Archive for the ‘Engorgement’ Category

More about Milk Supply

August 24, 2011

You probably already know that certain foods and herbs can increase milk supply. Oatmeal, fenugreek* and blessed thistle* and many others all have a reputation for helping mothers overflow with milk.

But many people don’t know that some foods can actually decrease milk production. There is no need to worry about small amounts of any of the following foods, but if you’re struggling with low milk supply already, avoid ingesting large quantities of the following. On the other hand, if you are one of those mothers with an over-abundance of milk, or if you are in the process of weaning, you may find the following foods helpful!

Parsley is a diuretic. Nibbling on a sprig of parsley after a meal tastes refreshing and will not harm your milk supply. You may wish to avoid dishes with large amounts of parsley, however, if you are breastfeeding and you are concerned about milk production. One dish to avoid in the immediate postpartum period is tabouleh. Once your supply is established and everything is going well, and occasional plate of tabouleh is probably OK.

Peppermint and spearmint can adversely affect milk supply. Drinking an occasional cup of peppermint tea should not be a problem. You’d have to drink very large amounts daily to decrease your supply. Altoids and other candies made from peppermint oil are a different story. Mothers who enjoy many of these candies each day have noticed a drop in milk production.

Sage and oregano can negatively impact milk production. Sage tea is a common remedy for over-production.

The topical application of cabbage leaves. Cabbage can work wonders to relieve breast engorgement, but don’t over-do it! Applying cabbage more than once or twice a day can decrease your milk supply. Topical creams made from cabbage extract can have the same effect.

Beer and other alcoholic beverages are often touted as milk-supply boosters. “Have a beer! It will help you relax and make your milk come in.” Have you heard that one? It is absolutely false! In fact, alcohol inhibits your milk ejection (let down) reflex. This makes it harder for baby to get your milk. Over time, this can decrease your milk supply. Is an occasional drink ok? Yes! Just be sure to have that drink after you have fed your baby.

*Please seek the advice of a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) before experimenting with ANY herbs to help with milk supply issues. Herbs are medicines and many have potential side effects and even can cause severe allergic reactions. In addition, it is important to understand the history and underlying cause of your particular situation in order for any treatment to be effective.

Important notice:  This blog and all its content and subsequent content is now at www.second9months.com.  Please visit there often for updates and new posts!

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Breast Engorgement and Cabbage Leaves?

July 25, 2011

Important notice:  This blog and all its content and subsequent content is now at www.second9months.com.  Please visit there often for updates and new posts!

Let’s be honest. Overly full, engorged breasts are uncomfortable and sometimes downright painful. Fortunately, under normal circumstances true engorgement can be prevented with frequent breastfeeding in the first few days/weeks after the birth of your baby. Some breast fullness and tenderness is to be expected in the first week postpartum as your breasts prepare to provide nourishment for your baby or babies. It may feel like you have enough milk to feed the entire neighborhood, but keep in mind that much of the swelling you are experiencing is simply that—swelling. It’s not just milk “coming in” that is making your breasts feel so full. After the birth of your baby; water, blood and lymphatic fluid rush to your breasts in preparation for breastfeeding. With adequate breastfeeding, the discomfort usually passes in a day or 2. Many mothers don’t experience anything but mild fullness.

Currently, however, many mothers in the U.S. experience births that are anything but “normal.” Epidural anesthesia requires that mother receive an IV of fluids. Inducing labor with pitocin requires extra fluid. C-sections require IV’s. If a mother receives any extra fluids via IV, she will continue to retain the fluid for some time even after the birth of her baby. That extra fluid often results in swollen ankles, fingers and even breasts!

The edema in the limbs may be noticeable right away; but the breast swelling will probably not be apparent until day 3-5. When breasts are full in a normal way as the milk “comes in,” your baby will still be able to latch on and breastfeed. The breasts will feel full, but the areola will be soft and compressible. True engorgement is very different. Your breasts are hard. The skin is stretched and shiny. The areola is hard and taut. There is no way a baby can latch on to your breast. Pumping is usually ineffective since the tissue is not malleable. It’s like trying to use a pump on a wall!

So what can you do if your breasts become so engorged that you feel like you have 2 bowling balls on your chest? Try using cabbage leaves to relieve the swelling so that milk can be removed by the baby or a pump. Cabbage? Really? Yes! This is one of those times when folk wisdom can be helpful.

Green cabbage contains sulfa compounds which pass through the skin, and constrict vessels–relieving inflammation. This reduction of inflammation and swelling allows the milk to flow. To use the cabbage to relieve engorgement, rinse the leaves thoroughly in cold water (leaves should not be cooked). Place a leaf or two on your breasts under your bra. Change the leaves as they wilt. Most mothers notice immediate relief using this method.

A couple words of caution: This technique is not recommended for women who are allergic to sulfa or cabbage. It’s also important to not over-do the cabbage cure. There are reports of decreased milk supply with excessive cabbage use.

If you find yourself in the difficult situation of clinical engorgement, you need help! Contact an experienced lactation consultant right away. In the meantime…try some cabbage!


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