Wednesday, March 18, 2009

milk, Milk the magical fruit

Uli’s been gassy lately and I think it’s because of me. But I can’t see any way around it. It’s a lesser evil. Since returning to the office, I’ve had a dramatic reduction in milk production. I’m still making plenty for her when we’re nursing directly one-on-one, but the amounts I’m pumping while I’m apart from her have been less and less.

Initially, the first few weeks back, I’d consistently pump 13-15 ounces during the workday. Plenty for her to drink the next day as well as a few ounces to stash away in the freezer for growth spurts. But then the separation thing started to hit. Not having her hormones mingling with mine. Not seeing her little cheeks. Not feeding her every 40-90 mins. My milk flow adjusted to the absence of the baby and the amount I was pumping reduced. I started bringing home only 7-9 ounces a day even though she was drinking 10-12. The ‘extra’ freezer stash was quickly depleted. Several times I had to call Justin and ask him to stop-by my office on his way home from work to pick up the milk I’d collected so far that day so that Emily would have something to put in her afternoon bottles.

It’s a terrible feeling, not being able to feed your own child. Obviously we’re not talking about starvation here. We’ve other options than just letting her go hungry. But I am determined not to let the fact that I am away from her during the day interfere with our ability to nurse. If we start introducing supplements, I’ll have an even more difficult time keeping up my supply. Plus, it’s not that I have a truly low milk production, it’s just that I’m having trouble pumping.

What you get when you pump is not what the baby gets when she nurses---babies are so much better at extracting milk than a machine. And mama’s response to a baby suckling is different than her response to a vacuum-hosed whirring pump. Just not as cosy, ‘feeding’ a bottle. What I really need, in a way, is an over-supply of milk, so that the lesser amount I extract via pump is still enough for Uli.

Enter fenugreek. Trigonella foenum-graecum. The wonder herb. Commonly used in Indian curries and Egyptian beverages (thank you, Wikipedia), fenugreek’s fabulous quality (besides being tasty) is that it’s a galactagogue:  it increases milk supply.

I’d been taking fenugreek as a supplement for the past month without much luck. Frustrated, I spoke with the lactation consultant again (wonderful Arlinda, who gave me so much help and encouragement when Uli was first born). She told me that the single dose I was imbibing per day wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. I had to take at least 2 capsules with each meal as well as with snacks. Give it four days, she recommended, and see if that does the job.

And did it ever. I went from an average of 8 oz pumped back up to 13+! Like a miracle. But there are side-effects. It can make some babies gassy. I think it’s having that effect on Uli. I’m going to try taking fenugreek one week on, one week off, and see if that helps with her fussiness. (Because, really, it could just be that she’s been sick.)

Also, fenugreek makes me smell like maple syrup. No kidding. At first, before I spoke with Arlinda, I’d noticed my skin smelling sweet and worried that I was developing diabetes (based on the very educational CSI: Miami where they recognized the killer because of his diabetic scent). But no—it’s the fenugreek. Arlinda mentioned it and I realized immediately that that’s what I’d been noticing—maple syrup. Weird, but not unpleasant.

And now I’ve taken a closer look at Such good info on there! I wish I’d consulted the site before now. I’d heard other mothers talk about it as a resource but felt overwhelmed when Uli was first born by the ENORMITY of information out there. “Information” you can never be too sure about. But I’m now a convert to kellymom. Good stuff. Check it out. Here’s what it says about moms in my situation (so helpful):

We didn’t take Uli to Libby’s on Monday or Tuesday, since baby was still under the weather. Tomorrow (Thursday) is the day. I’m hopeful that with the use of fenugreek and maybe a bit more nursing at night (I’ve slept with her the past three nights and she’s been eating every 2 hours—more often than has been typical) we’ll have our buffer of extra milks and keep the production up. No more emergency calls to Daddy, stealing from tomorrow’s milk to provide today’s. Fingers crossed.


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