Thursday, March 31, 2011

10 Ways to Increase Milk Supply

Since right now my life revolves around breastfeeding, most of my posts will probably be about it. I wanted to write a post about ways to increase your milk supply. Since I have a baby with a weak/disorganized suck my milk supply has never been really large, but I do make enough for her with the help of these tips. There are a few women who actually do not have the ability to make more milk, but it is very very rare. Most of the times women quit breastfeeding because they perceive they are not making enough milk. This could be do to growth spurts where baby wants to eat very frequently or when their milk supply adjusts to baby's needs and their breasts may feel softer than before. Because of this perceived low supply many women begin to supplement, which if you are not careful can lead to an actual low supply. Other potential causes of a low milk supply are scheduling baby's feedings (breastfed baby's should be fed on demand), cutting feedings short, dysfunctional suck, a bad latch, overuse of pacifier, and early introduction of solids . However, whether it is perceived or not many of these interventions can be used to help increase your supply.

1. Feed your baby more often

This is the easiest one and probably the most effective of all interventions especially if the reason your supply is getting lower is due to early introduction of solids, overuse of pacifier, scheduled feedings, or baby sleeping through night.

2. Pump 

This one is the least fun. It is definitely not fun to pump after or in between feedings, but it is one of the most crucial steps to uping your supply. Since Scarlett sleeps 6-7 hours or more at night now I set my alarm and pump once during this time. I set up my pump the night before so I can just quickly pump 15 minutes and go back to sleep. And since milk can be left at room temp for 6-8 hours I just leave it there until morning. If you didn't want to pump at night you could just throw an extra session in during the day. I also pump after 1-2 feedings during the day now. The more you remove milk from the breasts, the more milk your body will make. 

It is also important when pumping to make sure you have a good pump which effectively removes milk from the breast. I used a Medela pump in style to start with, but have recently been able to borrow a hospital grade pump from the lactation consultant I see.

3. More Milk Plus or Reglan

More Milk Plus is a blend of fennugreek, blessed thistle, nettle leaf, and fennel seed. There is also one called more milk special blend which contains the added component goat's rue which stimulates mammary gland production and is helpful is the early weeks of breastfeeding or when production has been low from the start. I personally have only used more milk plus and it seems to help a little bit, but I may branch out and try the more milk special blend since my supply has been lower from the start because of her suck. It is important when taking these supplements to take them a half an hour before or after meals and with a small amount of water.

If either of these does not work you can get a prescription for Reglan an anti-nausea medication that has the side effect of increased breast milk production. I have not used it, but know a few woman who say it increased their supply a lot. I would only use it as a last resort since one of the side effects is extreme  depression and having gone through depression before do not want to go there again. 

This tea contains the herbs anise, fennel, and corriander. You can drink up to 7 cups a day. Right now I drink around 2-3 cups and I personally love the taste. I have better results with it when I steep the tea covered for about 10-15 minutes. 

5. Brewers Yeast or Nutritional Yeast

I love nutritional yeast. I actually learned about it from a vegan friend of mine who uses it as a cheese substitute. It is full of B vitamins and protein. It is also very good for your milk supply. I typically drink it in a glass of water or put it on my popcorn. It can also easily be added to recipes containing cheese or more milk cookies. The more milk cookies call for brewers yeast, but nutritional yeast works well too. I used nutritional yeast a lot in the first month of nursing, but haven't used it too often since then due to our problems with thrush (it feeds the yeast infection). 

6. Oatmeal

I love hot cereal and was glad to find out that oatmeal is a galactagogues (a substance which increases milk supply). I tend to make microwavable oatmeal or grab a snack bar containing oatmeal (my favorite are cliff bars).

7. Rest

Did you know that your milk supply rises slightly after a short nap!  Another reason to nap with your little one!

8. Good Nutrition

Eating lots of healthy high protein snacks throughout the day helps give your body energy to make milk. 

9. Drink Water

Water is very important in milk production! I try to drink at least 10 glasses a day, one before every nursing session.

