Saturday, December 15, 2012

Herbal Help for Low Supply

The holidays are a stressful time for everyone, but especially for moms. We get so busy cleaning, hosting, worrying about in-laws, buying presents, chasing kids, and baking goodies for everyone else that sometimes we forget to eat ourselves, let alone drink enough water during the day. On top of this some moms have work, or school. This time of the year is a busy time for most of us. We need to go, go, go; but most nursing moms forget that they need to stop for a minute, take a bite of something, and a big swig of water.

Sound like you? Fear your supply may drop a bit due to stress? If this you, even when it’s not the holiday season? Don’t worry mama, you are not alone. Even without the holidays, life is stressful, we get busy and sometimes our supply may take a hit. That’s why I’m sharing some tips and tricks to help maintain your supply, and if it does drop, to help bring it back up naturally.

First, remember that the only way to tell if your milk supply is low is through babies output. If your baby is having 6-8 wet/dirty diapers a day, then your baby is getting enough milk. If you feel like your milk supply is low, it won’t hurt to take some sort of herbal supplement, but you don’t have to if babies output is enough.

If you have tried the normal advice, such as, nurse more often, offer often, skin to skin, up water intake, and oatmeal (side note: Some babies react to oats, and have a hard time with mom eating them. They get gassy and colic-y, so use sparingly), then read on!

Any of these herbs may be taken as a tincture (under the tongue) or in capsule form. It really just depends on your preference. Always start with the lowest dose possible and build up to more if you don’t see any difference. Give the herb at least 4 days to work before upping your dosage. Please make you are comfortable with each herb before you take it. Also, speak to your naturopath or Dr about these herbs. I want to stress that the following information is just suggestion, not a treatment plan for a specific mother. Herbs should only be used for a few weeks, a month at tops, to help your milk boost up until baby can naturally pull it up.

First I want to address an herb that should not be taken, in high doses, while nursing. It is a common herb eaten during the holidays; peppermint. Peppermint can decrease milk supply. I know we all love peppermint mocha’s, peppermint lattes, candy canes and peppermint patties, amongst other peppermint, but be wary of this oil and herb (the artificial flavoring will do no harm). It may decrease your supply. If that happens these tips will help increase it again.

Alfalfa is an herb that is often used to help up supply. It is a pretty powerful herb full of lots of nutrients, including chlorophyll and fiber. It can cause diarrhea or loose stool in mom or baby. If this happens just reduce the dosage for a few days. Doses as follows – 1-2 teaspoons per cup of water, drink this up to three times a day. You can also take up to 8 pills a day. Avoid Alfalfa if you are taking blood thinners.

Anise can be taken (yes the spice) to help increase milk supply. The perks of Anise is that it is also a herb known for helping with digestion, upset stomach and colic, so if mom is taking it the affects will carry over to baby. The best way to take Anise is in tea form. Gently crush 1 - 2 teaspoons of anise seeds, and cover with one cup of boiling water. Cover and steep between 5 - 20 minutes. Sweeten it to your liking. You can take up to 3 cups a day.

Blessed Thistle is a fabulous herb. It helps with milk supply, but it also helps support the liver. Blessed Thistle can be taken as a tea, 1-2 teaspoons per cup of water. Steep for 5-10 minutes and sweeten as needed. This can be taken up to 4 times a day. You may also take 3 capsules, 3 times daily.

Dandelion herb and root is another herb that helps support the liver while raising milk supply. It is a bitter herb though, so it may need some extra sweetener if taken as a tea. To take as a tea add 1 tablespoon to a cup of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. Sweeten as desired. You may drink this up to 3 times daily. Dandelion is also good made as a decoction with other herbs, such as fenugreek or marshmallow or hollyhock root to boost supply. Gently simmer 1 tablespoon (of herbs total) of finely chopped fresh, dried or powdered root in 3 cups of water for 10 - 15 minutes.

Fennel is a good herb for upping supply, as well as colic relief. Moms and babies both will enjoy the benefits of this herb. It may also be eaten in its true form, as fennel seed, or fennel root. Fennel root is good roasted, or sliced into a salad. As an herb it can be taken as a tea, gently crush 1-2 teaspoons of the seeds, and add one cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for between 5 - 20 minutes. Longer steeping produces a more potent tea. Sweeten to taste.

I want to touch on fenugreek, it is one of the most known and advised lactation herbs. Fenugreek is not to be taken during pregnancy. Be careful with fenugreek. It is usually the last herb that we reccommend, and even at that it is with hesitation. Fenugreek can make both moms and babies have upset tummies. It can make babies appear reflux-y, colic-y and gassy. It can make moms "bulk up", and give mom diarrhea. It is not supposed to be used long term, three weeks is the limit, and when you cease taking it, it can cause your supply to drop again. It also can not be taken by people who are hypoglycemic.
If none of these things work, talking to your Dr about a prescription to help with milk supply is probably a good option. Remember; when it comes to nursing during the holidays, most drops in supply will simply be from stress and slight dehydration. Make sure you are taking care of yourself in order to take care of your milk supply!
All herbal dosages can be found at Motherhood International as well.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Breastfeeding in the Holiday Season: TEN WAYS to Eliminate, Educate & Elude Confrontation

Becky James, Guest blogger from Naturo-Mommy, and admin for TMM shares with us some tips and trick for breastfeeding during the holidays.

