Increasing Milk Supply

Concern over low milk supply is a very real issue for many breastfeeding moms.  While not having enough milk is the most common reason given by mothers for early weaning and supplementation, actual low milk production is very rare. 1 Whether it is real or perceived, understanding how your milk supply is established and knowing what to do to optimize your breast milk supply can relieve stress, worry, and ensure your body has the opportunity to make enough milk for your baby.

Strategies to increase breast milk supply

Once you realize there is a milk supply issue, diligence is extremely important to help build your supply.

  1. Ensure you are feeding your baby with a deep latch and effective milk transfer at his early feeding cues, without limiting access to the breast, at least 8-10 times (or more!) every 24 hours.
  2. Increase the amount of times your baby is nursing at the breast.  Babies with an effective suck are usually more effective at milk removal than pumping or expression.  Offer each breast more than once at a feeding and offer to nurse your baby often!
  3. Use breast massage/compression.  Think of this as “pumping” into your baby.  Breast compressions while breastfeeding (or pumping) help your breasts drain even more milk.  And an empty breast makes more milk.
  4. If your baby doesn’t completely drain your breasts, you can express following a feeding to help build your supply.  Alternatively, if your baby does empty your breasts, waiting 30 minutes (while your breasts are busy at work making milk) and then expressing will help increase your supply.  Remember, an empty breast makes more milk, whereas milk stasis in your breasts slows milk production.
  5. Don’t allow more than 5 hours to go between a feed, and only allow this much time once every 24 hours.  If your baby goes this long between a feed, make sure he is still nursing at least 8-10 times in a 24 hour period.
  6. Spend as much time skin-to-skin with your baby as possible.
  7. Consider safe bed sharing or co-sleeping with your baby.
  8. Avoid pacifiers (dummies) and anything else that would keep him from suckling at the breast.
  9. Consider taking a galactagogue.  Herbal galactagogues include fenugreek and blessed thistle.  There are also prescription medications that can help (though all galactagogues can have side effects and inherent risks) so other measures should be tried first.  Also, a galactagogue will only be effective if you are frequently and effectively removing milk from your breasts.
  10. If a supplement must be given, consider giving it through an at-breast tube feeding device.  This has the benefits of continued breastfeeding and breast stimulation while at the same time giving your baby a supplement (which could be formula or breast milk), skin-to-skin time holding your baby, and no chance of nipple confusion! But, be aware that formula takes nearly twice as long to digest as breast milk (78 minutes vs. 48 minutes) so if you give a supplement with formula (as opposed to expressed or donor breast milk) then your baby may sleep longer between feeds than he should.  You may need to express twice during this time to actually mimic how your breastfeeding baby would have nursed.
  11. If any bottles are given, make sure you pump or hand express on both sides so your body knows that your baby just ate.  If using a pump, make sure the flange is the correct size.
  12. Use caution with bottles. Babies must suck at the breast before there is a let-down of milk.  This makes it easier to self-regulate how much milk he actually needs.  With a bottle, some babies continue to eat even when they are full because it is an “effortless flow” and they can do nothing but gulp and swallow.  Taking care in how you give a bottle can ensure this doesn’t happen.

Other things to consider:

  • Make sure you are not using any hormonal medications (estrogen suppresses lactation and progesterone may also) or other known anti-galactagogues (such as decongestants).
  • Is it possible you are pregnant?  Hormonal changes in pregnancy can also decrease your milk supply.
  • Have your doctor check your endocrine levels. Perhaps there is a thyroid issue or some other hormonal imbalance that could be corrected with medication.

Birthing Practices that Help Breastfeeding

Having the freedom to move during labor is important for natural birth.

Having the freedom to move during labor is important for natural birth.

A typical hospital birth in the western world is overmedicalized – to the point where there’s almost a belief a woman’s body cannot perform this most natural of things without assistance.  We know in the rest of the mammalian kingdom that if birth is interfered with there is a great likelihood of the baby dying (usually by rejection of the mother and not suckling).  Could this actually be happening right before our own eyes with human babies and modern medicine?  Of course most mothers don’t “reject” their babies, but interventions affects a baby’s ability to latch and suckle effectively; rob mothers and babies of the critical minutes and hours immediately following birth where hormones are at their peak and establishment of a lifelong bond is beginning (could this time be even more important for teen moms, unplanned pregnancies, etc.?); and negatively impact a mother’s milk supply.

There are many simple things that can be done to improve birthing practices and allow new moms and babies every opportunity possible to succeed at breastfeeding.  The following list includes important points to consider in preparing for your birth:

  1. Plan for a natural birth.  Read books, decide what you want to have happen, write out a birth plan, and discuss it with your doctor or midwife.
  2. Select a doctor & hospital that is supportive.  The current c-section rate in America today is 1 in 3!  That’s saying that 1/3 of all women’s bodies are incapable to do what they were created to do without medical intervention.  Instead, it is much more likely to be the other way around – when you get involved in a natural process problems occur which lead to more problems and interventions…a slippery slope for sure. Doctors with low c-section rates, midwives, and birthing locations with Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative status are all better options.
  3. Plan for baby to be given to mom immediately following delivery – postponing all newborn procedures on a healthy baby until after the first few hours following birth (or allow procedures to be done while in skin-to-skin with mother).
  4. Don’t wash the baby – babies use their sense of smell to find the nipple and moms are drawn to their babies with hormones of love and bonding through smell and touch.  There is no need to scrub a newborn down before cuddling and spending precious hours in skin-to-skin care.  In fact, consider waiting a couple days before giving your baby her first bath.
  5. Dim the lights – bright lights are harsh on a new baby’s eyes.  If you have to have bright lights on, shield baby’s eyes.
  6. Allow skinto-skin time to continue through first breastfeed– and then as much as possible in the first few days following birth.  Skin-to-skin is the single most important thing to help breastfeeding success.
  7. Delay cord clamping – this is oxygen rich blood that your baby needs.  Wait until the cord has finished pulsating – or, even better, wait to cut the cord until the placenta has been delivered.
  8. Have a Plan B in place – though you plan and prepare for a natural birth, sometimes things don’t go as planned.  For example, if you need an emergency c-section, who could hold your baby in immediate skin-to-skin following birth until mother is able?  Does your hospital have a policy of oral suctioning if your baby passes meconium in labor? Could you sign paperwork in advance to prepare for this scenario or others that might occur so you can still have your birth wishes fulfilled?
  9. Less is more – Less intervention means a more natural birth.  This is the goal.  A woman’s body knows what to do if she is not stressed, under time constraints, in a strange or harsh place, etc.  Sure, there are times when medical intervention is necessary.  But birth is natural, normal.  Plan, prepare, and expect a natural birth.
  10. Relax and don’t stress – plan and prepare and do all that is in your power to have a natural birth.  Then relax and enjoy the thought of the day you will get to meet your new little blessing!  Birth is not something to fear; rather it’s an exciting time where your body is doing what it needs to in order to birth a new life.  Trust your body; remember you’ve done all you can to prepare; relax and enjoy the experience of birth.

