An Interview with Tracey Attigah-Price
Tracey Attigah-Price is a Product Manager at Ovia, mom to twins (Sesie & Selasie), and angel mum to Arielle-nova. Tracey is from Ghana and moved to the United States ten years ago.
She was drawn to work at Ovia because she is passionate about women’s health and about empowering women to be the best versions of themselves. We sat down to talk all things breastfeeding: from setting goals during pregnancy, to pumping during a stay in the NICU, to coming home from the hospital.
How were you thinking about breastfeeding during pregnancy? Did you set some breastfeeding goals?
Growing up in Ghana, when it came to infant feeding, I didn’t know anything apart from breastfeeding. I was introduced to formula and different feeding methods when I moved to America, but I still felt strongly that I wanted to breastfeed. Looking back, I realize that part of this feeling came from a desire to avoid feeling like a failure.
That all changed during pregnancy when I started reading about how challenging it might be for me to produce enough milk for twins. At that point, I became open to doing whatever it took for my babies to be healthy. For me, this meant taking care of myself and making sure I did everything within my power to breastfeed the twins for 12 months.
Can you talk to me a bit about the early days with your twins? How were you supported while your babies were in the NICU?
It came as no surprise to me or my family that my twins were born early at 32 weeks and spent 3 weeks in the NICU. I initially thought I would still be able to breastfeed them, but I had several factors working against me.
The twins at 32 weeks had not developed the ability to suck yet and needed feeding tubes. Plus, I gave birth during the pandemic, which meant I could not sleep over or be with them all the time. But just as I was starting to think, “Well there goes my breastfeeding dream,” I met a wonderful lactation specialist.
She told me that I could still pump and bring the milk to the twins in the NICU and they would place the milk into my babies’ feeding tubes. She walked me through pumping and hand expressing, both of which helped to boost my milk supply. Initially my milk had to be fortified with formula to give the twins some extra calories, but once they started gaining weight, doctors gradually reduced the amount of formula until it was no longer necessary.
It was so hard to leave the twins in the NICU every night, but one thing that kept me going was how happy the nurses and doctors were every time I visited with a stash of milk. That encouragement motivated me to keep pumping. Although they were still little, by their third week in the NICU I was advised to start breastfeeding directly. It wasn’t the fairytale beginning to my journey that I had envisioned, but I was happy that breastfeeding was still an option for me.
Did anything surprise you when it came to breastfeeding?
Yes! I will say I was very hard on myself in the beginning because I wasn’t able to breastfeed directly, but my lactation specialist kept reminding me that I was still giving my babies breast milk and helping their development. She encouraged me to continue once we were discharged from the NICU.
The twins came home weighing 4 and 5 pounds — still very small and unable to latch. Discovering and using the nipple shield for the first month was a big surprise to me as I had read many articles that discouraged nipple shields. When it came time to wean them off it, I did have some issues getting them to feed directly from the breast. So I joined a lactation Zoom class, got some great tips, and finally the twins were able to latch successfully!
Something else that surprised me was the concept of having an oversupply of milk. That blew my mind. Because I was pumping from the very beginning, I had an oversupply even with two babies. I experienced rapid weight loss as a result, which meant I needed to consume many calories to stay at a healthy weight. My breasts were constantly full and I would have to pump often to relieve myself of the pain, but I was able to tandem breastfeed the twins for 15 months! For that, I am always grateful.
What challenges did you face (if any) with breastfeeding when you were able to bring your babies home?
While I had many people encouraging me to breastfeed, I also experienced people trying to talk me out of it and recommending that I give the twins formula because they believed it will provide more nutrients and help them gain weight. I was disheartened. Even with a lot of people in my court, it still felt like a lonely experience sometimes.
How did breastfeeding make you feel? Are there any moments that stand out when you think back on it?
Just thinking about this makes me smile. Having to go through a stillbirth and postpartum anxiety, breastfeeding gave me a sense of peace and connection to my babies. I loved how they would look up to me and smile. In a little way it gave me reassurance that I was doing something right. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always smooth, but once we got into the groove of things, it became a wonderful experience.
Do you have a message for others who are preparing to breastfeed or hitting some roadblocks?
Whether you’re feeding one baby or multiples, breastfeeding is not an easy journey. For me, what worked was believing strongly in what was the best for me and my babies and constantly advocating for that.
And I had a positive support system of people who made me feel heard and seen. Community comes in many forms — family, lactation consultants, online communities, and resources. It wasn’t easy (sometimes it was painful), but I always came back to that amazing feeling of knowing that my body was producing all the nutrients my twins needed.