Breastfeeding Support: What is an IBCLC and How do I Find One?

I get messaged frequently with breastfeeding questions.  With the amount of research I did in the first year and the amount of questions I asked of Moms with much more experience than I, I have acquired a lot of knowledge about breastfeeding.  However, an experienced Mom does not replace the necessity and value of help from professionals.

Most Moms call or schedule an appointment with their pediatrician if they are having breastfeeding problems.  Or, at an appointment, the pediatrician will say, “your baby isn’t gaining enough weight,” and naturally Mom says, “what do I do to fix that?”

Unfortunately, pediatricians are not trained, educated, or specialized in breastfeeding as a part of their schooling to become a pediatrician.  Of course, there are exceptions to the rule…pediatricians who have gone above the “call of duty” and taken classes or become an LC or CLC.  But none of that compares to the extensive training and knowledge that an IBCLC has.  That is why whenever a Mom is having trouble, feeling like she’s not enough, or about to quit, I strongly urge them to see an IBCLC instead.

What is an IBCLC?

An IBCLC is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.  They are by far the true experts in breastfeeding.  There are currently 28, 105 IBCLC’s around the world, 15,144 of those in the United States alone.  “Certification is recognition that an individual has met eligibility requirements and has passed a rigorous exam that assesses knowledge in breastfeeding management.” (Source)  I have a friend who is at this moment a couple days away from her exam.  She has been studying regularly and taking practice exams for it for many months even though she has been involved in breastfeeding education for years.

What does an IBCLC do differently from a Pediatrician?

An IBCLC is trained to be able to accurately determine the source of your problems and struggles with breastfeeding your child.  There are some really cool things they know how to do that are all evidence based care.  They know how to determine exactly how much baby is getting in a feed, how to assess for suck strength and coordination, how to listen to hear how much milk is being transferred on sucks, how to assess for lip and tongue ties accurately (it’s much more than a glance in their mouth), how to troubleshoot babies who have a hard time latching, how to truly determine a low supply issue, how to help Moms keep their babies on breastmilk even if Mom truly does have a supply issue, and so much more.

It took a ton of demanding and a hospital transfer to get an IBCLC in the NICU with my babies and I.  The experience with the LC at the first hospital compared to the IBCLC in the second hospital was an immediate and obvious sign of the difference in education for me.  The LC at the hospital came into my room with no babies in it, asked me what problems I was having, and without accompanying me to the NICU to troubleshoot those problems handed me one (not two) breast shields and said, “here, use this.  But I wouldn’t get your hopes up.  They’re in the NICU and you probably won’t make it breastfeeding.”  And left.

When we transferred to a new hospital, I demanded to immediately see an IBCLC.  The IBCLC was basically waiting in the girls isolation room when we arrived.  Within 10 minutes she had me successfully tandem nursing BOTH babies.  Granted, we did end up using those shields because of flat/semi inverted nipples combined with lip/tongue ties…but they were latched…for the first time in their lives….with just 10 minutes of help from an IBCLC.

The next IBCLC I saw was actually a part of the WIC program.  Not every WIC program office has an IBCLC on staff.  But I specifically drove to that office to see her because I needed the expert guidance.  She assessed both girls for ties, watched me latch and feed the girls with the shield, watched me attempt to latch without the shield, helped me with positioning, encouraged me that I was doing a great job, wrote a recommendation that the girls be assessed for ties by a pediatric ENT, did weighted feeds to get an idea of how much the girls were taking in each feed, and gave me hope that one day it wouldn’t be so hard.

We saw her one additional time for another weighted feed (I believe after the ties were cut but I’m not positive…everything is so foggy back then) and to meet my husband and have him ask questions on how to support me with breastfeeding.  She also reassessed latch and positioning.

The only thing my pediatrician did for breastfeeding was argue with me that the girls didn’t have lip or tongue ties (they did), roll her eyes when I said I wanted to feed them both exclusively at the breast, and reprimand me for not knowing exactly how many nursing sessions they had or how many diapers they had (plenty and plenty).  The doctors at the NICU were the same and actually fed formula even though I specifically told them they weren’t allowed to because they believed formula was superior to breastmilk.