Getting Started Breastfeeding

165427_10100153832465781_360474928_n As you are getting started breastfeeding, there are many breastfeeding basics you can do to create an environment for success.  Women have been breastfeeding their babies since the beginning of the human race, and its only been in the last century that anyone has used artificial infant formula. When there were no alternatives, almost every mother breastfed her babies successfully.  (And those that couldn’t would still have human milk through a wet nurse.)  I say this to encourage you. . . you can do it!  Here are some things that will help you with getting started:

    1. Prepare for the birth of your baby.
      Read books, make a birth plan, and choose your doctor/birthing facility wisely.  If you are giving birth in a hospital, try to find one that meets the BFHI (Breastfeeding Friendly Hospital Initiative set out by the World Health Organization) requirements.  We know that the type of birth you have affects breastfeeding so make a plan for how you’d like your birth to go.
    2. Have minimal intervention, as natural a birth as possible.
      A natural and unmedicated birth leaves you and your baby ready to start breastfeeding strong.  Did you know that a healthy, unmedicated baby has innate instincts and reflexes that if placed on your belly can push himself up and latch onto his mother’s breast unassisted?!  It’s been termed the breast crawl and is quite powerful to witness.  A natural birth allows you to immediately begin skin-to-skin time with your baby and helps him to be alert, able to latch, and suck well for his first breastfeed.
    3. Hold your baby skin-to-skin immediately following birth.
      Do this for at least the first 2 hours, before your baby is bathed, weighed, or even wiped off.  This is critical bonding time for you and your baby as your body has many thriving hormones that allow you to bond and absolutely fall in love with your new little blessing.  Skin-to-skin helps regulate your baby’s temperature, stabilize her heart rate, stabilize blood glucose, reduce crying, stimulate self-latching, and coordinate sucking at breast.  For the mom, skin-to-skin helps to regulate her temperature, increase oxytocin levels, develop adequate milk volume, bond with her baby, increase her confidence, and decrease breastfeeding problems.
    4. Delay screenings, baby checks, bath, etc. until after first breastfeed.
      You can never get the first two hours after your birth back and all the key baby checks for a healthy, full-term baby can be done while on skin-to-skin with her mom.  Postpone everything else and enjoy these precious moments with your new baby.
    5. Room in with your baby.
      The best way to get to know your new baby is to spend time together.  Keep your baby in your room with you so you can see early feeding cues your baby gives and nurse on demand.
    6. Practice safe co-sleeping.
      Co-sleeping allows you to maximize sleep while allowing your baby to nurse on demand.  Rather than having to get up every time your baby wakes and go to another part of the house, it is much easier to nurse and take care of your newborn’s needs while bed sharing or in the same room as mother.  Follow safe co-sleeping guidelines. And remember, your baby hasn’t read all those parenting books about scheduling sleep and feeds. You’ll find it a lot less stressful if you just follow your baby’s needs and go with it.
    7. Have support in the first weeks after birth so you can concentrate on feeding your baby. 
      Your job is to feed your baby.  Treat yourself as  queen. . .prop pillows around you to be comfortable, have a remote, book, and cell phone nearby, as well as a glass of water and snack.   And, accept all offers for help around the house with cooking, cleaning, and taking care of older siblings.  Now is not the time to keep a spotless house and or to cook gourmet meals.  Enjoy your new baby and take time to rest and nurse often.
    8. Breastfeed often and on demand.
      It is normal for your baby to nurse often.  If you have a sleepy baby, make sure to wake her up and nurse at least every three hours. It is also normal for babies to not only want to nurse for hunger, but also nurse for comfort (“non-nutritive sucking”).  Even non-nutritive sucking offers milk, builds your supply, and allows you to bond.  Offer both breasts at each feed and nurse until your baby comes off satisfied.
    9. Don’t settle for breastfeeding pain.
      Breastfeeding should not hurt.  If you have pain or sense something is not right, seek help from a qualified Lactation Consultant (ideally an IBCLC – International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). Seek help sooner rather than later!
    10. Find a mom-to-mom support group.
      For help and encouragement, try to find a local breastfeeding group such as La Leche League.  You will meet other moms who are at different places in their breastfeeding journey and it can be a wonderful encouragement and support for you.
    11. Know what’s normal. . . and what’s not.
      For example, all babies loose weight after birth.  It is normal to take up to 2 weeks to gain this weight back.  It doesn’t mean you don’t have enough milk.  Or, after your baby is born you have colostrum (the thick, rich, antibacterial first milk) for the first 2-4 days before your milk begins to come in.  This is normal and it helps your baby pass meconium (the dark first poo) and help against developing jaundice.  Just nurse often and on demand to encourage your milk to come in strong.
    12. Find a pediatrician who is supportive of breastfeeding.
      And don’t hesitate to find a new one if you find out yours just gives lip service to the importance of breastfeeding.  If you want to nurse your baby and you or your pediatrician have concerns, seek a lactation consultant before turning to artificial infant formula.
    13. If you sense there is a problem, work to build your supply by expressing (either by hand or with a pump).
      You can offer this additional milk to your baby via syringe, cup, or bottle.  But, building a strong supply of milk is important.  Don’t wait until your supply dwindles to begin pumping if you have concerns about your supply or how much your baby is eating at each feed.
    14. Trust your body to make milk.
      Your body knows what to do and it has been getting ready throughout your pregnancy.  Have confidence in your body’s ability to make milk.  Relax and don’t stress.  Also, don’t supplement with formula just because you don’t think you have enough milk.  (This is a slippery slope and will just about guarantee you won’t have enough milk.)  Believe in your body and nurse your baby on demand so your body gets the message to continue to make milk.  Remember, an empty breast makes more milk!  Not only does your body know what to do, but your baby also has an innate ability to latch on to your breast and nurse.
    15. Finally, through it all, remember why you want to nurse your baby.
      Realize nursing is more than just giving your baby amazing milk. . . it is also a wonderful bond that you share and will grow throughout your lives.  Lots of skin-to-skin and cuddling with your baby not only has a positive impact on breastfeeding, but also on your mothering relationship.  Cherish these precious moments as your little blessing will grow so fast.  You cannot spoil your baby by nursing too frequently, cuddling too much, or sharing too much skin-to-skin time.  Your baby just spent the last nine months in your womb having every need met immediately.  Continuing to meet her needs (food, love, cuddles, nurturing) are exactly what she needs.

