Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Boosting your milk supply, does it really work?

There are a million articles I've read on this subject. When I had to start supplementing Lucy, the Pediatrician suggested that I drink Fenugreek tea three or four times a day. She had used the tea with great success and assumed that I would naturally have an increase in supply if I did the same. I don't know how many of you have tried the Mother's milk tea, but let me tell you, if you'd like to replicate the taste, go to your back yard, clip some grass and brew it up. Add the scent of maple syrup, but not the taste and you have yourself a cup of good ole' boob milk boosting tea.

One problem, it doesn't always work.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands and I researched online what I could do. I had already started eating oatmeal every morning, which I hate by the way, and upped my water intake up to the point that I was disgusted by the taste. I started drinking juice, milk, anything to change it up. I supplemented with Fenugreek capsules and blessed thistle AND bought the More Milk mixture from Whole Foods that tasted like grass vodka. I was mainlining all the "galactogogues" I could get my hands on. I took nursing vacations on the weekend, we did skin-to-skin every night in the tub and I slept with her in just a diaper against my bare chest for two months. Nothing worked. So I took the pumping route and I did something that probably aided in the decline of our breastfeeding relationship. I had been recommended the Avent bottles by my sister-in-law, who had a daughter several months older than Lucy. I decided that I would abandon my Tommy Tippee ones that I had registered for, and go with the Avent.  They had been recommended to her by a lactation consultant as the most breastfeeding friendly of all the bottles. (I am not sure if this claim is true in retrospect. I am going to buy several bottles and do drip tests before the next baby to put my mind at ease.)  Fast forward to my breastfeeding difficulties with Lucy, I did some more snooping online and came up with another major error I had made when Lucy turned two months. Naive me had bought the number 2 nipples for Lucy when she turned two months. I had been giving her faster flow nipples and had thus, encouraged her bottle preference. No one had told me earlier that breastfed babies should stay on the slowest flow nipple the entire time they are breastfeeding. The logic is that your own milk flow does not change, therefore the bottles should be similar to your own breasts. Stupid, stupid, stupid mommy.

Rookie mistake....ugh...

From there, I switched back to the number 1 nipples, but the damage had already been done. She stopped latching except for once in the morning. That was hard to deal with. There is nothing like the sight of your baby screaming in horror when you try to breastfeed them. I tried a supplementor, but she wouldn't latch. At that point she was too independent to get close to me and wasn't mindlessly rooting around anymore. After a bought of Rota virus when she was five months, I had completely dried up. I guess all the frequent trips to the bathroom to have my body do things I didn't know were humanly possible, my breasts had said "f-this" and decided to stop producing.

Looking back on everything that happened, I have done a lot of research. I mean, crazy, obsessive amounts of research on how you can boost one's milk supply. Every woman is different, and it seems that a lot of women have great results with Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle. Most take the capsules three or four times a day, usually several at a time. Most seem to believe four capsules three times a day plus one capsule of Blessed Thistle is the right combination.

So what about those of us who have tried this and didn't see an increase in supply? Well, there are a few at home remedies, and a few medical interventions.

At home
Lactation cookies with brewers yeast and oatmeal, some also put in Fenugreek (belch)
Dark beer
Goat's rue
Fluid, fluid, fluid
Make sure you are eating 500 calories more than you did pre-pregnancy. Now is not the time to start dieting.
Pump after every feeding for five minutes. The idea is that breastmilk is all about supply and demand.
Take a breastfeeding vacation-Lay in bed with baby and have them feed or suckle as much as possible for several days. Skin-to-skin is also helpful when doing this.

There are two drugs that are used most frequently with boosting milk supply, they are Domperidone and Metoclopramide. Both have side effects and I have read that the former is not used in the US. You should also talk to your pediatrician about the use of these and possible underlying causes that could effect your milk supply.

Here is a quote from the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine taken from this article on other causes of low supply:

Evaluate the mother for ‘‘medical’’ causes of hypogalactia:
Pregnancy, medications, primary mammary glandular
insufficiency, breast surgery, polycystic ovary syndrome,
hypothyroidism, retained placenta, theca lutein cyst, loss
of prolactin secretion following postpartum hemorrhage,
heavy smoking or alcohol use, or other pertinent conditions.
Treat the condition as indicated, if treatment is
12 (Level of Evidence II-2, II-3, and III).

I already have plans to try making a lactation cookie of my own that is not at all healthy, but tastes delicious. I've also heard of breastfeeding cupcakes, which could also prove to be interesting. I'll be working on those two in the next month, so stay tuned! Any guinea pigs want to test them out for me?

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