I’ve been known to get into food kicks where I’ll eat the same thing day after day after day. I have a salad everyday for lunch and my mornings always start with coffee and a Luna Bar. Sometimes though, I’ll mix it up and switch out the caramel-walnut bar for a granola bar. Exciting! But the one breakfast meal I cannot stomach anymore is oatmeal, since I ate it consistently for the first six months of my first daughter’s life. The main reason I tortured myself with the same bland meal each morning was because I read that oatmeal helps boost breast milk production.
As a first-time mom, I was obsessed with all things milk production-related because I took the advice of blogs and my doctor that “breast is best.” The term “breast is best” fueled my belief that providing my daughter an ample supply of milk whenever she “needed” nourishment was a must. And deep down inside, I believed that breastfeeding was yet another part of the responsibilities that came with being a parent. So I made it my goal to breastfeed and pump as much milk as I could for at least one year, which led to me googling how to increase milk production as well as what to do to make sure my milk would not dry up when I went back to work on more than one occasion.
One of the pieces of advice was to eat oatmeal often, so you better believe I stuck to a breakfast of oatmeal. Every single morning. Sometimes I'd have oatmeal for lunch if I was worried my milk supply was depleting. My diet consisted of an oatmeal breakfast, several bottles of water a day, and fenugreek and Mother’s Milk tea at dinner. I'd even skip a cup of coffee if I thought having caffeine would interfere with my twice-a-day pumping schedule.
I never expected oatmeal to be placed in the lactation-booster category and was actually relieved to find out it could help to increase my milk production. According to KellyMom.com, oatmeal helps increase breast-milk supply because it's a good source of iron, a low milk supply is often caused by low iron. I assumed eating oatmeal every morning would be easy since I normally ate a bowl when I had the time, but I was very, very wrong. Eating oatmeal quickly became a chore, and it got boring pretty quickly.
I don't know if eating all that oatmeal ever even worked. I don’t know if what I was producing was average, more than average, or lower than average. My baby's weight gain was on target with what was normal for her size, as were the number of wet diapers, but every time she was fussy during or after breastfeeding or if she refused to breastfeed all together, I felt like it was my fault. Was the milk not good? Was it not enough? Was I doing something wrong?
Still, I bought oatmeal in bulk and ate a large bowl each morning before work. By the third month of eating nothing but oatmeal for breakfast, I was over oats in a way I didn't even think possible. I tried to mix it up a bit by stirring in various fruits and granola and spices: there was a strawberry and brown sugar phase, a blueberry stage, and then there was a granola and brown sugar phase before I quickly moved on to a strictly cinnamon phase. There was even a a cinnamon and strawberries concoction that worked well for a bit. But no matter what I did, I couldn't mask the reality that I was eating something I absolutely hated.
On the days when I ate oatmeal and drank plenty of water, I did notice an uptick in the amount of milk I produced, but maybe that was because I was more confident in myself. I felt like, because I'd checked all the boxes, maybe that's why I felt like I could give my baby what she needed. But even though it worked, was it worth it for me to be miserable all the time?
Of course, there are other ways to eat oatmeal (such as buying or making lactation cookies at home), but I didn't want to go through the hassle of actually baking or doling out the cash before I found a cookie recipe I actually liked. So I stuck with basic oatmeal and tried my damnedest to make the best of it. To be honest, I don't know if eating all that oatmeal ever even worked. I don’t know if what I was producing was average, more than average, or lower than average. My baby's weight gain was on target with what was normal for her size, as were the number of wet diapers, but every time she was fussy during or after breastfeeding or if she refused to breastfeed all together, I felt like it was my fault. Was the milk not good? Was it not enough? Was I doing something wrong?
I just kept feeling like I should be doing more. I should eat more oatmeal. I should drink more water. So every night, regardless of how the day went, I'd eat a huge bowl of oatmeal and drink a large mug of Mother’s Milk tea. On the days when I ate oatmeal and drank plenty of water, I did notice an uptick in the amount of milk I produced, but maybe that was because I was more confident in myself. I felt like, because I'd checked all the boxes, maybe that's why I felt like I could give my baby what she needed. But even though it worked, was it worth it for me to be miserable all the time?
I used formula once I realized I didn't need to time my daughter's breastfeeding sessions and that skipping breastfeeding sessions here and there wouldn't mean she'd starve. I hit the one-year mark and felt ready to wean my baby off breastfeeding without any feelings of guilt. With my second daughter, I promised myself I wouldn't stress over milk production or feel like a horrible person if I substituted my milk with formula. Yet once again, I ate oatmeal for the first few months, drank plenty of water, took fenugreek and sipped on Mother’s Milk tea, and pumped as often as possible while at work. Even though I'd done it all before (and drove myself wild in the process), I couldn't shake the feeling that I wanted to give my second daughter the same chance at a long-lasting breastfeeding relationship. She's over a 1 year old now, and I'm not ready to wean her yet.
To this day, my stomach turns when I open the cabinet and see the canister of oatmeal. Hopefully one day soon I’ll be able to enjoy a warm bowl of oatmeal and no longer associate it with those early months of parenthood when everything seemed so hard and everything centered around my milk production, but I'm not ready yet. Eating oatmeal might've helped to bolster my breast-milk production, but I'm not reaching for a spoon anytime soon, that's for sure.