Adoption and Breast Milk

mom baby on beachCasey Brown is a wife, Paramedic-turned-stay-at-home mom, and adoptive mom of one princess. She is passionate about adoption and breast milk and her journey to make sure her baby could have breastmilk in the NICU hit the national stage in social media.  She encourages other adoptive mamas to fight for the liquid gold, to not back down, and stand up for what they believe in. Ending discrimination against adoptive mamas has become a passion of Casey’s.  She is co-founder of the company Quiver Full Adoptions, an adoption consultation service based out of Greenville, SC.  You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

When I was little, I had one million baby dolls. Almost. I played “house” every single day and ever since I can remember, I have wanted to be a mama. Not a teacher, not a doctor, but a mom. Maybe that desire came from seeing my mom making it look like the best “job” in the world. I won’t bore you with the details or make you feel inferior by telling you about how awesome my mother is, instead, I’ll tell you about the day I found out I was going to be a mom. Let’s rewind. My husband and I had been married four years and had been trying to conceive since the day we were married. Hey! I told you I wanted to be a mom! The stars weren’t aligning and the doctors were saying I would need science to help our dreams come true. Science. That’s something I was familiar with, being a Paramedic for three years and being in the health field for seven. After much prayer, Josh and I decided to forgo the science and medicine and pursue adoption. Adoption had always been in our hearts and on our minds, but something that we imagined doing when our biological children were older.

Three weeks after announcing that we were adopting, we were matched with our birth mom. Now if that wasn’t a sign from the good Lord, I don’t know what is. Crystal, our birth mom, asked me to attend her doctor’s appointments with her, and of course I said, “Yes!” I was going to be a mom and she was allowing me to experience as much of the process as I could. During the second or third doctor appointment, I was sitting in the room with Crystal, and she sat up on the exam table and said, “Have you thought about breastfeeding your baby?” Wait. What? Our birthmom has to be the coolest birthmom on earth to be asking me this question. I replied, “No,” although I had actually been thinking about it. I had been in contact with Krista Gray from Nursing Nurture and had already started the Newman-Goldfarb protocol – that’s how much I had thought about adoption and breast milk. I’m not sure why my immediate response was “No,” it wasn’t meant to deceive her, it was just a knee jerk reaction. I later told her the truth and she was very supportive. Crystal was already sixteen weeks pregnant when I began the protocol. Ila Mae, my princess, was born six weeks early and had a two week stay in the NICU. I had no time to stop the birth control and begin pumping, as the protocol needs eight weeks of pumping to start producing milk. Ila Mae was on a ventilator, had a chest tube due to a collapsed lung, and was on TPN. Seeing her fragile, tiny four pound, thirteen ounce body lying in the isolette, I knew I had to do something to get her that liquid gold. I did what any mama would do. I fought. Then I took on the hospital.  Below, you will find my Facebook post that went viral just a few days after Ila Mae was born.

“Baby Ila Mae was born July 23. The adoption papers were completed today. Through this group [Breast Friends] and Adoptive Breastfeeding group, I have begun the Newman Goldfarb Protocol. I haven’t started

NICU battle for adoption and breast milk

NICU battle for adoption and breast milk

pumping yet to induce lactation. I have a ton of donor milk that I was planning to use with my Lact-aid. Today, I experienced bullying for the first time that I can remember. It was so real. I said to the nurse, ‘When Ila Mae gets off the ventilator, we have breast milk that we want her to have instead of formula.’ She looked at me like I had three heads, turned around and went and got the lactation consultant. This lady comes over and says, ‘So, I hear you have breast milk. Where did you get it?’ This breast milk comes from my best friend. I told her this and she looked at me like I was disgusting and said, ‘you cannot use that unless you get it from a milk bank.’ I said ok, and asked how to go about doing that and if I could see the protocol they have set in place that says I cannot use donor milk. They could NEVER produce one and then finally admitted that they had never had this happen ‘because adoptive moms just don’t do this kind of thing. Mam, if you want to give this baby donated milk, then you’ll have to do it when she is actually yours in your own home.’ Ummmm, I about lost it at this point. This baby is MINE. Then, I leave and come back three hours later in hopes that she has left, only to get cornered by her and the neonatologist. While I was gone, they decided that I wouldn’t be able to use milk from a milk bank ‘because there isn’t one close enough’ and 4pounds 13 ounces isn’t a low enough birth weight and adoption isn’t a special circumstance that they could write a prescription for.’ They went on to tell me about all of the “risks” of donor milk and I politely informed them of how misinformed they are. My question is, would y’all be willing to write a letter to this hospital informing them of the benefits of breast milk, donated whether through a milk bank or not, and the non benefits of formula? They also told me that in order for me to use the Lact-aid, I’d have to have blood work done!! WTH?! Seriously? Ok, what’s the difference then? Why can’t my milk donor go have blood work done to show she isn’t infectious and then allow me to use her milk? I’m so aggravated that I can’t make an informed decision and I have been bullied into using formula. It will still be a few days before she is off the ventilator and able to nurse, but this is a big deal to me!”

