If you’re well informed, you’ll know that all mammals produce lactose in their milk (well, except for pinnipeds, but you’re not going to find that milk on store shelves anytime soon, so for all intents and purposes, mammals make lactose). According to most sources, though, humans on average make more lactose than any other mammal. So I find it somewhat ironic that I, Lactose-Free Girl with a lactose-free diet, am currently producing more lactose than any other species!
I’ll begin by just coming out and saying it: the first few weeks after birth, breastfeeding is gorram hard. I knew it would be hard, because every book I read said so, every website and blogger said so, and every mother I spoke to said so. It started off hard, and I thought, “Okay, that is what I was expecting. I’ve got this.” Then it got harder, and I decided to go see a lactation consultant about it to get some help. And literally overnight, it got so incredibly hard that I had a little emotional breakdown. I was lucky enough to see a lactation consultant that day, and after the use of a breast pump, nipple shields, and another consultation, plus tons of practice (for both me and the Little Prince, I might add), I am now at the point where breastfeeding is pretty easy. My advice to any expectant mothers who plan on breastfeeding would be to find out what your local resources are (lactation centers, La Leche League, etc.) and to make an appointment for one week after giving birth – have your partner call the lactation consultant along with family members to announce the birth, or if you live in an area where it takes longer to get an appointment, make it for about a week after your due date and keep the consultant posted. [End of PSA.]
As far as lactation supplements are concerned, I wanted to share my experience in case it helps anyone else. I pre-emptively took supplements the day after the Little Prince was born: since I have trouble swallowing pills, I went with a tincture of fenugreek and blessed thistle, taken three times a day. It tastes vile, but for me, it helped (which I know because when I stopped for a few days, my milk production went down, and then increased again once I resumed taking the supplement). You don’t need to take it the entire time you breastfeed, though; after one or two bottles, you’re pretty much good to go.
There are also foods that are thought to boost milk production: brewers’ yeast, flaxseed, and oatmeal (see here for more information on the subject). Again, I’m not saying that it will work for every woman, but for me, it really made a difference, to the point where I had too much milk and had to dose things carefully. For example, oatmeal granola sprinkled with flaxseed meal and brewers’ yeast worked TOO well after roughly 36 hours (with one bowl per breakfast). But there are gentler ways to add those ingredients to your diet. Like cookies.
The recipe I used is adapted from Peaceful Parenting (although I’ve also seen some here and here that are more like traditional chocolate chip cookies, plus a gluten-free option here, to name only those). What all these cookies have in common are the three ingredients mentioned above (and, often, nut butter); they can easily be made vegan, if you wish. I still have some in the freezer, and they come in handy for when I know I’ll be pumping and want to increase my supply ahead of time. I’ll probably use them when I start weaning, too, to keep up my supply even with fewer feedings. Note that while these ingredients increase lactation, they would not INDUCE it, so these cookies are perfectly safe as a treat for non-lactating women, men and children. The Engineer enjoyed a few on occasion, but I have a tendency to hoard them for myself. They are actually quite good, and I think I’d just make them without the brewers’ yeast if I weren’t breastfeeding. If I remember correctly, this recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies.
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour, I think)
1 ¾ cups rolled oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
¾ cup almond butter or peanut butter I used Skippy’s Natural Creamy Peanut Butter)
½ cup butter, softened (I used cold margarine)
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup milled flax (i.e. ground flaxseed)
3 Tbsp. brewers’ yeast
1/3 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups (12 oz.) chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
Combine flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, beat nut butter, butter, sugar, brown sugar, flax, brewers’ yeast, water and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs, beating after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture, then add chocolate chips (you may need to finish beating by hand).
Roll dough into small balls, about 1 heaping tablespoon per cookie, and place 12 on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten with a fork, if desired, and bake 12 minutes. (If you freeze the balls of dough, just add 2 minutes to the baking for the frozen dough.)