How do I find an IBCLC?

KellyMom does a great job at giving a wide variety of resources in this article.  My favorite is this search directory.  All you have to do is put in the state you’re in and it will pull up all of the IBCLC’s in the state!  This is a great tool if there are no IBCLC’s that work in your local WIC office or hospital.

 

At the end of the day, an IBCLC is a vital part of a healthy and successful nursing relationship.  Even at nearly two years postpartum, if I were to have a proper latch issue because of new teeth, injury, or something like that, I would absolutely seek out the help of an IBCLC first and foremost.

Have you ever worked with an IBCLC?  What was your experience?  Share with me in the comments!

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Guess What? A Healthy Baby Isn’t All That Matters!

Have you ever shared something about your birth that was less than perfect?  Maybe it was something disrespectful that was said, bodily autonomy that was taken, silence that was forced upon you, or any other number of things that go wrong in mainstreams births.  Then, after you’ve shared that bit of painful truth, the person you’re trusting responds with a well meaning, but entirely dismissive and damaging, statement…

“Well, a healthy baby is all that matters.”

As a twim Mom with bad birth trauma, I hear this statement almost every single time I share pieces of my birth story.  The only exception I have found are typically women within the out of hospital birthing community.  These women work tirelessly to improve birth for all women.  Because of this, they understand the depth and seriousness that is birth trauma.

Surprisingly, I’ve ever heard Moms say this to me when referencing their own upcoming births.  Even the Moms who are determined to have a different outcome than their previous traumatic birth end their discussions with something along the lines of, “Well…a healthy baby is all that matters so I just want to do what’s best for my baby.”  It’s as if this has been ingrained into her from all of the silencing she experienced after her first first.

There is something that you need to know.  First time expecting Moms need to know this. Seasoned Moms of many need to know this. New Moms in the trenches of postpartum PTSD and the fourth trimester need to know this.  Partners of Moms who still wake in a cold sweat from night terrors of that day need to know this.  Doulas, midwives, Obstetricians, nurses, lactation consultants, and any other person who interacts with a new or expectant Mom NEEDS to know this…

A healthy baby is NOT all that matters.

I will repeat that again.  A healthy baby, is not all that matters.

Of course, a healthy baby matters a lot.  It can be argued it is the most important thing.  But, it is not ALL that matters.  Mom absolutely positively matters.  She is extremely important.  Mom has just carried this baby for somewhere around 40 weeks (give or take a few) and throughout the entire pregnancy everyone encouraged her to take care of herself, sympathized with her pain/discomfort, supported her in her struggles, nourished and loved on and cared for her.

Then, as soon as she has the baby, all of a sudden all that matters is a healthy baby.  Moms feelings, experience, physical and emotional health, none of that seems to be on anyone’s radar anymore.  And, if it is, it’s not very high on the radar and is very uncomfortable so it is quickly dismissed or diminished.  Subjects are changed.  People “have to go”.  They don’t visit again.

“River nearly died at birth…Serenity nearly died the next day.”

I love this article by Improving Birth.  In it, they discuss why a healthy baby isn’t enough.  And they’re right.

 

The birth of my twin girls, River (Baby A) and Serenity (Baby B), was extremely traumatic for both my husband and I.  River nearly died at birth and took 7 minutes to resuscitate.  The next day, Serenity nearly died in my arms when she had a preemie apnea and went blue, limp, and unresponsive.

I had people telling me, “well a healthy baby is all that matters” before I had even met my sick, intubated River in the NICU.  People were telling me “well, a healthy baby is all that matters” when they took Serenity away and told me I couldn’t go with her.  That is not how you support a person who just experienced trauma.

“She brought me so much more than a bottle of soap.”

