Since my last post about post-partum care, I’ve been pretty consumed with taking care of my family. The thing that has been the most trying and difficult for me as a mother has been feeding my babies for their first year. I have this breastfeeding problem. It’s incredibly embarrassing to me that I have this but I have had to deal with it daily for the first year of each of my children’s lives so thankfully, I’m beginning to accept it. However, there are days when demon thoughts haunt me and I wonder if I have a right to give birth to children when I can’t even sustain their lives after they’re born. I do feel that I have done the best I know how to do and have learned some great things to help myself at least maintain some supply of my own milk for my baby.
According to my midwife, as well as my own intuition, some breast milk is better than none and so whatever I can give my babies, it’s worth it to me to do it. This topic was my biggest worry when I first decided to interview midwives for my homebirth—I knew that midwives are super pro-breastfeeding—which I am too, except that I honestly cannot feed my babies on my milk alone. Of the three midwives I interviewed, one made me cry because she accused me of feeding my babies poison, the other made me cry because she didn’t think I had tried everything, and the midwife I picked said "There are three rules when it comes to feeding baby. Number one: feed the baby, Number 2: try to do it at the breast…if that fails you need to revert to number one and feed the baby!” She sold me and when she said that, that’s when I told blurted out “You’re hired!”. This has been a sensitive topic for me so having an understanding midwife was paramount for me. Let me make a disclaimer that no, I’m not a health professional or a lactation consultant, but these are things that have helped me or people I know with their supplies. So without further ado, here’s my list of 15 things to boost your milk supply.
The first thing a lactating mother needs is water. Also if you drink beer, the hops in deep dark beer are supposed to help women lactate. I have also heard that whole raw milk can make a huge difference in the supply of some women. In order to try that one though, you will have to find a local farmer.
2. Quality nutrition
One thing I did not understand before this baby is that quality milk is an important thing to aim for. I’ve learned that eating real, unprocessed foods as well as eating the right fats can really make a difference in the quality of your milk as well as following this article’s advice on what foods to avoid at your local supermarket. As a side note, I noticed when I stopped eating any soy (including soy lecithin in chocolate chips) my acne went entirely away and the fat on my arms, back and thighs started disappearing. On top of what the articles’ suggest, eating more foods like avocados, olives, and hazelnuts that have good fats can raise milk quality as well.
I know you’ve heard this before, but it’s true. Let that baby on the breast as much as s/he wants to. I know that it’s nice if baby only wants to eat every 3 to 4 hours, but really? How often do you want even just a little drink? Babies are made to nurse when their needs go up so if they are wanting to get on more, let them. Pumping for 15 minutes four extra times a day can help raise supply too. Just remember that your baby is more efficient than a pump so don’t freak out if you don’t get anything in the pump, you also may need a different flange size for your pump to work optimally for you and your breast size. Also, renting a hospital-grade pump can help with this and some insurance plans will even pay for the rental or getting you a good pump yourself so do call your insurance and see if this is an option for you.
I notice a huge difference when I eat a lot of oatmeal. This is why I eat old fashioned oatmeal, steel cut oats or homemade granola every morning for breakfast. I buy gluten-free oats which I will explain further down the list.
5. Lactation Cookies
There are many recipes for lactation cookies online. I have created my own recipe however that is gluten-free. Whenever I feel like I am dropping in my supply, I whip up a batch of these yummy things and eat them with abandon.
6. Placenta Capsules
These things are like little magic pills. I hear that for some women, they make mountains of milk on these. I don’t make mountains but I feel like these are what is keeping me from drying out. They really do keep the “crazy” at bay on those days when you feel like your hormones are taking over. I only have a few left so I save them for “special” occasions.
