This all started because my daughter Olympia, the girl twin has had feeding issues from the very beginning and our lactation consultant referred us to an infant physical therapist who also practices craniosacro therapy. Even though pregnancy and childbirth are incredibly natural doesn't mean that it comes without a cost. With twins, they are even more cramped for space in utero and are more prone to areas of chronic tension once they are born.
Poor little Olympia was defiantly squished into an uncomfortable position, evident by her twisted legs and lopsided head. The very first image I have of her in my head from when she was born was my OB holding her up and her little legs both hooked sharply to the left (her right). Her head wasn't a red flag until she was almost a month old and it still had a funny shape. Most vaginally delivered babies have cone heads from being in the birth canal so that was what I attributed it to until it failed to round out after a few weeks.
Her body also seemed unnaturally tense; she just never fully relaxed even while being held and rocked. When we took her for her first appointment, the PT confirmed that she also felt that Olympia had some pretty serious myofacial tension that was likely very uncomfortable for her. Think about how awful you feel after sleeping on a bad pull-out sofa bed... Thankfully babies are much more flexible and resilient when it comes to uncomfortable positions, but months of being tightly stuck in that position will still cause them harm.
The tension in her neck was not only making her what my husband and I nicknamed, "the cranky one," but it was affecting her ability to eat. She was having trouble nursing well at the breast and when she took a breastmilk bottle, she was a very sloppy eater and much of the milk ended up wasted down her chin and neck. When her mouth was assessed, her tongue was super tight, especially in the back which prevents her from sucking effectivly.
Infant physical therapy and craniosacrial therapy should be incredibly gentle, so gentle in fact that it may not look like the practitioner is doing anything! The baby should melt like butter in their hands as they work their magic. In our first session, Olympia looked more relaxed than she ever had in the therapists hands. This woman was the Baby Whisperer.
Olympia was the one with obvious problems that needed to be worked on but since we were there and making the trips for her, we wanted an assessment done on Atlas, our boy twin. He only has minor tension. He favors looking over his right shoulder more than is normal for an infant (a slight favoring of one side is normal).
Both babies have a list of homework exercises that we work through each day. These exercises are actually great for all babies! I think of it as their yoga. My babies are already practicing asana to strengthen their muscles and develop healthy flexibility to balance their bodies. These exercises promote body awareness and the rhythmic movements are calming to the central nervous system. Not only that, but it's an awesome way to facilitate bonding between you and baby!
I know firsthand how hard it can be to "play" with young babies; newborns in particular. It's really difficult to engage them in activities when they don't give much feedback and it's essential to their wellbeing and happiness to give them adequate stimulation. These exercises can be done all in one session or a few different times throughout the day. They are a wonderful guided way to interact with your baby while also benefiting their physical and emotional development.
I have mixed feelings about "lactation cookies (and bars)." They often just seem like an excuse to eat cookies; which lets face it, are not healthy. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE cookies, but I can't be eating them every day. The other reason I'm not 100% for lactation cookies is that there's really nothing in them that makes your body produce more milk. The brewers yeast greatly boosts the nutrient content and realistically would be a great addition to any cookie recipe. However, brewers yeast is not directly a galactagogue herb such as fenugreek, fennel, blessed thistle and alfalfa.
I have a personal theory based on my knowledge as a nutritionist, on the reason why lactation cookies may appear to increase supply. Lactation cookies add carbs and calories to the mother's diet along with a vitamin and mineral boost from the added brewer's yeast. Those three things will all aid in the mother producing milk which is why many women struggle to maintain milk supply while trying to loose weight or when increasing exercise.
Now that I just told you that I'm not a fan of lactation cookies, here's a recipe for lactation bars that I would suggest as an alternative to the traditional lactation cookie. And to set the record straight, I'm not anti lactation cookie, I just think moms should be informed and not binge on lactation cookies just because they're breastfeeding. I think they can be a great little daily treat in moderation and these bars contain some of those great galactagogue herbs!
These bars are very high fat, but I am pro fat! Healthy fats are great, slow burning fuel to help combat that "breastfeeding hunger" and it helps support brain growth for you baby! One little bar will go a long way. I like using these after midnight feedings to help give my body the boost it needs to make milk for the next feeding while I am sleeping. Especially in the early months when babies are not yet sleeping through the night, it can be really useful to fuel up at night, plus I have a hard time making it through the night as a breastfeeding mother without at least one little snack.
**the reason I call these "happy tummy bars" is because the turmeric, ginger and fennel are all really amazing for gut health and will benefit both mom and baby**
3 tbsp. coconut flour
1 cup cashew butter
1/4 cup flaxseed
1/4 cup coconut sugar
2 tbsp brewers yeast
1/2 cup melted ghee or coconut oil (I used grass fed butter)
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp fennel
Pinch of black pepper
Crushed pistachios for garnish (I used hemp seeds)
Lightly toast the coconut flour in a saucepan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in all remaining ingredients to the saucepan until well combined. Pour batter into a parchment lined pan and put in the fridge until it solidifies. Cut into slices and store in the fridge or freezer until time to serve.
Happy Lactating from your's truly!
I’m making a conscious effort to eat more vegetarian, vegan and meat-lite meals. I actually have no issue with eating meat. Combined with lots of vegetables, high quality (organic, free range, grass fed…) meat is a great protein source for a well balanced, healthy diet. The problem is that I have an aversion to it… I’ve never been much of a carnivore but I’ve consistently pushed myself to utilize meat as a protein source. Its become especially repulsive to me lately for unexplained reasons.