The most kind thing that was done for me while I was in the hospital was the day after they were born.  Since Serenity was in room with me the first day of her life, the NICU flat out refused to let me visit River since I would have had to bring Serenity with me.  They then banned her from the nursery because we chose to delay the newborn bath until we got home.  This meant that I was left with no way to visit River.  I was appalled at the suggestion to use Johnson and Johnson products on my newborn baby when I was finally bullied into bathing Serenity.

So, a fellow twin Mom left her home and her kids and brought me a bottle of baby wash by a brand I could trust.  She gave me a hug.  She chatted with me.  She told me I was doing a great job.  She encouraged me to keep pumping.  She didn’t look at me with pity, disgust, or sarcasm like the nurses did.  I will never ever be able to adequately thank her.  She brought me so much more than a bottle of soap.

When I was feeling desperate to talk to people about what happened to us, I found my words were too much, too strong, and too scary for anyone to listen to.  Most people interrupted me and casually changed the conversation or dismissed any further conversation with the terrible, “well the babies are fine that’s all that matters.”  I’ve even gotten the infamous, “aren’t you over that yet?” more than a few times considering my twins are almost two and my birth trauma is still very real and very fresh.

If you are a Mom reading this who just had a traumatic birth, I want you to know that you matter.  I want you to know that your experience matters.  Your feelings matter.  Your pain and sorrow matters.  Your scars matter.  Your feelings of isolation matter.  Your PTSD diagnosis is real and matters.  Your depression matters.  Your anxiety matters.  Your panic matters.  Your feelings of lack of bonding matters.  Your tears matter.  Your story matters.

If you are a Mom reading this who had a traumatic birth and is pregnant again, I want you to know that on top of all of the above that matters, THIS BIRTH MATTERS.  It is absolutely okay for you to want better.  For you to demand better.  For you to expect better.  For you to speak out for better.  It is absolutely okay for you to demand your provider is educated and practices evidence based medicine.  It is absolutely okay for you to not accept anything less than your ability to make informed choices (both informed consent AND informed refusal).  It is absolutely okay for you to change providers if they say bullshit things to you like “you’re not allowed to…”.

Most of all, whatever happens during your birth, you have the right to feel whatever you feel, whenever you feel it, however your feel it, for however long you feel it, after birth.

I support you.  There are others who support improving birth too.  Find them, stand by them, and take shelter and strength in their desire to empower and support you and your choices.

 

Because you matter, too.

 A Crunchy Medicine Cabinet: Our Top 10 Must Have’s

It’s cold and flu season….and all the other random and situation specific diseases like the lovely Norovirus that hit my friends in California and RSV for my preemie power Moms.  Our home specifically just got over Roseola and the flu and now one of us is fighting the stomach flu hoping it doesn’t spread to the rest of us!

While we were fighting Roseola and the flu..and now with the stomach flu, we have not used any mainstream medication.  Part of this is because I cannot use any decongestant when I’m nursing as they can impact supply.  Part of this is because mainstream medications are often something crunchy parents stay far away from.

However, that doesn’t mean we just suffer and don’t do anything.  There is plenty you can do to treat illnesses without popping over the counter or prescription medications.

Here are my top 10 things I utilize in my “medicine” cabinet.

Note:  I was not paid or compensated in any way nor am I affiliated with any of the companies in these recommendations.  I just really like their products.  I also suggest consulting a Naturopath, Chiropractor, or Acupuncturist before starting any medicinal regimen, crunchy or not.

