Managing your milk supply

This topic is particularly important to those of you who are breastfeeding. When cubby was born, I wanted to try breastfeeding. I knew the benefits of breastfeeding for the baby’s immune system and development, and it seemed like such a natural process so I thought that I would give it a try. Since cubby was born a month early, she had a weak suck reflex and was not able to latch for breastfeeding. The hospital supplied me with a Medela double pump and I used to pump and pump all hours of the day and night and bottle feed cubby breast milk. She was really good at taking the bottle and chugging the milk!

The lactation consultant visited me regularly during our brief stay at the hospital. She practiced the latch with cubby and I daily and we even attended her open clinic. I was struggling and frustrated. Why wouldn’t she latch properly? Cubby seemed to do well when the lactation consultant or midwife was around, however when it was just her and I, it didn’t work. We couldn’t get it. I beat myself up over it. I was getting annoyed having to constantly pump and warm a bottle, clean, sterilize, etc. It looked so easy for the women who were breastfeeding; pull out their breast, the baby would latch and the feed would be over. I kept trying to no avail.

I was almost at the point of giving up. I was a regular pumper so there was no problem with my milk supply. In fact, I had enough milk to feed twins or triplets. I had to pump every 2 hours or my breasts would become engorged, hard as rocks, painful and I would leak through my clothes. The only bonus was that I could pump and stock the fridge with breast milk so anyone could feed cubby. I could go for a walk, get together with a friend or have a 3-4 hour break or nap and did not have to worry about cubby going hungry. That was a bonus. At times, cubby would drink so much milk that she would sleep for 4 hours straight at night.

Still, I kept trying breast feeding and latching. I went to see the lactation consultant at the hospital regularly and I bought nursing pillows, breast shields, nipple cream and any other things that I thought would help me. It wasn’t until cubby was 3-4 months old that she finally mastered breastfeeding. Ironically, after that, she absolutely refused to take the bottle any more. I was happy for myself that I could feed her anywhere and it was fresh and sterile; however, the down side was that I had to feed her every 1 1/2 to 2 hours even through the night as I was the only person who could feed her. She would not take the bottle from anyone. I didn’t have any breaks or any downtime. That part was not so fun.

A good thing was that my milk supply sorted itself out and I no longer had to run to the bathroom to pump every 2 hours. My pump had been my best friend. I had taken it to 2 weddings, an engagement and a birthday party and pumped in the bathroom of all of those events (it made such a loud noise, everyone probably wondered what I was doing in the bathroom!) I pumped at night to store some milk just in case cubby decided that she would take the bottle. We kept trying. She would not take the bottle from me, but she did take it one to two times from my mom and mother in law.

Another roadblock that occurred was that I got my period at around 4 1/2 months. Lucky me! (sarcasm). I thought that you are not supposed to get your period if you are breastfeeding, but I guess I was wrong. With my period, came a change in hormone levels and a total decrease in milk output. At the time I didn’t know what was happening. I had no clue why my breasts felt empty and cubby was not getting full. She was feeding every hour, even through the night and was constantly upset. I didn’t put two and two together until I saw the naturopath three weeks later. It had been a stressful time and I thought that I was not eating or drinking enough. I didn’t even know that your period could cause your milk supply to take a nosedive!

During that time, I found some things that really helped so I thought that I would share them in case this happens to anyone else. I had called my midwife and she recommended fenugreek capsules and blessed thistle capsules. Apparently they work synergistically so when you take them together, they help to increase your milk supply. I took 5 capsules of each (10 capsules total) 3-4 times a day initially until my supply increased. I also drank a tea called Nursing Mothers tea by Bell (you can find it at health food stores). My naturopath also gave me a wonderful tincture that really helped to increase my milk supply so she recommended that I take it a week before my period and the week of my period. I have been doing that ever since, and have not noticed a big drop in milk supply. You can also buy fresh fenugreek from an indian grocery store and add it to your cooking. It tastes a little bitter and it can make you stink!

My naturopath also sent me a handout with herbs that increase your breast milk and ones that decrease your breast milk. I have summarized them below.

SAFE HERBS FOR BREASTFEEDING

* =  galactogogues (increase breastmilk)

^ = anti (decrease breastmilk)

 

Alfalfa plant* (not the seed)

Barley *

Barley sprout ^

Black pepper *

Cabbage (external ^)

Caraway *

Coconut *

Coriander seed *

Cumin *

Dandelion * (allergenic—rare)

Dill *

Elder flower *

Fennel seed *

Fig *

Greek oregano ^

Hibiscus *

Holy basil ^

Jerusalem artichoke*

Lavender * (rare allergenic)

Lemon balm *

Licorice *

Marshmallow*

Milk thistle *

Mung bean *

Oats *

Okra *

Olive leaf *

Passionflower*

Peanut *(allergenic)

Mint leaf ^

Pigeon peas ^

Potato *

Rasberry leaf *

Sesame * (allergenic)

Marjoram *

Sweet potato *

Tamarind *

Taro *

Breastfeeding and managing your breast milk supply can be tricky. Although it seems like a natural process, breastfeeding can often require a lot of work. There are places that can help such as La Leche League and the Newman Clinic. (I went to the Newman Clinic once regarding breastfeeding and latching.)

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About newmom78

I am a mother to 2 beautiful girls with a degree in Occupational Therapy. After suffering a miscarriage of my second child at 5.5 months pregnant, I have decided to change and simplify my life. This blog is about the chronicles of my daily life with my daughters as well as the laughter and frustration that goes along with trying to be "super mom" and play numerous roles; wife, mother, daughter, employee, friend, and student.
This entry was posted in Advice for New Moms, Breastfeeding, Natural Remedies for Baby and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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