10. Breast Compressions

These have worked well for me, especially since Scarlett has a hard time getting all of the milk from my breast. They can be used to stimulate a milk ejection reflex or keep the baby drinking (not just sucking or nibbling) at the breast. Jack Newmann (awesome breastfeeding guru) has a great handout on breast compression here.

Other causes of low milk supply that these tips may not help would be low supply due to hormonal birth control, hypothyroidism (would need a specific medication), breast injury, underdeveloped milk ducts and glands (very rare), and anemia. It is so important if you believe you are having supply issues to talk with a board certified lactation consultant. I know that seeing a lactation consultant (sometimes weekly) has helped me so much. Many of these ideas came from her! 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Mother's Intuition

FINALLY, after 13 weeks of breastfeeding we have figured out the problem. Scarlett was diagnosed with a weak suck/ disorganized suck after visiting with a speech pathologist. I finally got an appointment with one after basically begging and pleading with the doctor. I was getting so frustrated. It seemed like no one but the craniosacral therapist and one lactation consultant believed me when I told them there was something wrong with her suck. When Scarlett was 8 weeks old, the lactation consultant at WIC referred me to a lactation consultant in Fargo who she said had more experience and could refer me to the right people. However, I ended up seeing the lactation nurse who told me to just shove her on harder. I tried and tried to get her further on the breast but it seemed like she just kept coming off. I knew she was still tongue thrusting and wasn't sucking in properly. The craniosacral therapy helped a little bit and her suck improved slightly (my nipples were no longer bleeding). However, most of the time it still hurt and I was doubtful she was getting a whole lot. When I went up to the breastfeeding support group in Fargo she was taking in only about 2 -2 1/2 ounces in 30 - 40 minutes. No wonder she wanted to feed all the time! But the lactation nurses just kept telling me my nipples were probably still just sore because I was a first time mom! I mean seriously no one should still be having sore nipples at 12 weeks.

So, in order to help her learn to suck correctly we have to do specific mouth exercises with her 3x a day. I also feed her 15min on each breast and then if she still seems hungry give her 1 - 1.5 ounces in a specific bottle called a Haberman by Medela. This bottle has a special slit which only opens when the baby sucks, thus rewarding baby's sucks. It is better than a standard bottle which just drips milk out. The speech pathologist said we want to give her as many opportunities to be successful as possible. I have been slightly leery of me giving her the special bottle, but I have for the past few days and she seems to still want to the breast. So hopefully she doesn't start to prefer the bottle! Then after giving her the bottle I pump for 10-15min. It is a long and exhausting process. Plus many times after I give her the bottle she still wants to comfort suck, so I pump then put her back on the breast to comfort suck. Somedays all I do is pump and breastfeed.

I am hoping that Scarlett and I will be happily breastfeeding soon without the bottle. The speech pathologist said sometimes it can take around 6 weeks for things to get better, but most see results in around 2-4 weeks. So we will see.

This journey into breastfeeding has been a difficult one for me. Scarlett is a very hard baby to nurse! She pulls on and off constantly, is very fussy at the breast (even when my breast is very full so I know it is not because of that), and is constantly distracted by things in the room. So why do I keep going you ask? Why don't I just give up? Wouldn't it just be easier to use formula? Why don't you consider pumping full time? These are all questions I get asked frequently by well meaning friends and family who know I am struggling. And I tell them and will continue to tell them that I will keep going because I know that it is what is best for my daughter. I love her so much and will not supplement with formula unless absolutely necessary. I would even go as far as buying breastmilk if I couldn't make my own. And as far as pumping goes, if it comes down to that I will do it but I would rather breastfeed. I was not blessed with a large milk supply (possibly due to her not sucking correctly) and I would need to pump alot to give her enough milk. So I keep going and will continue to keep going until I no longer can.

Also, finally finding out that Scarlett has a weak/disorganized suck has helped me to become more confident as a parent. I know my daughter and I knew something was wrong. Hopefully in the future I will learn not to distrust my intuition as a mother and will fight for something to be done sooner than I did this time.