Low Milk Supply
Almost every breastfeeding mom has wondered how to increase her breast milk production at some point, whether she needed to or not. Most of the time your body figures out how to make enough milk for your baby.
However, this process requires time that you may not have, or your once well-established supply may take a hit from stress, illness, or menstruation. Herbal remedies are often helpful, and you can actually see them working (if you pump) by the increased volume you produce. Some tried and true herbs that increase milk production include fenugreek, goat’s rue, malunggay. There are many others, but these are a few of GetzWell’s favorites. You do have to take them 2-3 times a day and stay well hydrated. If you have a thyroid problem, you may want to avoid fenugreek, but the other herbs are safe even for those with thyroid issues.
Another supply-boosting strategy is power pumping. The more stimulation your breasts get the more milk they will make. Try pumping for 20 minutes, then stop for 10 minutes, then pump for 10 minutes, then stop for 10 minutes, and again, one last time, pump for 10 minutes. This routine will signal your breasts that more milk is needed pronto! If you do not actually have a low supply issue you don’t necessarily want to do these things because you may begin to over-produce, which has its own set of problems.
Plugged ducts cause obstructed milk flow in one area of the breast. Sometimes this means you see a little bleb on the nipple which represents the plug, but if the obstruction is deeper in the breast you may feel pain or a hard lump/wedge. Typically, with a plugged duct, you will feel more pain before a feed and less after. Often the lump or wedge will feel smaller after baby nurses. There is no fever, fatigue or chills with just a plugged duct.
Prevention and treatment for plugged ducts involves making sure baby has a good latch. Avoid tight fitting clothing and underwire bras also. If you get recurrent plugs, you can take lecithin once a day. Lecithin is a safe treatment that is believed to decrease the viscosity of the breast milk. For acutely plugged ducts you can increase lecithin dosing to 3-4 times a day. A tincture called “Happy Ducts” is another option. Warm compresses, massaging down the breast toward the nipple, more frequent nursing or pumping to empty the breast can help. Some find nursing while leaning over the baby (or on all fours) leverages gravity to aid in dislodging the plug.
If systemic symptoms like fever, body aches, chills or extreme fatigue are present, then the plugged duct may have become infected and progressed to mastitis (breast infection). However, mastitis may occur without plugged ducts and can be due to stasis (not emptying fully or frequently enough) or compression. Often with mastitis there is a red, warm patch of skin on the breast in addition systemic symptoms. Mastitis is common in the first several weeks of breast feeding and can come on very suddenly. However, it can occur any time in breast feeding. A proper latch can help prevent plugged ducts and mastitis. Often a course of an antibiotic is needed to treat a breast infection; however, if you notice symptoms right away and follow the below suggestions you may be able to avoid pharmaceuticals.
We suggest trying warm compresses and massage prior to nursing. Hand expressing in a hot shower or bath is also useful. Avoid tight bras. It is important to continue to breast feed on the affected side. You will not infect your baby by continuing to nurse as usual. Apply the same tips we mentioned for plugged ducts: warm compresses, massage down the breast toward the nipple, more frequent feeding or pumping, nursing while leaning on all fours.
Non-prescription remedies we suggest include higher doses of Vitamin D for 2-3 days (20,000 IU/day), Vitamin C 500mg every 2-4 hours, echinacea every 2-4 hours, eating 2-3 cloves of raw garlic twice a day, Biocidin herbal drops (which we carry in both offices). And don’t forget rest and drinking a LOT of fluids! If fever or symptoms are not improving in 24 hours, please contact your doctor or or a GetzWell professional to determine if antibiotics are necessary.
We want to help you successfully breastfeed, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us!