Friday, May 20, 2016

My Breastfeeding Experience-- Part 1: Milk Supply!

If breastfeeding is the most natural way of providing nourishment to a baby, then why is it so darn hard, painful and exhausting?
That was the question i started asking myself about a week after Toby was born. He was latched on, I was in pain, on practically no sleep and wondering if my child was getting enough milk because he kept crying, acting fussy and looking smaller than when he was born.
My husband kept looking at me like I was crazy. He would say things like:
"Why are you doing this yourself?"
"Give him a bottle of formula. He's hungry!,"

Then I got a text message from my cousin Luana.
She was checking in to see how I was doing and offer support.
What a difference a little support can make from a mommy who's been there & done that.
My cousin shared some of her experiences and offered advice, tips and recommendations, many of which you can read on her blog So Much Time, So Little ToDo.
Text conversations with my cousin started uplifting my breastfeeder spirit immediately.

Then I had a lactation consultant come over and help me. Twice!
At one point my best friend and her family spent an afternoon here and she shared her own struggles and what she did to overcome all challenges.
I spent countless hours researching on sites like
I bought lactation smoothies and cookies and fenugreek capsules and mothers teas.
And now, 2 1/2 months later, I'm still nursing and things have certainly gotten better.
Here is my story with a few tips, based on my own experience. 
Please keep in mind that:

a) I am not a medical professional. What you read here is simply what's worked best for me but you should always consult with your lactation consultant/doctor/doula.

b) Every nursing experience is different and not all things work for every mom.

Further, I place absolutely no judgement on mothers who give their babies formula. My son Benny was formula fed from Day 1 and he's a happy, healthy little boy.
Nonetheless, giving myself the opportunity to breastfeed this second time around meant more than just filling my second son Toby's tummy. It was the ability to feel a powerful connection with my child, a therapeutic motherhood experience and the satisfaction of knowing it's the best & healthiest form of nourishment I can offer my baby.
So through these ten weeks of breastfeeding, I've answered my own question.
Why is it so hard, painful and exhausting to breastfeed?
Because all good things in life take hard work, commitment & perseverance. That's why.
Here's how I've made it work for Toby and I so far.

This post is divided into four parts:

Milk Supply

Milk Supply

I have to correct my own belief about what happened to me with my first son Benny, back in 2012. My birth experience was everything opposite of my birth plan and Benny was given formula at the hospital from the beginning because the hospital staff and my family felt the colostrum I was expressing, was not enough for the seemingly hungry boy. My milk --did-- take quite a while to come in, but Benny wasn't latching on as much as he should have been to stimulate a faster milk letdown (that's when the milk comes to the front part of the breasts). Instead, he was drinking formula. I didn't have a lactation consultant and by the time I purchased a pump, it was nearly two weeks later. I didn't aggressively follow a proper pumping schedule that could have helped me produce more milk and Benny was already drinking far more ounces of formula from a plastic nipple than what I was able to provide by pumping.

Paul holding a two-day old Benny at the hospital. December 2012.

I share this because I've learned that when it comes to milk supply, you must trust your body. Trust your ability to produce the amount of milk your baby needs. It will come. It may take time and certain pediatricians may insist on supplementing with formula, which is fine. In my case with my second son Toby, the doctor kept me at the hospital an extra day so the baby would drink formula and gain more weight in order to be released home since he had lost 10 percent body weight in the two days following his birth.
Weight loss in newborns is VERY normal. Those few drops of colostrum you produce at the beginning are sufficient to satisfy their tiny stomachs in the first few days.
At the same time however, many mommies would rather not deal with a weeping baby or a doctor who insists the child's not having enough.  So for that scenario, keep in mind formula is NOT poison. One of my lactation consultants put it quite simply-- if you want to breastfeed, then think of formula as a type of "medication" for the baby while he gains a little bit of weight and your milk comes in.

There are several things that are recommended to help build up/increase your milk supply.
First of all, stimulation. If you're not immediately lactating upon giving birth, it's a good idea to give your boobs a sign that their milk is wanted in order to produce it. For this, make sure your baby latches on!! A baby's suckle is the single best way of sending that signal. Also, a pump is very important.

I personally started with the Medela Pump In Style Advanced Backpack, which has worked wonderfully for me. I plan on carrying it to the office when I return to work.
Further, you can rent a hospital-grade pump from either a hospital or places like Babies "R" Us and those usually rent for about $50-$80 a month. The longer you use it, the better the deal you may get on the rental.


You must eat, eat, eat, eat, eat!
You should have a diet rich in nutritious foods, including grains, proteins, legumes, fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, zucchini, spinach, etc.

A delicious & nutritious "Caldo de Pollo" or Mexican Chicken Soup. Notice the avocado and the tortilla... you need to eat healthy fats AND carbs while breastfeeding.

