Breastfeeding and low supply issues

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Mother's Milk loose tea
Mother’s Milk tea

I seriously doubt I have any male readers, but if you’re a guy who reads my blog, you’re welcome to leave now. I’m not comfortable discussing female issues with you. Thank you.

Are you gone? Good.

Breastfeeding and low supply issues are a topic I’ve come to know quite a bit about. I also know I’m not the only one who struggles with it.

It all started about seven years ago when I learned that it was possible to breastfeed an adopted baby. Once we were matched with Samuel’s birthmother, I started preparation to induce lactation. I pumped multiple times a day and started taking the herbs fenugreek and blessed thistle. I did that for a month, and then he arrived early. They allowed me to nurse him in the NICU, but he was gaining weight too slowly so we stopped so he could be released. Once home, I started again. I was able to nurse him (with the aid of a Lactaid system) until he was six months old.

When I became pregnant with Caleb, I had high hopes for breastfeeding. I incorrectly assumed that we’d get to do it “the easy way.” I knew PCOS often causes low milk supply but hoped it wouldn’t be the case with me. Things were great at first, but I didn’t notice the signs of low supply until it was almost too late.

I did everything. I pumped multiple times a day (including getting up at 4 am to pump when the baby slept all night!). I took herbs. I drank a gallon of Mother’s Milk Tea a day, adding lemon so it would taste like lemonade. The only thing I didn’t try was the Reglan my lactation consultant recommended. At five and a half months, I gave up. I loved nursing, but it had become more a source of stress for me than anything else. I didn’t have the heart to try the Reglan too.

When I found out I was pregnant with Anna, I started praying that things would be different this time. I went in armed with more knowledge, the phone number of an amazing lactation consultant, and sheer determination to make it longer this time around.

Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking posted about increasing milk supply shortly before Anna was born. I ordered the herbs to make the mother’s milk tea so that everything would be in the house if and when I started having supply issues.

Things have been better this time around. It has not been easy the whole time, but overall it has been better. The mother’s milk tea recipe has been a lifesaver. It seems to work far better than the prepackaged tea I used to buy, and is cheaper too, which is great. I do one thing differently than her recipe though. She mentioned she takes fenugreek capsules, but I add whole fenugreek seeds to my tea ball and brew it all together (1 tsp fenugreek seeds and 1 Tbsp tea mix per 8 oz water). The tea doesn’t taste too bad by itself, but with the fenugreek added it is very bitter. The seeds seem to be more effective for me than the capsules were, or I would switch back to the capsules.

It has taken effort at times, and not everybody seems to understand the struggle it can be to maintain sufficient supply. I think that low supply and difficulty breastfeeding is really downplayed, when it’s probably a lot more common than it appears. Many people have asked me why I don’t just use formula (which is another post for another day). Why bother fighting so hard when formula is so easy? But to me, it’s worth the work. I love the quiet time with my little ones. And I just can’t bring myself to buy formula when things are going so well, even if it does take effort.

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6 thoughts on “Breastfeeding and low supply issues”

  1. I completely understand the “worth the work” idea. My thing is, it probably costs just as much if not MORE to buy all those natural ingredients! I totally breastfed our first and am planning the second, but I also had problems with low supply and honestly can’t afford to buy all those herbs to keep things going so I’ll just pray that doesn’t happen again.

    1. Rose, you have a good point. The other things aren’t free. Cost was a major factor for me this time around in making my own tea and buying the fenugreek seeds rather than capsules. Yes, it still cost, but was considerably lower. There was one time where I did the math to see how they compared, and the tea recipe came in at roughly half the cost of buying premade.

      I haven’t added it up, but I think I’ve spent about $50 for all the herbs this time – and I’ve made three batches of the tea with ingredients left over for a few more batches. That’s been in a year’s time.

      When I bought the premade stuff last time I nursed, I was going through a case of tea a month, which was running over $25 on Amazon. That was plus a bottle of fenugreek a month which ran around $15. For us, it was cheaper, but not by much since formula cost $60 or more a month.

      It’s a tough call. Most of my research this time was actually done before Miss A arrived since I’d had so much trouble before. Things were so different this time. It was a real surprise to see how much cheaper it was to even get the herbs once I got them in bulk.

      I guess it all depends. But you are right. It’s not cheap.

  2. Pingback: Articles » Blog Archive » Breastfeeding 101: Nursing Basics for New Moms

  3. I had some issues BF’ing mine as well. #1 was born & immediately transferred to NICU, so by the time I was even allowed to hold him, he was accustomed to the immediate gratification of the bottle. The 2nd one just did NOT want to take, and #3 it was so painful for me after having surgery. I can honestly say that I did try, and I’m thrilled that you are having better luck with yours this go round! It’s heartbreaking wanting to BF, but circumstances prevent. 🙁

    1. That would be hard. I wish there weren’t such a superior mindset about breastfeeding. In the end, what matters is that you’ve got to do what’s best for your family and your situation. If that’s formula – no problem. If that’s breastfeeding – fine. It just seems like there’s a lot of critics, and a lot of all-or-nothing people on both sides of the issue. Then in the end, the mom who’s just trying to do the right thing walks away feeling bad about her decision.

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