Friday, May 24, 2013

Breastfeeding: A Series {Milk Supply}

 photo ef063b3b-92d1-4cb6-9ec8-42f6ba2f8dbf_zpsc9fa08a4.jpg 
Photo Credit: Raphael Goetter

Being that my supply has always been low, I am totally jealous of women who have over production.  I occasionally get engorged, but that’s because I may have gone an exceptionally long time without nursing.  It takes upwards of 7 hours for this to happen to me.  I nurse around 7am before I leave the house in the morning and by the time I get home at 5 I am ready.  But it isn’t really painful, just uncomfortable.  I have been on the lookout for anything that will help increase my production.  Some worked, some didn’t.  

How to Tell Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk
If your baby is latching well and you are comfortable the next thing to check is that your child is getting enough milk.  The first thing to try when you want to increase your milk production is to increase the number of times and/or the length of time you nurse.  It is literally about supply and demand. Your body attempts to meets the needs of the child and “anticipates” the amount it should make based on experience.  If the baby eats more, the body makes more.  If s/he eats less, the body makes less.  It can take a day or two to adjust.
Doctors and midwives recommend that you feed your child every 2-3 hours in the early days, even waking a sleeping baby (gasp!).  In fact, you may need to nurse even more than that.  In the first 1-2 weeks, allow your child to feed whenever they want.  This is very important because it gives your body a sense of urgency, jump starting your supply for overall success.  

Beer Increases Milk Supply -  True or False?

I usually abstain from anything that could remotely affect my baby when nursing (unless absolutely necessary) but I have always heard the rumor that drinking a beer can increase milk supply.  I assumed it was an old wives tail.  Then one day, after doing some research on the effect of alcohol on breast milk, I decided to have a beer with dinner.  I had just nursed and knew that I probably wouldn’t be doing it again until around 3am.  I woke up that night with LOTS more milk than I would normally have at that time.  Nemo got his fill and went back to sleep while I could have nursed much longer.  I have decided that one or two beers on the weekend is ok now.  It seems to help me produce more which is kind of a reboot for the week.  I try to nurse more on the weekends (since I work) so that by the time I get back to work on Monday I have bolstered my supply a bit for the week.

Why does beer, not other alcoholic beverages, increase milk supply?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, beer may increase milk supply because the Polysaccharides in Barley stimulate Prolactin levels.  Not to say that you shouldn’t enjoy a drink here and there, but if it does not include Barley, it will not help your milk supply.  The same effect can be achieved from drinking non-alcoholic beer.

This is important to know when you decide to breastfeed and consume alcohol:  

The body Metabolizes alcohol.  There is no reason to “pump and dump” unless it is for your own comfort or to keep your body on schedule.  

The theory that you can simply get rid of the milk that contains alcohol is a myth.  Just like your body metabolizes the alcohol and eventually eliminates it from your blood, it lessens in breast milk.  This chart shows how long you need to wait to nurse after drinking alcohol (bases on ounces consumed and the weight of the mother).  


Fenugreek is a spice that has been used since ancient times to increase milk supply, originally used in the Middle East, Africa and India.  There is no known reason as to why this works.  Some suspect that the oil produced by the seed is what helps.  Despite scientific evidence, mothers have seen results and it has remained a tried and true milk stimulant.  Be warned: You may end up smelling like Maple Syrup.  That can be a good thing though, right?  Fenugreek can be bought in capsule form at health food stores and many grocery stores.  

Other Supplements that may help stimulate milk production
  • Milk Thistle
  • Blessed Thistle
  • Chaste Tree
  • Fennel Seed
  • Goat’s Rue
  • Anise Seed
  • Red Raspberry Leaf
  • Nettle
  • Oatmeal

Before taking a new supplement/herb,especially while pregnant, nursing or on medications,  please consult your doctor or midwife.  

RELAX to Increase Milk Supply
Depression and Anxiety have followed me for most of my life and, as I mentioned when I introduced this series, I suffer from Postpartum Depression after each baby.   My personal issues greatly affect my milk supply.  I definitely notice a difference in the amount of milk I produce when I am able to relax and eat and drink properly.  I have even heard of women creating a specific room or space with a relaxing theme, soft music, candles, etc...  

My Story

The natural Mothering Ebook Collection has wonderful resources for Breastfeeding and approaching Motherhood naturally. 


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