Got 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. 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 nice 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, can be your saving grace. Regularly consuming lactogenic foods will help you through growth spurts and sleep deprivation alike.
My four favorite lactogenic foods:
- Fenugreek seeds – you can cook with these sweet, nutty flavored seeds; drink fenugreek seed tea; or take capsules or a tincture 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.
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.