Disclaimer: This post is about breast feeding. If you are not comfortable reading about this topic, feel free to close your browser right now – I will not be a bit offended! While this may not be relevant to a lot of you, I also know that there’s a handful of you who may appreciate learning about my experiences. When I was deciding how I would feed my babies, I was all ears to anything anyone who was willing to share, and simply want to pay it forward!
Okay, let’s begin…and you may want to grab yourself a cup of coffee…I have a lot to share!
I have three kids. My first pregnancy was a singleton, and I absolutely LOVED breast feeding him. He latched on perfectly moments after birth, it never hurt when I fed him, and there wasn’t even a minute when I second guessed my decision. It was the experience I had always hoped for. Each nursing session was full of precious bonding moments, when I would take my time and stare at how beautiful God had made him. He was such a content baby, and those nine months that I nursed him were absolute bliss (with the exception of when he got teeth and started biting! That’ll throw you for a loop!).
Seventeen short months after I had my son, my twin girls came into the world. Since my breast feeding experience with my son was wonderful, I honestly didn’t spend much time even thinking about what I’d do with them. I’d breast feed them, of course! I’m a stay-at-home mom. It should be no problem! I read a little bit about how to tandem feed, and thought that was the route I’d take. Minutes after Emersyn and Mckinley were born I advocated for them to nurse. I wanted them to learn to latch on from the get go. And they did. Even though they were so tiny (4.12 lbs and 4.6 lbs), they did a great job. For the next few weeks I kept tandem feeding, and while they latched on for the most part, it wasn’t as easy as it was with Baylen, and it started to just become too much for me. Instead of having this amazing bonding experience with them, I found myself stressed out by it. I was always looking back and forth, making sure they were both latched on, which took away the enjoyment for me. On top of that, since there were two of them, I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t have a big enough supply. They seemed full, but I would always wonder. In addition to that, I consider myself a pretty modest person, and there is just no way to discreetly nurse two babies at once at family gatherings, out in public, when friends are over, ect. And then of course there was my toddler who I had to constantly keep my eye on, and if he needed help it was quite the process to unlatch the babies, set them down, and then run over to help him, only to have to go back and repeat the whole process of making sure they were latched on again.
I then toyed with the idea of breast feeding them separately, one at a time. However, I decided that wouldn’t have been the best solution for my situation either. I would have been a constant feeding machine. With three kids under the age of two, I needed to be efficient. I wanted to have enough time to also give attention to my toddler, without a baby attached to my boob.
Logically, my mind then went to bottles. Since I had a good supply of breast milk, I decided I’d pump and bottle feed them. I reached out to a friend who had exclusively pumped for her twins, and her advice helped so much. She had a similar experience to me, where she just didn’t feel the whole bonding thing through breast feeding twins. What a blessing it was to not feel alone! She helped me to get rid of any mom guilt I felt about not wanting to breast feed. She had successfully pumped for her twins, and it was just the encouragement I needed to make the leap.
Since then I have been exclusively pumping and bottle feeding, and it has worked so well for our family. When I’m alone during the day I put the girls in their bouncy vibrator seats or prop them on breast feeding pillows and feed them at the same time. When I have help or when my husband is home, I feed one and he feeds the other, allowing me to get to spend one on one time with each of them. It also allows Jake to feel like he can be very involved. He gets up with me every night and we feed them together, which makes those wee hours in the morning seem much more manageable. Since they drink bottles faster than they breast feed, it cuts the time we’re up at night almost in half. When we’re finished, I pump and go back to sleep.
Bottle feeding also allows me to more easily take breaks when I need them, which I’ll admit I NEED more often these days! Jake and I have been able to go on dates without thinking twice. I can just take the pump with me and don’t have to rush back to feed. Pumping in the car is where it’s at!
So far, I’ve had more than enough milk and have been able to freeze quite a bit. Not all women are able to produce enough, so I feel like I have been given an amazing gift to be able to provide milk for both of them. I like that I know how much I’m pumping and know that they are getting full each time. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up with them as they get bigger, but I’m just taking it a day at a time, and am thankful for the time that I’ve been able to provide breast milk for them so far. When the time comes, I have no problem going to formula (except that it’s so stinkin’ expensive!).
To expound upon that, I really am in no way against formula. I used formula for my singleton for three months and I’ve had several friends who have had great success with it from birth. I’m sure at some point I’ll go to formula for Emersyn and Mckinley. But for now breast milk is free, my girls are doing well on it, and I feel at peace sticking with it while I can. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I want to throw my pump in the dumpster because I am SO sick of being suctioned to the dang thing, and have likely gotten interrupted at least five times per session by screaming babies or a clingy toddler, but all in all I count it a blessing to be able to exclusively pump for my sweethearts.
Now that I’ve been at it for three months, I’m at a point where I have a pretty smooth system down. Here’s a sneak peak into how I make it work.
How I Keep Up My Milk Supply
- I relax. If you’re gonna be a successful pumper, you HAVE to find a way to not hate it. Try to keep your mind off of it while pumping. Don’t stare into those bottles and constantly check how much you’re producing. Chill out. Find something to laugh at. When possible, I try to sit down in a comfortable position, and find something mindless to read or look at on my phone.
