Even before I got married, I was always fascinated by the act of breastfeeding. It seemed to me the most beautiful bonding process imaginable! Watching a new mother breastfeeding her baby, and most times with the baby gazing back adorably at the mother….my goodness, it just always melted my heart! And when I started my own TTC journey, along with looking forward to the opportunity of holding my baby in my arms, I would also look forward to the wonderful bonding act of breastfeeding…and I could hardly wait!
Then I got pregnant, and I started counting down to meeting these two babies God had graciously blessed me with! Midway through my pregnancy, I had argued with a friend, who told me there was no way I would manage exclusively breastfeeding twins! “You want to die??!” she screamed, when she heard my plan “Breastfeeding only one child almost drained me…talkless of two!!!!” But I ignored her. For me, she was just talking nonsense. After all, one of my online friends who had just had twins was able to exclusively breastfeed, so I was sure it wouldn’t be a big deal!!!! If only I knew!
My first shocker happened on the day the girls were born. They were born at 37 weeks, and, even though it was full term for twins, they were both a little small. When the girls were brought back to me, I was informed that they had been fed. Whaaaaaat??!! They had been fed what????!!! There went my exclusive breast feeding plan out the window. The doctors told me that, in order to build up the girls’ blood sugar, I would have to continue feeding them a specific high calorie baby formula, at least for the first couple of weeks. Okay fine, but I was determined to still breastfeed, regardless! Luckily, I didn’t have the latching problem with either of the girls, as they grabbed my nipple and sucked like experts, right from the very first moment. And it was just as wonderful as I thought it would be. Yes, it was a teeny weeny bit more painful than I’d imagined, but it was so beautiful, and my love for them grew in leaps and bounds with every breastfeed.
Those first few weeks, I had enough milk supply to feed a family. I would pump ounces and ounces a sitting. And when I wasn’t pumping, or breastfeeding, my breast pads would get soaked in no time. I always had to rush my baths because before one could say Jack Robinson, milk would be gushing from my breasts like a water from a tap. If I was away from the girls for even an hour, my breasts would become turgid and painful! Maybe it was all the ogi my Mom made me drink, or maybe it was the fact that, since I was always pumping or feeding, there was always demand…so supply had no choice but to keep up. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t complaining. A few friends of mine would complain about not being able to pump 1 oz of milk…and I would look at the several 8 oz bottles I had pumped that day alone, and my heart went out to them. I couldn’t imagine what that would possibly be like! But I was in for a shock!!!
When the girls were about 8 weeks old, we returned to Nigeria. It was a long trip, made even worse by the fact that we had a connecting flight, so for almost 2 days, I wasn’t able to breastfeed or pump. As soon as we got home, I noticed an immediate drop in my milk supply. And then, because I had started my maternity leave quite early, I had to resume work two weeks later, when the girls were just 10 weeks old. Yes, I enjoyed the nursing mother working hours (resuming late, and closing early), but it still meant being away from my babies for at least 6 hours a day. So, I was breastfeeding less. I tried my best to keep up the demand by pumping, even at work, but alas, before my eyes I saw the truth in the demand and supply theory of breast milk. I watched my milk supply disappear like a freight train into the night. Me, a whole me, that could previously pump 16 oz at a time, now joined the 1 oz a breast club. Meaning, if I was able to get 2 oz at a sitting, I was incredibly lucky. Somedays, I wouldn’t even be able to pump a drop. I could not believe it!!!!!!!!!
And as the milk supply was no longer forthcoming, my girls soon started losing interest. My younger twin would turn away her face in disdain, when offered the breast, as she knew that her hunger would never be satiated by those annoying drops of milk. My older twin still persevered. She didn’t mind too much the trickling milk supply, and seemed to like the bonding aspect of the process. And so we would sit there, her sucking away at almost nothing, but both of us staring at each other with love.
And then my breast pump just packed up and died one day! Without any warning or provocation, my expensive breast pump just refused to work. Nothing I tried could resuscitate it! And with me not being able to pump at work, my next-to-nothing milk supply became zilch! I knew it was finally time to throw in the towel! The girls were only 5 months old.
I wish I could have breastfed for much longer, and I blame that 2 day period that I wasn’t able to breastfeed for the sharp decline in my production. So, for Mothers keen on breastfeeding for longer, or generally boosting their milk supply, here are a few tips for you!
1. Breastfeed often
The theory of demand and supply is real! To get more, you have to give more. The more you breastfeed, the more your body is signalled to produce more! It’s that simple.
Even after breastfeeding, keep up the breast action by pumping milk. Not only does it give you an additional supply, pumping after nursing will help boost your production and give you enough milk to have handy, if you want to take a nap or go out for a quick breather.
3. Switch Sides
Always ensure you breastfeed from both breasts. Try your best not to let one breast be the default. If this happens, that default one will be the major supplier, and the other will soon see a drop in its own milk production. Switching sides will stimulate both breasts to make more milk ,and helps to ensure your baby is fully emptying each breast.
4. Wear the right bra
Wearing a bra that compresses your breasts, or that is too tight around the band, can cause problems with milk flow. The wrong bra can sometimes lead to plugged ducts, which are uncomfortable and also mean that no milk is coming from that part of your breast.
5. Eat the right foods
Ogi is the real deal oh! I rolled my eyes when I saw all the wraps of ogi my mother travelled with, when she came to join me in the States. But when I saw what it was doing for my milk production, I laughed no more!!! I will recommend it over and over and over again!!! Also wonderful are oats!!! They are apparently a milk-making miracle food. Nobody really knows exactly what about oats causes a spike in milk production, but it’s a fact for many women that a bowl of oats in the morning means full breasts at night. If you don’t like oatmeal you can still get the same benefit from granola, oatmeal cookies, or a nice oatmeal-banana muffin.
6. Avoid Hormonal Birth Control
If you donât need to go on the pill, then don’t. Condoms and hormone-free IUDs are other good options for nursing moms. The hormones in most birth control pills will have a negative effect on your supply. If you absolutely must be on oral birth control, talk to your OB about the “mini-pill” or other nursing-friendly pills.
So, I hope this helps any nursing moms out there! If I get the opportunity to do this again, I hope I do it better!