Do I need a supplement?
How do you know if you need a supplement to increase your milk supply? If you are exclusively pumping, that may be pretty obvious, but what if your caregivers are feeding baby too much? Let’s get to know what is normal before we decide on a supplement.
Baby eating frequently, or baby being fussy after a feeding, and breasts feeling softer or not as full doesn’t necessarily mean that baby is not getting enough milk. In the first 12 weeks, and later during growth spurts, babies can nurse as frequently as every hour because they are growing so quickly and building your milk supply.
So what is normal? In the first 24 hours you may not get anything more than a slightly wet diaper and one tarry diaper. By day 4 baby should have 6 or more wet diapers per day and 3-4 dirty diapers per day. Poop should be yellow by day 5 and at least the size of a quarter. Baby should gain 3-7 ounces per week. Baby should be alert, active and meeting developmental milestones. If all of this is true, then you are making enough milk.
How much should a bottle fed baby be eating? The general rule of thumb is that a baby should have 1-1.5 ounces per hour for every hour they are separated from their mother, and generally no more than 4 ounces at a time. If your caregiver is giving your baby more than this, then they may be over feeding your baby and setting you up for a cycle of not being able to provide enough milk for your baby. Let your caregiver know these guidelines and learn about paced bottle feeding so that you can teach them how to properly bottle feed a breastfed baby.
So what if these things are not true for you and you do have low milk supply? What supplement do you choose when there are so many to choose from? You should first make sure that you aren’t taking or ingesting anything that can adversely affect your milk supply. These are a few of the things that can decrease your milk supply: sage, peppermint, black walnut, chickweed, herb Robert, lemon balm, oregano, parsley, periwinkle herb, sorrel, spearmint, thyme, and yarrow. Decongestants and birth control pills can also cause a drop in milk supply. You can also read this great article about Hidden Hindrances to a Healthy Milk Supply by Becky Flora, BSed, IBCLC.
There are a few things to think about before choosing a supplement. First, do you have any chronic health conditions? Second, are you on any medications? If so, you should check with your doctor before taking any supplements. The most common supplement is fenugreek. It is not one of my favorite because of the side effects. Fenugreek can cause gas in the mother and baby. This is best avoided by taking fenugreek along with another herb such as fennel. Fenugreek can also lower blood sugar in large doses so insulin-dependent diabetics should use it with caution or avoid it. Fenugreek is in the legume family, so people with sensitivities or allergies should avoid it. Fenugreek can also lower T3 and should be avoided by people with thyroid problems. You can read more about Fenugreek here.
If you have PCOS or had minimal breast growth during pregnancy, then you may want to consider trying Goat's Rue.
Alfalfa should not be taken if you are on blood-thinners. Once you pick a supplement that you want to try, please check with your health care provider to make sure that it is ok to take with your current conditions and medications. Please remember that I am not a health care professional or an herbalist. Please look through the supplements that are available and let me know if you have any questions by using our ‘Contact Us’ form.
Here are some research studies done on Malunggay (Moringa):