Adventures in Living a Natural Lifestyle

Sharing my adventures in living a more natural lifestyle, information about essential oils and natural home, health, and beauty recipes!


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How Essential Oils Can Enhance Your Breastfeeding Experience! #WBW2015

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2015 I thought I would share a little bit about how essential oils can be used in various ways to help enhance your breastfeeding experience. You will see tons of info about how essential oils should be avoided while pregnant or nursing.  But 100% pure, therapeutic grade essential oils when used appropriately can actually help boost lactation, decrease lactation when ready to wean, and even help relieve pressure and aches associated with engorgement or clogged ducts.

Safety:

Essential oil use should always be practiced safely.  Only 100% pure, therapeutic grade essential oils should be used, especially while pregnant, nursing, or with children.  Some brands of essential oils contain fillers or synthetic chemicals that you don’t want to expose yourself, or your baby, to. Do your research and make sure you trust your brand implicitly before using.

Please review the general safety guidelines listed in my previous blog post What Are Essential Oils?

Additional Safety Considerations for Nursing Mothers: There is a lot of contradictory information out there about essential oil safety and which oils to avoid while breastfeeding.  More often than not literature seems to lump pregnancy and breastfeeding together which makes it much more difficult for consumers to know what they can and can’t use (for instance Clary Sage should be avoided while pregnant as it can cause contractions but it a great oil to use during labor and delivery as it can help speed up labor once contractions have started.  But I’ve read conflicting reviews of Clary Sage during breastfeeding – some say that it can help bring on milk after baby is born and will boost lactation other sources say that it will decrease lactation. As a result, I generally avoid Clary Sage just to be safe).  I would recommend erring on the side of caution and doing your research before using any essential oil while nursing.  Much of the information listed below comes from two of my essential oil bibles Gentle Babies by Debra Raybern (you can buy it here) and Essential Oil Pocket Reference published by Life Science Publishing (you can buy it here).

Essential Oils and Uses: 

To Boost Lactation: 

  • Fennel – Fennel seed is often recommended as an herbal supplement to help increase breastmilk production.  Fennel essential oil may be more effective given that the concentration of the oil is much more potent than the plant or seed.  Fennel can be used as a dietary supplement, 1-2 drops added to tea or a tsp of honey, or it can be taken in a vegetable capsule.  Debra Raybern recommends taking Fennel every 2 hours and follow with a glass of water (hydration is important to keeping your supply up so always make sure you are drinking plenty of water!).  Fennel can also be applied topically.  For topical use, dilute 1-2 drops of Fennel essential oil with 1 Tbsp of carrier oil (Coconut oil or Young Living’s V-6 Vegetable Complex) and apply directly on the breast and lymph area under the arm, avoiding the nipple area*.  (note: Fennel should not be taken internally for more than 10 days as it could cause an increased flow through the urinary tract)
  • Basil – Basil is similar to Fennel essential oil in its lactation boosting properties and can be taken internally or applied topically in the same way.  Basil does not carry the same warning as Fennel, however, and can be taken internally for longer than 10 days if necessary.
  • Joy or Stress Away blends – Stress can have a negative impact on your supply so using essential oil blends such as Joy or Stress away, either diffused, dabbed on your wrist and behind your ears, or combined with Epsom Salt and Baking Soda for a relaxing bath!  Other oils that help reduce stress and promote relaxation include: Lavender and Sandalwood.

To Help Decrease Lactation and Relieve Engorgement (For Oversupply or When Weaning):

  • Peppermint – Most herbalists recommend avoiding peppermint while nursing as it can have an adverse effect on your supply (However, some mothers, like myself, will report that peppermint does not affect their lactation). However, if you have an over-supply issue or you are weaning your baby, adding Peppermint oil to your routine may help alleviate some of the pressure associated with engorgement.  Peppermint is a dietary supplement and can be taken internally.  Debra Raybern recommends taking 5 drops of peppermint orally several times a day to decrease supply.  You can add a few drops of peppermint oil to water, dip a wash cloth in it and wring out the excess water and apply directly to the breast as a cold compress.  Avoid heat application when engorged as this can increase swelling and inflammation.