10.  Lavender Essential Oil
There are a number of essential oils that we use for a variety of different reasons.  I won’t go into all of them yet until I do a series of posts I have planned on the overuse and abuse of essential oils and how they should be used safely.  Lavender is one of the very few oils that I would consider relatively safe in a wide range of uses though so it’s first on my count down.
Lavender essential oils can be used to treat pain of all kinds (bumps and bruises, headaches, teething pain, muscle aches, arthritis, etc), boost the immune system to treat a wide range of illnesses including cold and flu, safely helps even young children with congestion, and a wide range of skin issues such as sunburn, acne, insect stings and bites, eczema, and rashes.
Personally, we use lavender in our cool mist diffuser and topically at a dilution of 0.25% on our 20 month old twins, 3% on adults.  Topical application is only used sparingly (as should ALWAYS be done for littles) and for intense pain as a last attempt at natural relief before using Motrin or some other mainstream pain reliever.
We get all of our oils from Eden’s Garden and love them.  They are also available on Amazon and it depends on the day whether it is cheaper to buy through their website or through Amazon.
9.   Elderberry Syrup
Ideally, make this on your own.  Store bought syrup is full of additives that your immune system just doesn’t need.  Elderberry Syrup has been shown to be extremely effective in combating the flu…even more so than Tamiflu.  I really like this recipe on Wellness Mama but there are many you can find on Google.  It is best to take Elderberry Syrup everyday throughout the cold and flu season.  If you get sick, you can increase the dose to give your body a boost.
8.   A Whole Food Diet
As much as our budget, time, and energy constaints allow us, we strive to eat real whole food as much as we can.  Not everything we eat is organic as we do not have the privilege of a large food budget each month.  Not everything we eat is unprocessed as we do not have the privilege of ample time to prep, cook, and store completely unprocessed meals.  Not everything we eat is local and crunchy as we live in a 4-season part of the United States (it’s April 3rd and it was blizzard conditions today…).  But, we try to do the best that we can with what we have and that has to be enough.  Our bodies can process, absorb, and utilize nutrients best when they are minimally processed and altered.  Our bodies do best when our food comes from the farm instead of the factory.  Our bodies do best when food is our medicine.
7.   Cool Mist Humidifier
Let’s be real here.  Waking up with your nose full of dried hard boogers pretty much sucks.  Coughing, mouth breathing and having a dry tongue when you wake up, and being so congested you feel like your face is going to explode…that sucks too.  Though this won’t solve all your problems, a cool mist humidifier does the best job at putting moisture into the air that soothes and calms the respiratory tract to help you cough less, mouth breathe less, and wake up with less rocks in your nose.  This is especially helpful for littles.  I suggest cool mist over warm mist because warm air can increase inflammation and therefore increase coughing and congestion.
6.   Manuka Honey (preferably as minimally processed as you can find)
Manuka honey is INCREDIBLE.  I have personally used it for wound care, infection, sore throats, coughs, allergies, burns, and many other uses.  Honey is a FANTASTIC antibacterial agent capable of even treating antibiotic resistent strains of staph and also effective against group A Strep, to name a couple.  It’s just that simple.  Honey, especially manuka honey and local honey, should be in your cabinet AT ALL TIMES.
5.   Arnica
