We’re very pleased to share an abridged excerpt from the new book, The Virtual Breastfeeding Culture: Mother-to-Mother Support in the Digital Age, by Lara Audelo.
Have you benefited from the power of online mom-to-mom breastfeeding support? Tamara’s story below is a testament to this power in making breastfeeding work.
Somehow through a mix of my own upbringing and arbitrary standards forced on women to be “better” or “best,” I went into motherhood with expectations that reality slowly crushed, sending me into a chasm of self-doubt. Then people — strangers — reached through the Internet and pulled me out.
It took us seven months to get pregnant for the first time, and after two active, healthy trimesters I experienced preterm labor at 27 weeks. I was rushed to the prenatal intensive care unit and given fluids and medication to stop my contractions. My husband watched the monitor with a stoic face, almost willing the contractions to stop. I remember asking him how big a baby is at 27 weeks, and his answer was, “Not big enough.”
That was the first time my heart swelled with the enormity that is motherhood. I think for most people, it happens the moment their baby is born. For me, that day was my introduction. It was heavy and scary, and I felt like my body was failing to do something that seemed effortless for other women. That prayerful day turned into ten weeks of strict bed rest and tocolysis. The days were long and fear-filled. With nothing but time on my hands, I paged through the bibles of natural birth and breastfeeding. I dog-eared pages on latch and positioning, practiced Kegel exercises, and tried not to focus on my weakening body and spirit.
Early in the morning just past 37 weeks gestation, my water broke. I leaked fluid from ruptured membranes for 12 hours without a single contraction, and as the intravenous Pitocin began to drip, my granola dreams for an un-medicated birth slipped away. I held on tight, almost to a fault, as induced back labor worked against my body, which was so weak after being confined to a hospital bed for the last 10 weeks. I got an epidural and delivered a healthy baby boy, who was placed on my chest smelling of tears and musky clay. Looking back on that moment, it was not joy that I felt; it was relief. His safe arrival was my biggest accomplishment to date.
Within minutes of his birth, I had nurses with blue gloves manipulating my breast into my son’s tiny mouth. I felt clumsy and awkward as he refused to suckle. Over the next two days doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants bustled in and out of our room watching him cry, monitoring his climbing bilirubin, and commenting on his rapid weight loss. I remember one nurse rolling in a hospital-grade breast pump. She hooked me up to two small cups and told me to pump so that I could feed my baby colostrum. I turned up the pump and sat crying over those empty cups until I had abrasions on my areolae. I was given nipple shields, a supplemental nursing system and breast shells. My feelings of failure culminated with my husband finger-feeding our hungry baby formula, doctor’s orders. I had been a mother for less than 48 hours, and already I felt like I had failed him. People were examining me as if I was auditioning to be a mother: watching me struggle with nursing, with sleeping, with balance. I remember once we had our son home, I was trying to bring him to the breast before supplementing with pumped milk, and my mother said, “none of my babies ever cried like that.”…
I felt like both my pregnancy and birth expectations had slipped away, and I refused to give up on nursing. After a particularly frustrating day of trying to get my son to latch followed by finger feeding him milk and pumping every two hours, I posted a Facebook status about how hard it all was. A friend I hadn’t talked to since high school messaged me with her story and offered me help and support. Then another message came in, this time from a college friend, again commiserating with how consuming it all is at first, but encouraging me nonetheless. People I hadn’t talked to in years, even blog comments from people I had never even met–all cheering me on. These women were sharing their stories and encouraging me to nurse my baby.
I found a local La Leche League meeting, and was so embarrassed to attend with a baby who screamed at the breast. I sat through the meeting with my tiny infant in a room full of strangers telling their stories. I was amazed as they shared so many of the same feelings that had kept me so isolated. Meeting after meeting, I watched and shared, and learned not only to breastfeed but to be a mother. I found a weekly Twitter chat on Thursday nights called #bfcafe. Women used this hashtag all week to ask questions and share anecdotal stories and pictures of their breastfeeding journey. The women behind the hashtag–they lifted me up too.