Photo courtesy of

The holidays are a wonderful time to get together with family and friends. The warmth and cheer and the good food are enough to fill a person's heart with contentment to advance into the next year in a good way. I, for one love Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. And for those that don't celebrate these holidays, there is Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ashura, among many others. Breastfeeding can be daunting in and of itself. A lot of women don't have the courage to do it in public, around strangers. Breastfeeding around family members who are unsupportive or unfamiliar with it can be even more daunting. One reason being, that you know them and you have to face them on a regular basis. Or, at least, once a year.

You may be confronted by family members with rude comments or dirty looks and feel the need to leave the room to avoid these confrontations. If you feel most comfortable being in another room, by all means, do what you feel suits you best. But for a lot of breastfeeding mothers, they may not want to leave the room and miss the festivities. Which, in a lot of cases, you may be there longer than one feed for your baby or child and this can cause a lot of missed time with family and friends.

If you feel you may be confronted at these gatherings, there are many ways to go about avoiding them or standing up for yourself and your baby to make your holiday stress free and family friendly. I have asked some mothers to share their experiences, breastfeeding during the holidays. Here are a few:

Jessica writes:
'My youngest son was born in March, so by the time Thanksgiving came around
that year, he had already passed the "recommended" '6 month cut off'. I had never been shy about nursing in public, and
my family knew that well. I would proudly lift my shirt anywhere and
everywhere. Thanksgiving that year, I'm at my aunts house, trying to eat my
food, get my then 3 year old to eat anything I could get him to try, and my
8 month old was hungry.

I put him in the ring sling and situate it so no one could really see anything other than his
head, just out of respect for it not being my home. My uncle got up and left, came back
and grabbed his children. That made other family members take notice and they all got up
and left. Then designated my aunt to come in and tell me how inappropriate
that was to "whip out a tit" at the family table. And how no one felt
comfortable eating in the same room as me, if I could please go eat alone,
in another room. I smiled and said no, and continued eating. After that, I
didn't speak to anyone. I made an extra plate to take home and packed up
and left.

By Christmas I thought it was settled. We arrived at Christmas dinner though, and
the first thing out of their mouths was asking if I brought a bottle so I wouldn't flash people

I wish I could say that my story has a happy ending, but it never happened. I went on
to breastfeed my son fora total of 29 months. My family is still very unsupportive of
breastfeeding but I don't let it bother me, and I have no plan on adjusting my "behavior" for
their needs, as my job is to fulfill my child's needs.'

Lisa says: '"You're STILL breastfeeding? Isn't he going to become too dependent on you?! (said of my then 1.5 yr old)…"'

Jennifer writes: "My husband’s parents came up for a belated Christmas this past January. At the time, my daughter was 5.5 months old and still exclusively breast fed. I didn’t think anything of nursing her in the living room with my in-laws in the room. Apparently, this made the step dad uncomfortable, but we didn’t know that until a couple days later when my husband's mom called to tell him. They expected me to go into another room to nurse my baby, in my own house. My husband was appropriately outraged, as was I. His mom even went so far as to say, and I quote, “I don’t appreciate her whipping out her breast in front of my husband.” As though I was trying to seduce a man twice my age by feeding my baby. Since then, the relationship has been strained, at best. It’s unfortunate that people are so narrow minded and prudish about the act of breastfeeding, but I refuse to alter the way I feed my children simply for someone else’s comfort, especially within the walls of my own home. I’m still breastfeeding my daughter, now 15 months old, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon."

There is also attire you can wear, so that if it's not practical or comfortable to cover, you can go uncovered without showing much. When in public, I do not cover because we are not comfortable that way. I wear a tank top under a shirt and pull up the t-shirt and pull down the tank top. Of course, there is nursing attire, but if you're on a tight budget, like me, you work with what you have. There is often little to nothing shown when I use the shirt-tank method and we're both happy that way.

While these situations are often unavoidable, there are ways to diffuse them. Here is a list of 10 things you can do or say, if you are comfortable:

1. Using a cover is always an option, if you and baby are comfortable.
2. You may use this time to educate family members or friends. Just a short blurb about the benefits of exclusively breastfeeding or extended breastfeeding.
3. You may say things like "That sounds like it worked out for your children, but this is what works for our children and we are happy."
4. Get the support of another family member or your spouse beforehand to intervene, so you have an advocate.
5. Laugh and make a joke about how you promise not to wave your nipple like the breastfeeding banner without a child attached.
6. If they mention that there are children in the room & they don't know what to tell them, offer to explain to the children what is happening so the parents don't have to try to answer their questions.
7. When talking about breastfeeding, remember to smile and sound light hearted. Hopefully, putting off the defensive stance your family member or friend may have.
8. If you're asked why you haven't put it in a bottle, explain that you (and these are just examples) a) can't pump b) baby won't take a bottle c) you couldn't pump enough for baby for the holiday gathering d) you forgot your pumped milk
9. If they offer solids, say that you're worried about an allergy or tell them that it is not recommended by AAP or WHO to introduce solids before "X" months or that they can't have (insert name of food) until "X" age.
10. Your baby may have teeth and this also may prompt comments about solids: "Your baby should be eating food since he has teeth." "You're breastfeeding AGAIN? Here, give him this." You could say: "No thank you, we haven't introduced that into his diet yet."

I hope that giving these examples and experiences have helped you go into your holiday season a little less stressed and more confident in your choice to breastfeed your baby. Happy Holidays!