Arnica has an awesome anti inflammatory property to it.  It should only be used topically on closed skin.  Do not use it anywhere that has broken skin or near the eyes, mouth, nose, etc.  It does not heal physical injuries but its anti inflammatory properties works much like ibuprofen, which is also anti inflammatory.  Hyland’s makes a kid version in an application stick that I keep in the diaper bag and at home at all times.  We actually just used it today when River tried to run with a shirt that was hanging on the drying rack attached to the door and she slingshot backwards into a box.  Boob and her “boo boo stick” made it all better.  We have a gel for us adults.  NOTE:  Arnica is poisonous if ingested.  Keep far away from kids and DO NOT put it on open wounds, hands, or near the mouth, eyes, nose, etc.
4.   Supplements
I could do a whole article on supplements so I will just give you the list of what I like.  Royal Camu Camu powder for bio-available vitamin C is useful for the vitamin C protocol treatment of Pertussis (whooping cough).
Vitamin D3 is something that almost all people are deficient in nowadays because no one is outside enough.  It is vital to the immune system and is also extremely effective for treating the baby blues.
A small dose of zinc, NOT Zicam, is supportive of the immune system.
Probiotics are beneficial for nearly everyone’s gut health.  During illness, increasing the dosage can help your body be most effective at fighting illness.
D-mannose powder is a supplement for urinary tract health.  At theraputic doses, D-mannose , probiotics, and fluids can naturally treat and cure UTI’s even in children.
3.   Garlic
Garlic is probably my go-to when it comes to an illness.  I personally cured strep throat with a garlic, lemon, and manuka honey tea years ago.  It is an effective antioxident, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antiviral, and antimicrobial agent.  It’s how I started on my road to being crunchy, actually.  Garlic can be used to treat yeast infections, thrush, bacterial vaginosis, colds, respiratory virus’, bacterial infections, ear infections, wound care, and so many other options.  We use garlic oil drops when anyone has ear pain, swallow whole raw cloves of garlic, use heavy garlic in our cooking, and drink garlic tea when we are ill.  The effects are dramatic and awesome.  Chase away vampires and kill bacteria and virus’.  It’s a win win. 🙂
2.   Nose Frida
I have a hate love relationship with the Nose Frida.  My kids hate it.  They HATE IT. They start crying at the mention of it and cry harder when I have it in my hand. Generally, I don’t force my children to do things.  It’s kind of the opposite of gentle and attachment parenting.  But, when it comes to safety, health, and the ability to breathe, that takes priority to bodily autonomy.  It works significantly better than the bulb ever has.  Trust me, we have tried.  It gets out a massive amount of snot and they are generally completely clear after doing it.  It is relatively quick, very effective, and though it seems gross, the filter prevents any snot from ending up in your mouth 🙂
1.   Breastmilk
And…yes.  The number one, most important, most effective, most everything item in my medicine cabinet is breastmilk.  Breastmilk is an awesome diaper rash cream, treatment for dry skin and eczema, treatment for protecting cuts and wounds and speeding their healing, a mucous breaker upper (yep, that’s a word now) for use before nose frida, ear drops if you don’t have garlic oil or for alternating use with garlic oil, eye drops for conjunctivitis, immunity boost for adults to take shots of, skin conditioner in a bath, acne, bug stings, diarrhea fixer, sunburns and contact burns, fevers, common cold, and flu treatment.  The list is endless.  Breastmilk is more incredible than most people know.  More on that in another blog post because it deserves its own series.
So, there you have it.  My top 10 list in my crunchy medicine cabinet.  What is in your medicine cabinet that you consider crunchy?  What tips do you have to share for parents struggling with illness in their home right now?  I would love to hear your tips!