My firstborn latched after 11 weeks and went on to nurse for 25 months, when he self-weaned. Those online messages, La Leche League meetings, Twitter chats, and blog posts got me through eight months of biting, chronic milk blisters, growth spurts, and multiple nursing strikes. At the same time, these strangers, friends, and strangers-turned-friends celebrated a love for nursing. They modeled parenting at the breast and helped me to revel in a motherly confidence that grew with each feeding.
We suffered a miscarriage when my son was a little older than a year, but became pregnant for a third time last Fall. My firstborn weaned half way through my second trimester on his own terms. With this pregnancy, a lot of fear came flooding back surrounding my miscarriage, preterm labor, birth trauma, and nursing difficulties. I read through forums on the La Leche League website, reached out to friends who had a second child, and prepared myself and my body, for birth and breastfeeding. I found a doula, talked to lactation consultants, and shared my fears online. I reached far and wide, and got back nothing but love and support in return.
I birthed my second son naturally in three hours and with only three pushes, in a hospital with the help of my husband and our doula. My body successfully carried a baby to 39 weeks, and I bravely and confidently gave birth to him on my own terms. They say you don’t get a medal for birthing naturally, but you actually get more. I have never felt more powerful, confident, or feminine than I did on that day. I put him to my breast and he nursed without hesitation from his very first feeding. My firstborn made me a mother, and my second child made me an even stronger one. Each time I nurse, I am hit with an instant wave of motherly love and vulnerability that comes with seeing your children grow. In succeeding at this primitive task, I have gained not only two secure and healthy boys, but also a mothering self-efficacy that can never be taken away.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about being a mother and about nursing my children. I have reached out to friends and strangers. I started sharing my journey through my writing. I shared my struggles, my triumphs, and my love for breastfeeding with the World Wide Web. I gave personal and intimate details of my postpartum anxiety, my birth stories, my miscarriage, and our weaning ceremony. I shared it all unapologetically, not because I am an expert on motherhood, but because I discovered that reading other women’s stories is a vital piece to navigating the journey. I wanted to give back a small portion of what was given to me. I’ve supported, without judgment, women who nursed for six days and women who nursed for six years. I have shared my breastfeeding story over and over until that pain went away, and then I did everything in my power to help other mothers never have to feel the way that I did because I wasn’t alone–and I never failed. I am so grateful to the women who reached out to me, and if I have helped one person nurse one baby during one moment of weakness, I’ve done enough.
We don’t live in an age where upon giving birth, we can be swept underneath a red tent by our elders to learn by example how to nurse, love, and care for our children, but we do live in a time where honest, supportive, and knowledgeable women can be found at any moment of the day or night with just the click of a mouse. Just log onto Twitter while you are feeding an infant, bleary-eyed at 3 a.m.; someone else across the country is staring at her phone doing the exact same thing. The two of you are instantly connected. Reach out and share the journey.
How much of my Motherlove product should I take?
Under 175 lbs: 1 ml – 4 times per day
Over 175 lbs: 2 mls – 3 times per day
Under 175 lbs: 1 capsule 4 times per day
Over 175 lbs: 2 capsules 3 times per day
How should I take this product?
These products can be taken with a small amount (1-2 oz.) of liquid. For maximum effectiveness, avoid drinking liquids 15 minutes before or after each dosage. Drinking more liquids than specified with each use may dilute the herbs in your system.
How long will my Motherlove product last at the suggested amounts?
This depends on dose and body weight. Here is the approximate time each product size will last:
60 caps 10 days – 2 weeks
120 caps 20 days – 4 weeks
2 oz. 10 days – 2 weeks
4 oz. 20 days – 4 weeks
8 oz. 40 days – 8 weeks
How long should I use Motherlove liquid extracts or vegetarian capsules?
Each mother’s needs are different. Some women are able to use these products for a short time to increase their breast milk supply. Other women, once their supply increases to the desired level, are able to decrease the amount or number of doses per day to maintain the desired supply of breast milk. Many women are able to stop taking the product altogether as their bodies are able to maintain an adequate milk supply. Some women may need to use Motherlove’s lactation products the entire time they are nursing to maintain their milk supply. We encourage women to use the amount that best meets their baby’s needs.
