Our One Year Breastfeeding Journey Reflection
Not only am I having a hard time lately getting over the fact that my girls are ALREADY one, I CAN'T BELIEVE that we have made it through ONE WHOLE YEAR OF BREASTFEEDING!!!!! I can not express how much of an accomplishment this is for us! Through all the tears, stress, late night pumping sessions (well the 6-8 sessions a day period), fights with my husband because of stress, clogged ducts, latch issues, cracked and dry nipples WE MADE IT! From the beginning people told me that it was impossible to breastfeed twins, that we wouldn't make it past a few weeks (let alone months), and thought I was crazy for even wanting to breastfeed my twins. WELL, WE ARE HERE TO PROVE THE DOUBTER AND HATERS WRONG!!! :)
(I have to take a moment before I get to knee deep in the nitty gritty to send heartfelt thoughts and hugs to those who were UNABLE to breastfeed. I know that there can be issues (medical, latching, returning to work, what have you) that can end your journey sooner than you wanted. I hesitate to post because I know it can be a sore spot for some, and want to PSA that this post is simply to PROMOTE AWARENESS and SUPPORT for any nursing mother, with M.O.M.s (mothers of multiples) specifically in mind. One of the most difficult parts of this journey for me was finding support that was specific to breastfeeding twins, and support has always played a KEY role in ALL that I have done as a first time mom (FTM).... let alone being a FTM.O.M.)
So, it all started with having an AMAZING lactation consultant (Ms. Kat) at the hospital we delivered at! Thanks to her, we were not only able to overcome latch our issues (by introducing and teaching us about nipple shields), but she gave us the hope, knowledge, and tools we needed to have confidence that we could make this happen! She sat with us for as long as we needed and was there WHEN we needed her, and was the first person in my new life as a mother who taught me how much of a role education and support can play when it comes to nurturing and raising a brand new baby (or 2!)
One thing that I ESPECIALLY loved about her was her inclusion of Daddy in our meetings. (No he wasnt there the WHOLE time, but she made sure he got the Reader's Digest version so that when we were home with no LC to come to our room at the push of a button he would know what to do.) As a result of this, once we were home, before he left for work he was able to help me get set up (nursing pillow, water, snacks, rolling receiving blankets to put under their heads so the could reach, etc) and help me latch them on. Not only did this help me out, but it helped strengthen the bond btwn him and the girls, and me! (Sure me and him have had our fair share of stressors and disagreements/arguments over the past year as new parents. Breastfeeding was SO stressful for me, and it was good to have someone explain and show him how much work it can be, ESPECIALLY with TWO! Even though he forgot from time to time, at the end of the day, he was there for me. Supporting me, buying me all the supply enhancing products I just HAD TO have, keeping me company when I pumped late at night, helping me get situated and getting me what I needed while I nursed, and even now supports my goal to breastfeed past a year! YOU GO DADDY-IO!)
The thing that motivates me to focus my energy and attention to breastfeeding (along with it being National Breastfeeding Month) is the lack of knowledge I possessed as a FTM (let alone a M.O.M. of preemies). When the girls were born they weighed only 5.8 and 4.13 lbs, and the doctors were concerned about the girls burning more calories trying to successfully latch and nurse than they would consume (which is understandable). What I wish I would have had back then is all the knowledge and facts I have today. I will never forget the moment when I was faced with making this HUGE decision: Do you want to give the girls formula for preemies to help them gain weight and "stay healthy." Now, my original goal was to EBF (exclusively breastfeed) my girls. I'm not sure when exactly I decided I wanted to go for a goal of 2 years, but formula was NEVER part of the game plan. But in my mind all I could process was "Do what's best for the babies. And Dr.s know best" (which turns out is not always 100% the case... as I came to learn later in life.. but thats a story for another post). I did want to pump so that daddy could be included in feeding time. (Plus, I had no clue how I would nurse 2 babies and not have one attached to the boob all day, or feed them successfully during MOTN (middle of the night) feeds... so bottles were always part of my plan, just NOT formula.)
I requested a breast pump for the moment they got me into a room (and received it later that evening) but did not have a LC come see me until the next day (which I feel played a huge role in my decision to go with F; but everything happens for a reason though and I know we were just having to wait for a good thing to come along.. Ms. Kat!). HAD I KNOWN about EP (exclusively pumping) I would have made a different decision. While I have no real regrets, I do wish I would have had been equipped with more knowledge about my options. My supply was AMAZING the first few days! (I received SO many compliments on how much colostrum I was producing when pumping). When I went home I knew what to do to nurse my girls, still did not know much about how everything worked. Of course I knew it was all about supply and demand. But I didn't know about let downs, hindmilk and foremilk, and ALL of the benefits of breastfeeding. (I always knew breast was best, and before even learning about ANY benefits I had decided I wanted to EBF bc I had an instinctual feeling that it was the right thing to do for my babies.... The SAME feeling that lead me to my parenting style of babywearing, BLW, EC, no CIO, etc.)
Once we became more comfortable with tandem nursing (and got to to point where I could get set up and get everyone latched on my own), the sky became the limit. Through the months I struggled with getting my milk JUST UP to where I could stop the formula, but something ALWAYS happened to cause my supply to take a hit. At 4 months we met with a nutritionist and LC at our local WIC office. (Did you know WIC services are FREE to ANYONE? You do not have to receive WIC benefits to get their help! FYI bc they have some really good programs/classes and LC assistance!) I was so grateful (and honestly a bit surprised) that our nutritionist gladly and willingly sat with us for almost 3 hours!