In addition to peppermint oil, another natural remedy to relieve engorgement and help decrease supply are cabbage leaf compresses.  Simply take a chilled or room temperature cabbage leaf and apply directly to the breast between feedings for up to 20 minutes 3 times daily.  For weaning, you can leave the cabbage leaf on the breast until it wilts.  For more information on cabbage leaf compresses visit Kelly Mom’s blog.

For Sore, Dry, Cracked Nipples*: (Note: painful nursing and dry or cracked nipples could be due to another condition, such as improper latch or tongue or lip tie.  Please see a lactation consultant and/or pediatrician for evaluation)

  • Myrrh, Helichrysum, Geranium, Vetiver, or Sandalwood – When diluted with a carrier oil and applied directly to the nipple these oils can help moisturize the skin and provide relief from dry, cracked nipples as well as help speed up the healing process.
  • Valor blend – a good alternative to the above oils to help provide relief from dry, cracked nipples.  Dilute with carrier oil and apply directly on nipple.
  • Lavender or Roman Chamomile – Sore nipples? Add a few drops of Lavender or Roman Chamomile to your nipple cream or apply directly on your nipples with some organic coconut oil to help minimize discomfort.

When applying any essential oil directly to nipples, always make sure they are diluted.  I would ensure that the oil was fully absorbed into the skin or wipe off any excess before my next nursing session.  While all these suggested oils can be taken used orally for adults it is not recommended that small infants ingest oils just to be safe. 

For Clogged Ducts:

  • Geranium, Lavender, and Melrose blend – Each of these oils individually or used together can help promote circulation, reduce pressure and alleviate aches associated with engorgement and clogged ducts.  Combine 1 drop Geranium, 1 drop Lavender, and 2 drops of Melrose with 1 1/2 pints of cold water.  Dip washcloth into the mix and squeeze out excess water.  Apply as a cold compress directly to the affected area of the breast.  Repeat as often as once per hour for relief.  (Recipe from Gentle Babies)

In addition, hot showers, soaking in a warm Epsom salt bath that completely covers the breast, breast massage, frequent pumping or nursing, pointing your baby’s chin towards the affected area of the breast while nursing, and “dangle nursing” (where you nurse from a position of hands and knees and dangle your breast towards your baby’s mouth) are all recommended to help alleviate discomfort associated with clogged ducts and to prevent development of mastitis.

For Mastitis: (Note: Mastitis is a serious infection and should always be diagnosed and treated by a health professional of your choice.  You may choose to use the following blend to help provide some relief as a supplement to your prescriber’s treatment protocol.)

  • Breast Blend Recipe – combine 3 drops Myrrh, 3 drops Vetiver, 2 drops Copaiba, and 1 drop Blue Spruce with 1/2 tsp carrier oil (Coconut Oil or Young Living’s V-6 Vegetable Complex are good choices). Massage blend onto breasts and under armpits two times daily to help provide relief from pain, swelling, redness or warmth of the breast.  (Recipe from Essential Oils Pocket Reference)

 

I use only Young Living’s 100% pure, therapeutic grade essential oils.  Join Young Living to enjoy a 24% off discount.  Message me for more details or join today here!

 

Have you used essential oils as part of your breastfeeding journey?  I’d love to hear your story! Share it in the comments below to keep the conversation going!

 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Products and techniques mentioned here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.


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Sore Nips? Here’s a Homemade Boobie Balm Recipe to Help! #WBW2015

One thing that any breastfeeding mother will tell you is that a good salve or balm for the nipples is a must!  Especially in the first few weeks when you and your baby are trying to find your nursing rhythm, he/she is trying to find the perfect latch, and your nipples are getting used to their new role in helping to provide sustenance to your little one!