Adopted yet thriving on breast milk!

Adopted yet thriving on breast milk!

Six months later, here I am reading what I posted on Facebook, and all I can see is how stressed I sounded. I could hardly form complete sentences. The group Breast Friends has approximately 5,000 members. About 300 of them wrote the hospital handwritten letters, fighting on behalf of me and my princess. Four of the members called the hospital, and one of the members spoke directly with the President of the hospital. After some threatening of getting the news involved and threatening to picket on the sidewalk while mothers nursed their babies, the hospital finally caved. They finally agreed to get me the donor milk from a milk bank. I compromised since they were getting me breast milk, to agree to not use the Lact-aid and to not use my personal stash of donor milk. Ila Mae is now six months old and has never had a drop of formula. We have had a total of eighteen milk donors (plus how many ever donors from the milk bank), all friends or friends of friends. (And due to Casey’s battle with the hospital, the policy has officially been changed regarding donor milk.  Here is more information on Spartanburg Memorial in SC.)

You have a choice, mamas! You don’t have to settle for fourth best, according to the World Health Organization, you can have that liquid gold. Fight if you have it in you, settle if you don’t. Either way, I won’t judge you, but I will stand behind you if you decide to fight!

You may also be interested in reading more about Adoptive Breastfeeding, Induced Lactation, 5 Challenges of Adoptive Breastfeeding, and Tube Feeding Devices.

What To Do When Baby Won’t Latch

Cindy and Jana

Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.  You can download their app NuuNest – Newborn Nurse Answers and Baby Tracking for expert guidance through the first crucial weeks after childbirth or visit their website, Cindy & Jana.  You can also connect with Cindy and Jana on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest.

Noella was just 35 weeks into her pregnancy when her water broke. 12 hours later, her baby boy, Nathan, was born. Nathan was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit  for antibiotics and monitoring. His first feed was a bottle of formula. Noella pumped faithfully throughout Nathan’s two week hospital stay but had little opportunity to try breastfeeding. When he was discharged from hospital, she began to offer the breast every feed but Nathan was used to bottles. Breastfeeding attempts became increasingly frustrating for both mom and baby. After two more weeks, Noella made the decision to discontinue all feeding attempts at the breast and instead focus her energy on pumping, bottling her expressed milk, and enjoying her newborn.  A month later, we received a phone message from Noella: “You aren’t going to believe it.  Nathan is now breastfeeding! I just decided to try it one day and it worked!”

Why babies may not latch at birth

Noella is not alone in her struggles to establish breastfeeding. Many babies are born prematurely and are not yet strong enough to maintain a latch. There can also be other reasons why babies don’t initiate breastfeeding right from the start:

  • Baby may be recovering from a difficult birth.
  • Baby may have a tongue tie.
  • Baby’s first feeds may have been given by bottle and baby is therefore unsure how to suck at the breast.
  • The shape of mom’s nipples may make it difficult to grasp the breast.
  • Baby may have an anatomical challenge such as a cleft lip or palate or the shape of the mouth or jaw may make latching challenging.

If baby will not latch in the first 24 hours after birth:

  • Keep your baby skin to skin as much as possible.
  • “Practice” breastfeeding: express a drop of milk on your nipple and let baby lick and nuzzle. Try to keep these practice sessions pleasant and free from frustration for both mom and baby.
  • Support baby well during feeding attempts to help baby feel secure. If you are feeding in a cradle or football hold, use pillows to support baby. If you are feeding in a laidback position, baby’s body will be well supported against your body.
  • Begin to use hand expression to stimulate your breasts to begin producing milk. (Learn how to hand express with this video.)
  • Feed any drops of milk obtained back to baby with a spoon. Baby will “sip” the milk from the spoon.

If baby continues to not latch after 24 hours:

  • Continue with “practice sessions”. If either you or the baby becomes frustrated, take a break. Calm your baby by snuggling. Remember, dad can snuggle baby if you need a break!
  • Do some massage and hand expression before attempting at the breast so that the milk is “right there” for baby.
  • In addition to hand expression, begin to use a hospital grade electric pump. We suggest you pump about every 3 hours for 10 minutes per breast (or every time the baby feeds). Please do not be discouraged if you don’t get a single drop! The pumping “tells” your body that baby is here and will need milk. Developing a good supply of milk will be key in coaxing baby to the breast.
  • Consult an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to have a thorough assessment. The consultant will have suggestions based on the cause of the difficulties.
  • You will, of course, need to feed your baby. Your health care provider may suggest you feed baby by spoon, cup or finger feeding. The first choice is to use your own expressed milk. If, for medical reasons, your health care provider recommends additional supplement, banked human milk is the next choice. If donor milk is not available, infant formula may be used. Feeding your baby will help ensure he has the energy to continue to learn to breastfeed.
  • Some women find using a 20-20-20 principle helpful. “Practice” at the breast for 20 minutes; feed the baby in an alternate way if needed (approximately 20 minutes) and pump/hand express for 20 minutes. (Please note: the times are suggestions only. Please modify according to your baby’s cues. Sometimes babies are quickly frustrated and 20 minutes of trying may be too long.)
  • Sometimes, giving baby a little milk prior to a breastfeeding attempt may be helpful, especially if the baby is quite hungry. Taking the edge off the baby’s hunger may help baby to be more relaxed with the latching attempts.
  • Once baby is taking larger volumes, your health care provider may suggest beginning to use a bottle to feed your baby. This does NOT mean we have given up on breastfeeding! Again, it is important to feed your baby so that he will have energy to learn to feed. When baby is taking larger volumes, some babies will tire before they have been able to complete the feed. If you choose to bottle, use a rounded nipple rather than one with a flattened cross-section. Choose a slow flow nipple. Entice the baby to gape widely when taking the bottle to simulate latching at the breast.
  • A nipple shield may be useful in some instances once milk supply is established. Using a nipple shield before the milk supply is established is not recommended. Please discuss this with your Lactation Consultant.
  • Search out a mother-to-mother support group such a La Leche League.

