Lactogenic foods to keep milk flowing…

Hungry baby screamingGot milk supply issues? I’ve been there one too many times. To get my milk flowing in the most precarious of situations (i.e., a gross regional airport bathroom), I’ve cycled through all the tricks in the book.

I imagining the rushing water of Niagara Falls. Nothing.

I envisioned the perfect stress free scene – me on a deserted beach with a dairy-free pina colada. Nothing happened again. Not even a drop.

I did meditation, but no luck with that either.

I even stared into my son’s beautiful greenish gray eyes as my iphone played a thousand picture montage. Oh wait, a glistening drop of milk but nothing more.

Sometimes no matter what I did, the milk just did not flow. None of these cool tricks seemed to work for me except my consistent consumption of lactogenic foods.

Breastfeeding is HARD.

Sure, we have benefits like not having to drag our butts to the kitchen to make a bottle at 3am. Or, losing baby weight faster in the first few weeks postpartum. But, we also face challenges and make sacrifices too. Like using that dreadful pump BETWEEN feedings to keep our supply up. Or, having to pump in airplane bathrooms or gas stations (can it get any grosser) to stop our leaking breasts from ruining our silk shirts.

There’s no way good way to spill it, breastfeeding is really HARD.

For me, the most challenging part has been when my supply dips for no explainable reason. I’ve been in this position one too many times and wondered “#$!#$, why is this happening?!” Apparently, our milk supply can dip for numerous reasons including, but not limited to:

  • Growth spurts – when our little ones are growing rapidly (developmentally or physically) they consume a lot more milk, making it appear that our supply has dipped.
  • Stress – just like stress can disrupt sleep and metabolism, it can also slow down milk production. Breathe mama.
  • Menstrual Cycle – this has to do with hormone level changes. I’ve yet to accept that our brilliant bodies can’t figure out how to produce milk and shed the uterine lining at the same time?
  • Inadequate diet and water intake – we need nutrients to produce nutritious milk. Of course, if we aren’t getting enough nutrients (a.k.a healthy calories) our bodies will just extract minerals from our bones, so eat up those healthy proteins, fruits and veggies!
  • Poor sleep – just like stress, poor sleep makes it difficult for the body to be creative, burn calories, think clearly, or make nutritious milk

We can’t control everything to maintain a steady supply of milk (why didn’t my son get the memo that I need 8 hours of sleep???). But, we can control the food we eat. Lactogenic foods, foods that promote milk production, have been my saving grace. Regularly consuming lactogenic foods helped me make it through growth spurts and sleep deprivation alike.

Homemade Gluten Free Granola

My four favorite lactogenic foods:

  • Fenugreek seeds – you can cook with these sweet, nutty flavored seeds; drink fenugreek seed tea; or take capsules Remember if you take daily supplements, quality matters so choose a top notch brand or skip them.
  • Fennel and fennel seeds – the seeds are contained in italian sausages and fennel tea, or you can eat the delicious veggie roasted or raw in a salad
    • Try this simple recipe for grilled fennel: 1. make a pouch with foil, 2. place chopped fennel in the middle, 3. drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, a squeeze of citrus. 4. close pouch and cook on grill until tender. AMAZINGGG!
  • Oatmeal – steel-cut or rolled oats are your best option. Make a bowl of warm, comforting oatmeal, cook up a batch of oatmeal cookies or create your own granola for easy snacking. In the summer or winter, I was eating gluten free rolled oats everyday!
  • Dark leafy greens – spinach and kale are good sources of phytoestrogens which naturally boost milk supply. Try drinking green smoothies or including a healthy dose of greens raw or sauteed every day. Think of greens as taking your vitamins, every day without fail.
    • Don’t love salad, that’s ok. Try my kale chips

Every traditional culture uses lactogenic foods to keep mamas’ milk supply up. Do you have a favorite lactogenic food or recipe? What keeps you sane when your supply drops? We’re in this together, please share your learnings with us in the comments.