7. Fennel Oil
I am so glad I learned about fennel. Initially, my husband bought some of the seeds because of my midwives recommendation and brought them home and ground them and then made a tea out of them right after baby was born. It occurred to me that the oil would be more potent so I asked my friend who sells oils if she had any. I put a couple of drops in a glass of water but I do have to be careful, the oil tends to float and I have burnt my lips from too much getting on me at a time. Another option is to put some drops in a capsule and then just swallow it. My friend does this because she hates them smell of fennel. Fennel smells like black licorice (personally, I like it). An added benefit of fennel, besides upping your supply, is that it relieves baby of gas. You read that right. Especially before babies get to crawling, they tend to get gassy and either have to burp or toot it out and we know what that means….less sleep for momma. I drank water with fennel religiously when I realized when I didn’t had a direct correlation to the nights I stayed up burping my crying baby in the middle of the night. This reason alone for me makes the $20 I spent per bottle completely worth it…plus it takes a while to go through a bottle at least a month or two.
This tea is a great way to help your supply too. It comes in a two-pound bag so that means it makes 20 gallons worth of tea so though it seems expensive, it is worth keeping your supply up.
You can find this at your local wholefoods or at amazon. Personally, I prefer a nearby baby boutique to buy this. This is pretty expensive so I have taken this, with the tea and fennel when my supply has completely tanked before.
10. Goat's Rue
This one is in tincture form so it’s nasty but if you’re desperate, it’s worth a try. I found out that this herb is what they feed girls who are going through puberty in Europe to make sure that their bodies develop enough breast-tissue. This will definitely be something that I want to find in future for my daughters when they are developing. Anything I can do to avoid them going through what I have is worth extra work to me.
Okay, Now let’s talk about some things I’ve learned to avoid that have made a difference in supply.
11. Go gluten-free
This was a hard decision for me initially. After lots of deliberation over some health problems my three-year-old daughter was having, I decided to take her and the entire family off of gluten. Low and behold, I noticed that my supply was staying much more steady than ever before! Then I read that gluten can actually be an inflammatory for some people and though they show no other symptoms it can lower their milk supply….this is why I created gluten-free lactation cookies.
12. Avoid certain herbs
Oregano, thyme, sage and the mints all do something to lower your supply. This is a shame because I adore oregano. When I got mastitis this time, I took oregano oil which worked remarkably well (within 12 hours I was completely better) but I had completely dried out. Big bummer. Luckily, I had an arsenal of things to take to get my supply back up stat so it was only a few hours that I was all dried up and I just kept that baby on her regular schedule though she was pretty mad at me.
If you’re having supply problems, I hope that you can get some help from the list above. If all else fails, please, contact a good lactation specialist and/or contact your local la leche league. I have been to many a lactation specialist and some are better than others. One of the things that I do is use an SNS because if I didn’t my babies would literally starve to death. With my first and second, I used powdered formula. Since then, I have learned how dangerous infant formulas sold in stores actually are, and I believe that they have contributed to my older daughter’s gut problems (As a side note, doesn’t it seem strange that the top ingredients in formula; milk, soy and corn, are also on the list of the top 6 allergens in the country?). I have been incredibly blessed with this baby to have found angelic women who have been incredibly generous to me and my baby who have donated milk to her and she has received donor breast milk for all the milk that I have not been able to supply. If you are not able to supply your child with the amount of milk that they need and you’ve exhausted all the possibilities, there are wonderful, amazing women on milk-sharing websites such as Eats on Feets and Human Milk 4 Human Babies. These sites have local chapters on Facebook where you can meet and screen donors and if you make too much milk, sharing with others is greatly appreciated. If you are not comfortable with human milk sharing, it’s understandable. It took me a lot of research and prayer to wrap my head around it. Something that would be better than powdered store-bought formula would be to make your own Homemade formula. Having milk supply problems is a very painful thing for a mother who’s greatest instinct is to take care of her child. I never feel so panicked as I do when I realize my freezer is getting low on milk.
Hopefully, this post will help someone. If there is anything that you have to add, or something in here helps you, please, comment below! I would love to hear your experience.