Note:  I promise to share pictures from Texas soon. As it turns out, I accidentally left my camera at my mom’s house so she’s planning to mail it to me. In the meantime, no photos. : (  Sorry!

If you’ve been reading regularly, you’ve heard a LOT about our breastfeeding issues (here, here, etc.)

It’s been awhile since I updated last so I thought I’d tell you a little about our progress as of late.

I’m pleased to say that we are still breastfeeding!

And, honestly, it has never gotten “easier” as so many people say it does.

It has been an almost daily source of frustration and hardship. An uphill battle that I keep fighting.

Many people have asked why I stick with it. Why I don’t just make life easier and give the babies formula?

But the reasons are many and the scope is too great to fully dive into. Some of the reasons are for the babies’ health, some are for my health (breast cancer runs in my family and the longer I breastfeed, the lower the likelihood of getting breast cancer), and some are for financial benefit. Remember when I discussed the costs of breastfeeding (spoiler:  It’s NOT free!), well formula-feeding certainly isn’t free either. Now that the girls are eating more, I recently tallied up how much it would cost to feed them if they ate strictly formula. Comes out to $18/day. Thats $126 per week, or $540 a month. Just for formula! That’s a ridiculous number, right?

So what do we do?

Well, I still predominantly pump.

Over time, Brooke has gotten pretty good with breastfeeding. Bailey, on the other hand, lacks the patience for it since she’s so used to a bottle. Every time I try to breastfeed her she ends up screaming until she’s red in the face and we take her away to give her a bottle. Breaks my heart.

But if I only pump then I’m too engorged.

So what works for us is that I pump about 5-6 times a day and breastfeed at least once or twice. Brooke can actually get a full meal from straight breastfeeding, while I will generally try to get Bailey to latch, but then end up handing her off to Chris to bottle-feed while I finish breastfeeding Brooke.

What about work?

I pump at work. It sucks. There’s not a “designated” place to pump so I go somewhere different every time. Sometimes I’ll steal someone else’s office. Sometimes I’ll go into an unused lab and lock the door. I do what needs to be done.

What about travel?

I brought my pump with me on our recent trip to Texas. I pumped in the car multiple times (e.g., I pumped on the way to Phoenix; once in Austin I pumped in the car on the way to my friends’ wedding – it was several hours away, etc.). My pump has a battery pack so although it works better when plugged in, I can still use it on the road. I even used it while driving by using a hands-free pumping bra and wearing a cover so neighboring drivers couldn’t see what I was doing. I’d pull over to “hook up” and then again to “detach” but was able to drive just fine while it was pumping. Does that make me hard-core? I felt like I deserved some type of award, lol.

Are you able to keep up?

The honest answer is No. I’ve given it 110%. I’ve done all I possibly can. And yet, after only a few months (maybe 3 months in??) I didn’t have enough supply for both babies. At first I joined a milk-sharing program and supplemented with human breastmilk. I know this grosses some people out (it grossed Chris out!) but the milk was from a safe and trustworthy source and I felt good about the decision. Eventually though, that became an unviable option as well. So we supplemented with formula. Currently the babies are on about a 50-50 mix of my milk and formula.

Did you do X, Y, & Z to boost your milk supply?

Yes. I’m not lying when I said I gave it 110%. Here are some of the things I tried (in case anyone else is struggling with supply and needs suggestions)

  • High protein diet
  • Lots and Lots (and Lots) of water!
  • As much skin-to-skin contact as possible (this includes trying to breastfeed more rather than relying on the pump)
  • Power hour:  pumping for an entire hour at the rate of 10 minutes “on”, 5 minutes “off”
  • Frequent pumping. Although now I only pump 5-6 times per day, I’d started off pumping around the clock every 2-3 hours (setting my alarm at night!)
  • Fenugreek herbal supplement
  • Mothers Milk herbal tea
  • Fish Oil. Some studies suggest fish oil supplements help increase milk supply.
  • Oxytocin nasal spray. Oxytocin stimulates let-down so I used it to help me prior to breastfeeding so the milk would flow a little faster (this helped with Bailey, in particular).
  • Motilium (the brand name for the drug domperidone). This is an antidopaminergic drug that stimulates milk production by blocking dopamine, which allows increased prolactin levels – thus boosting milk supply.

All of these things seemed to help me – short term. I think that every time I introduced something my body would temporarily boost milk supply, but would then level back off. I first tried natural remedies, then introduced herbal remedies before finally turning to medical interventions. At this point I’m still trying to eat high protein, take in lots of water, and taking fenugreek, fish oil, and motilium (with the occasional Mothers Milk tea).

My “goal” has been to get to 6 months while still breastfeeding and I think that goal continues (they’re now at 4.5 months old so thats still 1.5 months away). Now, though, I think I might still try to pump and breastfeed for a bit longer. Basically, at 6 months I want to get back to a more “regular” way of life. Right now pumping and breastfeeding is all-consuming. I look forward to being able to go to work and not have to pump every 3 hours. It’s really a limiting factor when I’m trying to juggle research, teaching, dissertation-writing, baby-wrangling, keeping up with the house, running errands, and everything else in life. So at 6 months my plan is to stop the extreme pumping/breastfeeding schedule I’ve been keeping and to try to breastfeed twice per day (knowing that I’ll probably only be able to feed Brooke – though I’ll continue to try with Bailey): once at morning and once at night, while only pumping maybe once or twice per day, just to keep a bit of my supply.

I hate that Bailey won’t breastfeed as easily as Brooke. My ideal would be to breastfeed each of them once per day so they’re getting equal amounts of the breastmilk benefits. But that’s just not realistic for us. Every baby is different and – even with identical twins! – personalities and temperaments are different. Hopefully I’ll be able to feed Bailey a bit more of the pumped breastmilk to even things out a little. We’ll see what happens when we get there.

So that’s our update for now.