**I didn't realize this was going to be quite so long until after I finished it. Sorry in advance and thanks for reading if you chose to!
I will start this by saying my body produces milk and it has produced well. I do not judge any woman on what her body can or can't do or the decisions that she makes. I know every mother makes decisions based on what is best for her children, and that's what matters. I absolutely hate the drama that can come with stigmas about breastfeeding or not breastfeeding. No one is better than anyone else. Our children will get the nutrition they need, one way or another, and we need to thank God for that. I'm thankful I'm in a country that can provide babies and children with what they need. I donate to countries that can't. I have given Knox formula since he was a few months old because he needed extra calories. So, technically, I breastfeed AND formula feed!
I'm doing this post at the request of many. I simply cannot find time to reply to all of the emails and comments. If you do have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I will try to answer them in a post all at once :)
I know in some statements it's going to seem matter-of-fact or like I'm telling you what to do. I am by NO MEANS an expert. This is just what worked best for me, and I'm giving you my advice because people have asked for it. I also know this post will be all over the place, so I apologize for that. I'm just going to type what comes to me as it comes!
When I was pregnant the first time, my milk start coming before Cohen was born. Once he was born, my milk was in right away. Actually, I had about 24 hours of colostrum before the milk. I wasn't able to nurse him due to his medical conditions, but I did pump. I produced lots of milk during the period we were in the hospital. Once Cohen went to Heaven, I tried to donate the milk, but because I'd had a c-section and took pain medication for a few days, the milk bank in DFW wouldn't accept the milk.
When I was pregnant with the twins, I had a feeling I would produce a good amount of milk again, but I was a bit worried about double the amount. I would need double, right?
Yep, double the babies, double the milk.
My milk didn't come in quite as quickly with the twins. I had colostrum for a few days, while in the hospital, and my milk really didn't come in until I was home.
Waiting on the milk is where things can get tricky! In fact, it can make or break. It almost did me and I know it does for many other moms.
While in the hospital, I did find it rather stressful. The lactation lady was helpful, but she was stressful. She was pushy. She was forceful. At the time, I didn't like it. Looking back, I'm thankful for her. I'm thankful that she was willing to give me a push when I just wanted my babies to feel full and not be sad and crying. I'm thankful she had all kinds of methods to help without immediately going to formula. I knew my body had milk coming and was preparing to breastfeed so I certainly didn't want to ignore that. However, at times, a quick fix seemed appealing.
I knew Knox & Sloane were ready to eat, and all I could do was try to nurse them. I knew that nursing was a lot of work for them, and I knew if they were hungry they were going to fuss. The Lactation Consultant wanted me to try several things, and the most logical was letting them nurse and then I would pump. Then, when they got tired of nursing, we could give them what I had pumped previously...usually in a syringe. I think this helps fend off bottle/nippIe confusion. You can tell the nursery and Lactation Consultant what you want to do or try and you don't have to agree to what they suggest. Trust yourself.
I got advice from twin-mom friends and Moms on Call about nursing twins. They all told me that when one eats, the other eats. However, those first few weeks, I did one at a time. They were so little and I wanted to make sure they both got the hang of things before doing them at the same time.
For the first few days, once my milk came in, I did have soreness/rawness issues. I got a cream from a local compounding store and literally by the time we picked it up, things were fine. So it DOES hurt and you MIGHT bleed, but it will pass.
For me, pumping after I nursed helped my milk come in and produce more. Oh, and before I keep going, my friend, Julie, gave me SO much advice. She was great. She is now nursing baby number four. I did learn by doing, but it also helped to know, in advance, many of the tips she gave me! I would email her at 3 in the morning with random questions.
So, I pumped after I nursed. This can be tricky because those first few weeks you are feeding so often and on demand that it's easy to empty by pumping, and then you don't have enough milk when they want to eat next. So probably just pump for a few minutes after each feeding. This signals the body to make more for the next feeding.
The pituitary gland is basically what controls your milk. It controls your hormones. I could think about my milk dropping and it would. I could say "milk drop" and it would. My body jumped in full-force, as it knew what was on my plate. Not everyone's does that, and it's simply out of your control. That's what I want to tell so many people. Don't beat yourself up, because everyone is different. Your baby will love you and be healthy with or without breastmilk. (Breastmilk is two words, but for search engine purposes, I'm making it one.)
Food, water, stress and sleep can directly affect how much milk you make. I think this played a role in my milk production those first few weeks. Having a newborn is a LOT to have on your plate. I just had to take lots of deep breaths and have a two-week rescue session with Laura from Moms on Call. So thankful for her visit. Oh, and you can't really diet. Your body needs the fat. I have friends who have done specific diets while breastfeeding and they have worked well. I have others who tried to cut out fat and such, and it lowers their supply. I can definitely tell that if I don't eat a lot I don't have as much milk.
So really, the first few weeks, do the best you can. I know there are times when you may want to give up. There were several times when I thought I wanted to. I'm glad I didn't. Once you get the swing of things, you may enjoy it like I have.
