A Mum of identical twins, Jade Walker is now in her 6th month of motherhood and currently mix-feeding her baby girls. An endometriosis and fertility Naturopath by trade, Jade has been through so much and is a big advocate and educator in her field. Her IG feed is a mix of educational infographics interspersed with photos of feeding, pumping, and other candid moments and honest reflections of navigating new Mama life with twin cuteness. It's been a long road for Jade to now be home with her healthy girls, from their conception to their bumpy start to life with their arrival earthside at 33 weeks.
We wanted to sit down for a cosy chat with Jade to find out more about her and her own blossoming breastfeeding story.
Q: Hi Jade! Thanks for agreeing to chat with us! Can you tell us a bit about you and who makes up your family? We'd love to hear about how you became a Mama!
I’m an accredited Naturopath (Bachelor of Health Science) with a strong focus in endometriosis and fertility.
I’m very passionate about integrated health, which is the term we use for combining “natural” health with modern medicine. I love anything to do with female hormones, gut health, and now, a lot more in pregnancy, post-partum and babies.
In my family we have our 6 month old twins Maisie and Imogen, my husband Ed, and our big teddy Milly the groodle.
We live in Geelong where we love being close to the Great Ocean Road, and love the community vibe but still everything you’d want from a city.
My fertility journey started with a well overdue diagnosis of endometriosis 2 years ago (which took 17 years to diagnose from the time I’d been experiencing debilitating periods). My husband and I wanted to start trying for a baby but month after month nothing was happening. After having excision surgery with my endo specialist, he said everything looked great for conceiving. Along with all my naturopathic main-stays for supporting healthy conception, I couldn't understand why it wasn’t happening. So we also had my husband tested for which we discovered some significant problems with his sperm - something that often goes overlooked in many infertility cases. So when my endo/IVF specialist saw these results he said we needed to go to IVF straight away. It was actually a bit of a relief that we could stop waiting month after month, and get the ball rolling.
I had 6 eggs retrieved, which all fertilised. However only one embryo made it to freeze. I was devastated. I thought, one embryo, it probably won’t work the first time. I was already preparing myself to go through egg collection again. But low and behold we fell pregnant. 7 weeks later and our first scan we were even more surprised to find out that lucky little embryo had split into two and we would be having identical twins!
Q: Many women say they feel really totally unprepared and unsupported in their first breastfeeding journey. Was this the case for you? What are the things that surprised you?
Like many women, I dreamed of having a beautiful long breastfeeding journey. Being pregnant with twins, I knew that was going to be challenging. But I was so determined I’d make it work. Especially after going through my endometriosis journey, IVF, having a high risk pregnancy, and then a cesarean, this was the one thing I just didn’t want anyone to take away from me.
With the girls being born at 33 weeks, it was going to be a long a tiresome road ahead of exclusively pumping enough milk for two babies. But I was determined! The first week was going great. But then as the girls’ volumes increased, I was chasing my tail trying to get my supply up. I did everything in the book. It was so stressful upon reflection. But when the girls came home after 4 weeks I was ‘just’ making enough for the two of them. At this point I was “triple feeding”; breastfeed, bottle top up, express. This was due to the girls not being strong enough for full feeds yet, but needing to express to keep my supply up. It was extremely tiring and I was never getting more than 2 hours of sleep in a row for some time.
After many visits with my IBCLC (who was a twin mum herself), I had to accept that my supply was never going to get there for 2 babies. So we tried donor milk for sometime before realising dairy was a problem for Maisie’s reflux. So then we introduced a dairy free formula, and I’ve been both breastfeeding and bottle feeding ever since.
I felt really well supported at the time, but upon reflection I’ve learnt a lot more on my hunt for answers as to why I wasn’t able to get to the volumes I know other twin mums have. And I feel there were a few pieces of advice lacking that may have made the difference. However, it could have just simply been who I am, and I have learnt to accept that now. I think the thing that surprised me was just how much conflicting information you’re given. In hindsight I would have seen an IBCLC before birth and simply stuck with her advice and no one else’s. The things I felt totally unprepared for was how often I’d be fixed to a pump, the nipple pain, and the engorged breasts. My gosh, those blocked ducts can really get you good!