I was able to share and discuss my concerns about my nutrition since I had a goal to EBF and am mostly vegetarian. I was stressed tying to make sure that I was doing everything right for MY body so that I could provide the best for my babies. Also, making milk for 2 is a job within itself. She also made sure I got time with their LC. She came in and knew as soon as she walked in that I was eating lactation cookies (lol). She also gave me HER attention and time whole-heartedly with no rushing. Lots of encouragement and support in my desire to breastfeed the girls. It was SUCH a positive experience and it really gave me the fuel I needed to get back in the game and not give up. They were also able to provide dad with some support indirectly. After sitting through those 3 hours, he realized too that bf is more than whipping a boob out, and it really helped us build a stronger more supportive relationship at home. This meeting gave me the“push in the right direction” that I needed. (Thanks Ms. Aleah and Ms. Natalie! You guys are awesome!) This is just one more example of the crucial role support can play in a new moms life! (These incredible women, and Ms. Rebecca too!, continued to follow up with me and encouraged me not only with my breastfeeding, but with my blog as well! I don't know what any of us would have done without these 3!)
Around 10 months, I was SO sure that my milk was going to dry up. I was under a ALOT of stress and not nursing as much now that the girls were no taking milk when they woke from naps (which is when we nursed. HERE is a layout of our routine from birth to current) This was one of the hardest mommy moments I've had so far. Do I just give up? Is it worth it to keep going? I fence sat for a few days (still nursing at night), and realized that breastfeeding isn't really about ME and what I want. It's about my two sweet little girls. About their health and growing up. Knowing all the benefits of extended breastfeeding panged me with selfish guilt. Reflecting on all the memories we made and battles we fought to make it this far reminded me the reasons that I set out on this journey to begin with. Even if I still was supplementing, I teared up at the thought of never being able to nourish my babies brains and bodies again. Even more tears came when I thought about never being able to have them gaze up at me with those big, sweet eyes. As if thanking me and telling me how much they appreciate what I am doing for them. And letting me know everything I have endured is (and will be) paying off ten times over. The bond btwn mother and baby(ies) during this time is SO indescribable.... And just like THAT I realized I was NOT ready to give this up! AND here we are! 12 months and going!
I do want to leave some advice with you all today, and I feel like supply issues is always a hot topic (ESPEC with M.O.M.s) so..... my 2 cents: I spent MONTHS upon MONTHS of stressing about trying to make enough milk to feed my girls ONLY breastmilk, and it never happened.... What I CAN tell you is that through the less I "tried" (worried, stressed, cried.. pick a verb) to get my supply up to EBF, the more I drove myself crazy. What FINALLY really got my milkies flowing was at 6 mo when the girls started solids and I could "let go" a little. (Yes, I know "food before one is just for fun," but for some reason I just felt SO much more at ease and less pressure about my production.) THIS was when I noticed a boost in my supply ironically enough. Also, I started to be more active with my babywearing <bw> (house time wrap snuggles for nap boycotters, long walks on the beach in PR, later on we did 2.25 mile walks daily). One of the benefits of bw is that is boosts the production of oxytocin (the love hormone) which is one of the key drivers in milk production, so that played a HUGE role! Also, have fun with what you are doing! I had to pump about 8 times a day for quite some time and man can it be a chore! (MAJOR hats off and props to those EP'ers out there!!!... <Exclusive Pumpers> How you guys find time to make it ALL happen and pump... I tried that route for about 1.5 months and WHEW! Between the calories you burn when pumping (22 cal/oz; No wonder I was ALWAYS hungry and tired!), the time it takes to get your things (water, snacks, phone etc) washing all the extra parts, EP is like a third job!) I would watch my favorite shows, or blog, or read... find something that made the 20-30 min I was pumping as enjoyable as possible.. .since pumping I hated pumping, might as well do it while I do something I love!
Also, we did LOTS of skin to skin (especially in the first few months) and that played such a huge role in giving me those warm mommy fuzzies.... and in turn, ups ur milk production! ;)
Here are some of my own personal posts that have more details about specific parts of this incredibly amazing journey!
Operation No Formula (3.5 mo)
Pumping Tips (7 mo)
A general page on Our Experience/Story Tandem Nursing and Pumping (which I am working hard to update!!!)
My last words of advice are to Educate yourself and others! There are SO many resources out there. Here are a few that I have found helpful over time! (and while word of mouth and friends are GREAT to keep in mind, remember the best kind of advice to take to heart ESPEC when it comes to breastfeeding is "EXPERT" advice!)
Be sure to follow the blog so you can receive new posts and updates straight to your email! Our FB PAGE has more updates, videos, pictures, and fun twin happenings. We have a pinterest with our recipes, weekly menus, and more as well.
Stay tuned for the follow up post about my journey with nursing in public! HAPPY WORLD BREAST FEEDING WEEK!!!!! #breastisbest
*PHOTO BOMB TIME*
(I have NEVER publicly posted breastfeeding pictures so THIS. IS. HUGE. FOR ME!!!!!! I hope you all enjoy!)
The Big Latch On (ATL) 2014 Our FIRST time tandem nursing in public and the one year (and week) mark of breastfeeding!!!! The view after they finished... wouldn't trade it for the world Nursing Nursing gymnastics :)Some solo action with M (and one of my favorite pix!) Feed a baby, Change a baby... at the same d@mn time My first time Nursing in public!! (PR vaca/ this is N)And first time nursing M in public (shortly after) Sweet sissys have ALWAYS held hands! (10 days)Pumping in "public" (GA Dome bathroom @ a Falcons game)And on the way home...Halloween party 2013 (my new best friend the pump is in tow!) one of the many milkie pix... THAT was a lot of work! (moooooooo)Whoever says nursing isn't beautiful is CRAZY! And of course a few funnies and informative pix too!