Purging the Plastic – Frugal Ways to Toss the Tupperware

What does your tupperware drawer look like?  Is it a jumbled mess of plastic?  Mine was.image1
It was impossible to keep clean.  No matter how often I pulled every piece out, neatly stacked and placed them in the drawer or cabinet, or rearranged to a different spot to attempt to make organization happen, they always ended up a jumbled mess within a week.  I’m sure it probably has to do with how you pull out a container, put the leftovers inside, and then magically that ONE container’s lid had apparently decided to grow legs and walk away from its plastic counterparts.  It happened EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
Washing it all wasn’t any less stressful.  Dishes are very overwhelming to me and the mountains of plastic tupperware from leftovers needing to be washed, dried, and put back into the bane of my existence cabinet was a constant stressor.  Since plastics have been suggested to leech toxins into foods when agitated by corrosive use, I felt obligated to washing all of it by hand instead of putting it into the dishwasher.  Not to mention, tupperware is bulky and I would be running my dishwasher every single day if I put tupperware inside.  Hand washing also kept the plastic clear, new looking, and working properly.  I never had to worry about warped lids, damaged containers, cloudy plastic with an impossible to get off film, none of it.  But, I was constantly washing it.
I needed a solution.  I needed an alternative.  I needed to wash less dishes.  I work so hard to keep plastic toys to a minimum in our home but I was storing all of our food in plastic.  It didn’t make any sense to me.
image1 (1)Have you ever looked at pyrex storage bowls?  They are INCREDIBLY expensive compared to plastic.  Since I am not wealthy, that was quickly scratched off my list of options.
Unfortunately, I found very few other optons besides this.  After a couple weeks of contemplating the problem, I was cleaning up the kitchen one day and dumped out the juice from an empty pickle jar (my husband is obsessed with Klausen Pickles) and…it hit me.  I peeled the label off of the jar, stuck the jar in the dishwasher, the top in the silverware tray, and stood stunned at the goldmine I had just happened upon.
My storage containers were sitting right in front of me.  I had been buying and recycling them for years.
image1 (2)We now have more glass jars for food storage than I could probably ever need at one given time.  Our tupperware drawer went from a jumbled mess to rows of neatly arranged glass jars with lids either screwed on top of stacked neatly beside the jars to prevent them from going missing.
Our fridge is more organized than ever too!  Not only do the jars store nicely in the fridge because of the small footprint, but because they are clear it is easy to tell what is inside the jars.  If it’s not, we can just use a wet erase marker to write down the contents on the glass and the date it was put in there and it comes off easily in the dishwasher or with a sponge.
Using the glass hasn’t significantly impacted how often we need to run the dishwasher either.  It sits like a glass in the top rack or perfectly in the bottom rack if there’s no room.  We have been using some of our jars for nearly a year now and we see NO wear or stress on the jars whatsoever.
What do you use for food storage in your house?  If you use tupperware, how do you contain the chaos?  Tell me in the comments below!
As always, we invite you to join the conversation on Facebook as well!

Diamond Boobies! A Brief Summary of 18 Months Breastfeeding Twins and My 5 Keys to Success

When I first started seeking other twin Moms for advice on breastfeeding, I kept getting variations of the same advice.  “The first 6 months are pure and complete primal survival, the first 12 months are really difficult, and the first 18 months are just difficult.”  It would get easier, they said, in those increments, but the first 18 months were by far suggested to be the most difficult timeframe for nursing twins.

Boy were they right.

12509316_10154625373978475_8787246130014027012_nNow that I’m on the other side of the dreaded “first 18 months”, I have wisdom to share.  Lots of it, as a matter of fact.  I claim to be no expert…insist I am the know-it-all of nothing…but I lived through these 18 months as a first time Mom with some very very difficult obstacles and here we are.  So, I hope what I learned helps at least one twin Mom struggling to find her way.

First…a brief summary of the struggles we faced.  Some of these struggles are unique to my situation but many are not only common among twins but common among breastfeeding Moms in general!  I’ll make this in a list for ease of reading.

  1. My twins were born preemies at 36+1 by crash C-section and required heroic measures to come Earthside.
  2. I did not meet River until she was over 30 hours old.
  3. I was ignored and not provided a pump until nearly 12 hours postpartum despite asking hourly.
  4. I was denied a lactation consultant until more than 50 hours postpartum AFTER Serenity had also been stolen from me and admitted to the NICU, despite demanding one over a dozen times.
  5. The “lactation consultant” (I put that in quotes because she doesn’t deserve that name) did nothing to actually help me succeed in breastfeeding.  She handed me a nipple shield (a shield…not two) and shrugged and said, “Well, your babies are in the NICU so you won’t get to breastfeed anyways.”
  6. I was not encouraged to visit my babies and was shooed out of the NICU.
  7. I was discouraged from touching, getting close to, or holding my children.
  8. I was not taught how to pump or given syringes to suck up the drops of precious colostrum until 3 days postpartum.
  9. My colostrum was never fed to my preemies until we switched hospitals despite my demanding it be done.
  10. Both of my twins had lip and tongue ties.  My doctor denied the existence and it took a wonderful IBCLC, demanding my pediatrician for a referral, and a visit to a pediatric ENT to get the diagnosis and revision.  This didn’t happen until they were 8 weeks old.  That’s over 675 feedings for two babies (so over 1,300 nursing sessions) that I had to hobble my way through with extreme pain and reflux and struggle latching.
  11. My children’s first latch did not happen until they were nearly 4 days old.  It was only possible through the help of a skilled IBCLC, a nipple shield, and determination.
  12. I was severely depressed and pumped maybe 5 times a day during their NICU stay.  I didn’t pump overnight.  This is NOT ok.
  13. The NICU overfed, didn’t pace feed, forced formula against my consent, gave pacifiers against my consent, and many other anti-breastfeeding actions.
  14. I was sent home from the NICU with a massive amount of formula “for when I gave up.”

