As a new mom with undersupply, I was desperate to make breastfeeding work. I hired lactation consultants, read everything I could about breastfeeding, and scoured the internet for ideas. I tried so many methods to increase my milk supply, and made myself miserable in the process.
I was so set on figuring it out that I even created my own lactation cookie recipe, including all of the foods I could find reputed to increase supply. I took herbal supplements and drank breastfeeding tea. I even ordered an expensive prescription from a compounding pharmacy. I wish I could tell you that they all worked perfectly and increasing your supply is as easy as taking a pill or eating a cookie.
Unfortunately, in my experience, most were a complete waste of time, money, and energy. Not only did these methods give me a false sense of hope, but they made me spend way too much time obsessing about what was, and was not, coming out of my breasts. I've since learned that, according to research and scientific evidence, nothing that you eat, drink, or take as an herbal supplement has been shown to have a real impact on breast milk supply. The prescription drugs that my lactation consultant recommended might work for some lactating women, depending on the reason behind their undersupply, but they're not a cure-all and can have some seriously dangerous side effects.
I am happy to report, however, that one method worked better than the rest. Read on to discover what actually worked to increase my supply, so you can save yourself some time and money on things that probably won't help you increase yours.
I ate so much oatmeal after my first two babies were born, I probably should have bought stock in Quaker Oats. I diligently added all of the foods that friends and websites told me could increase my supply, including brewer's yeast, flax seeds, and almonds. Eating oatmeal all day, every day, when I was postpartum just turned me off of oatmeal for a really long time. It did nothing for my supply.
At the recommendation of my lactation consultants, I tried several herbal supplements, including but not limited to: fenugreek, blessed thistle, and a tincture called Motherlove More Milk Special Blend that my lactation consultant conveniently sold at her office. Fenugreek gave me horrible gas and made me smell sickly sweet. Blessed thistle didn't seem to have an impact, and the tincture was pretty much the worst thing I have ever tasted in my life.
In retrospect, I wish I hadn't tried herbal supplements to increase my supply. They aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so you actually don't know what you are putting in your body. Also, herbal supplements have been shown not to work in clinical studies, and may hurt you or your baby. Fenugreek, for example, can impact your blood sugar, your thyroid, and has been shown to pass into breast milk.
Pretty much everyone I asked suggested I drink dark beer to boost my milk supply. And I wont' lie: I really wanted this one to work. I actually had my mom bring me beer to the hospital for after I delivered my baby. Sadly, however, all dark beer did was get me tipsy from one bottle. It tasted great and helped me relax, but it didn't do a damn thing for my supply.
As Anne Smith, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant writes on her website Breastfeeding Basics, not only is beer not likely to help with your supply, but alcohol might actually interfere with your let down, resulting in your baby getting less milk. So disappointing.
In my online research, I discovered several dozen recipes for lactation cookies. Being an avid baker myself, I even invented my own that included a number of foods, like oatmeal and brewer's yeast. I ate dozens of cookies and didn't really experience a discernible increase in supply.
Cookies do have calories, though, which are needed for lactation. They also taste great, so while I wouldn't recommend that new moms get their hopes up or spend tons of money on lactation cookies, I support any and all cookie eating when you're postpartum.
As a long distance runner, I have tried pretty much every sports drink on the market. I am sad to say, though, that when I tried using them to boost my supply, they didn't make much of a difference. That said, hydration is important for postpartum moms, so it probably didn't hurt.
I love tea. Love it. But, you guys, lactation tea is gross. I tried three different brands — Traditional Medicinals, Yogi and Earth Mama — hoping to find one that would help boost my supply, But despite their claims that they were soothing and delicious (both hot or cold), they weren't. They all had an underlying black licorice flavor, with the not-so-subtle fragrance of dirty plants. I honestly couldn't make myself drink more than a couple of cups. The postpartum period is hard enough as it is, so I really don't think us new moms need to make ourselves drink gross tea in the name of breastfeeding.
After my daughter was born, my lactation consultant, who was also a nurse, recommended I try a prescription medication to increase my supply. She gave me two options, metoclopramide and domperidone, neither of which are approved in the United States for increasing lactation. I was so desperate, though, that I was willing to give it a shot.
I tried the metoclopramide (brand name: Reglan) first. It didn't do a thing for my supply, but made me extremely on edge and depressed. I later learned that it should not be taken by people at risk for postpartum depression, which actually made me super angry that it was even recommended it to me. I truly felt like my health care providers thought my milk supply was more important than my mental health.
When I tried domperidone, it did help with my supply, but it was expensive. I had to get it at a compounding pharmacy, and I couldn't afford to continue taking it. But, before you ask your doctor for a prescription, you should know that the FDA has issued a warning for breastfeeding moms to not use domperidone, because it can cause serious cardiac side effects and it's impact on breastfeeding infants is unknown.
No amount of breast milk is worth risking your life, or your baby's life, my friends. It's just not.
I have a love/hate relationship with breast pumping (well, actually, more like a tolerate/hate relationship). After my daughter was born, my lactation consultant had me feed her, supplement with formula, and pump after every feeding. This so-called triple-feeding was exhausting and, as a result, took a huge toll on my mental health.
After my son was born, I refused to lose time with my baby by pumping after every feeding, and I couldn't afford to keep buying supplements and drugs that didn't make a huge difference the first time around. So, I decided to give power pumping a try. According to the Fed is Best Foundation, power pumping is when "a mother uses a breast pump to remove as much breast milk as she can in rapid (concentrated) intervals, in an attempt to stimulate her milk supply."
At first it didn't seem like it was doing anything. In fact, I didn't get much milk at all the first time I tried. I stuck with it, though, and in a few days I noticed a dramatic impact to my supply. I actually cried when I was able to roughly double my pumping output in a single morning. Of course, every body is different and your mileage may vary, but while all other so-called supply boosters failed, power-pumping totally worked for me and helped me continue to breastfeed my son. It's one method that might actually be worth your precious time, and limited energy.
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