Q: Breastfeeding twins is something most women will never experience, and most of us look at twin Mamas with a sense of awe! Can you tell us a bit about how it has been for you? Do you have any tips for Mamas who might be thinking about or preparing to feed twins?
It really is so special to be able to tandem feed twins. Something I love so much. It was very hard in the beginning, but after a few months it feels like second nature.
My advice is to see an IBCLC before birth so that you know your expectations, and continuously remember this - it WILL get easier. Much easier than preparing bottles. Plus you won’t have to express forever. In fact, something I wish I’d been better informed on is when to reduce the amount of expressing and instead keep the milk in your breasts for your babies so they’re not fussing (thus having to go back to the bottle when they could have instead been breastfeeding).
But I’d also say this, remember you have two babies, not one. Whatever you choose or whatever happens with your ability to breastfeed or not, remember not to compare yourself to singleton mummas. Any amount of breastfeeding twins is incredible. No matter how long or how much you produce. Just one drop of breastmilk under the microscope is alive with beneficial bacteria, immune-supporting antibodies, and human milk oligosaccharides (prebiotics to your baby’s brand new microbiome).
Q: We are truly amazed by your wealth of knowledge and all the evidence-based information you share on your page! We are particularly loving to read what you are sharing about the pure magic that is breastmilk production! For some of our readers who might not be as in the know about the wonders of milk-making, can you dazzle us with a few facts about what impacts the composition of our breastmilk and our supply?
First and foremost, milk supply is driven by prolactin. Prolactin receptors are laid down in those first few months after pregnancy which is why it’s so important to keep up the nipple stimulation, feed on demand/cluster feed etc to ensure this process takes place. Conversely, this is why you shouldn’t try to stretch out feeds to follow “routines” - this is not how nature intended.
The best message when it comes to food is simply ensuring you’re eating ENOUGH and drinking A LOT. Your breastmilk is made from 87% water so you have to think, where is that water coming from? Without breastfeeding, I recommend clients drink 2-3L of water per day. So you can imagine how well hydrated you need to be when breastfeeding. Of course, you can also overhydrate, so aim for 3-4L per day (this can include herbal teas and soups too).
The best galactagogue foods we use include brewer’s yeast, flaxseeds, fennel, fenugreek and oats. Some of these are possibly due to their hormonal actions, whilst others, such as oats, are more from a nutritional point of view. But in general, ensure you’re always well fed with good sources of proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrates (get those meal trains coming).
We also have some herbs in the Naturopathic tool kit such as moringa leaf, shatavari and milk thistle.
I also think it’s wise to take a few supplements throughout breastfeeding to keep on top of nutrient levels such as a pre-natal or B vitamin complex, omega 3, iron and vitamin D. Your Naturopath can also check your latest blood test results to see what you need more of.
One thing I will point out, is that some people like to quote the old wive’s tale that beer may help supply. Whilst brewer’s yeast may be responsible here, we do know that alcohol actually decreases supply by around 20% for 3-4 hours after drinking.
With all of this said, if you’re like me, and you tried all of the boobie bickies, lactation teas, good eating and drinking, and you still couldn’t get your supply up, there’s no harm in trying domperidone, which helps to increase prolactin levels. This was something I was reluctant to do in the beginning. But finally when I did, I wished I’d done it sooner.
Q: We really love the space you have created over at @jadewalkerhealth and are absolutely thrilled that you have found OMM Label to help you breastfeed anywhere, anytime. Tell us what helps you to feed with confidence?
I absolutely love my OMM label sweater (not to mention the cute AF matching tops for the girls). Before I had them, I was always lifting my T shirt in public with all of my mid-rif for the world to see. Which to be honest, I’m a pretty confident person so it didn’t bother me what body parts people saw (although it took some getting used to for my husband). However the thing I hated was baring your belly in the middle of winter. I don’t like being cold! So the OMM label apparel has been a game changer for keeping me warm, covered, and feeling a little more discreet. Sometimes you almost wouldn’t even know you’re breastfeeding.
The two things that have given me the confidence to continue breastfeeding have been both my knowledge of the undeniable benefits (hello antibodies!), and the incredible support and motivation from my instagram community.
Thanks so much for joining us, Jade! It’s been wonderful.
Interview by Lauren.