I assumed that my latest heightened avoidance had to do with pregnancy which is normal. However, even after delivering the twins, I still cannot stomach the thought of consuming meat. My solution; eat less meat! Pretty obvious I know.
I won’t bore you with too much else before I get down to the (non) meat of this recipe.
As always, I recommend soaking or sprouting legumes and grains to make them more digestible and more nutritious. The last time I made this I soaked my beans for 3 days and didn’t have time to do anything but rinse the quinoa. I’m not perfect; I would have liked to have remembered to get my quinoa a’sproutin earlier in the week but I just did not have my life quite that organized last week.
½ cup black beans
½ cup white beans
OR a cup each of canned beans
½ cup quinoa
1 cup vegetable broth (use bone broth for extra protein and collagen)
4 cups water for cooking the beans
3 cloves garlic minced
½ tsp. onion powder
2 large carrots spiralized or grated
1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
¼ cup crumbled feta or goat cheese
4 cups mixed greens or chopped kale
3 tsb avocado or olive oil
1 lemon juiced
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil the water and add all the soaked/sprouted beans. Simmer for 60-90 minutes until soft. Bring quinoa, garlic, onion power and broth to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Add carrots, tomatoes, beans, quinoa and feta to a bed of greens. Mix lemon, oil, salt and pepper together and drizzle over the salad. Wa-la!
I struggled with my milk supply the entire year I nursed my oldest son. I’m incredibly proud of myself for overcoming all the obstacles that we did and still making it to the one year mark but I defiantly wanted to set myself up for an easier, more successful round two with my twins (and I would need to make double the milk!!!).
My breastfeeding journey got off to a rocky start just minutes after delivering him. I unexpectedly postpartum hemorrhaged and lost about two liters of blood. The placenta and clots had to be manually dug out so I had my OB’s arm up inside of me with no pain meds because I’d had an all-natural, medication free delivery.
I remember not being able to stop shaking and being in an unbelievable amount of pain AFTER the delivery. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the possibility of a rough recovery and I truly felt like I was dying. In the few minutes before the hemorrhage, I attempted to get him latched and breastfeeding but he wasn’t really interested and I was pretty out of it. I let it go and figured I’d try again soon, once he had been weighed and evaluated; I didn’t know I wasn’t going to get that chance for a long time.
I didn’t make it up to the recovery floor until six hours postpartum because the complications and I kept fainting every time they tried to move me. Once I did finally try again, things went pretty well. He had a great latch and other than being sleepy, he was a good nurser.
Just five days postpartum, I came down with a high fever, chills, sweats and body aches. It turned out I had a goose egg sized hematoma inside my vagina from the delivery (he was a large baby weighing in at 8lb 14oz) that was now infected. I had to go on heavy-duty antibiotics to get rid of that and my body was further run down and trying to recover from birth, heavy blood loss and now a bad infection.
The next obstacle was that I had to return to work full time just two weeks postpartum. At two weeks postpartum, a mother’s milk supply is not fully developed and being physically separated from my baby for long periods of time that soon greatly impacted my milk supply. I was not near my baby for our pheromones to be mixing and signaling to my body that I needed to be making milk for him even though I was pumping twice at work everyday.
Fast-forward a month or so, my son and I came down with a nasty thrush infection. Babies often get oral thrush and its common for the nursing mother to not contract it, however I did end up getting it and then we just kept passing it back and forth. Nursing was extremely painful. I would tense up and cry every time I had to feed him. It felt like someone had sandpapered my nipples and then poured rubbing alcohol over them! The yeast moved up into my milk ducts then causing pain in the entire breast whenever I had a let down. It took an entire two months and prescription medication for both of us to finally get rid of it.
During that time, about three months postpartum, I developed postpartum depression. I struggled to get out of bed, my husband had to beg me to feed our baby, I was totally disconnected from both of them. I very stupidly denied that there was a problem and didn’t seek help until months later and continued to battle PPD until I was about nine months postpartum.
I was never able to pump more than a few ounces total for my son and when he was around six months old, my breasts refused to letdown for the pump all together and even after a full 40 minutes of pumping full breasts, I wouldn’t have more than a few drops of milk in the bottles. My pump and I had a very poor relationship.
I used all sorts of milk boosting herbal supplements to maintain my weak supply. If I stopped taking them, my supply took a very obvious hit so I know they were helping. I conceived the twins when my son turned one and once I found out I was pregnant, I started to wean him which was super easy. My supply disappeared very quickly; I was never engorged.
When I was 20 weeks pregnant with the twins I met with a lactation consultant to learn about breastfeeding multiples and to prepare myself for success this time. I was very apprehensive about whether I would be able to make enough milk to adequately nourish two babies at once. I learned some very surprising things that I never even knew had impacted my supply.
Products that help increase milk supply that I found extremely helpful:
My doula (who is a student midwife also and got these recommendations from her teacher midwife) had me mega dose on two herbs, fenugreek and alfalfa in the first two weeks postpartum. I also took one other postpartum support herb shatavari.
You can also check out @triple.twinning's blog for more tips. Every mother has a different experience and finds things that work for her. I hope that between our tips, you can what helps you be a successful breastfeeding mother. She is a VERY experienced mother of multiples (she is superwoman with three sets of spontaneous twins!!!) and makes far more excess milk than I do. By setting myself up right and being proactive, I have been able to make enough to feed both my babies and build up a stash and I'm very proud of myself for that accomplishment. However, I highly recommend her blog for breastfeeding and more because she has some really amazing tips!
These are herbs my medical provider and I both feel comfortable with me using and have helped me. Consult your doctor prior to using any supplements as they have the potential to have side affects even though they are natural.