The End of the Road…

Credit: Flickr, user Vincent Brassinne

I recently stopped breastfeeding.  Stopped.  As in no longer nursing my little one.  It wasn’t really my choosing.  It was the result of a long decline in my milk production shortly after I returned to work post-maternity leave.

I enjoyed a very abundant supply of milk for many months, for which I am very thankful.  I know of many women who wished that they could have breastfed, but were not able to produce milk or had other issues.

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9 oz of milk in one pumping session. The glory of the early days! Credit: Instagram, livingfortwoplus

I had a pretty uneventful and easy breastfeeding journey, comparatively speaking.  Though I did have a rough start.
Post nursing session. Credit: livingfortwoplus

Post nursing session in the hospital.  I was so lucky that my hospital was so supportive to breastfeeding mothers.  Every single nursing session (think: every two hours), there was a lactation consultant there to help me.  I will be forever thankful to my hospital and lactation consultants. Credit: livingfortwoplus

Ava needed to eat constantly and I was always sore (which is common for almost all breastfeeding mothers–> see my previous post on helpful nursing items HERE ).  I was also engorged (click to see what “engorged” means). A lot. This caused a lot of discomfort.  More than discomfort.  These clogged ducts were PAINFUL.  But after a rough first couple of weeks, I came to really enjoy breastfeeding.  I looked forward to it.  I loved cuddling up with Ava and being her source of comfort.
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First weeks home post-nursing session.

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Breastfeeding was not always “glamorous” or as romanticized as the books may make it: real life, it was exhausting early on and I fell asleep many times with Ava still latched on.

I loved being able to rock her to sleep or to watch her get “milk drunk” after a feeding.  And although sometimes I felt like people didn’t quite understand why I was working so hard to feed Ava when a simple formula bottle would do just fine, there were just too many benefits to breastfeeding for me to give up.  
Credit: Livingfortwoplus.com

Ava at about 2.5 months old; Credit: Livingfortwoplus.com

When I went back to work, Ava was about 3 months old (almost 4).  My supply dipped tremendously.  There was never a convenient time to pump at school.  I was always rushing.  Always afraid that someone would walk into whatever room I was in.  I had people unlock my LOCKED classroom door.  It was awful.  Signs didn’t help.  My school didn’t foster a culture of support for post partum mothers.  Although there were people on the staff who were supportive, the overall structure of my day made it overwhelmingly hard to pump when I needed to.  I would have needed to be able to have someone cover probably two 20-30 minute segments of my classes.  And of course, this was impossible.
Before work one day, early in my return from maternity leave.  This was a very overwhelming and hectic time in my breastfeeding journey.

Before work one day, early in my return from maternity leave. This was a very overwhelming and hectic time in my breastfeeding journey.

Combined with recently returning after a very long maternity leave and feeling like I was drowning in responsibility, I began missing pumping sessions.  There was just no time.  I was constantly engorged.
But everyday I would look forward to 4:45pm, when I would get home and nurse Ava.
As the weeks went on, my supply dropped and dropped and dropped.  I felt so guilty.  I made tons of lactation cookies and drank lactation teas, but nothing could take the place of what actual nursing or pumping sessions can do to sustain or boost milk supply.  By the end of the school year, I was pumping maybe 6 oz all day at school and needed to supplement while at home. (Some info about pumping:  First, my pump was free through my insurance plan, which is a pretty common practice nowadays.  Here is the pump I used.  I really loved the company.  They replaced my pump free of charge when it broke.  I hated pumping though….just being honest!)
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Pumping every free moment I had. This was earlier on, when I could make about 4 ounces in one sitting.

Soon after, this is all I could pump in one session. :(

Soon after, this is all I could pump in one session. 😦

I vowed to get my supply up while at home during the summer.  I did skin to skin, tried new cookie recipes (awesome cookie recipes HERE and HERE), and herbal supplements.  And it helped for a little, but my body was definitely nearing the end.
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I ate tons of delicious cookies that did help out a lot.

I then took a month long trip to NY.  Ava and I were out almost every day, making it so difficult to nurse but so convenient to give bottles.  And I started noticing that I could go the whole day without the urge to nurse.
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Such a great trip to my hometown. But it was definitely the nail in my nursing “coffin”.

Now we are here.  I’ve now gone several days without nursing.  And while I know that this day had to come at some point, it still saddens me that this stage in our relationship is over.  I’m not depressed.  Just in awe at how quickly everything is going.  I really loved nursing and am so glad that I was able to go almost eight months! But I’m trying to get over my guilt of feeling like a bad mom—maybe if I tried harder, I could have gone longer.  But honestly, maybe it was a blessing.  The same week I stopped nursing was ironically the same week two teeth sprouted in Ava’s mouth.  Maybe I escaped by the skin of my teeth the dreaded biting while nursing.  But I was willing to risk it, just to nourish my little girl.

Now we are in a different chapter! Having fun with solids!

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Super Healthy Lactation Cookies

When I returned to work in February after my maternity leave, I didn’t have a tough time making milk to take home and to freeze for Ava.

This was my schedule:

Early AM (between 4-7AM):  Breastfeed Ava at home

8:30 AM: Pump at work during my free period

12:30 PM: Pump during my 20 min lunch

After 4:30 PM: Breastfeed Ava at home

But as the weeks progressed, and some of my pumping times were hijacked by work obligations, my body began to make less and less milk.  I would make lactation cookies, drink teas, and pop fenugreek supplements, but by May I felt like nothing was helping anymore.  I went from being able to pump 6-10 oz at work to barely pumping 2 oz in an entire day.  During the last weeks of school, and as my frozen supply of milk dwindled, I was miserable with guilt and stress that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed anymore.