I think I’m going to leave it at that for my list.  There is more but I’m exhausted just writing that much.  Needless to say, our journey was difficult.  We hit so many bumps in the road.  I felt like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  I felt like days molded into nights and into weeks and months.  Days and nights were exhaustingly long but weeks flew by and I felt I had accomplished nothing.  My entire existence was nursing, pumping, and changing diapers.

But, that crazy beginning didn’t last forever.  Slowly, as we muddled our way through each bump, things started to get easier.  I became more and more comfortable with nursing.  I got better and better at nursing in public.  Growth spurts didn’t completely unravel me anymore.   I didn’t feel blind sided by their cues anymore and started anticipating their hunger and catching early signs of hunger.  It got easier.  And easier.  And after the 6 month growth spurt, it wasn’t impossibly hard anymore.  And after the 12 month growth spurt…and a minor meltdown by my wonderful self…it wasn’t extremely difficult anymore.

Now that we are on the other side of 18 months, I have found that nursing is almost always enjoyable and easy.  It is a cure all.  It fixes all bumps and bruises.  It fixes hurt feelings and sadness.  It fixes over tired toddlers and helps settle big emotions.  For me, it helps me slow down and reconnect.  It helps me remember not to get so tied up in housework.  It helps me remember to kiss and hug and smell and snuggle my kids and gives them the stillness for me to do so.

Nursing is incredibly versatile and a huge part of my key to raising twins overall.  So, here are some of my biggest tips on how to get through those impossible stages to make it to the wonderful stages…

 

  • Don’t assume it will be hard or that you will struggle.

Not everyone with twins has NICU time.  Not everyone with twins has a traumatic birth.  I know some incredible Moms of multiples who had unassisted home births with twins or home births with a midwife.  I know Moms who had planned C-sections that were absolutely beautiful too.  They had that beautiful first latch, the immediate skin to skin time, the perfect synchronization from the very beginning.  I know Moms whose babies never struggled with reflux, never fought a latch, never needed a shield.  It is not a guarantee that you will struggle and have to fight this uphill battle to breastfeed.  Do not ASSUME that you will hit every obstacle because it will make you pessimistic and less likely to persevere through growth spurts and sleep regressions.

  • Build your breastfeeding support networks while you are pregnant.

The ONLY reason why I did not give up is because of support.  I cannot stress enough how incredibly and vitally important having support is.  I don’t believe that I would have struggled as much as I did if I had set up my support networks for breastfeeding BEFORE birth.

Find a La Leche League or breastfeeding sisterhood in your area while you are pregnant and start going to meetings WHILE YOU ARE PREGNANT.  Make sure that you get to know the IBCLC running the group.  If there is not an IBCLC running the group, get recommendations for an IBCLC and talk to them.  Anticipate using their services and do not be afraid to call them.

Join Facebook groups that use evidence based advice and are not quick to supplement.  The Facebook group “Breast Friends” is by far one of my favorite groups of all time.  They use completely evidence based practices, do not recommend formula supplementation unless every single other option has been exhausted and there is a true need, help assess situations and find Mom proper support, and don’t take bullshit when it comes to bad advice.  I also love the group “Nursing Twins”, which is a multiple’s specific group and abides by the same high standards that Breast Friends does when it comes to supplementation, formula use, and bad advice from pediatricians (which is so common it blows my mind).  In my early days, another group that was very helpful was “Mothers Nursing Multiples” and a local group to me at the time that was connected to the sisterhood I attended.

