing company that will allow you to simply pack and ship home up to 72oz. per box of your milk straight to your front door! Awesome right?! This is also a great option for a mama who’s going on a last minute trip and hasn’t had a chance to store up enough milk for the time she’ll be away. Simply pump, pack it up, and send it home to your babe! Be sure to check out the CDC’s guidelines for proper storage and handling of breast milk.
#7 Stick to baby’s feeding schedule
Follow your previously created feeding log to determine how often you should pump. Even if your baby only fed on one side during your feedings at home, it can be very helpful to your milk supply to pump on both sides while away. Be sure to use a double electric or hospital grade pump, which provides the proper suction strength and stimulation needed for milk expression while not also feeding at the breast.
GET A FREE BREASTPUMP THROUGH YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE
#8 Try and plan for moments of calm and still in your day
This may not be possible for all of your feedings, but allowing yourself to take time and just relax or meditate can help you mentally and physically while away from your baby. Many mamas have difficulty letting down and filling bottles when in the midst of stress and work. A way to combat this is by meditating or doing simple relaxation exercises that help you reconnect and feel grounded while away.
When you are back home
#9 Take a nursing vacation
Try and plan for a day or two of home time with your baby after your trip away. Use this as a nursing vacation where you do unlimited skin-to-skin and feeding on demand. Take long herb baths with your baby resting on you and carry your baby in a carrier, so that your hands can still be free. This will help to give your milk supply a little boost in case you’ve noticed a dip while away.
#10 Let go and practice self care
Fully embrace the time you spent away and carry no guilt for the choice you made. It’s not selfish to invest in yourself, your business, and your friendships. Every mother deserves time away and support to mother in her own unique way.
The tips I shared here are from lessons I learned personally while traveling away from my own little one while maintaining my breastfeeding goals, as well as my role as a Lactation Educator Counselor supporting other mamas who live global boundless lives. I hope they support you in your breastfeeding journey and encourage you to mother in the way that’s most natural to you.
This guest post was written by Anjelica Malone. Angelica is a Lactation Educator Counselor and Breastfeeding Coach. She’s passionate about helping women incorporate breastfeeding into their lives, instead of allowing it to take over their lives. Anjelica is the mother of two little island-born girls and now resides in Seattle, Washington. Anjelica grew up traveling the world with her family and now loves sharing the experience of travel with her husband and kiddos. You can follow her adventures via the hashtag #AGlobalTribeOfWomen and learn about how to live a more conscious and globally-minded life at AnjelicaMalone.com.
My Personal Experience with Low Milk Supply
My postpartum journey was very difficult. It was an extremely emotional time for me. My feelings of pure bliss were exaggerated by intense fatigue and all the guilt and grief from not being able to exclusively breastfeed my baby. Now having an eight month old and being able to use my experience and perspective I am happy and proud of our breastfeeding journey and all the hard work and time I put into maintaining breastfeeding. I have learned a great deal about breast milk supply.
What Causes Low Breast Milk Supply?
There are many factors that can contribute to low milk supply; a premature baby, an ineffective latch, lip or tongue tie in the baby, prior nipple piercings or trauma, and breast augmentation can all impact supply. Additionally, medical conditions like Hormonal Disorders (PCOS, Thyroid Issues, Diabetes, Hypertension, Luteal Phase Defect), Hypoplasia/Insufficient Glandular Tissue, and flat or inverted nipples can all be contributing factors to breast milk supply.
I felt so upset about not having enough breast milk and in those first days really desired an understanding of why my body wasn’t able to make enough nourishment for my baby. It felt like the lactation consultants and doctors I saw truly didn’t care about explaining or figuring out why my breasts weren’t producing enough milk. I was able to do research to develop a better understanding of possible causes for low supply but was never diagnosed with a particular condition.
Tips for Increasing Low Milk Supply
There are many lactogenic foods that can help boost supply. Fortunately, most of the foods are easily accessible and relatively easy to add to your meals. I found many helpful recipes for lactation cookies and smoothies online that included multiple ingredients known to increase supply. At the local farmer’s market I found sprouted fenugreek and alfalfa. The sprouts were easy to add in a salad or snack on by the handful and helped maintain my supply.
Many herbs are known to help increase supply. Fenugreek is a popular supplement and is readily available in capsules. Dosage recommendations vary for fenugreek and I was instructed by a lactation consultant to take four capsules three times a day (beware! This herb upset my stomach). You should also note that consuming large quantities of Fenugreek creates a maple syrup like smell on your skin.