When should I expect to see an increase in milk supply?
Most women see an increase in breast milk supply with the More Milk Plus products within 1-2 days. It does take longer – usually 2-3 weeks - to see an effect when taking Goat’s Rue to support mammary tissue development.
What should I do if it is not working?
Be sure you are taking the correct amount for your body weight according to the suggested use on the label, as well as our recommendations above on water consumption. There are certain herbs (including sage, parsley, and peppermint) and medications (such as over-the-counter decongestants) that can lower milk supply. Try to avoid these while breastfeeding. Some lactation consultants also warn that some forms of hormonal birth control may lower breast milk supply. It’s also possible that you would benefit more from a different Motherlove product. As there can be many causes of low milk supply, we recommend working with a lactation consultant to help you with your particular breastfeeding situation.
*Not sure which Motherlove product is right for you? Check out our guide to choosing the right Motherlove product for your needs.
We’re very pleased to share a new podcast interview with Alyssa Schnell, author of Breastfeeding Without Birthing.
Alyssa talked with Tanya about what it’ s like to breastfeed an adopted baby or a baby born via surrogacy. They discussed inducing lactation, latching and attaching, and even the baby’s need to grieve the loss of their birth mother. Alyssa shared her own experience nursing her adopted daughter.
Power pumping (also called cluster pumping) is pumping in a series of ten minute sessions – ten minutes pumping, ten minutes off – over the course of an hour, one session each day. It’s typically used when mothers experience a temporary dip in supply, not as a means of establishing a new milk supply.
The theory is that power pumping simulates a baby’s behavior during a growth spurt, when they feed more frequently and often in a cluster-like manner. Alone or in combination with other measures to increase supply (more frequent and effective feeding at the breast, use of galactagogues, skin-to-skin, etc.) it may increase milk supply over time. Mothers may find that initially they collect little milk during these sessions, but over time their milk supply will catch up with the increased demand. Moms report that it can take as long as one week to see an increase in supply.
Moms who have low milk supplies are often advised to pump after each feeding for the same purpose, but many find the routine of feed-pump-feed-pump around the clock to be unworkable. One nice thing about power pumping is that it can be done at any time – including when the baby is sleeping. So some moms power pump during naps, and some (whose babies are going to bed earlier than they do) pump in the evening after the baby is asleep. Some mothers also power pump several times a day over weekends (described by some as Power Pumping Boot Camp), when care of the baby is shared with a partner.
Pumping is not the most entertaining way to spend an hour, so some moms have gotten creative. This mom described how she synchronized her pumping with a TV show, pumping during commercials and resting during the show. She would also rent a movie and pump during one scene and rest during the next. And here’s a radio strategy: pump during one song, rest during the next!
While there is no research specifically on this practice, some moms report significant increases in milk supply.
There are many species of nettle, but stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is probably the best known. It’s native to much of the world, and has long been used as to increase milk supply, as a food, and as a treatment for a variety of health problems.
Nettle has dark green serrated leaves and short hairs that cause burning and blistering when touched. It achieves this sting with hollow hairs which inject histamine and other chemicals when contacted. It grows in moist soil, usually near streams and ditches.
Even though it may sting when gathered without gloves, stinging nettle is an excellent spring green in teas and meals. As a food, nettle is a rich source of iron, calcium and folic acid, vitamin K, and supports the kidney and adrenals. As a tea, it blends well with other herbs like mint and lemon balm, and its nutrients are important during pregnancy, so it’s a great one to drink when you’re expecting. It makes a wonderful substitute for spinach in any dish, such as lasagna filling. You’ll find some wonderful looking recipes online. Cooking nettles removes the stinging chemicals from the plant; they should never be eaten before cooking.
