Women have been nursing their babies since the beginning of time.
Armed with this bit of history, new mamas assume that breastfeeding will be a natural and easy thing. For some, this is the case. For others, it is a lot of hard work filled with tears, sore boobies, and/or moments of frustration.
Some women turn to a relaxing environment with a comfortable chair, soft music, and minimal lighting. Others need more stimulation, using doctor-approved medicine or (husband-approved?) massage techniques.
What works for me? As with any situation in life, the answer is the same – food!
I really struggled with nursing Eggroll, mostly due to a weak supply. In hopes that I can do better this time, I asked friends for their suggestions. Here’s a round-up of things that might work for you**, fellow nursing mamas!
Water, Water Everywhere and All I Can Do Is Drink
After several months of pregnancy-related water retention, you assume you’re all stocked up when it comes to liquids. Alas, you need to keep drinking to keep up a milk supply. One friend swore that it took at least a gallon of water a day to keep up production. That seems like a lot, but your body is working hard, friend!
If you like fruit in your water, now is a perfect time to experiment with different flavors. I’m not a huge fan, so instead, I keep a pitcher of Rishi Tropical Crimson caffeine-free iced tea in my fridge. It tastes like fruit punch without the added sugar. This locally-produced, all-natural tea can be found in most local grocery stores or online.
Speaking of tea, lots of women swear by Mother’s Milk tea. If you like a hot beverage in the morning, try replacing a cup of coffee with this herbal delight. It’s magical powers might help with nursing AND get the systems going, if you know what I mean.
Let’s Grab A Beer (Or A Chocolate Malt)
I’ll never forget when the pediatrician suggested I stop off for a six-pack on my way home from Eggroll’s two-week check-up. He (and other professionals) think that the hops, barley, and malt of an IPA or milk stout amp up production. If nothing else, it doesn’t hurt to help mama detox on the stress!
Our own Lakefront Brewery makes a great IPA. New Glarus, Central Waters, and Tyranena have delicious stouts and porters. Take a trip to Ray’s in Wauwatosa to talk with the beer pros and pick up a growler or two. All in the name of research, of course…
Two notes of caution:
- It’s probably been awhile since you’ve had a full beer. Sip slowly and make sure someone else is home to keep an eye on baby the first time you give this beverage a whirl.
- Any alcohol consumed can be passed on to baby via breast milk, so sip sparingly and at the right time. Try sipping immediately after a nursing session so some of the alcohol has time to wear off before the next feeding.
If you rather not imbibe on the hard stuff, I know some women swear by Ovaltine. The packaged mix is certainly an option, but I’m going to try my hand at this DIY version. Chocolate malts as medicine? Well, if you insist!
Food – Nature’s Medicine
By now someone has probably told you to stock up on steel cut (not instant!) oatmeal. A bowl a day will keep the supply dips at bay! I like Oly’s Oats which can be found at local farmers markets and Outpost Natural Foods.
When you are at Outpost, also pick up a supply of brewer’s yeast. This powder is great over popcorn or mixed into lactation cookies. It gives you the same benefits of a beer without the headache or angst.
Another herbal supplement you may read about is fenugreek. I’m not a doctor, so I will let someone else prescribe your proper dosage. Just know that if you smell like maple syrup, you’ve hit your goal! Fenugreek is also known as Bird’s Food or Greek Clover. This recipe for a lactation cookie includes a large dosage. I also like LaClare Farms Evalon Goat Cheese with Fenugreek for a little sample. This hard cheese is a great protein-boosting snack and melts beautifully for a quick, unique grilled sandwich. You can find this Wisconsin product at the West Allis Cheese Shops, Larry’s Market or at select farmers markets.
Calories In, Calories Out
Before you let that last suggestion of cheese scare you too much (But Maggie, I’ve got pregnancy weight to lose!), let me remind you that now is not the time to think about crash dieting. As women, we have been trained to think that gaining weight is not a good thing. Now that we aren’t growing a baby, aren’t we supposed to slough off the extra pounds ASAP??
Not so fast, mama. You are still a primary source of food for that little baby. To feed him or her you need to ensure you are ingesting enough calories to take care of the both of you. Every situation is different, but in general, you probably need about 500 more calories while breastfeeding than not.
Use those calories wisely and you may find that you can still lose weight while nursing. This isn’t the time for calorie restrictions, but instead consider a “clean eating” menu full of foods found only in nature. Cheese, all-natural peanut butter, and rich dark chocolate are technically clean. As are avocados, coconut oils, fruits, veggies, and organic meats. There are plenty of foods, including “treat” foods that can fuel your nursing ways.
P.S. That said, just like during pregnancy, if the call of the Dorito gets too strong, answer it. You need the limited energy gained from 20-minute power naps to go to baby, not to willpower!
Do you have any other secrets to a good milk supply? I think we’d all love to hear them!
**I am a food professional only in that I think about it 24/7. Please consult your doctor before making any big changes to your diet. While tasty, all suggestions provided are the stuff of urban legend, not concrete fact.