I think the best thing for me and nursing the twins was having a schedule. After a few days, with someone helping get us all adjusted, I started feeding them in tandem by myself. I got this pillow, which I previously blogged about. I did it in the chair if someone was home, and if I was alone, I sat on the floor. Looking back, I could have sat in the chair much easier when the twins were younger. Before they were rolling or moving, when one was done I could have set him or her in the Boppy Lounger on the ottoman. My back and bottom did really start aching from sitting on the floor.
Back to schedule. We started Knox & Sloane on a schedule at about two weeks old. Of course it wasn't perfected for a few weeks, but every day it became more routine. My body learned when they were eating, and my milk was ready. If I felt like they were needing or wanting more milk, I would pump for a few minutes after I nursed. Also, if they cried at the end of nursing or after, I told myself THEY ARE HUNGRY and NEED more milk. This actually helps your body (well, mine) to make more milk. Again, that pituitary gland thing was very mental for me. So those tears? Don't freak out; every baby does it, every momma does it! In a day or two, you body will probably pick up on the signals that baby is giving.
You typically make the most milk overnight. Your body is in rest mode, or as much as it can be when you have a baby. If you want to get a good pump in, immediately following the first morning feeding is what worked best for me.
At the recommendation of Moms on Call, we started with bedtime bottles early. Your milk production is low at the end of the day, and for a baby to sleep a long period of time, they like a full belly. The milk I would pump during the day went into the bottle they took at bedtime. Then I would pump again after they went to bed and after the first morning feed. Nine months later, I'm still doing the same thing; I pump after they go to bed and after first morning feeding. It's what has worked, so I've just stuck with it. It's allowed me to make their bedtime bottles and store up a little milk in the freezer.
I totally know scheduling feedings isn't for everyone, but for me, with two babies and being alone the majority of the time, it was apparent very early that it was something we needed to do to not go crazy. As for on-demand feeding, I probably wouldn't mind it, but with two, I bet I would be feeding around the clock.
So, every day at the same time, Knox & Sloane ate. Of course, give or take thirty minutes was fine for us. The schedule isn't right on every day. That would be stressful. Just do what works. I just really liked knowing what to expect at what time, etc. Of course, as they got older we made adjustments.
One thing Julie told me: If your breasts don't empty at one feeding, it might help to pump the rest out. This helps your body make a fresh batch for the next feeding, per se. So, when you are done nursing, if you still feel engorged, pump.
There are two different types of milk: the foremilk and the hindmilk. The more fatty milk (the hindmilk) comes at the end of a feeding. You can read more about it here.
While nursing both, I alternated them on each side during each feeding.
I mentioned Knox getting formula. His pediatrician had us put some in his bedtime bottle. From the beginning he was a lazy nurser. He wasn't aggressive and he was very slow, so I think he probably didn't get all the fatty milk that he probably needed. He was also always our little sleeper early on, so it was often hard to keep him awake to eat. Touching him with a cold washcloth, tickling his feet, and taking his clothes off were things we typically tried to do to keep him awake during feedings.
If you are on a schedule and miss a feeding (whether because baby doesn't want it or because you are away from baby, etc.), try to pump within an hour of the normal time, but still at least an hour before the next feeding. If your body misses a feeding for a few days, it will think that's the new schedule and cut that milk. For instance, those first few weeks, I used to nurse several times a night. Then I went down to one time a night, and now, no times a night. Currently, I nurse between 2 pm and 3 pm, I pump when they go down for bed (at about 7:30 pm), and then I don't nurse again until 7 am. While cutting those night feedings, I may have had a little engorgement for a few nights, but then my body adjusted once it learned I wasn't nursing them at that time anymore.
I nursed both babies until nine months, and I just recently stopped nursing Knox. They were getting too big, were restless during tandem feeds, and I started my cycle. So a combination of things helped make this decision. I also have some skin issues and we wanted to make sure they weren't causing any of Knox's.
We have to chairs in the nursery, so I was nursing them together, then sitting the one who finished first in the chair right across from me. Sloane always finished first. Now, I sit in the floor, nurse Sloane and help Knox with his bottle...if he needs it. He has gotten good at doing it alone. The first morning feeding, Brent gives Knox his bottle while I nurse Sloane and at bedtime, I give Knox his bottle and Brent does Sloane's.
I will also say, I feel my body being at war as far as my cycle and milk production. It just recently started, but I'll see what happens. If my cycle truly makes my milk supply decrease, Sloane will start getting formula. She does get some now in rice, etc.
As for how long you breastfeed, of course that is totally up to you, your body and your baby! Moms do what they feel is best for their children.
I feel like there is more, but I can't think of it at the moment.
Maybe questions will help. Ask away! Again, it has been SUCH an on-going learning process for me so I can only answer with what worked or didn't work for me.
**My friend, Erin, was featured in THIS article on msnbc today that talks about why many moms quit breastfeeding earlier than expected. I think it's a great article!
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