Sunday, April 19, 2009

How to Increase Breastmilk Supply Using Supplements

This is a re-worked post of mine from February 24, 2009. I am participating in Motherwear's April "Breastfeeding Carnival". This month's topic is "How to...." Welcome new readers!

Short background: I had a low supply issue with my first son who is now 2 1/2. Breastfeeding got off to a rocky start, and in spite of much effort, I needed to supplement him with formula, between 30 and 50%. Therefore, I was prepared with this latest pregnancy (Son No. 2 is three months old) that I might have to supplement the baby. I started out by stocking some frozen breastmilk from a wonderful friend of mine whose son was born about three months before I was due. And, several women in my LLL group suggested that I might not have so many difficulties since your body makes more milk making tissue with each pregnancy. Nevertheless, when the lactation nurse visited me in the hospital, she recommended some supplements for ME. My doula, who is also a lactation consultant recommended some others. Therefore, without further ado, here is my daily regimen:

Calcium citrate with magnesium - Two caplets per day - This is the form of calcium that is most easily absorbed by the body and the magnesium helps the absorption as well.

Alfalfa - Two capsules three times a day - A galactogogue among other things.

Milk Thistle - Two capsules three times a day - Ditto.

Goat's Rue - Two capsules three times a day - This was new to me, but is also a galactogogue and is marketed as such. The previous two are marketed for other purposes. You can find Goat's Rue from Mother Love directly, though an internet search will show you other "shops" that have it slightly cheaper. It comes in capsules and a tincture. Allegedly the tincture is more effective, and definitely cheaper, but when you are taking as many potions as I am, it is easier if they are all of the same variety.

Soy Lecithin - One capsule two or three times a day. This is an emulsifier, but also keeps the breastmilk from getting "sticky". I found it useful last time in helping prevent plugged ducts. I am taking it prophylacticaly now.

Fish Oil - One capsule two or three times a day. This should contain EPA and DHA. Good for you, good for the baby.

Probiotic - One capsule three times a day. Just to help keep yeast at bay. I use a shelf-stable probiotic so that I can add it to the pill container. Again, the refridgerated kind is better, but this way I take it.

I am also continuing to take my prenatal vitamins.

Now, some of these have special instructions. The Goat's Rue is supposed to be taken with very little water. The probiotic is supposed to be taken on an empty stomach. the milk thistle and the alfalfa have no special instructions. The prenatal should be taken with food so as to minimize any reactions to the iron. WHATEVER. I have to take them all at the same time or there is no hope that I will remember to take them all. So, the "with food" and "without food" get taken at the same time. And when I have to take nine or eleven capsules, you know darn well that they are getting taken with more than a little water. But I figure something is better than nothing.

And the galactogogues seem to be working. It appears that I have more than enough milk for the baby. In fact, I have even managed to pump a bit! I don't pump for supply purposes like I did with my first baby, just enough to keep about four or five ounces in the freezer as I try to give the baby one bottle a week, just for practice. I actually have to take the hospital grade breast pump back in two days, so I will limp along with my own double electric that sounds like an wheezy chicken.

I also eat a lot of oatmeal, and nurse on demand. Hopefully I will be able to exclusively breastfeed this baby for a few more months before having to add anything else to his diet. But, as I have said before, breastfeeding is not for wimps!

(Update April of 2011: This post is the most searched for on my blog. Hopefully this is helpful to those of you looking to increase your supply. I am still nursing my youngest who is 27 mos old. Even if you have low supply, you should be able to stop the supplements after the baby isn't using breastfeeding as his primary source of nutrition, and if you continue to nurse on demand, you should be able to continue nursing for as long as you and your little one want to nurse.)

And now, here are the other posts in the Breastfeeding Carnival (To be updated as more are added):

Breastfeeding Moms Unite: How to become a breastfeeding support professional

The Marketing Mama: How to pump successfully at work

Amber at How to get breastfeeding off to a good start

Baby Carriers Down Under: How to breastfeed hands free

Milk Act: How to care for a sick nursling

Baby Ready: How to get baby to take a bottle

The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: How to help your baby kick the nipple shield habit

Mama Saga: How to breastfeed or just look like you know what you are doing

Breastfeeding Mums Blog: How to wean a breastfeeding toddler

Mama knows Breast: How to get a spouse to help

Blacktating: How to treat a cold while breastfeeding

It's all about the Hat: How to be comfortable around a breastfeeding mom

Zen Mommy: Using YouTube to stop nosy questions!

Natural Birth and Baby Care: How to improve supply with nutrition

MoBoLeez: How to increase your supply with seaweed

Breastfeeding 1-2-3: How to teach your baby nursing manners

Happy Bambino: How to deal with unsupportive family members

Tiny Grass: Tandem Nursing: How to do it without driving yourself and your nurslings crazy!


Karen said...

hey, this is great advice! Will save for future reference (for clients. I am done! I think...)
nice carnival!

Marketing Mama said...

Wow, I didn't know there were so many supplements for this. I had only heard of one or two before. I love your approach to taking them all at the same time. :) Thanks for sharing this!

Melodie said...

This is a very informative post which I am sure will help a lot of women. Well done!

Anonymous said...

It sound like you're having an easier go of it this time around. That's so good to hear. I think sometimes that even just having better support and information when you have your 2nd child can make all the difference.

And I totally hear you on the supplements. If you can remember to take all of those and care for your kids, you're doing pretty well! Whatever it takes, right?

Steph said...

Thanks for all the great advice, most of those I had no idea about! I'll definitely keep them in mind, just in case.

elisha said...

Thanks for all the great info! I have 4 girls (the youngest is 6 months) and have always noticed a decrease in supply around this time. Also, I pump at work and needed some encouragement. I feel encouraged!

Anonymous said...

I used a tea called Breastea that I found online and it really worked great at increasing my milk supply. It contains a lot of the ingredients you mentioned. Great post!

Mutuelle sante said...

Thanks a ton it is a very good help, now to increase breastmilk supply using supplements is definitely very easy by using your recommendation. Thanks

Annie said...

Great post. I've arrived separately at taking many of the same supplements. I've found the fish oil particularly helpful and have slowly increased intake so that I am taking 4 pills 3x day. Also, I take chlorella, which is a good tonic for purifying your milk of any toxins accumulated in the bloodstream. I'm also taking domperidone, but then hey, I'm pumping for twins!

Beccy Mosser said...

My question that may have been answered in the post, is can you take all of these, or even that breastea while pregnant? Im 13 weeks with #5 and ive never been able to nurse past 8 or 9 months and I want to for at least a year...

Kimberly said...

Becky! I love it that five years later people are still reading this post. That is a blessing to me.

I would not take any of the galactogogues while pregnant: the goats rue and milk thistle or the milk teas.

The vitamins and lecithin and certainly oatmeal should be fine. I would also check with a local lactation consultant about the issues at 8-9 months. That is probably NOT a supply issue. My first child loved to nurse but that time frame was VERY hard as he became very inquisitive about the world and I had to spend quite a bit of time in a dark room with him lying down.

Good luck with this next one!

Nqi said...

Thank you Becky. I enjoy your writing and advice. I never had enough milk and also took a few of these supplements together and it made a big difference. I actually found a really interesting article on Goats Rue ( if you don't mind me sharing).