While there are a lot of products on the market to help ease tenderness and soothe chapped nipples many of them contain lanolin.  Lanolin has been used for many many years and is a highly recommended product because it works so well.  However, there was some concern about a year ago about lanolin and whether or not it was inadvertently exposing babies to toxic chemicals.  So what is lanolin? Lanolin is basically the sebum, or the waxy substance produced by sheep to coat their wool and moisturize their skin.  After the sheep are shorn, the lanolin is harvested.  But in addition to containing the moisture rich sebum, lanolin also contains traces of dust, dirt, pollen, and even fecal matter.  As a result it must be processed and refined to remove all of the unsavory bits.  This refining process can vary from company to company and may involve any number of chemicals.  Some mothers are even concerned that the refinement process may not remove all of the impurities and that they may be exposing their children to GMO’s through the pollen and food particles that remain in the lanolin.  Because infants have such delicate immune systems, many mothers choose to refrain from using products containing lanolin to help minimize exposure to toxic chemicals.  Other mothers simply choose to avoid lanolin because they live a vegan lifestyle.

There are also several great products on the market that don’t contain lanolin, like Earth Mama Angel Baby’s popular (certified organic and non GMO certified) Nipple Butter but I’m a DIY junkie and if I can make it I’m going to try.  So I sought out recipes for my own homemade nipple cream and stumbled upon one that I just love! So, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week, 2015 here is my DIY Homemade Boobie Balm recipe!

Homemade Boobie Balm:

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts Coconut Oil – to help moisturize, promote healthy skin regeneration, and fight off infection.  I prefer Carrington Farm Organic Coconut Oil and can get a giant tub at Costco for like $14.99.  We use Coconut Oil for everything at our house! It’s excellent to cook with as well as makes a wonderful diaper rash ointment and helps alleviate itchy dry skin from cradle cap!
  • 2 parts Shea Butter – helps strengthen and protect the skin by moisturizing and promoting regeneration.  Shea butter is wonderful to help speed up healing of minor cuts and cracks in the skin.  I buy mine at Mountain Rose Herbs.
  • 1 part Beeswax – helps protect the skin by locking in moisture and promoting new cell growth.  I prefer to buy the beeswax pastilles because they melt easier.  You could also buy a block of beeswax and shred it before melting. I buy mine at Mountain Rose Herbs.

Directions:

Combine ingredients in a double boiler and stir occasionally until all ingredients have melted.  The beeswax will take a little longer than the rest.  Once all your ingredients are combined pour into reusable glass containers.  I prefer to upcycle baby food jars that friends have given me as they are the perfect size to carry with me.  Let sit for 24 hours.

The resulting balm will be slightly hard but melts easily with body heat.  I take my thumb nail and scrape a bit off the top and rub between my thumb and index finger to heat up before applying to my nipples.  Usually by the next feeding session (unless we were in the midst of cluster feeding) it has all been absorbed into my skin.  But if not I’ll wipe any excess off with my breastpad before nursing.  It certainly won’t hurt your baby but I’m always worried that it might affect the flavor of the milk or feel waxy and strange if I don’t.

Recipe slightly modified from its original source: MY Little Me’s Breastfeeding Boobie Balm Homemade Nipple Cream Recipe

More information on lanolin concerns from Mamavation’s blog: Killing You Softly, the Dangers of Lanolin

** Note: if you have severe or persistent nipple pain while breastfeeding please visit your pediatrician, lactation consultant, or other medical professional to rule out improper latch, tongue or lip tie, and/or thrush. 

Do you have a DIY nipple salve or balm recipe that you love? Please share it below!


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Set Yourself (or Someone You Love) Up For Breastfeeding Success: Products I Love and Gift Basket Ideas #WBW2015

Nothing is more natural than breastfeeding! And in honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2015 I thought I would share some of the products that I love that have helped me along my breastfeeding adventure.  Not all of these products themselves are “natural” per se, although I do have some DIY natural options as well, but they are proved their worth time and again over the last 6 1/2 months in my home.  Check them out to help you on your natural breastfeeding adventure or even better, build a gift basket for someone you love who is expecting to set them up for breastfeeding success!!!

