Recently I hit a milestone with a full year of breastfeeding! It feels like such a sweet success. I have come a long way in nursing since my first baby. I have learned patience with myself and have had a lot of trial and error to see what has worked for us. I have a very particular milk supply. I can start drying up after a morning of not drinking enough water. With my first baby, this resulted in starting to supplement with formula which quickly led to a complete drying up. My next two rounds of nursing, I have learned to put up a good fight. I lasted just shy of 11 months nursing Stella before she self-weaned and I am still nursing Grae at 12 months. I am so thrilled about this! It has been a journey for me, but I have done it. I often get asked questions about what I use, so today I am sharing the herbs I’ve used to up my milk supply to help me exclusively nurse for a year – even with a finicky milk supply.
Five Week Formula – These are herbs my midwife has me start taking at 35 weeks pregnant. They are packed full of herbs to help through the delivery process, one of which is milk production. I swear by the 5 week formula having taken it 2/3 pregnancies. So many benefits which include very minimal post partum bleeding, quick and abundant milk coming in, strong uterus/contractions during labor, and just a much faster recovery overall – including my belly shrinking back at a rapid rate. But, milk production is probably my favorite and most important perk to these herbs.
Fenugreek – Fenugreek is a magical pill for me. I take 2 pills 3 times a day with lots of water. By my second dose of the day, I can tell I’m filling up. Nursing Stella, I took Fenugreek almost daily to keep my milk supply up. I loved that it’s okay to take intermittently though. On days I would wake up feeling nice and full, I didn’t need to take it those days. Fenugreek also makes you smell like maple syrup, which may or may not be a perk for you. Mr. Miller called me “short stack” the whole time I was nursing Stella. :) Maple syrup smell doesn’t bother me, but if it bothers you, you have other options. Also, sometimes Fenugreek doesn’t work as well for some people, which brings me to…
Blessed Thistle – My midwife says that Blessed Thistle works better for the majority of people. If Fenugreek hasn’t worked as well for you (or if you’re not into smelling like iHop), Blessed thistle is a great option. I have been using Blessed Thistle this time around and have had no complaints. I have more experience with Fenugreek, but I think Blessed Thistle works just as well. I also take this 2 pills 3 times daily on the days I’m feeling less full and need a little pick me up. Now I know my body enough and know if I didn’t eat as many calories that day, or drink as much, or have been feeling more depressed or very stressed, or have been super active.. all of these things affect my milk. On the days I know I’ll need it, I start taking blessed thistle before I have signs of my milk dipping down. I think this has really helped me stay on top of it.
Placenta Encapsulation – I had my placenta encapsulated after I delivered Grae. I had heard so many good things about placenta encapsulation and how it has worked well for post partum depression, milk supply and hormone balance just to name a few. Having suffered from PPD in the past, I knew it was worth a try. I have been so thrilled with my experience taking my placenta pills. I absolutely felt a difference in the “baby blues” days after delivering, which for me are usually pretty weepy. My milk also came in abundance! I took my pills religiously for the first 6 weeks and then have taken them intermittently throughout the year as needed for depression or milk supply. I really think having my placenta encapsulated has made all the difference in a great supply this time. I have found I need to take my herbs much less if I’ve taken my placenta pills. There are SO MANY perks to encapsulating your placenta, you are crazy not to. I would be happy to share more info on this, but for milk supply – it has my double stamp of approval.
Wait on the weight – Nothing will dry your milk up quicker than jumping the gun on losing the baby weight. I KNOW it’s hard to be 20, 30, 40+ lbs more than you’d like to be, but let’s not forget that minor detail that our body just 1. created an entire human 2. birthed that perfectly made human and 3. is now nourishing that rapidly growing little human. I hate when those details get overlooked. I don’t love to be in a size 8 or 10 when I’m used to being a size 2 as much as the next girl, but what I don’t like even more is losing my ability to breastfeed. PLUS, I have found nursing working for me on the back end… I tend to keep my baby weight for that first six months or so for nursing (which makes sense because I’m nourishing two bodies at the same time that I need to keep some extra storage) and then in that last 6 months, I really feel like nursing helps it come off naturally when it’s supposed to. I know lots of people who tend to keep the weight on the entire time they’re nursing, and I think it’s just what their body needs. But when my weight starts to come off, my milk has a hard time. Because I know my milk supply is sensitive, I have to prioritize that above other things. Getting back into shape minutes after delivery is one of those things. Sometimes having a positive body image doesn’t mean loving what your body looks like at any given time, but being patient with your body and extending love to it – and especially giving it a little credit for it’s current stage. I will make it known that I didn’t lose a pound of my baby weight until Grae was over 5 months old. It has slowly, slowly trickled off – the longest it’s taken with all three of my babes. And wouldn’t you know it? My best milk supply yet.
See a lactation consultant – This may seem like a no-brainer to some, but seriously – see a LC. They are so well educated and can help with issues like this. They can give so many suggestions. I saw a lactation consultant twice this time around for two different reasons. Sometimes a bad latch will cause a lagging supply, sometimes too many snack feedings, sometimes a baby who sleeps through the night too early will cause supply issues. All of these things are something your midwife or lactation consultant can help with. My lactation cost me $20 a visit and my goodness, what a bargain that was to get on the right track. Especially if you don’t have a plethora of sisters or friends to talk to, a lactation consultant can be a true life saver!
I’ll close by saying breastfeeding isn’t always the easiest option – especially in that first 6-8 weeks, you feel like it’s a full time job – and some! But once you get over that hump, things start flowing with ease. Nursing my babies is absolutely at the top of my list for my most favorite thing in the world. It is so worth trying to figure out if you can.
(beautiful photos of me nursing Grae c/o Ashley Flowers Photography)
I’ll also say that I have no regret over opting to bottle-feed Harlo after some time and struggle. It was best at the time for that situation. I just wish I would have known I had a few more options to try out before making the switch, because once you switch over – there’s no going back. :)
Happy happy nursing my dear friends! Wishing you all the very best.
(I’ll be answering questions in the comments – also if you have any tips to add, please do!)