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(Full disclosure, my breastfeeding journey was not as painful as some mothers. I fully acknowledge that both my babies and I had an easier time than most. While the beginning was hard, after a few weeks, it was fairly easy. The hardest part was getting my milk to come in – it took almost a week and it wasn’t a lot at first! )
I didn’t want to supplement with formula because I was afraid that my daughter would reject the breast. But she lost too much weight shortly after birth so we had to stay a few extra days. If I could go back, I would have just supplemented in addition to breastfeeding from the very beginning. We ended up supplementing for a few weeks and that helped while I worked to increased milk production. With my second we supplemented from the start.
What did I do to increase my milk supply? I pumped regularly and added galactogogues to my diet, with the advice of my doctor and lactation consultant.
WTF are galactogogues and why are they important? Basically, they are anything that helps to increase milk supply. The most common ones are fenugreek, oatmeal and brewers yeast. They are important because they aid in milk production for mothers who wish to increase their pumping output and those with a truly low milk supply.
Most of the time, non-herbal options seem to work fine. Before I go on any further, please note that any herbal or medically prescribed galactogogue have potential side effects, so please consult your doctor before adding any of these things to your diet. I am just sharing what worked for me.
I’m going to make it super easy for you, because no one has the time for ridiculously long recipes with hard-to-find ingredients.
Here is a list of common galactogotues:
Oats!! (Oatmeal, Oatmilk, Oatbran) – Oats have a strong reputation (though not scientifically supported) for its ability to increase milk supply. It is recommended by a large number of lactation consultants, possibly due to its high iron content. Anemia can contribute to a decrease in milk supply, so for some mothers, this theory tracks.
Side note, if it doesn’t, we at least know it promotes regularity and lowers cholesterol. Speaking of lowering cholesterol, some herbs used in promoting milk supply (ie. fenugreek and alfalfa) also lower cholesterol.
LactationTeas – Herbal teas that increase milk supply usually contain the following ingredients:
- Milk Thistle
- Red Raspberry Root
- Stinging Nettle
- Blessed Thistle
- Goats Rue
- Marshmallow Root
My favorite blends when I was breastfeeding were Organic Milkmaid Tea by Earth Mama and Traditional Medicinals Organic Mother’s Milk Women’s Tea. They taste like licorice because of the fenugreek and fennel, so if you really don’t like that taste, maybe find a tea that does not contain those ingredients. Be sure to consult your doctor or lactation consultant.
Flax seeds include omega-3 fatty acids and phytoestrogens which are believed to increase milk supply. The health boost provided by flax seeds not only benefits the nursing mother, but the healthy fats also help in infant brain development.
Brewers Yeast is a rich source of protein, B vitamins, iron and minerals. It is commonly used to make beer and bread. While its full effects on lactation requires more research, it is generally safe to use while breastfeeding. I usually mix a couple of tablespoons in a cookie recipe.
While it is not necessary to drink more water than usual, now is a good time to get the recommended amount of water to stay hydrated. Listen to your body, and drink when you feel thirsty and keep a drink close by while you breastfeed. Simple. According to Breastfeeding Made Simple, “…drinking more fluids is not associated with greater milk production.”
HOW TO INCORPORATE GALACTOGOGUES WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND
1. Add galactogogues to ready made cookie, muffin or pancake mix. Forrealsss! This is the easiest thing to do! Drop a tablespoon of flax seed and brewers yeast into these prepared mixes and you won’t even taste the difference. Better yet, mix it into oatmeal cookies. Have one with a cup of Mother’s Milk Women’s Tea for a beneficial lacto-snack.
2. Use oatmilk anywhere you would use cream or milk, like in your tea, oatmeal (double oat goodness!) or in baking.
For some actual recipes, go here:
No Bake Lactation Bites by The Baker Mama
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookie Recipe
You can find any of these ingredients at any grocery store! EASY. No stress. Don’t worry, mama.
If you choose to breastfeed or not, as long as you and your baby are happy, fed and rested, that is the most important thing. Sometimes, breastfeeding just doesn’t work out. And that is not your fault. There are other factors that could inhibit milk production. If you gave it everything and it isn’t working, there is nothing wrong with formula feeding. Don’t let mommy guilt get you down.