Other galactogogues include Blessed Thistle, Goats Rue, and Moringa. These herbs are a bit harder to find but are all are available on Amazon. I followed recommended dosages included on the products. Several brands of herbs like More Milk Plus and Mommy Knows Best are widely renowned for their effectiveness. I was able to see some results using the Mommy Knows Best supplements. I found several excellent tinctures and herb blends at Local herb shops. Mrs. Patels sells fenugreek bars, teas, and other treats to support milk supply. I splurged and tried the chocolate fenugreek bars and they made a slight difference in my extremely low supply. Many of the herbs and tinctures I have taken have a pretty harsh taste and a little chocolate helped get the medicine down.
What to Avoid
There are also things that I had to be intentional to avoid while breastfeeding with a low supply. Foods that negatively affect supply include peppermint, spearmint, parsley, sage, and oregano. Other things I was mindful of included getting as much rest as possible, keeping a close eye on my health, avoiding excessive amounts of caffeine, and being under too much stress all impacted my supply. I don’t smoke cigarettes or regularly drink alcohol but both are known to interfere with the let-down reflex. I also did not start taking my regular birth control pills because they contain estrogen, which is known to decline milk production. Medications like Antihistamines, decongestants, and diuretics all decrease breast milk supply as well.
There are prescription drugs that can induce lactation. Reglan and Domperidone are known to increase supply. Reglan is documented to have adverse side effects of depression and involuntary body movements. The use of Domperidone is very controversial in the United States and is not currently approved by the FDA. The use is widespread and well documented in other areas. A great resource is the podcast Breastfeeding Outside of the Box and one of their episodes covers Domperidone.
Pumping Like a Pro
I hate pumping, and I don’t know anyone who enjoys it. In the early months I was pumping around the clock every two hours after putting baby to breast. Pumping was very grueling and uncomfortable. It was upsetting for me to pump because my baby was very fussy in those days and I often had to hold her while I pumped. A hands-free pumping bra was essential. I used the Simple Wishes Pumping Bra but wish I knew about the Dairy Fairy Pumping Bra. The Dairy Fairy bra can be used as a hands-free pumping bra and a regular bra so no need to change in and out throughout the day.
Slanted Flanges were a gift I received from a friend and did make a slight difference with my pumping output and comfort. I found out about nipple cushions a bit too late, but have heard rave reviews about how they do wonders for making pumping more tolerable and increase milk pumped. I rented a Medela Symphony hospital grade pump but would love to have tried Spectra Pumps because they are the most affordable hospital grade pumps around.
Before I pumped I always started with a warm compress. A creative Lactation Consultant recommended I use a disposable diaper and fill it with hot water to warm my breasts before I pump, this worked wonders and held more warmth than a washcloth. While pumping I always did breast compressions and saw a difference in my output. For one dreaded week I did power pumping which increased my supply significantly. I always did power pumping first thing in the morning (around 5am) when milk supply is at its height and would pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, and finish with pumping for 10 minutes. I was instructed to do power pumping for no longer than a week; many moms are able to see a big difference in supply in a few days.
Tips for Supplementing and Maintaining Breastfeeding Relationship
After all my work, the doctors still pressured us to supplement with formula. The baby had lost 11% of her birth weight by the first week and they stressed us out until we gave in and supplemented with formula. There were techniques that helped us with this transition including using the Paced bottle-feeding method. In combination with the Como Tomo slow flow bottles our baby was able to take her time eating so when she returned to the breast she wasn’t too upset/fatigued by the slow flow at the breast.
Similarly, using the finish at the breast method helped to maintain our breastfeeding time. The method focuses on feeding the baby a supplement similar to an appetizer so that the baby isn’t overly hungry or upset when it’s time to breastfeed and there may be a slow let down or flow of milk.
I tried using the Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) to work on maintaining our latch and stimulate a let down. I was never able to master using the SNS, but know that it is a miracle worker for many moms. The Lact-Aid is a similar device that I was never able to try.
I hope this information is helpful to others as they use their resiliency and perseverance to create a breastfeeding relationship with their baby. I found that surrounding myself with supportive people, allowing myself space and time to grieve, and creating realistic short-term goals all helped me get through the process. I spent as much time as I could enjoying my baby. In retrospect I wish I would of spent less energy on feeling sad and angry about my supply and more time cuddling my tiny miracle. My thoughts and heart are with everyone dealing with this challenge.
This guest post was written by Emma Gomez, listen to her birth and breastfeeding stories.