Nettle is an herb worth using on a regular basis. This spring tonic is loaded with nutrition and strengthens many body systems. It’s used as a treatment for arthritis, anemia, skin problems, urinary tract infections, small kidney stones, hay fever symptoms, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and even as a hair rinse to control dandruff and make hair more glossy.
The German Commission E lists no contraindications, drug interactions, or side effects for nettle. The American Herbal Products Association considers stinging nettle Class 1: safe when used appropriately.
As a galactagogue, Nettle is most effective as a tincture, as the dried form is difficult to take in sufficient quantities. Stinging Nettle is a herb included in many of our formulas, including More Milk Plus, More Milk Plus Alcohol Free, More Milk Plus Capsules, More Milk Special Blend, More Milk Special Blend Alcohol Free, More Milk Special Blend Capsules, More Milk, More Milk Two Alcohol Free.
It’s a traditional practice in Japan and some other Asian countries, and it’s used in a number of different forms here. But what is it, and why do it? And is it necessary?
In Japan breast massage is practiced to increase breastmilk quantity and “quality.” There, it is performed by specially trained midwives as a paid service. According to La Leche League, “most Japanese people still believe that breast massage is essential for the mother to produce enough milk.”
In the U.S. breast massage is far less known, and takes multiple forms, all performed by the mother. Some mothers know of a “massage-stroke-shake” method of assisting the milk ejection reflex developed by lactation consultant Chele Marmet. In this method, mothers massage their breasts with a pressure and motion in a manner similar to those used in a breast exam. “Alternate massage,” another technique sometimes recommended here, involves massaging and compressing the breast when the baby pauses between sucking bursts. “Hands on pumping” is another method combining the use of a breast pump and breast massage to increase pumping output. And of course massage is also often used to help resolve plugged or engorged areas of the breast.
But what does breast massage do? A few studies have tried to answer this question, and have found that breast massage:
The finding that massage has an effect on hormones makes sense, since we know that touch of many kinds increases oxytocin. And we might take our cue on this from babies, who actually massage their mothers’ breasts on their own!
But is breast massage necessary? In the normal course of breastfeeding, breast massage is likely not necessary for mothers to produce plenty of milk. For mothers who are having difficulty with specific issues such as milk supply, pumping, milk ejection, plugged ducts, or engorgement, it’s one of a number of tools available which they might consider. Of course, massage should be used concurrently with the basics of establishing milk supply: frequent and effective feeding, and good attachment to the breast.
Have you heard the term “food desert?” It means a place where people have poor access to stores selling healthy food. As a result, residents of these communities are hard pressed to eat in a way that supports their health.
Now let’s think about how that term applies to the first food, breastmilk. In order for babies to have access to this all important food, their mothers need access to support for breastfeeding – everything from breastfeeding help to employer support to supportive attitudes about nursing in public.
Kimberly Seals Allers, award winning journalist and author, set out to investigate places where breastfeeding rates are low and infant mortality is high, to see if these places are in fact “first food deserts,” where the support necessary to make breastfeeding possible is lacking.
The result is a project called “Be First Food Friendly.“ Tanya Lieberman spoke with Kimberly about her research and the advocacy work that has resulted from it.
These formulas are carefully composed to address different causes of low milk supply and different situations. They use combinations of herbs to balance and enhance their effects.
Which ones is right for you? Here’s our guide to determining which Motherlove product will meet your needs:
My milk supply has dropped. This may have happened because of a separation, illness, pumping, going back to work, or another reason.
We recommend our More Milk Plus formula. It’s Motherlove’s most popular product, and the best-selling breastfeeding supplement in the US. It contains fenugreek, blessed thistle, nettle, and fennel seed. This combination helps most women increase their supply within 24-48 hours. Available in a grain alcohol or alcohol-free liquid extract; and as a liquid extract concentrate in vegetarian capsules. Not for use during pregnancy.
I need to increase milk supply, and I have PCOS, insufficient glandular tissue (breast hypoplasia), have had breast surgery, or am an adoptive mom:
We recommend our More Milk Special Blend formula, which contains the herbs in More Milk Plus blended with goat’s rue, an herb that helps to build mammary tissue. Specially-formulated at the request of lactation consultants, this product can help increase breast milk supply for women who have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), did not see an increase in breast size during pregnancy or have suspected or confirmed insufficient glandular tissue (breast hypoplasia), have had previous breast surgeries, or for adoptive mothers. Increases in milk supply are seen after 2-3 weeks of use of this product. Available in a grain alcohol or alcohol-free liquid extract and as a liquid extract concentrate in vegetarian capsules. This formula is not for use during pregnancy.
We also have a Goat’s Rue extract (single herb). Goats rue is not contraindicated during pregnancy, as is fenugreek and blessed thistle, which are included in More Milk Special Blend. Lactation consultants have used it in the last 2 weeks of pregnancy with women who know from previous pregnancies they have serious difficulty producing milk. Available in a grain alcohol base, and as a liquid extract concentrate in vegetarian capsules. Discuss product use with a healthcare professional before using during pregnancy.
I need to increase milk supply, but I cannot take fenugreek:
We recommend our More Milk formula, which has blessed thistle, nettle and fennel but does not contain fenugreek for those who may be sensitive to its potential side effects (usually gastric upset that may occur in either mother or baby). Not for use during pregnancy.
I’m pregnant and nursing, and need to increase my milk supply:
We recommend our More Milk Two formula, which contains raspberry leaf, nettle and alfalfa – a nourishing combination of herbs that is specially formulated to safely increase the breast milk supply of pregnant breastfeeding mothers. Alcohol-free and safe for use during pregnancy.
I prefer or need to take only Fenugreek, or that is what my lactation consultant recommended.
We recommend our Fenugreek extract. This single herb extract is most recommended by lactation consultants to quickly help increase breast milk supply. Available in an alcohol-free liquid extract. Not for use during pregnancy.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, great, cure, or prevent any disease.
Alfalfa is a many-branched plant with square stems and leaves composed of three leaflets. It has blue to purple flowers turn into spiral coiled seedpods. Alfalfa grows to a height of up to three feet, and its deep taproot sometimes stretches more than 50 feet. This root system brings up many minerals, including trace minerals, from the soil, and also makes it drought resistant. It’s a tough plant whose seed system allows it to re-grow many times after being grazed or harvested.
Its English name derives from an Arabic term for “fresh fodder,” and it has been cultivated by humans since at least the 4th century and used in herbal medicine for an estimated 1,500 years. It’s used in agriculture as a forage crop for cattle and as hay, and in particular for high producing dairy cows due to its high protein content and highly digestible fiber. It’s fed to dairy goats to help them produce more milk, as well.
Alfalfa is rich in chlorophyll and vitamin K, which promotes clotting. It’s also high in protein, calcium, other minerals, and vitamins in the B group, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E.
The leaves and flowers make a mild tasting, nutritious tea that stimulates the appetite and aids digestion. Alfalfa is used for a wide range of ailments including kidney conditions, bladder and prostate conditions, high cholesterol, asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes. The National Institutes of Health rates it as “possibly effective” for lowering cholesterol.
Alfalfa is used commonly to increase breast milk, often in combination with fenugreek, marshmallow, and blessed thistle. Fenugreek and blessed thistle are contraindicated during pregnancy, but alfalfa is an herb that can be taken while pregnant.
According to The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk, alfalfa should not be taken by mothers who have lupus or other autoimmune diseases, as the L-canavanine contained in it may exacerbate symptoms.
Alfalfa is an ingredient in our More Milk Two Alcohol Free, our breastfeeding product for women who are nursing a toddler while pregnant. The alfalfa used in Motherlove products is certified organic and thus not genetically modified.
That’s why we think you’ll enjoy this podcast with the author of Breastfeeding Take Two: Successful Breastfeeding the Second Time Around. Tanya talked with Stephanie Casemore about the complex emotional experience surrounding breastfeeding after a challenging prior experience.
The author, Stephanie Casemore, also answered some questions on this topic for a post on our blog. It was a popular topic!
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