Happy Fertile Friday everyone! I am such a huge advocate of breastfeeding, I think the multitude of benefits to baby are irrefutable. Having said that, breastfeeding is not as easy as it might seem! There are potential issues with latch, tongue tie, lip tie, mastitis, yeast issues, under supply, and over supply. For something so natural it actually comes easily to fewer women than I expected, more often than not, new mums I know have had to seek help from lactation consultants, nutritionists, etc.
Since undersupply is such a common issue, today I want to share with you three things that can help boost milk supply. For many mums, making sure she has enough milk to feed her nursling is a big concern, and I have seen many mums struggle to keep their supply at a point that will be sufficient without having to supplement. I was one of the lucky ones that had a good supply, but even with that being so, I utilized some of these supplements to optimize it, since I was back at work and primarily pumping to feed Valentina.
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
It might sound obvious, but maintaining a healthy diet is imperative when trying to boost milk supply. Low sugar, low in refined/ processed foods, high in fresh fruits and vegetables and proteins, can all help. Lots of healthy fats are important too. Another thing that is absolutely crucial is drinking plenty of water – a dehydrated mama is not going to produce abundant milk. Avoid any dehydrating drinks such as caffeine (or make sure to add one extra large glass of water for every cup of coffee or tea consumed). Lifestyle factors also tie in – again, to tell a mother of a nursling to get more sleep might get me slapped in the face! But it is helpful to try to moderate stresses, get 20 minutes of quiet time a day to do some meditation, ask for help from family members for things like cooking, cleaning and shopping. I know when I went back to work my supply dipped a bit despite the same pumping schedule, simply because of the extra stress.
Essential Oil Blends
There are a few essential oils that can be used topically to help boost milk supply. The ones I have seen work best are –
- Clary Sage
I have suggested to mamas that they make a blend of these oils. Some prefer to dilute them with fractionated coconut oil just prior to application, and rub that mix on their breasts (avoiding the nipple area). Others like to make up a roller bottle, which can be handy, but it might be harder to get adequate dosing that way. Remember, essential oils are very concentrated so a ‘dose’ of oils is anywhere between 1 and 5 drops per oil. I always suggest people start lower and increase gradually until they see a positive response. Fractionated coconut oil is my favorite carrier oil as it’s not as greasy as many oils, but other carrier oils can be used too. And while we’re on the subject of essential oils, make sure to avoid peppermint when nursing as this can reduce supply in some mamas (some mamas can do peppermint and not notice any deleterious effect at all on their supply).
Fenugreek is a herb – also known as Trigonella foenum-graecum. It is possibly the most widely used her for boosting milk supply. I have seen it to work really well in a lot of women. The things to remember about Fenugreek are that (1) you need to dose pretty high with it; and (2) it can and should make you smell a little like maple syrup!! In fact, fenugreek is used in the production of “fake” maple syrup to give it the characteristic smell.
Fenugreek can be taken as a tincture, as the seeds themselves, or in capsule form. I always liked the capsules best for being able to get to the higher doses, and would take three capsules three times daily that were 500mg each. That would give me 4500mg per day. Studies have shown that less that 3500mg is usually not effective, the German commission recommends 6000mg per day. 4500mg for me was perfect and it definitely helped boost supply.
There are other herbs too that can be used to help supply, such as moringa, milk thistle, blessed thistle, hops and oat straw. Vitanica is a brand of herbs that makes a great Lactation Support Blend containing many of these, but my first choice is to try the high-dose Fenugreek alone.
Domperidone is a medication that has been used off-label for boosting milk supply. As with everything, I always go for the most natural and least-invasive options first and use a medication as a last resort. However, I have seen Domperidone make the difference between mamas being able to continue nursing or not. I personally took Domperidone for two months, and did not have any problems or side effects from it, and it absolutely made a positive impact on my supply. I do know that possible side effects include gastrointestinal upset, dry mouth, headache and fatigue. Standard dose is 10mg three times daily, but some studies use up to 20mg three times daily. I’m not saying that Domperidone is completely benign or without risks, but it might be worth discussing with your doctor or lactation consultant if all else has failed.
These four things can be helpful in boosting milk supply in nursing mamas. I suggest looking at diet and lifestyle factors first, then moving on natural agents such as essential oils and herbs, then only to medications if still needed. Breastfeeding may not be easy, but it’s so worth persevering for all the health benefits that it brings to baby!