  • Say “yes” to every single person who offers support after you give birth.

Do not be a hero.  I repeat.  Do not be a hero.  SAY YES.

“Can I bring you a meal?” YES

“Can I clean up your kitchen for you?” YES

“Can I throw some laundry in for you?” YES

“Would you like me to watch the babies while they sleep so you can go take a shower?”  YES YES YES

I did not say yes nearly as much as I should have.  Please for the love of everything that is milky, say YES.  Accept any and all love you are offered.  Know what is helpful and what is not.  Offers to hold babies while you do chores is not helpful.  You need to be close and connected with your babies in the early days so that you can master breastfeeding.  Offers to do housework, make food, walk your dogs, let you shower or do other self care tasks, watch a show with you while you nurse to keep you company, all are very helpful.

Motherhood is not this lonely solitary journey that society has made it out to be in recent decades.  It is successful when our significant other is supportive, patient, kind, and helpful.  It is successful when the people we surround ourselves with are just as much that too.  It takes a village.

  • Understand that if it hurts, something is wrong, and seek help immediately.
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Serenity’s lip tie before revision

Breastfeeding DOES NOT HURT.  In the very early days when your nipples are becoming accustomed to the stimulation it may feel uncomfortable for the first 30 seconds or so.  But, I spent 8 long weeks in literal tears during every single feed because it was so painful (remember that’s over 1,300 feeds for twins).  The nipple shield caused deep fissure cracks in my breasts because I was not using it correctly because of lack of knowledge and help.  An undiagnosed lip and tongue tie was the main cause for our pain and had it been corrected in their early days of life I would not have struggled.  So, seek help.  Visit that IBCLC.  Ask questions at your sisterhood or La Leche League groups.  Ask questions of your friends who have succeeded in breastfeeding.  Demand a consultation with a pediatric dentist or a pediatric ENT (the ONLY doctors who are qualified to diagnose a lip and tongue tie).  Do not take no or “it’s normal” or “just switch to formula” for an answer because pain during breastfeeding is not normal.

 

  • Trust your body

Finally, and probably the most incredibly important tip I have, is to trust your body.  Only 3% of Moms have a legitimate and true issue with supply.  THREE PERCENT.  Yet, on many mainstream Mom groups I see dozens upon dozens of Moms say they “couldn’t” breastfeed because of “low supply”.  Beware of the top up trap.  Beware of comments and advice that is not breastfeeding friendly.  Beware of doctors that want preemies to “catch up” and gain weight according to a formula feeding chart by chronological age.  Beware of anyone telling you to feed on a schedule.  Beware of anyone telling you that you can’t possibly be enough.

You are enough.  Your body just spent the better part of a year growing TWO human beings from just two cells.  At the same damn time.  Your body is incredible.  TRUST your body to continue providing for those tiny humans just as you trusted your body to provide for them while you were pregnant.  Count diapers and know how many are ok (6+ in 24 hours for a baby over 5 days old).  Know what breastfeeding weight gain is normal (3-7 ounces a week).  Understand that your baby cluster feeding, feeding often, feeding for a long time, or fussing or being cranky are NOT signs that you have low supply.  Not feeling engorged is not a sign of low supply.  Your baby guzzling a formula bottle is NOT an indicator of low supply.

TRUST YOUR BODY.  Breathe, breastfeed, eat, sleep, and heal.  Those are your only jobs in these early days.  You are enough.

Twin newborns is no task for the weak.  But, with these tips and hard work, maybe you can avoid some of the struggles that I had while breastfeeding twins in the early days.

For Moms with older twins who breastfed, what were your keys to success?  What helped you get through those early days?  Share your story of full term nursing in the comments below!

 

Note:  If you would like to be added to the “Breast Friends”, “Nursing Twins”, or “Mothers Nursing Multiples” facebook groups, please e-mail me at doublecrunchblog@gmail.com.  They are secret groups so cannot be linked.  I would be happy to help you into the groups if you need the support.