Oatmeal is said to help with milk production too. Forget about all pressures to slim down to your pre-pregnancy weight. Remember, we have the rest of our lives to work on our hot bikini bodies! In the grand scope of things, the nursing period is incredibly short and we're burning up an average of 500 calories a day at that. Also, many mommies claim that at one point during your breastfeeding journey, you will suddenly start shedding the weight (anxiously anticipating this moment...ha!) although I was forewarned it doesn't happen to all breastfeeding mommies (sad face).

Products I've used to help increase milk supply:

The following are things I purchased to boost my milk supply. I did this because I started worrying about building a freezer stash for my return to work. Plus, I was so sad I didn't offer Benny this benefit that I wanted to avoid a repeat situation with Toby. Since there's no way of telling exactly how much your baby is drinking, I wanted the ultimate assurance that Toby was getting enough. Again, you have to trust your body but if you're a little OCD like me, then you'll understand why I wanted to try these products.
Very important to clarify-- I never tried these products all at once/all in one day. Also, I'm not sure exactly how much my milk supply increased, if at all, because of these products but I'm certainly growing my freezer stash while continuing to nurse and baby is getting big and chubby.
Valerie Rosas of The Feel Good Company picked up my placenta within a few hours of delivery.

Placenta Encapsulation
I'll start with what I believe was the best pre-delivery investment to help avoid the baby blues and boost milk supply-- a unique service where my placenta was picked up at the hospital and encapsulated, for my own consumption. I'm convinced placenta encapsulation helped my milk come in, considering I had a cesarean birth. Not only that, Valerie Rosas (above) from The Feel Good Co., delivered my bottle of capsules at the hospital and made a fresh tropical smoothie with pineapple, grapefruit, almond milk and part of my placenta...Yum!
I continue to take the capsules, though not as often as the first month and I'm still feeling good.

Lactation Smoothie Mix
This one is a really awesome product. It's a smoothie mix made by M.O.M.M.A. that tastes like cinnamon and vanilla. I've made different smoothies with it, including the one featured above with bananas and strawberries. It's also good if taken as simple drink: 6 tablespoons of the yummy mix with 8 oz. of water. The drink mix has key ingredients that may increase the production of breast milk: Organic Oat Flour, Flax Seed Meal and Nutritional Yeast.

Oat Mama Lactation Granola Bars
For someone who loves granola bars, these were an obvious choice. The Nut & Berry bar, for example, is made with rolled oats, ground flax, brewer’s yeast, toasted almonds, cashew butter, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, honey, organic brown rice syrup, organic coconut oil, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt. You can buy them HERE.

My Own Lactation Cookie Recipe
I made my own cookies at home. They were actually really good! I purchased some of the harder-to-find ingredients on and when my cookies were freshly baked and out of the oven, I ate about three in a row. Call it chance, coincidence, luck or the normalcy of nursing on demand but a few days later, I pumped a significant amount of milk.

Healthy Mama Tea
These teas were purchased at Target. They taste "ok" but here's the catch-- in order for them to have any real effect on your milk supply, you have to drink at least five cups of tea a day. That's a bit ambitious for me considering I'm not a frequent tea drinker. In other words, not "my cup of tea"...

Fenugreek Capsules
I also bought these capsules at Target. They're labeled "More Milk Plus", and have Fenugreek as a main ingredient. Fenugreek is an herb commonly grown in Mediterranean countries and used to make dishes such as curry. I'm not sure why it's widely known to help with milk supply but it is. You're supposed to take these four times a day. One funny observation, whenever I take these, I feel like they make me smell like maple syrup...


It is extremely important to keep hydrated. Drink lots & lots of water and healthy drinks like fresh juice and smoothies.
A recommended amount of drinking water would be (at least) half of your weight in ounces. For example, a 160 pound woman like myself should drink at least 80 oz of water per day, per my primary care physician.


Be careful with stress and other factors that can affect your milk supply. Even a heated argument with your partner can have negative effects on your body and its milk producing process, according to one of my lactation consultants.

Remember, we're releasing oxytocin when we nurse. That means we're giving off a happy hormone. Try to surround yourself with happy, positive, supportive people. I'll admit it took a while for my husband and I to reach this harmonious happy medium, and once we did, everything got easier. Breastfeeding my child is seriously one of the most peaceful and therapeutic things I've ever done. It's so, so calming.

I'm not sure how long I will breastfeed, given my fast-approaching return to work (my job requires travel, but I'm aiming for at least a few more months, although I've learned it's all about taking it one day at a time and setting short-term goals. Nonetheless, I am convinced that if breastfeeding is the route you choose to take, you're in for a very rewarding journey!

Thanks for reading and click HERE to read Part II-- Nipple Care

No comments: