This is the first post in a series I’ll run on breastfeeding twins. So male readers may want to sit this one out.
My boy/girl twins are 8 months old and still going strong on the boob. As someone who has now breastfed four children, I have some hard-earned tips to share.
Disclaimer: This post is not a brag about how I breastfeed twins.
My twins have received varying amounts of formula as supplementation, almost from the beginning. At times I was totally driven to make 100% of their milk. I’d think, “If only I could make 10 ounces more…” Which then became “just 20 ounces more…” But in the end I determined that a bottle or two of formula per day was the sane thing to do.
Now, in the spirit of helping each other out:
Here are my top tips for making f-loads of breastmilk.
1) Drink ungodly amounts of liquids.
My favorites are water with lemon, electrolyte water, Gatorade (horrible ingredients but a splurge in the name of hydration), fresh orange juice with sparkling water, and more water. A super treat is going to Elevation Burger where they have Powerade on tap. A nursing mom’s dream.
Keep water bottles stocked all over the house, and threaten anyone who drinks from them. I know we’re all trying to be environmentally conscious, but having six fresh bottles of water stocked beside my bed and beside my nursing chair is the best thing ever.
2) Eat constantly.
The caloric needs of a breastfeeding woman are higher than a pregnant woman.
The recommendation is 500 extra calories per baby, per day. I notice a dramatic shift in my supply if I didn’t eat enough the previous day. Some nursing moms swear by oatmeal, and the web is full of recipes for “oatmeal lactation cookies.” I never went down that road, because I focused more on protein.
3) Focus on protein
In the early days, if I didn’t eaten enough protein, I’d actually get dizzy and nauseous while nursing. (This never once happened when I nursed my singletons.) It was especially bad when tandem feeding.
The drain on your reserves is no joke when you are nursing twins. If you are serious about making enough milk, you should pretty much be grazing all day long.
Favorite quick hits of protein: hard boiled eggs, greek yogurt, cheese sticks, nuts, trail mix, cottage cheese, protein shakes.
Tip: Keep a basket of snacks next to the area where you nurse most frequently. You’ll be so in love with yourself when you realize, at 3am, that you left yourself a little care package.
4) Nurse. A lot.
Even if it seems like you are completely tapped out, keep nursing. This signals the body to make more milk.
This is why I was so terrified to use formula in the early months. So when I did use formula, I’d usually spend that missed nursing session cozied up to the pump. Romantic!
If your goal is to make 100% milk for your babies, pump every single time you miss a nursing session.
How long to go between nursing sessions depends a lot on your body and how old your babies are. In the early days, you need to nurse every couple of hours.
Then it stretches out to 3-4 hours.
If you are really struggling to increase your milk supply, do not go longer than 3 hours between feedings or pumps.
5) Check baby’s latch
A good latch is super important. Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt after the first couple of minutes. If your nipple hurts while baby is nursing, something’s not right. Take him/her off and start again. If you don’t have access to a lactation consultant, there are tons of great resources on YouTube.
6) Use your pump
Pumping after a feed is another way to tell the body to make more milk.
Even now (with 8-month-old twins), I pump 2 times a day: Once in the morning after the babies feed. And again at night a couple hours after the last feed, just before I go to bed (usually around 10pm).
(Even superheroes use their pumps.)
7) Take naps seriously.
Of course you are exhausted. And there’s no way you’re getting a good night sleep any time soon. So you need to change how you think about sleep. Sleep in spurts.
If you wake up at 6am after a brutal night, remind yourself that your babies will be back down by 10am. You only have to make it till 10am. And when 10am comes, DO NOT DO THE DISHES! Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. The more run down you are, the less milk you will make.
8) Try herbs.
I was popping Fenugreek like crazy in the first few months. Others have had luck with Mother’s Milk tea, or a combination of both.
For me, Fenugreek works quickly. I usually see an increase the day after I start taking it. I continue taking it until I feel like my supply is re-established. Then I do fine without it.
9) Think happy thoughts (and have a beer)
This must be what biofeedback is all about. When I sit down to feed, if nothing is coming out, I’ll take a deep breath or picture a waterfall. Presto magic.
Another great way to relax? Have a beer! Yes, while you nurse. It’s what my Irish lactation consultant taught me, and I trust her completely. (Notice I said “a” beer.”)
10) Remember that supplementing with formula is not a failure
This was such a tough one for me. In the early days, I actually HID those 2oz bottles of newborn formula in the drawer of my nightstand. If I ended up using one in the night, I’d bury it in the trash so no one would know that I had failed to make enough milk.
For some reason I thought if I supplemented, I was no longer getting that invisible gold star for breastfeeding twins.
This kind of stress is not going to help you make more milk. Conversely, letting yourself sit one nursing session out could be the ticket to increasing your supply. Especially if you spend that time meditating at the pump. (I know that’s brutal. But at least it’s nice and quiet in your room, right? Hopefully?)
That’s it. Now go get something to eat, mama!