Today, Amaris and Alisa turn ONE. Today also marks the first full year of our breastfeeding journey. I am proud of my decision to exclusively breastfeed them, and humbled by the fact that I was able to do so through the generosity of moms who are willing to share their breastmilk with my girls.

It pained me to accept the fact that my body failed to produce enough milk to sustain my twins. I prayed and prayed for God to increase my supply. I did everything I needed to do. I latched on demand. I had experts check the twins’ latch and drinking. I had a peer counselor visit and counsel me. I paid a lactation consultant (IBCLC) to help me. I took every galactagoue known to help boost supply – oatmeal, cookies, brownies, Fenugreek, Malunggay Capsules, M2, Mother’s Milk Tea, Motherlove Goat’s Rue Tincture, Milkflow, name it!  I pumped round the clock, powerpumped in the morning and evening. I never missed any pumping session even at work. I pumped in my workstation, in meetings, in shopping malls when I am out, in the car, in the hospital corridor. I pumped when I am scheduled to pump, wherever I am. I unli-latched at night and on weekends, even if that means I won’t have time to do anything else for myself. I had lactation massages every few weeks. When everything failed, I took Motilium (Domperidone) for a couple of months upon the recommendation of my lactation consultant and pedias (I consulted two). I took it while still taking other galactagogues, pumping and having massages. I followed all the RULES. I didn’t pump immediately. We latched on demand. We didn’t give pacifiers. No bottles either to avoid the risk of nipple confusion. We cupfed. Despite our efforts, nothing worked. Isn’t He God who answers prayers, and provides the needs of His children? Yes, He is! Did God not hear my prayers? Did He not see my tears of desperation? You bet He did! Not in the way I expected, but He did. He sent you. He sent countless other moms who battled mastitis and oversupply, and the inconvenience of pumping relentlessly. He sent moms who generously fed other babies through their breastmilk. He sent me moms from as far south as Laguna, to as far north as Caloocan City. You are God’s answer to my prayers. Ariel would usually make the rounds on Saturdays to pick up milk donations. Our babies would consume 36-40 oz of milk a day, while I am only able to produce up to 14oz a day at best (my supply has dwindled even more now). So they practically got their daytime nourishment from other moms.

So, thank you, dear milk donor. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for your perseverance. Thank you for nourishing my twins. Thank you for your decision to breastfeed. And I thank your families, too, for supporting your own breastfeeding journey. Someday, I hope you will tell your babies that they have two sisters who shared mommy’s milk.

So, where do we go from here?

Last May 13, we had our check up with Dr. Anthony Calibo, our breastfeeding advocate pedia. He’s been taking care of our babies since they were two months old (I wish we went to him sooner), severely underweight, and not gaining enough. We decided to see him when our last pedia prescribed we switch to formula when the babies failed to gain weight at the rate expected for their age. We actually went to see three pedias before deciding to stay with Dr. Calibo. I thought there must be a way to keep breastfeeding exclusively while addressing the girls’ issues. Dr. Calibo is the only pedia who prescribed skin to skin contact (or Kangaroo Care) for at least 16 hours a day for as long as I was on maternity leave. In fact, he asked that I extend my Maternity Leave. Fortunately, my boss allowed me and I was able to stay with my twins for four months. We did skin to skin even after I returned to work. The babies would be naked, save for diapers, all night and would nurse and sleep against my bare skin all night and most of the day. It’s funny when people ask me why my kids are always naked. Anyway, we did it until the girls are 6 months old. Aside from skin to skin, Dr. Calibo also prescribed Virgin Coconut Oil as supplement to help gain weight. The girls hated it, but we gave them as much as 3ml, 10x a day, or 30ml total. Yup, that much. Other than that, he also asked that we supplement their regular direct feeding with cupfeeding. So for instance, if they latched at 8am and 10am, we feed them .5-1oz by cup at 9am. That’s when I started looking for milk donors. When I went back to work, we had to force feed the babies with breast milk via dropper. Actually, we force feed them with milk until they turned one, and we have achieved weight that is proportional to their height. As Dr. Anthony would say, “hindi na sila payatot”. So now, they are looking chubby, with round cheeks and double chin. However, they remain severely underweight because they are small. Dr. Calibo told us we can stop forcefeeding them and just give them milk when they want. We still offer milk every two hours, on top of feeding them solids 5x a day. Aside from healthy, homemade solid food and breastmilk, we are now giving them Cellife 3x a day. It’s a food supplement that provides extra nutrition, with a good dose of protein to help with muscle development.

Meanwhile, my milk supply has been dwindling further, though I still pump 4x a day. I powerpump in the morning from 7-8am on the way to work. I get 1.5-2oz total from that session. Then I’d pump again at 11am, 2pm, and 5pm. I’d get 1.5-2oz per session, too. So on a good day, I’d take home at least 8oz of milk. On a bad day, I’d be lucky to take home 7oz. That’s only good for 1 feeding session for the two girls. Maybe now that we’re not force feeding them anymore, that will be good for 2-3 feeding sessions. Alisa has a good appetite and continues to drink 2-3oz per feeding session on top of her solid food. Amaris remains to be a challenge. My fear is that she will start losing weight now that we’re not forcing her to drink milk. She’s also a picky eater when it comes to solids. She loves bananas (La Tundan) but gets really constipated so we try to avoid it. She also loves avocado, but I don’t know where I’ll get avocado once it’s out of season. We still give VCO, but mostly to help prevent constipation. We give about 10-12ml a day. We will continue to rely on milk donation to sustain our extended feeding. I know it will be a challenge to get milk donation now that the kids have turned one. Most moms prioritize newborns, specially preemies in the NICU. I totally understand that, but if you can continue to share with Amaris and Alisa, our family will be eternally grateful.

Other than their weight and size issues, the girls are happy and healthy toddlers. They hardly get sick – nothing that paracetamol and continued breastfeeding couldn’t handle. They are taking swim classes every Sunday (to help build muscle strength, and develop motor skills). They love to play. They dance when we play music. They babble (sometimes very loudly). They love it when we sing to them. They bring us so much joy.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Thank you for being part of our village. God bless you!

Written by Alby Laran

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