Having Twins Isn’t a One Way Ticket to Formula
People are sometimes surprised to realize that it’s even possible for a woman to produce enough milk to breastfeed twins. They just assume that every MoM has to supplement their newborns’ diets with formula.
Twins and more can be exclusively breastfed. I’m living proof.
My babies are 24 days old and were born at 31 weeks, 6 days. I’m currently up to pumping 16 oz each time I pump and sometimes even get 24 oz in one pump session from both breasts. As early as 4 hrs after delivery I hand expressed drops into the little bottles given to me at the hospital and continued to hand express before each pump session. Hand expressing is more stimulating than a pump so I feel these two combinations alone have gotten me to this abundant supply!
I didn’t know we had so much frozen until I pulled it out of the freezer.
NICU staff is in shock at my supply. One nurse said, “It’s like a dairy farm over here.” I will probably donate anything I produce that can’t fit in my freezer. Clearly, I’m in the minority in my ability to produce. It’s a combination of good fortune, hard work, and informed technique. I’m here to share my techniques with you. Maybe you won’t end up filling a cart with your excess supply, but maybe my tips can help you get a few more ounces.
It hasn’t been all easy for me, and it may not be for you. I was getting clogged up on the left side and had to massage the engorged breast in order to prevent mastitis. It hurt but we got through it!
To all the mommas wanting to breastfeed or pump to be able to provide for their babies, I just want to say: Pump. Hand express. Empty, empty, empty those breasts!
A coworker’s sister in Denver was encouraged by hospital staff to “brush” her breasts to stimulate milk production. Yes. Grab a comb or brush and brush your breasts as if you’re brushing your hair. I remembered this advice, also a Salvadoran folk remedy, and had my significant other brush lightly as I hand expressed. We did that during the first 4 pump/hand express sessions.
Maximize Skin-to-Skin Contact
Kangaroo care is the gold standard for preemies. Skin-to-skin contact isn’t just good for babies, though. The biological response to your baby’s skin against your own can trigger can be increased milk production. Whether your baby is sick or healthy, premature or full-term, spend some time holding him or her directly against your body, inside your clothes if necessary. After I hold my babies for a couple of hours, I start leaking!
The nurse who originally brought me my hospital grade pump told me that studies have shown that a combination of hand expression and pumping helps you produce more milk. Just massage your breast to squeeze the milk out of your nipple. Don’t be embarrassed to ask the lactation consultant at your hospital to show you how to do it! I hand express before and after every pumping session.
Get the Right Pump
The Medela Symphony, a hospital grade pump provided by the hospital, has contributed to my incredible supply. I used the insurance provided pump with my other two children and I never expressed this much milk. Between both breasts I think the most I would get after a feeding was about 4 oz from each side and when they were first born.
The hospital told me I could use this pump until babies came home. I am seriously looking to buying one now even if it’s been used. It’s worth the investment.
Don’t Pump for Too Long
I initially let the pump go on its own until it stopped. I started having issues with my swollen left nipple a day or two later. The lactation consultant told me I was pumping for too long. The pump ran for 30 minutes, not the recommended 10-15 minutes.
I was told my milk would level off after about week two. I was exhausted and unable to wake very often during the night to pump. I slept for about 5 hours straight, then pumped and started getting the 8 oz from each breast.
Keep At It
The first week, I pumped every 2-3 hours around the clock. The second week, I reduced that to about every 3 to 4 hours. The third week is just about same as week two. I’m currently waiting about 4 hrs in between. I’m not getting as engorged as I was in the begining but I really think I was having trouble emptying my breasts enough to catch a break
Empty Your Breasts
If you are still somewhat solid in the breasts after you’ve pumped and think you’ve “emptied”, you could very well have a good amount in there. Since it’s not coming out like it should, your breasts won’t think they have to make more. Once empty, breasts should keep working at production.
I got less out of my left breast when I was pumping for the whole 30 minutes. It still felt hard. I knew that was off and that there might be milk there but just not able to get it out. I had to massage the painful breast. It was excruciating!
I’m not going to lie. There have been moments I wanted to just stop it all. To top it off, my left nipple (which still hurts) swelled up to the size of a smoked sausage while I pumped. It refused to go back down to its normal size! The lactation consultant told me it might be the size of the pumping shield/flange, but I’ve tried different sizes and have better luck with the smaller one. It just seems to expand with the little tunnel and burns towards the end of pumping.
Eat and Drink on Behalf of Your Babies
I drink water like no other. I drink 1-2 gallons of water a day. That’s no exaggeration! I haven’t had to push myself because I find myself more thirsty this time around compared to with my older singletons.
I never skip out on meals and I snack in between. I pack almonds and cheese and ham sandwiches, or peanut butter and PB&J for my daily NICU visits. Did you know that you actually need more calories while breastfeeding than you do during pregnancy? Your babies have to work a lot harder outside your womb than inside.
I had noticed that skipping meals with my firstborn drastically reduced my supply. Stay hydrated and do not run on an empty stomach. I still take my prenatal vitamins and the NICU doctor overseeing the babies told me to take 3 fish oil pills a day and one vitamin D tablet too.
Be Kind to Yourself
I was able to give birth naturally, without an epidural. Your personal medical situation and many other things you cannot control will impact your ability to produce milk. Childbirth is a traumatic experience for your body. A C-section is major surgery. If you can make breastfeeding work, that’s great. If you can’t, that doesn’t make you any less of a mother.