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I love it when I get the chance to combine my professional healthcare knowledge with other things I’m passionate about, like breastfeeding. Because I work so much, I have had a roller coaster ride with breastfeeding and milk supply. When I’m home with Jake we do fine, but when he has to be fed expressed breastmilk from a bottle, I can never seem to pump enough to keep up with how much he eats. According to what I’ve read, breastfed babies should be around the 25 ounce mark in a 24 hour period, and that amount stays fairly constant from 1 to 6 months, with the exception of occasional growth spurts. My son goes through 18-21 ounces in 8 hours, an through about 32 when I’m gone 14 hours, plus he still nurses with me.. I mean, this kid still wakes up 2-4 times at night to eat.
I am trying my hardest to avoid having to supplement, and I really believe that I’m in the trenches right now. He just turned 5 months old, and hopefully, when he starts solids at 6 months, the volume of breastmilk we need will decrease. I know that he will continue to need breastmilk until his birthday, but hopefully it will be a little less.
So, that was a lot of background story to get to the point that how much milk we have is constantly a worry in this house. I try to follow all the “rules” as best I can – pumping every 2 hours when I’m away from him, staying well hydrated, eating enough calories. But milk supply is still a struggle. I started taking fenugreek, an herbal galactagogue, and it makes a world of difference!!
I buy these locally, but there are many different brands out there. I could not find them at any of our local pharmacies, but they are at all of our local herb shops. The dose for breastmilk production is about 3500mg per day, divided into 3 doses. I personally take 2-3 capsules twice daily, because I can’t remember to do it more than twice daily. Side effects? Yes, but minor. First, Jake and I both smell faintly like maple syrup. This can also cause false positive test results for maple syrup urine disease, which is a very rare genetic metabolic condition. Next up, it can cause some minor digestive upset for both mom and baby. This is often relieved by decreasing your total daily dose, or by tapering your dose up slowly (i.e. take 1 twice daily for 3-4 days, then 1 3 times daily for 3-4 days, etc). It can also cause your little one to have an increase in spitting up, because it causes an increase in foremilk, but I’ve found that he has gotten used to it the longer I’ve been taking it. You don’t want to use this if you are pregnant, as it can cause uterine stimulation/contractions. Also, be careful using fenugreek if you have a history of diabetes, asthma, peanut allergies, or if you take certain medications. Of course, before taking anything, you should consult your healthcare provider. For more information, kellyMom has a great page on fenugreek, and is just an overall awesome breastfeeding resource. But since I actually work as a pharmacist for a living, if you have any questions that I can help with, leave them in the comments below and I will try to help in any way I can. 🙂
So, the final verdict? This is a must have for me. At our lowest point, I only pumped about 12 ounces in 14 hours away from my baby, and that just wasn’t going to cut it. Now we can get about 10-12 on an 8 hour day, and much more on a 14 hour day. Thank you fenugreek!