In our experience, with time and patience, most babies who do not latch initially will eventually go to the breast. While working towards getting baby to the breast, stimulating the milk supply and having lots of skin to skin time are the most important things you can do.

Nursing Twins

Grace & Leo 10-2-12 (133)

Elizabeth lives in Nebraska with her husband and 2 kids, twins Grace and Leo. Her days are spent being a referee, cleaning never ending messes, making delicious meals, and trying not to wish the moments away.  Elizabeth blogs about raising twins, being married to a farmer, and living in the country over at My Glad Heart.

I am still currently breastfeeding and plan to do so until they choose to wean. For me, breastfeeding wasn’t really something I thought about. I just knew that God made my body the way he did for a reason. My boobs were meant to feed my babies. It just made sense. I found out I was pregnant with twins and I started reading anything and everything I could get my hands on about twins and breastfeeding. I thought I was prepared for nursing twins. But I was wrong.

The babies were born on Sept 12, 2012 at 36 weeks via cesarean. While that’s not ridiculously early, they were both on the smaller side. Grace was 4 lbs 7 oz and Leo was 6 lbs 3 oz. They were both jaundiced and everything put together made for 2 very tired and very lazy babies. I think Leo would have been able to breastfeed somewhat from the beginning if he had had more time on the breast and if I had known what I was doing. But it’s hard to give your undivided attention when you have 2 babies to take care of.

Grace on the other hand wouldn’t even open her mouth to eat. When we bottle fed, we had to force the nipple in her mouth or catch her in the middle of a yawn. In the beginning she latched, but she got tired really fast and she just needed to gain strength. So I pumped and bottle fed them. We still worked on latch though, and by 5 weeks Leo finally figured out latching. So I would bottle feed Grace on my lap and I would breastfeed Leo. But Leo mostly hung out at the breast and after awhile I would take him off and he would still be hungry. So I would have to bottle feed him.

gleditedIt would have been easier in the beginning if I had been able to feed them separately, but they always woke up at the same time to eat. I couldn’t give Leo the attention he needed to get more efficient. Grace finally figured out latching at 8 weeks, but then 2 weeks later we all got sick and when she started to get better, she had forgotten everything we had learned. We started over from square one. First she learned to open her mouth, then she learned to take more of the breast into her mouth, then she learned how to suck, and then finally she got it all working together.

They started breastfeeding better, but they never took a complete meal in one sitting. I used to breastfeed them until they pulled off, and then I would immediately get bottles and start pumping. But that never gave them the opportunity to try and get more from the breast. So around month 4 my lactation consultant suggested I get a scale, feed them each session until they pull off and then let them play for 20 min to 1/2 an hour, put them back on, and repeat. Weigh them in between and keep track of how much they’re taking and keep feeding them until they get enough, which for us is usually around 3 1/2 to 4 oz. It worked for us, most of the time. Sometimes they got too frustrated and hungry to eat like that so I would bottle feed them the rest of their meal and pump. Anytime I had to supplement them I pumped, that way I could keep my supply up.

This worked great for a while, but I just go so sick of pumping and supplementing them at each meal. They were both capable of getting a full meal, they just weren’t doing it. So I just quit supplementing them. We basically had to redefine what eating was. I always assumed I needed to get them to a specific number each time they ate. But they didn’t. They were also in the habit of having the same amount each time they ate, so anything less than their usual resulted in screaming for more. I returned the scale and I quit pumping during the day.

Around 6 months I felt confident breastfeeding. We made it past lazy eating, flow preference, and milk supply issues. We had so many frustrating feeding sessions and lots of tears, but when they started eating better, it was so worth it. And honestly? Breastfeeding is so much easier than bottle feeding. No more washing and sterilizing. All I had to do was lift my shirt up and put it back down when we were done. So easy.

I’m so glad I stuck with breastfeeding. I don’t regret the effort I put into this. I have always kind of halfway done stuff. I am constantly starting projects but never finishing them. This is something that I have given 110% and I will never regret that. But I am sad that it was my main focus for 6 months. I was so focused on making this work that I missed out on spending quality time with my babies. But I know that if I hadn’t given this my all, I would have regretted that forever. I want people to know that you CAN breastfeed, even if you get off to a rocky start. You just have to be patient and you just have to stick with it. I go into more detail on my blog about our journey. I want to be honest about our struggles and I just want to be a beacon of hope for those who want to breastfeed but got off to a rocky start like we did.

  • Some advice I have is find a good lactation consultant. Find someone that listens to you and works with you. We went to ours 5 times.
  • Rent a hospital grade pump, especially if you’re building a supply.
  • Don’t overfeed your baby when you bottlefeed. This was something huge to overcome for us. The other thing I can say about this is vary the amount you give them each bottle. We always gave them exactly 4 oz. When they got just under 4 oz, they screamed for more and more. You don’t eat the same thing and same amount for every meal, don’t expect your baby to either.
  • Unless you have an overactive let down, invest in slow flow nipples. We love playtex VentAire bottles. We dealt with flow preference and that was tough to overcome. It’s easier for babies to drink from a bottle than it is from the boob, so you want to make them work for it when they’re bottlefeeding. You know it’s a good bottle when you tip it upside down and nothing drips out of it.
  • Just be patient. If you stick with it, they will get better. It took us 6 months.
  • Understand that breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing. If you feed them 5 out of their 8 meals from the breast, you’re still breastfeeding. If you breastfeed and then have to supplement, you’re still breastfeeding. I don’t think it has to be something that moms feel like if they can’t do it all, they shouldn’t do it at all.

The Journey Continues

Brittnei HeadshotBrittnei is the wife of Harroll Washington and mom to one beautiful baby boy and 3 amazing step-children. She loves Jesus Christ, homemaking, healthy living, football and bowling in leagues with her husband. Writing is a hobby and she enjoys doing it in between caring for the ones she loves and taking care of her home. Brittnei blogs at Homemaking with Style.

When Krista asked me to write a guest post for her blog about my breastfeeding experience, I have to say I was completely ecstatic!  We have only interacted briefly via Twitter recently, but from reading her credentials and about her experience, I was completely honored.

Then I had to think about what I would say.  I mean, my son is 20 months old on December 15th and we just found out that we are pregnant with our 2nd.  I’m currently 7 weeks and due a week before my birthday on July 27th.  I wasn’t sure if I should go into my experience with breastfeeding my son or if I should solely talk about what breastfeeding has been like so far during my pregnancy.  Then I figured, if I tell you all about the beginning, then you will be able to understand my feelings and decisions I have made about breastfeeding up until this point.

So, before I was pregnant with my first son, Harroll Jr., better known as J.R., I read everything and I mean EVERYTHING that I could get my hands on about babies, child birth and most importantly, breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding was the one thing that people around me couldn’t really teach me because many of them had not experienced it.  I had one aunt who has breastfed, but she lived several states away so I wasn’t going to get the in person help that I thought I needed from her or any other family member.  I decided that I was going to try with everything in my being to breastfeed no matter how difficult it could get.

Let’s fast forward to my 3rd day postpartum.  The day that I thought my nipples would fall off.  Mind you, I had been doing great, according to the nurses and lactation consultant in the hospital.  The latch was fine, yet it was still hurting when my son would initially latch onto my breast!  Day 3 that he was here, I just knew I would have to resort to solely pumping because the pain was just too unbearable.

And then, the next day (after we had given him a few small bottles of formula from the hospital), we saw his doctor.  I owe her so much because of what she said to me that day.  You see, my husband was very supportive, but he wanted me to do whatever I thought I could do.  He didn’t want to pressure me either way.  In this moment, if we decided to continue to give J.R. formula, he would have been fine with it.  But his doctor, she told me what I needed to hear.  I explained my frustration with the initial latch and how bad it hurt and she said: “do you know how many women before you have done this?  This is something that has been proven to be the best thing for your baby.  You will get through it.  Countless women before you did!”  And then I felt like a baby.  Some people perceived this story, when I told them about it, to be critical of her or judgmental, but no, she was telling me the truth.  I value truth so much even when it hurts or it’s not what I want to hear, so, I put my son back to my breast and he gravitated to it and suckled like it was what he wanted to do so much all along.  My supply didn’t suffer.  I had breastfed him on demand so much except for about 3-4 feedings.

So let’s fast forward to the other night, the night that I screamed at the top of my lungs because my son clamped down on my right breast because he had fallen into a deep sleep with the breast in his mouth.  When I was finally able to get him to unlatch, while he still slept, I had immediate thoughts to wean him.  And then, my emotions settled and I remembered the words of his doctor back in New Jersey.  I remembered how many infants that I knew who had been sick with ear infections, who needed nebulizers and the like.  So many different issues they were having during the first year and beyond.  I knew breastfeeding didn’t cure or prevent everything, but I did know all of these infants had been breastfed for a very short time or not at all.  I looked down at my little angel and I smiled.  He and I both haven’t been sick since he was born.  I knew this was a credit to our wonderful breastfeeding relationship, for sure.  I knew I couldn’t allow this temporary pain cause me to make a life-changing decision for our relationship.  Not now.  It wasn’t time.  No, sir.  So here we are, as I’m writing this post, cuddling, while he nurses on Mommy’s breast.  And so, the journey continues…

Perseverance at the Pump

Mary Straits HeadshotMary Straits resides in North Carolina with her husband of ten years and two energetic boys, ages six and three.  She earned a B.A. in English and music from Columbia College and a Masters of Education from Liberty University.  In her spare time, Mary teaches 8th-grade English and somehow finds time to blog at

When our ob gave us the list of classes the hospital was offering for soon-to-be parents, we actually said, “Nah.  We don’t need the breastfeeding class.  I mean, how hard could it be?  It’s natural, right?”

Out loud.  To each other.

It took about two hours of mommy-hood for me to realize that breastfeeding, albeit natural, is an art form.  It takes coaching and practice and patience and sometimes a trip to the ER at 2 am.

When my first son was freshly born, we started nursing about two hours later. I came to the hospital ready.  I didn’t just have a Boppy—I had a “My Breast Friend.”  I had my own pump and all the parts.  I thought breast-feeding was going rather well until the nurse came in and started saying things like, “Nope.  He’s not latched.  Let’s try it again.”  And, “It’s not supposed to hurt.  You’re wincing.”

Then, when they called in the lactation specialists, things got real.  I learned about all sorts of positions that involved stacks of pillows.  They gave me something called a nipple shield.  Then came a syringe with a tube to connect to the shield.  In the tube, we put formula.  The idea was to make baby associate my breast with his food source.  But we couldn’t use the shield too long or he would become dependent on it.  And then we’d REALLY have problems.  I was to feed baby with the system and then pump to get my milk to come in faster.

Two days later, we went home with a shield and a syringe feeding system, which I promptly abandoned once my milk came in the next day.  In fear, I used the shield off and on, and pumped after each feeding.

When our pediatrician’s lactation specialist called me at home to see how nursing was going, I stupidly said it was going fine.  And no, I didn’t need to see her.  She didn’t let me off the hook, though.  When she found out we were bringing baby in for his weight check, she said, “Great!  I’ll check in with you then!”

The next day, however, I came down with a high fever and chills that would not go away.  Being that our baby was five days old at this point, we ended up in the emergency room at midnight and I endured all sorts of trauma I hope I never relive.   I was discharged hours later with a heavy dose of Tylenol and a label of “Fever of Unknown Origin.”

When we showed up at the pediatrician the next day, I looked like a mess.  But not your average mess.  A HOT mess.

The lactation nurse took one look at me and said, “Oh, you poor thing.”  Then, when we showed off our breast-feeding ritual, she knew we were really in bad shape.  My nipples were raw and cracked in several places.  She said I had a touch of thrush as well and gave me a concoction of creams to put on my nipples after every feeding:  Neosporin, Monistat, and Lanolin.  We were to use only the shield until my nipples healed and continue pumping in between.  And see her again in two days.

A few days later we checked back in, and my skin was on the mend finally.  Baby, however, was not latching properly.  Come to find out, his frenulum was tight, which prevented him from latching properly.  We had to drive across town to the pediatrician who could clip his frenulum and then continue on with the work of breast feeding.  With the shield, pumping after a feed.

At this point, my milk supply was very profound, as I was pumping off 4-5 ounces after baby was done with a feed.

A few days later, the fever came back with a vengeance.  It hit me almost instantly, and I struggled to even pick up the baby to feed.  I somehow loaded up the baby, lifted the car seat, and headed to the ob-gyn, who said I had a bladder and sinus infection.  They gave me a z-pack and sent me on my way, and I felt remarkably better in about 6 hours.

At this point, I tried abandoning the nipple shield, but it didn’t take long for me  to get a little crack and then have shooting pains during a feeding.  I promptly used the compound the lactation nurse told me about.  A few days later, we found out both baby and I had thrush.  At this point, I didn’t try to feed him straight from my breast, but just pumped and bottle fed until we both were cured.

The next week or so, the fever came back AGAIN on a Saturday.  This time I had a red patch on one my breasts, which really freaked me out, but I took ibuprofen and waited for my primary care doctor to open on Monday.   All the while, I continued to pump for feedings, as I was too weak to try and latch baby.

On Monday, all mysteries were answered.  My primary care doctor finally figured out what was causing the fever:  Mastitis.  There is a specific antibiotic that treats it, and he advised me not to feed the baby the milk I was expressing but to be sure that I completely emptied my breasts often.

At this point, my milk supply reached epic proportions, as I was pumping for a long time every two hours or so.

After I finished the antibiotic, my husband and I decided that we had enough drama with this breastfeeding journey.  But, it was so important to me that my baby had breast milk.  For one, I knew it was the best for him.  For two, formula feeding would have cost us $30 a week (at least).  For three, we had a great pump and my supply was ample, to say the least.

I ended up pumping on a schedule of 5:45 am, 8:30 am, 11:15 am, 3:15 pm, 6:30 pm, 10:30 pm, and maybe during the night if baby woke up.  It took me about 10 minutes to totally empty both breasts, which was a lot easier/ faster for me than before.  After a while, I was able to drop a pumping session and still maintain my milk supply very well.  In the end, in fact, I ended up giving my sister bags and bags of frozen milk and using the other bags of frozen milk in baby food purees.

I found pumping much less stressful than our previous experience, which I learned later was pretty extreme.  When I ran into the lactation nurse on a routine pediatrician visit when Noah turned one, she congratulated me on making it a full year and assured me that pumping “counted.”  For some reason, I had it in my head that I wasn’t really breastfeeding by pumping full-time, but I couldn’t bring myself to give up and quit.  And I knew it was best for my baby.

When our second son was born, as soon as we started having latch problems and I started getting cracked nipples, I broke out the pump and began pumping full time.  With a very energetic almost three-year-old, I did not have the stamina and the time for any semblance of our first go round.  I brought out my trusty pump (Medela, if you’re wondering!), and once again, had a solid supply in about 5 days time.

The second time around, though, I worked on pumping a bottle right before baby would eat so that he could have fresh milk more often than not.  I ended up having an epic milk supply the second time around, all from the pump.  At one point, I had so many bags of milk in the freezer, that our freezer actually broke.  Ha!

The point of my story is this:  If you’re passionate about breast feeding and struggling to find peace from any challenges you may be facing, consider pumping full time.  Don’t listen to the masses, who tend to view a breast pump as a ball and chain.  It was an awesome avenue for us to be able to give our boys the most optimal start. And saved us hundreds of dollars!

{Note from Nursing Nurture: Mary’s determination allowed her to give her babies breast milk even when the medical system really failed her.  Though every issue she had could have been remedied with good, qualified lactation support this mother – like so many – did everything she knew to do.  If you are experiencing breastfeeding issues and your lactation support is not helping solve the problems at hand, find someone else!  Look for an IBCLC – which is the only certification showing a lactation consultant is a specialist.  And, if your IBCLC is not helpful, find another (just like you would any medical doctor you weren’t pleased with).}

Induced Lactation

What is induced lactation?

Induced lactation is when a mother who has never had her own biological children stimulates lactation in her breasts.  The term is also used when a mother, who is not currently breastfeeding, adopts a child and goes on to nurse the infant (adoptive breastfeeding).  It is different than relactation, which occurs when a mother’s milk supply is stimulated to nurse a baby she gave birth to but has been weaned.

How do you induce lactation?

There are many techniques that women use to help induce lactation, however the most important is frequent and effective breast stimulation (and milk removal once milk begins to flow).  Many women around the world have effectively induced lactation solely by regularly nursing a baby and/or through pumping/hand expression.1 Conversely, no amount of additional tools (galactagogues, hormonal stimulation, skin-to-skin, etc.) will effectively induce a milk supply without this first step.

