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As a mom of seven, you’d think I’m a pro. You’d think that I have all my ducks in a row and all the “mom” info tucked into my belt. Hard truth: I don’t. It doesn’t matter how many kids you have; they are all different. And so it is with breastfeeding stories–all are different.
With my first, being a brand new mama and really no one to support me, I gave up on breastfeeding pretty quickly. Interestingly enough, I tried again with our second, and he nursed like a champ! I thought I had mastered this breastfeeding thing, that is until my next nursling struggled with weight gain, but we fought our way through with the help of a lactation consultant.
At this point, I thought I was a pro at this breastfeeding thing. I had experienced ups and downs but had also had great successes.
Not one, but Two, oh my!
And then…. I found out I was expecting twins. Once the shock wore off a bit, I decided I could do this–I could breastfeed twins. After all, I have two boobs–two boobs, two babies–no worries, right? To prepare, I did a bunch of reading. Breastfeeding Twins, Triplets and More!: How to have the Experience You Wantwas very helpful and encouraging. I searched out mamas who had been there, done that, and I listened to their stories. It was the encouragement I needed to do this thing!
Our road started a little rocky, as the twins were born via c-section, and it was a good hour before I was able to hold and nurse them. The youngest one had some oxygen issues for the first little bit, so the nurses monitored them carefully.
I did as I knew to do. I nursed them. Often. I knew what the weight gain struggle was like, and I did not want to fight that battle with two.The My Best Friend Twin Deluxe Nursing Pillow Evening, Dark Grey (available in a variety of colors) was a lifesaver both in the hospital and once we got home. It allowed me to tandem feed and doze off without fear of dropping my babies.
I wanted to give my babies the best opportunity for growth that I could, so I was practically a 24-hour buffet.
One night during our hospital stay, Baby Boy couldn’t be consoled, and since my milk hadn’t come in, the nurse convinced me it would be okay to give him sugar water. I was wrong. Of course that didn’t help. What it did was make nursing him all that much more difficult.
We pushed and fought and stayed in the battle until it was clear that we were not winning, and I had to think of my babies.
Thankfully, I had an amazing lactation consultant who never gave up on me and who cheered me on all the way. First, let me say that I made no decisions without her. She was my right hand, and she checked on us every day.
I tried every single thing she suggested.
We spent the weekend in bed, skin to skin.
I hand expressed and pumped between feedings, which was exhausting because they ate so often.
I drank more water, ate more fat, avoided certain foods.
We even tried a supplemental nursing system (SNS).
We fed babies with a spoon/dropper wondering if it was a transfer problem.
Everything she slung at us, we tried.
Our Best Efforts Failed
When it was clear that none of our efforts were working and that neither baby was gaining at an adequate rate, my LC strongly encouraged us to supplement with formula. While neither of us “wanted” to go that route, it was what was best for our situation, and I am thankful that she helped me make that decision.
She urged me to nurse one baby and give one formula and switch at each feeding. So, in essence, my body thought I was nursing one baby, but both babies were still getting breastmilk half of the time. It was then that they really began to grow and put on weight and sleep more. In turn, so did my husband and I. It was a much-needed respite.
The Rest of the Story
But that’s not the end of our story, not by a long shot. When my LC urged me to supplement with formula, she alluded to something that she said we’d talk about after I’d had some time to rest and relax. It was three months before we had that next big conversation.
Her thought was that after a time of rest and getting myself in better health, I could ditch the bottle once and for all and nurse my babies tandem again. But there’s a trick to it. It wasn’t that we could just stop with the formula bottle cold turkey. My body was only used to nursing one baby, remember? I had to increase my supply somehow and also be sure my babies had enough fat to sustain them.
Our plan looked something like this:
Pumping and hand-expressing.
Eat lots of oatmeal and lactation cookies–I think I ate too many cookies!
Drink plenty of water, drinking a glass every time I sat down to nurse and then some.
Take fenugreek, which is believed to help boost supply.
Have domperidone as a backup in case our other efforts failed. Domperidone is a drug that’s thought to increase milk supply. We planned to have it on hand in case my milk supply didn’t increase fast enough. When it didn’t, I began to take the domperidone and did so for several months.This wasn’t the LC’s suggestion, but I knew from research that it had been proven to help in increasing milk supply.
The final piece of all of this was that in taking away the formula, I had to add fat to my babies’ diet (they were five months old). We chose pureed avocados with coconut oil added so that they had some really good fats to help them maintain during our transition.
Did it work?
It did! The well check after the switch back to all breastmilk (and avocados) did show a slight stall in weight gain, but after that, they both took off! It was amazing to watch them grow, and to be a part of that journey!
I’d like to tell you that it was all roses after that. It wasn’t. The mom guilt is real. I second guessed myself over and over again. The questions battered me. Why didn’t I do something sooner? Why did I think I had to breastfeed them? What was I thinking? I knew people were judging me. For that reason, I didn’t share pictures of them in those early months.
To this day, I wonder why I felt like I had to prove something. I really did want what was best for my babies, but in my quest, I somehow lost sight of the most important thing.
Can I be honest and say that somehow I felt like I did have something to prove? People told me it couldn’t be done, and I’m really not the person you want to say that to because I’ll prove you wrong! I’m ashamed to say that part of it was pride. I didn’t want to fail. I wanted to be accepted and praised in the breastfeeding community.
Trust Yourself & Your LC
While our story had a happy ending, when I weaned them at 20 months I was sad to see our journey end,
I encourage you to trust your gut. Don’t let pride and the need to prove something cloud your judgment. And don’t be afraid of formula. I’m a firm believer that breastmilk is the best milk, but I believe even more so that healthy babies are happy babies. Whatever it is that you need to keep your baby healthy, do that thing. Maybe it is breastfeeding, maybe it’s not, or maybe it’s a combination like us. Trust yourself!
And get a good lactation consultant. She is worth her weight in gold. On those long, dark nights, my LC would text me just to say things like, “You are amazing! You are a rockstar, Mama! Keep it up. You CAN do this!”
I am forever thankful for an LC who encouraged me every step of the way, knew when to say said enough is enough and assured me that formula isn’t the enemy. She was able to snap me out of my tunnel vision and helped me see that using some formula wasn’t failing. You know what? She was right. Formula isn’t failing. And mamas, you CAN do this! You ARE amazing!
To learn more about me, check out my blog https://www.brinalynn.com/about/
Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC
Andrea has been working with new families as an RN for over 35 years and a Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.
She has her MA in Health and Wellness with a focus in Lactation.