Tips and Recipes for Milk Supply
I’m by no means a breastfeeding expert, nor do I wish for this blog post to replace the bounty of information on blogs such as Kelly Mom, where you can find really good advice about all things breastfeeding. I’m just a lady with a baby who had no problems with milk supply and aside from a few bouts of mastitis, a really nice time breastfeeding. The fact that our bodies fill our boobs with liquid that we use to feed our babies is really quite miraculous. They do it all by themselves! No buttons or switches necessary. Yet there seems to be a fear, from every new mum including myself, that their supply won’t be adequate. I wanted to share a few tips and recipes that might be helpful to other new mamas and hopefully quash those low milk supply fears. All I know is that this is what worked for me and so, placebo or science, it doesn’t really matter, right?
Rest, Rest, Rest. You’ve heard it a million times, and I know that not everyone has the luxury of parking up on the couch and binge-watching tv series on the projector while your baby sleeps on you and your friends deliver you nourishing meals every day. But try to rest as much as you can. Let friends and relatives help and for the love of milk, let your baby daddy look after the household, at least until your supply is established. When your baby is a little older and wants to be awake and entertained early in the morning, get dad or the other mama to wake up and let you sleep for an hour or two. This is something that Andy and I started doing when Louie was about 3 weeks old and I swear it’s what’s kept me sane, especially after all-night feeding marathons. We still do this now and it means Andy and Louie get quality time together before Andy goes to work.
Water, Water, Water. Breastfeeding literally sucks you dry. Have a glass or bottle of water with you at all times and guzzle on it constantly. Coconut water is another good one to keep you hydrated, as is herbal tea. Because I had a winter baby, I pretty much always had a cup of tea on the go and made sure that at least two cups a day were a nursing tea blend. You can find these at any health food store or make your own blend of Anise, Caraway, Fennel, Lemon Balm and Lavender. Not only are they said to help with supply, but also help bubba’s tummy cope with its sudden change in diet.
Food, Food, Food. Nourishing a new mother is so important. Your body needs food so it can make food for your baby and restricting calories – whether it’s on purpose or by accident – is going to have a negative effect on your milk supply. If possible, have a friend arrange a food roster so that you have fresh, healthy meals being delivered to you every day. It’s a great way to see friends and show off your new creation, whilst ensuring you get as much rest as possible. Oats are said to be a great way to increase supply, so I made sure to start my day every day with a cups of nursing tea and a bowl of porridge or overnight oats. Throughout the day I ate a lot of soups and stews and healthy snacks such as tahini and date syrup on rice crackers, a little bit tooo much chocolate, lactation smoothies (recipe below) and lactation cookies such as the ones pictured. Brewers yeast is also said to be good for increasing supply. Not to be confused with nutritional yeast, brewers yeast has a bitter taste that is easily disguised when blended into oats, smoothies, soups etc.
Placenta encapsulation. This is seemingly controversial, yet every single woman I know who has had this done swears it was beneficial and mourns the day when their capsules run out. Not surprising considering we are the only mammalian species who does not routinely eat their placenta. My doula is a placenta encapsulation specialist, so it was always a given that she would do mine. Because I had Louie at home, she waited while my midwives checked over my placenta, then chopped it up in my kitchen and popped it in her dehydrator, where it remained overnight. The next morning she came over – with juice and soup and cake – and turned the dried pieces of placenta into powder, popped the powder into capsules and I took two immediately, less that 24 hours after I gave birth. Pretty awesome. I continued to take them over the next few months and I definitely noticed my moods being different on the days I forgot to take them (Me – *being irrational* Andy – “have you taken your placenta pills today?”) Information on placenta encapsulation can be found on Shanay’s blog, here.
Get on the lactation smoothie train: Drink one of these every morning and your supply will not fail you. To make sure you always have enough spotty bananas on hand, request them when friends ask if you need anything. Once they are sufficiently spotty, peel them, break them into chunks and pop them in the freezer. You do not need a fancy blender to make these! I use a cheap immersion blender and it works just fine.
2 spotty bananas // 3 Tbsp oats // 2 Tbsp peanut butter // 1 Tbsp brewers yeast // 200ml (7 fl oz) oat or almond milk. Blend until smooth. Drink.
Take a multivitamin that contains B12, D, Calcium and Iron. B12 is really important, especially if you are vegan, as if you don’t have enough, your baby won’t get enough and deficiency can lead to all kinds of developmental issues and complications. I cannot stress this enough. Iron will almost never be a problem for a breastfed baby as they will take what you have, but this might mean they leave you with nothing, which will make the experience of nourishing a newborn even more exhausting than it needs to be. Be a wise vegan, take your vitamins.
Keep a bottle of echinacea on hand. Many women will never experience mastitis and those women are very lucky. The first time I had it, I noticed first a tender breast and flu-like symptoms including an intense pain in my hips and back, chills and a fever, and a lethargy that made it difficult to even hold Louie. Then the lump and red lines on my breast appeared and as the infection developed, the pain of breastfeeding was worse than labour. I managed to kick it without having to take antibiotics, thanks to advice from Ina May in her Guide to Breastfeeding. Since then, any time my hips and back feel unusually sore or I feel a tenderness in my breast, I start taking echinacea immediately and none of my subsequent infections have been as bad as the first, though I have still had to spend a day or two in bed.
Ina May says “Take twenty to forty drops of echinacea six times during the first day of symptoms. You can add it to water if you like. If this treatment seems to be working, take half a drop of echinacea for every pound of your body weight twice a day for days two through five and once a day for days six through ten.” I use a drop for every kilo and there are about 20 drops in a ml.
Ask for help. I think it’s also important to note here that every time I’ve had mastitis, it’s been my bodies way of telling me to stop. An alert that my immune system is low. It’s been a busy year with no family to help with Louie, finishing a book and planning its launch all on my own, as well as working tirelessly on other Top Secret projects that I am not allowed to share with you all yet. In hindsight, I definitely could have taken better care of myself and asked for more help when I needed it. So that is my final piece of breastfeeding advice – ask for help. Don’t be too proud like I was (am!). Your milk supply depends on it! <3