- I stay hydrated. I try to drink around 100 oz. of water each day, but that means I have to be intentional about it. I fill up a water bottle before I’m ready to pump and drink it while pumping. I get really thirsty when I start out, so it helps that I tend to crave water at that time too.
- I eat enough! I joke that I’m eating for three these days…because I am experiencing the hunger of my life! Breastfeeding is not a time to limit your calorie intake…so I eat pretty much whatever I want within reason. I eat a lot of oatmeal, which is supposed to increase your supply, and I also eat multigrain Cheerios. I also eat a lot healthy fats, such as the kind found in peanut butter, avocados, or hummus. I haven’t tried making lactation cookies yet, which contain all sorts of ingredients to help with supply, but I’m planning to give Courtney’s recipe a try within the next week! They look delicious!
- I take Fenugreek tablets. I didn’t notice a difference at first, but then was encouraged to increase the dosage, so I take three tablets three times a day and I noticed an increase after that.
- I try to get enough sleep. The more I sleep, the more I produce. Obviously its a little difficult to get excessive sleep right now, but I sneak it in where I can, and I notice an increase when I go to bed early or take a nap.
How I Make Time for Pumping
Perhaps my biggest struggle starting out was finding the time to pump with a toddler running around. It seemed like a marathon to feed, pump, and wash bottles, only to get finished and start the cycle over again. So, I try to pump at strategic points during the day between feedings, so it breaks up the time a little and I still have time to play with Baylen. Or I’ll pump while he’s occupied doing something else, like eating lunch or a snack, or while he’s napping.
I also pump hands free. In my opinion, an absolutely necessary item is a hands free pumping bra. I can multi-task no problem. I can pump and feed the girls at the same time. I can feed Baylen lunch and pump at the same time. I can even make dinner and pump at the same time (although that’s not my preference!). I have the Simple Wishes hands free bra, and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it. I basically live in that thing…I have even pumped in the car while driving because of its handiness! Ha! Someday I think I’ll look back and think I was a crazy person when I think of all my pumping adventures!
Washing bottles and pump parts takes time, but during the day I keep my pump parts in the fridge, and pull them out when I need to use them. It saves me a lot of time when I only need to thoroughly wash them once a day.
I don’t warm up my bottles. Breast milk is safe at room temperature for up to six hours, so I pump ahead for the next session, get the bottles ready on the counter, and then just grab them when I’m ready to feed.
What Kind of Pump I Use
I have a Medela Pump In Style Advanced, and if you are serious about pumping a lot, it is the only one I’d recommend. It has the two phase expression technology which mimics a newborn for the first two minutes, then slows down and pumps. It also has adjustable speeds. I can confidently say that without this pump I wouldn’t have as big of a milk supply. I actually had a very basic Medela that I got for free through my insurance company that didn’t have the two phase expression technology and I produced 2 oz. less per session. The Pump In Style Advanced is a bit of an investment, but if you are exclusively pumping it is definitely worth it.
How I Store Extra Breast Milk
I do not waste an ounce of milk! Anything extra I put in an 8 oz. bottle in the fridge. When the bottle is full I put it in a freezer bag and freeze it. Breast milk stays good in the freezer for up to 6 months and in the deep freeze for up to a year. If a day comes when I’m not able to keep up with my girls’ demand, I will supplement with frozen breast milk. Or, if Jake and I want to take a trip at some point I’ll have plenty to pull from!
How to Prevent Clogged Milk Ducts
Early on, I had lots of battles with clogged milk ducts. My lactation consultant said that some women have a thicker consistency of milk, so we are more likely to get clogged ducts. And since the pump doesn’t empty out the breasts as thoroughly as a baby, that’s another reason why its a bit more likely to happen when pumping. If you’ve had this happen before, you know it is painful and definitely not something you want to be a repetitive issue. I’d recommend doing the following if you want to prevent it from happening:
- Wearing a properly fitted bra. If your bra is too small, it will put too much pressure on your breasts and cause you to get backed up.
- Take Lecithin. My lactation consultant recommended this to me to thin out my milk, and I haven’t had any problems since taking it. I take a pill three times a day – its available OTC at any drugstore.
- Don’t sleep on your tummy. Again, putting pressure on your breasts could back them up. I have had this happy several times, even when sleeping on my side, so I need to be extra careful.
- Apply lanolin after each pumping session. It not only prevents you from getting sore, but also keeps the ends of the ducts open.
- I swear by homemade cloth nursing pads. It keeps everything feeling comfortable. My mom made some for me, but there are a lot for sale on Etsy.
That’s all I can think of for now. I’m sure after I post this I’ll think of something else, but if you’re in the midst of deciding whether or not to exclusively pump, for twins or for a singleton, I hope this gave you a glimpse into how it works for us. I truly think each mom needs to decide what is best for her and her kids. You are the only one who knows what your kids need…don’t let someone else guilt you into thinking it has to be done a certain way. You need to do what makes you a better mom, whether that’s breastfeeding, pumping, or formula feeding! There is no wrong decision. Follow your instincts, pray about it, be confident in the way you feel led, and the Lord will bless your choices.
If you have any questions about exclusively pumping, or have a tip to share that worked well for you, please feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email. I would love to talk with you!
If you’ve stuck with me this long, thanks for hanging in there…