But I was determined to make it to the end of the school year! ¡¡Sí se puede!!

So I tried a new lactation cookie recipe.  I figured that my body might have grown “immune” to my normal batch.  Or maybe my ingredients had lost their potency.  Regardless, it was time to try something new.  I found this recipe on Pinterest.  Click here to follow my Nursing Board!

Cost:  I found all of the ingredients that I didn’t have already at Whole Foods.  This was the only downer about the recipe.  Although the ingredients were unique and really healthy (for example, coconut sugar is about half the calories of the sugar I would normally use to make cookies), they were kind of pricey.  In total, my WF tab was about $45.  Eek.

Taste:  The recipe calls for Anise seeds.  If you DO NOT like anise or fennel or licorice, then beware.  The cookies have a strong anise taste.  I happen to love anise.  I used to drink anise tea when I was little to calm an upset stomach.  Also, in Southern Spain (where I studied abroad), several of my favorite treats used anise seeds, such as pestiños de miel and torta de aceite. YUM!! Although the original recipe doesn’t call for it, I added some chocolate chips & brown sugar to sweeten it up a bit and to cut down on the strength of the anise taste.  YUM YUM!!! I also added an extra tablespoon of the raw honey.

Ease: The recipe is very easy to make and I was done in about 20 mins.  Note, I did need a blender and a grinder.  I used a coffee grinder to grind the anise seeds. The 20 mins prep time doesn’t include baking time.  I found that I was done fairly quickly with the baking portion because the recipe didn’t feel like it yielded that many cookies.  If you like the cookies, think about doubling up the recipe for the next round.

Below is the recipe that I am borrowing from mamanatural.com. Much thanks for posting this lovely recipe!  Click here for the original link. I LOVE that she included links for where to buy each item.

Ingredients:

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Put your 2 cups of rolled oats into a high speed blender or food processor. Blend until the oats are a flour-like consistency.
  3. Measure out 1 TB of fennel seeds and grind in coffee grinder or with mortal and pestle until fine powder.

4.   Put dry ingredients into large bowl and mix.

Lactation Cookie recipe to help you boost your breast milk supply

From mamanatural.com

5.   In a smaller bowl, put your almond butter, melted coconut oil, honey, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix well.

6.   Pour the contents of smaller bowl into the dry ingredient bowl. Mix well with spoon or clean hands.

7.   Grease a cookie sheet with coconut oil. Form small flat balls, about the circumference of a silver dollar.

8.    Bake cookies in oven for 15-20 minutes. Check for slightest browning on outside of cookie.

9.    Take out and transfer cookies to a cooling rack.

10.    Enjoy warm, or let cookies cool to room temperature. Then store in an air-tight glass container.

11.   Enjoy for breakfast with raw milk or yogurt. Or as a dessert or snack throughout day. Would be delicious in an ice cream sandwich.

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Got Milk?

Recently, I returned to work after a lengthy bedrest/maternity leave. I was able to stay home with my little nursling for almost the first full three months of her life!  During that time period, she was almost exclusively breastfeed, whether it was “at the source” or via expressed milk. This ’round the clock nursing gave me a VERY healthy supply of milk. But almost as soon as I returned to work, my  supply plummeted. I tried the trick of watching videos of Ava while pumping, drinking more water, and eating oatmeal–all of which helped, by the way, but in general, my new pumping and feeding schedule delivered a huge blow to my formerly abundant supply of milk.

I miss the days of endless milk pumped in one sitting…. From my Instagram.

What to do?

I spoke to a friend of mine, who is nursing as well. She recommended two things. First piece of advice was to buy and to drink an herbal lactation tea. Her second bit of advice was to bake a batch of lactation cookies. I copied the recipe below and hyperlinked it here to share with you. They are quite possibly the yummiest oatmeal cookies I have ever had. My special twist–I added walnuts to the batter—it was so good🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪. #winning

From mom365.com. 

Evidently, what makes this batter “pro-lactation” are the oats, Brewers yeast, flaxseed meal, the walnuts I added, and chocolate chips (yay chocolate). All of them are galactogogues (a substance that produces lactation in humans, or so Wikipedia says 😉 ).

Basically I made lactation cookies….but on steroids (not literally, just figuratively). I was so desperate for results, that if dirt were a galactogogue, I would have added it ( jk…not really).

Anyhow, the results (sans dirt, haha) were fabulous. I saw a climb in my milk production by about two ounces a day! Caveat: it takes a while to make the batter and then even more time to keep swapping out trays of cookies in the oven, so make sure your little one is taking one of those nice and long midday naps.

FYI: you may find it difficult to find two of the main ingredients for this recipe–flaxseed meal and Brewers yeast. Both can be found at Whole Foods. The flaxseed meal can be found in the “healthy living” section of a supermarket (like Kroger).

Oh, and some info about the tea I drink almost daily. It is called Mother’s Milk and I got it from Whole Foods. It has several veggie/herbal galactogogues, such as fennel, anise, and fenugreek. I like the taste of fennel and anise, so I find the tea palatable, even without a sweetener. But be prepared to add sweetener if need be. I like to add a touch of honey every once in a while.

From my Instagram.

Cheers to good health and an abundant supply of milk! 🍼🍼🍼🍼🍼

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