I’ve told a few people that I would write about my breastfeeding journey and it’s taking forever because, well- twins!
Let’s be clear, before the twins were born I decided that no matter what I was going to breastfeed. Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea here: a fed baby is what is important (I’ve never loved the saying “fed is best” because it makes me feel some sort of way, but I suppose it is true). Here’s my take on it (it may be controversial but it’s how I feel): “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mother and baby desire. The World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.” According to both AAP and WHO babies should be breastfed (obviously unless there is a reason why a mother CAN NOT breast feed – there are medical reasons so please don’t think that I’m saying that there’s something wrong with formula especially in theses cases) for at least the first year of life. I’ve also read some places stating at the very least “exclusively” breastfed for the first 6 months. Ok, so now we know what’s recommended – what about what is realistic? Realistically there is a LOT of social pressure on both ends. You have people who pressure you to do “what’s best” and then people who chastise you for however you decide “what’s best” means to you and how you decide to feed your child(ren). I’m getting a little off track here, but let’s start this by saying whatever you decide please know that you are the parent, and your child(ren) won’t be messed up forever if you choose one way or the other for whatever your personal or medical reasons.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest (see what I did there? ha!) Let’s chat about the things I wish I knew before I started breastfeeding. Also, let me also tell you that had someone told me half of this stuff (which actually, some tried but I’m hard headed and stubborn so I wouldn’t have listened anyway so maybe this is moot but if it helps anyone then – cool! 🙂
What I wish I knew (and wish someone would have told me) before breastfeeding:
- Your body knows what it’s doing.
Don’t second guess yourself. Milk production is a supply and demand sort of thing. You’ll be told to pump after the baby(babies) feed every time… realistically, that didn’t work for us, and my supply wasn’t affected. This does not go to say that it shouldn’t be tried – for some people it really is the only way to keep supply up, but with two babies, pumping after every feed made me crazy. I felt like I was literally tied to a chair and my back was constantly killing me. I decided to try other things (more on that below) and only pump when I needed relief or when I was away from the babies for an extended period of time. This worked for me, but I think it’s important to note that every body is different, and you should play around with what works for you. Maybe pumping after just the morning feed (which I did for a little while in the beginning), or maybe picking a later feed to try and pump after. I think there’s something to be said about listening to your body and trusting it. Your body knows what it’s doing.
2. Hand expressing after feeds can stimulate milk production
I’ve talked to a bunch of moms on IG about hand expressing. So many of them tell me that they don’t get any milk when they hand express. I would recommend watching videos, and trying both hands. Every video I watched told me to hand express with the left hand if I was expressing the left breast – but I would get nothing, so I used my right hand and Bam! Milk! For me, using the opposite hand helped me the most. Biggest tip? Don’t grab the nipple itself (ouch) but hold the areola (dark part of skin around the nipple) with your first finger and thumb and press in then pull down (ever see a cow get milked? Same kind of concept). There are Youtube videos that show this well. Also, if you follow @Legendairymilk on instagram (I do not get paid to advertise – just so you know) they have posted some videos in the past so check them out!
3. Get yourself a Haakaa.
There’s not much more to say here. Does it have to be that brand? no, but, especially in the beginning when I was trying desperately to increase my supply for the twins, being able to use the Haakaa (or any other silicone pump that works with suction) when one was feeding and the other was not – was a lifesaver.
4. Try pumping BEFORE the babies eat.
Ok, so this one sounds counterintuitive, but when I COULD wake up early (haha that clearly didn’t happen often) I would try this only in the morning, and found that I was filling bottles. Then, when they would wake up hungry, I’d have them latch and they’d eat.. the stimulation would help stimulate more breastmilk production and in turn .. Happy babies. I probably did this a few times a week between weeks 7 and 10. Around week 10 my milk production really seemed to normalize so I didn’t feel the need to do this anymore
5. DRINK. YOUR. WATER.
The only times that I struggled with a dip in my supply were the two times that I didn’t drink water all day. Coffee does not constitute as liquids because it actually can dehydrate you. I don’t care if you don’t like water, figure out how you can like it and drink it.
6. Fenugreek can be harmful to supply
I add this one here because it’s actually pretty important to my breastfeeding journey. I say that because I decided immediately after reading that fenugreek could be problematic, to avoid it at all costs. I am feeding two babies and to take the chance that it would actually dry up my supply was just not worth it to me. That being said, what I did try? All of the Legendairy Milk products (the one that seemed to work the best was Lactivist which I have used multiple times when I’ve noticed a decrease in my supply – see number 5.)
7. No Two People Are The Same…
This one should go without saying, but I really think it’s a matter of doing your own research, trying what you feel is right, and working through the trial and error. Some things that worked for me may not work for you, but if you are anything like me and you are hellbent on breastfeeding you will try just about anything! And honestly, I don’t think thats a bad thing!
8. Physical activity does NOT ruin your supply
Before I started breastfeeding someone told me that working out would tank my supply. This was stuck in my head for the first few weeks so it was hard to believe it wouldn’t, but there is actual research proving this is not the case. When I find the paper I will post it here but for now, feel free to do a google search!
9. Sunflower Lecithin for clogged ducts.
This one should really be number 1. In the first two months of breastfeeding I got mastitis twice. The first time it was because I skipped a feeding and didn’t pump. The second time was overnight. Yup, all it took was a few hours for my ducts to clog, for me to get a fever, and to feel like I had been hit by a truck. Some people are lucky to feel the clogged duct before the infection hits. Me, not so much. So I started taking Sunflower Lecithin (you can get it at GNC but I really like shopping small so I bet you can guess where I get mine from — yup, Legendairy Milk lol – but the babies are 5 months old and I still have the bottle I bought like 3 months ago! I swear it’s an endless pit haha like one of those magicians bags) Anyway, I have not had another problem with clogged ducts or mastitis (THANK the sunflower lecithin Gods)
10. DRINK. YOUR. WATER.
Just in case you missed number 5, I wanted to remind you again.
BONUS: Give yourself Grace.
I think this saying has been thrown around a lot lately on social media but it’s really very true. As new moms I think there is a lot of pressure from every angle to “do what’s best.” But everyone has their own opinion about what is best. You want the honest truth? My babies are not exclusively breastfed. You want to know what else? I’m okay with that, and that decision was made by my husband and I — want to know why? Because we are their parents. Their grandparents, aunts, uncles, the lady down the street, the chick on Instagram that says you are a bad mom if you give even a drop of formula, or the old woman at ShopRite are not their parents so their opinions do not matter. What does matter is you doing what you feel is the best thing for your child(ren). Remember that you are an incredible person, you have brought an incredible new life (or lives) into this world and you are doing a fantastic job at feeding them, keeping them clothed, and above all — loving them!
I hope at the end of the day you know that whatever you decide to do, you don’t let societies expectations affect you. It was very hard for me to agree to supplementing with formula because of some ridiculous feeling of failure. I say it was ridiculous because it isn’t a failure, it’s some pressure that I put on myself because of what I saw others saying and doing. Remember that YOU and YOU alone have the power to decide what works best for YOUR family. Don’t let anyone – not even your husband or significant other – pressure you into feeling like you have to do a certain thing because it’s best. Do however, talk to your significant other and tell them how you feel about breastfeeding/formula feeding and ask for them to support you. If you don’t have a support system, reach out girl because I am all for supporting my fellow mamas!!