Sunday, February 3, 2013

Got Milk?

Got milk?  I'm working on it!  This can not only be a sensitive topic for mothers, but is also highly personal and possibly a source of heated debates.  I can't believe that I have complete strangers ask me if I'm nursing.  Not appropriate people.  Some believe that "breast is best" and the only route to take for nourishment and bonding with baby.  Some believe that formula is just as healthy for baby, and provides emotional security for the mother if nursing would bring her undue stress and anxiety.  Some mothers have such a strong desire to nurse, yet despite all efforts to do so are just not able to produce.

My nursing story is unique to me, yet so common among so many mothers.  I had a very strong desire to nurse Lucy, with the goal of making it to her 1st birthday.  I have my personal reasons, but will not divulge at this time, as this topic is not what this blog post is about. The past seven months have been a struggle, frustrating, tiring, and yet such a joy!  My issue has been a low milk supply, and I've been so close to giving up a few times. For the past seven months, I've produced just enough milk to get me through each work day, and the occasional date night or "me time". 

I would like to share what I've been doing to help keep up my milk supply, and what is hopefully going to get me to one year!  If you are in the same boat, maybe I can offer you some new ideas to help you out. I am far from calling myself an expert on the subject, so check with your doctor and do what you feel is best for you.  I've spent a lot of time talking with my doctor (who is a naturopath) as well as doing my own research.  Here's my Lactation List:

1.  Start pumping early and often - I believe this was my first mistake.  I didn't start pumping and freezing milk early enough, and when I returned to work when Lucy was 3-mos-old, I had a drastic drop in my supply and blew through my small freezer stash.  Make sure you can pump every 3 hours while at work.  I wasn't able to do this at first, and that also hurt my supply.  Shortly after returning to work I was able to work with my boss to change my schedule a bit to allow for pumping twice at work and this helped.
2.  Pump/nurse often while at home - It's difficult for me to stay on top of this because it ends up taking all of my time!  It's easier now that Lucy nurses faster, but still, I feel like that's all I do all day when I'm at home.  Pump after nursing, especially in the morning when milk supply is highest.  You may only get 1-2 oz, but it all adds up.  You are also telling your body to keep producing more, due to the "supply-demand" theory.  Also, I routinely pump right before I go to bed.  Lucy now only gets up once at night to nurse, so one more pumping session before bed means I don't have to go as long between feedings.  If I'm staying up on all my other aids listed below, I can usually pump a good 5 oz before bed, which is great for me.
3.  Hydrate - Water, water, water!  Avoid beverages that may dehydrate you, such as coffee.
4.  Mother's Milk tea - This has been a recent addition to my regimen, and it IS helping!  I was worried about not liking the flavor because I'm not a big licorice fan, but it's actually really good.
5.  Oatmeal - Eat oatmeal every day.  I use old-fashioned rolled oats and this refrigerator oatmeal is usually how I eat mine on work days.  The blueberry, raspberry, and cocoa are delicious.  Bonus:  just grab and go for a quick breakfast. Oatmeal is a known galactagogue, and its iron content may be why.
6.  Lactation cookies - You don't have to twist my arm to get me to eat some cookies!  The recipe I use is Laura's Dark Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.  They contain galactagogues such as oatmeal, flax, and brewer's yeast and they are delicious (I use a little less sugar than the recipe calls for)!  I use Earth Balance instead of the butter because I can't eat dairy right now (that's a nursing topic for another day).  The recipe makes about 4 dozen, so I store them in the freezer and pull out a couple to eat every day.  Did someone say late-night snack?!  These are a new addition to my routine, so I'm not too sure how they are helping yet, but I don't care because they are yummy.
7.  Dark leafy greens - A good source of minerals, calcium and iron.  I use kale or spinach in a smoothie every morning.  A typical smoothie for me made in my Nutribullet (which I highly recommend!):
- a couple handfuls of spinach, kale, or both
- 1 banana
- 1/2 apple or orange
- 1/2 cup frozen fruit (usually blueberry or mango)
- cashews, pumpkin seeds, or almonds
- flax oil
- chia seeds
- water
8.  Lactation supplement - I use Vitanica and can be found at Fred Meyer, Super Supplements, or most likely any health food store.  It contains fenugreek, goats rue, hops, etc. which are known to help with milk production.  My doctor recommended doubling the recommended dose on the bottle, so I take 2 pills, 2x/day.  I have gone a few days without taking them, and I definitely notice a difference.
9.  Get enough calories - I noticed another drop in my supply when I returned to the gym, especially on the day and the day after I worked out.  I have to be sure to eat plenty of lean protein and healthy fats.  As recommended by my doctor, I eat one avocado a day and flax oil daily for healthy fats.  Be it a busy day at home or a busy day at work, the hours can fly by and before I know it, it's 2:00 and I haven't had a substantial meal.  Plan ahead, eat well and often.
10.  Beer - Not only did friends recommend this, but so did my doctor.  What?! Beer and breastfeeding?  I was skeptical at first too, so I did my research and eventually chose to do what was within my comfort level.
"Willow Jarosh is a registered dietitian and co-owner of a private nutrition practice and nutrition consulting business in Manhattan. Jarosh created theWellRounded NYC pre- and postnatal nutrition and exercise program and advises, “Having an occasional drink is okay as long as it is limited to one small drink: 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, one-and-a-half ounces of 80-proof spirits.” Jarosh tells clients to wait at least two hours after drinking to resume breastfeeding."
My doctor recommended a "hoppy" beer, as the hops are what are believed to help with milk production (my lactation supplement has hops).  So find an IPA that doesn't taste too bad, unless you like hoppy beer (which I don't) and drink up.  I also believe it helps me relax, which also helps with milk let-down.

There you have it.  Does this sound like a lot of work?  Well, it is a hassle at times, and I have been on the verge of throwing in the towel more than once.  For me, it is my desire to tread on and I will do anything short of prescription medications in order to do so.  I do not judge those who decide not to nurse, as I would hope to not be judged for my decision to try so hard.  I hope I may have given you some new ideas, and please feel free to share your advice with me.