Strategies for inducing milk supply

  1. Breast stimulation on both sides for at least 100+ minutes every 24 hours.  A woman may start with shorter sessions, say 5 minutes or so, and build up to expressing 15-20 on each side 8-12 times a day, including at least once at night.  The more frequently the breasts are stimulated, the quicker the milk supply will build. A newborn eats approximately every 2 hours, 10-12 times per day so expressing this often would be ideal.
  2. It is not essential to express on both sides at once, though this is a great way to save time.
  3. The milk ejection reflex can be trained so thinking of your baby, nursing or pumping in the same place, listening to relaxing music, hearing a baby cry, etc. can help to stimulate it.  Conversely, stress can inhibit hormones involved with milk ejection.
  4. If you already have your baby, and if he is willing to nurse at the breast, try nursing with an at-breast tube feeding device. This allows your milk supply to be stimulated by your child rather than pumping or hand expressing to stimulate your supply.  It reduces a step because while you are “pumping” you are also feeding your baby.  As you begin to develop a milk supply you can reduce the amount supplemented in the tube feeding device.  It is important to make sure your baby has a good latch in order to effectively stimulate your milk supply.
  5. When nursing at the breast (and at other times throughout the day and night as well) make sure to spend time skin-to-skin with your baby.  There are many tremendous benefits for both mother and baby, but this time together will help you bond and help maximize a mother’s breastfeeding hormones.
  6. Taking pharmacological and/or herbal galactagogues while expressing/breastfeeding can increase breast milk supply.  Domperidone is generally considered the safest pharmacological option and fenugreek and blessed thistle are common herbal options.  Eating oatmeal several times a week or even daily may also increase milk supply.
  7. Acupuncture may also increase a mother’s milk supply through enhancing the secretion of the hormone prolactin, which is necessary for milk production.2
  8. Having a support system around you cannot be overestimated!  Having family and friends that can support and encourage you as well as getting involved in a local mother-to-mother breastfeeding support group are essential.  There will be challenges you face with adoptive breastfeeding.  Having others to encourage you and share their experiences will help you tremendously.

If you have several months before getting your baby

If you are in the process of adopting but will have to wait weeks to months, there are medications you can take that mimic pregnancy hormones in your body.  By taking an oral birth control pill with estrogen and progesterone, and skipping the week of “sugar pills” each month, your body’s hormones will mimic those in pregnancy.

In addition to the oral birth control pill, a mother would take Domperidone which is used in lactation to increase breast milk supply.  After at least 30 days on this protocol, but longer (6 months) if possible, a mother would stop the birth control pill and begin pumping or breastfeeding.  She could also take Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle – 2 herbal galactagogues known to help increase milk supply.  Please read here for further details on how to implement the Newman Goldfarb Protocols for Induced Lactation.  Though the treatment protocols for inducing lactation have not been tested in clinical trials, women from around the world have successful adoptive breastfeeding stories by using these strategies.

There are many challenges that adoptive breastfeeding mothers may face.  Arming yourself with knowledge is half of the battle!

You may also be interested in reading adoptive breastfeeding and how to encourage your adopted baby to latch.

How I Succeeded: My Breastfeeding Journey

Megan Church HeadshotMeagan Church is a writer, children’s book author and the brainpower behind, which explores the realities of birth, babies and beyond. She lives in the Midwest with her high school sweetheart, three children, two cats and one dog. Her passions include running, black coffee, and simple, yet intentional living. Connect with her on Twitter @unexpectant or Facebook/unexpectant.

As I discussed in a previous post, I was prepared for cracked nipples and poor latching. But I wasn’t prepared for the mental fortitude that was necessary to reach my breastfeeding goal.

Even though breastfeeding my first two children was more mentally exhausting and demanding of my time than I could’ve predicted, the mechanics of it went smoothly. From the start, both were great nursers with a naturally good latch. I never experienced soreness or difficulties with them. I credit that to a few factors:

Megan Church

Pre-birth education

Knowing I was absolutely clueless about how to breastfeed a baby, I signed up for a class at my local hospital. I took the class, while I was pregnant. This helped me understand what to look for in a proper latch, positioning and more. Sure, it was odd practicing with dolls, but when it came time for the real thing, I at least had some idea of what to do.

Immediate skin-to-skin contact

After my babies were born, they were immediately placed on my chest for skin-to-skin contact. We enjoyed an hour or two together, just getting to know one another without a lot of intrusive examinations getting in the way of the most precious bonding moments. This allowed both babies to root and follow their natural instincts for nourishment and comfort right after birth. I still remember how amazed I was after all three of my babies began to nurse on their own within the first hour of their lives. That wouldn’t have been possible without that skin-to-skin time.

Lactation consultants

Before having a baby, I was a pretty modest person. I wasn’t sure how I would respond to people seeing all sides of my body. But, in the throes of labor, discretion sort of goes out the window. And, I found that to be true, while nursing as well. Our hospital had great lactation consultants on staff who answered any and all questions. They would come watch me breastfeed to make sure the latch was good and that baby was feeding well. As a newbie with no expertise in breastfeeding, this feedback was a beautiful thing.

Supportive husband

I am blessed to have a supportive husband who also believes in the benefits of breastfeeding. After doing our research during pregnancy, we knew we wanted to not only give our babies the most natural entries into the world as possible, but we also wanted them to be nourished by the most natural food possible. He was always a great supporter and, while he might not have gotten to spend time bonding with the babies during feeding sessions, he bonded in many other ways instead (such as middle-of-the-night diaper changes, rocking to sleep, baby wearing and more). He respected the importance of breastfeeding and he’s an encourager for other moms to breastfeed as well.

Examples of others

By the time I had my first child, I had watched both of my sisters-in-law nurse their babies. While I wasn’t eyeing their latch and getting an up-close-and-personal view, their example still showed me that it was possible and that, while struggles might occur, patience and dedication can get you through.

The will to not give up

Natural birth taught me that I’m a lot stronger than I realized. Before giving birth, I did my homework. I knew the benefits of breastfeeding and I knew I did not want to give my babies formula. So even during those moments of exhaustion and times when I struggled with always having to be the one to feed the babies (my first two rejected any sort of bottle), I still knew that I didn’t want to give up. I knew it was a season of life and that weaning would eventually occur some day. I knew that my top goal was to get them through their first year without formula. And, we made it. With each of my three babies, we made it that first year…and even a few months beyond.