It’s A (Booby) Trap!: The Unexpected Benefits of Nursing a Toddler

Is he off the boob yet?
“Noooo, Dad. He’s still nursing.”

This conversation has officially become the norm for my dad and me these days. I love my dad – he’s a wiseass and a teddy bear. While he’s half joking when he asks this question, I know he’s also judging. Actually, he’s more like the American Airlines flight attendant who offered the nursing mom a “blanket to cover up.” My dad’s more concerned with “accidentally” seeing his daughter’s breast than he is with his grandson’s milk preference.

My dad’s jokes aside, nursing a toddler can be a real pain in the tush. Unlike the newborn days, covering up is virtually impossible. I’m not that modest, but every time we’re out with my husband, he too brings the dreadful blanket out and it turns into a National Lampoon’s episode. My husband’s trying to cover me with the blanket up, down and around as he tries to avoid my son’s flailing hands and feet. Finally—snatch! My son grabs the blanket from our grips and tosses it. My husband frantically resorts to using his own body as a shield to cover me. Bham! My son whacks him in the junk and it’s game over. Evren 1. Daddy 0. Mommy’s just sore since Evren’s STILL LATCHED!

Like I said, it’s not easy nursing a toddler. Here’s why:

  1. Incessant whining for milk before I’ve even had breakfast
  2. Random boob grabs and hands in my shirt in public
  3. I’m often greeted with “Miiiilllk” instead of “Mama”
  4. Toddler “snuggling” can be rough with feet in my face, hands in my mouth or nose and constant whacking of my breasts (because he believes this will magically produce more milk)
  5. My breasts are still off limits for my hubby (sorry, TMI!)
Evren 21 months

Still loves mama’s milk.

I never thought I’d be nursing a 21-month-old toddler. In fact, I used to think it was weird to nurse a child who could walk. When I started nursing, I committed to 12 months. Then he started teething and I couldn’t take away the perfect remedy to his pain. Then I blinked and when he turned 16 months we dealt with a few illnesses, so I couldn’t remove his source of hydration. Now he’s approaching two-years-old and I honestly can’t see myself forcefully weaning him.

I’ve read the research linking breastfeeding to higher cognitive developmentimproved immune function and lower risk for diseases like asthma or cancer. I’ve also read the opinions of moms for and against breastfeeding toddlers. Through all this, I’ve learned that there’s more good and virtually no harm in continuing to nurse a two-year-old. So instead I like to focus on the positive benefits of nursing my older child.

Top 5 Reasons Why I’m Happy to Be Nursing My Toddler:

  1. Breastmilk is the perfect rehydration solution – Thanks to nursing, we avoided the hospital two times this winter when Evren went on a food/drink strike during a case of pneumonia and Croup.
  2. His immune system rocksLike the studies show, aside from the sicknesses above and a couple of one-day viruses, he’s been pretty dang healthy.
  3. I’ve got a built-in boo boo healer We typically nurse 1-3x/day, but if I see blood from a fall, mom’s milk can ease those tears.
  4. Our special bond supports his social development – He’s become quite the independent little boy and I like to think our special relationship supports his growth
  5. I actually get snuggle time – Ever try snuggling with a rambunctious 2-year-old boy? Usually doesn’t last more than a minute. Nursing provides at least 10 minutes of snuggle time!

I’m confident that my independent little guy will stop nursing when he’s ready, but until then I’m okay with the questions, the jokes and the blanket wrestling matches. My feathers don’t get ruffled very easily so I can deal with the criticism. American society makes it downright difficult for mothers to continue nursing after returning to work, so breastfeeding after 12 months can be a challenge for most families. I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to prolong the typical nursing period, but I also understand that for most mamas this isn’t always the reality. At the end of the day, we do what we can to be the best mommies to our little ones.

Did you nurse your children longer than the proverbial 12 months? Tell us in the comments about your funniest or most stressful moments when nursing an older child.