A Local Lactation Consultant – Few things are as natural as breastfeeding but unfortunately it doesn’t come naturally to every mom and baby.   A Lactation Consultant (LC) is a healthcare professional who has been trained as a breastfeeding specialist who helps teach mothers how to properly nurse their babies.   They can be especially valuable if you are experiencing difficulties getting a proper latch, having painful nursing sessions, or have low milk production.  They are trained to diagnose conditions such as lip or tongue tie in babies, thrush in mothers and babies, as well as clogged ducts and mastitis.  LC’s can offer invaluable advice on how to increase milk production through massage, pumping techniques such as “power pumping,” and recommending vitamins and supplements that may help. Lactation Consultants are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, Inc. under the direction of US National Commission for Certifying Agencies. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) may be found in a wide variety of health care settings, including hospitals, pediatric offices, public health clinics, and private practice.  You may be lucky enough to not need an LC but knowing how to find one locally is important.

Find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) here: International Lactation Consultant Association: Find a Lactation Consultant.

Find a FREE Lactation Consultant – even if you are not income eligible for WIC you can still speak to a lactation consultant or nutritionist at your local WIC office for FREE.  Find your local WIC office here.

 

 A Nice Water Bottle – Hydration is key to keeping your milk supply up and nursing will make you thirsty, especially in the early days!!!  Our hospital provided us with a big ol drinking cup with a lid and straw that I kept by my side all throughout my maternity leave.  I did really well keeping up with my water intake until I went back to work and started to slack off a bit.  So recently I invested in a pair of really nice glass water bottles, I purchased Zulu brand because I found them for $16.99 for a pair at Costco (you can find them for $14.99 a piece at Target if your Costco has sold out for the season.  I add a drop or two of Lemon essential oil to my bottle (it’s 20 oz – if it was an 8 oz glass I’d only add 1 because it can be a strong lemon flavor).  Having the slight lemon flavor keeps me picking up the bottle and ensures that I get at least 60 oz throughout my work day! Plus, it helps curb my appetite and prevents me from snacking on unhealthy snacks in between meals (Bonus!).  It is important that you have glass or stainless steel (although I prefer glass so it doesn’t have the slight metallic taste that steel water bottles have) if you intend to add any essential oils since the  oils can break down plastics over time.  Otherwise, a nice BPA/phalate free plastic water bottle (like Nalgene) would work just fine!

 

womanly art of breastfeeding Book: The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding published by La Leche League International – The La Leche League International is an international nonprofit agency that advocates for breastfeeding and helps provide mothers with information about the benefits of breastfeeding worldwide.  Their book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is a national best seller that helps guide new mothers through what to expect from their breastfeeding relationship with their newborns, helps problem solve some of the most common difficulties with breastfeeding that cause many mothers to give up,  and provides the latest scientific research on the benefits of breastfeeding.  It’s a valuable resource and good reference whether this is your first, or fifth, child!

More information about the book or to buy it visit the La Leche League International website: http://www.llli.org/thewomanlyartofbreastfeeding 

 

tank-top Nursing Tanks and PJ’s – You won’t want to put on clothes during the first several weeks after the baby is born… Hell, you’ll be lucky to get a shower.  But one thing I did before I had my daughter, that I highly recommend to all new moms, was to invest in brand new lounge wear.  I bought myself two nursing tanks, a pair of lounge pants, and a pair of yoga pants. I lovingly packed them away in my hospital bag and never put them on until after she was born.  It was so nice to feel like I was getting something new to treat myself yet something comfy that I actually wanted to wear.  The nursing tanks are amazing because they provide some, limited support, but are super easy to snap down and nurse your little one.  They are especially nice for when those cluster feeding sessions start and you feel like you constantly have a baby attached to your boob! After almost 7 months of nursing, still the first thing I do when I come home from work in the evenings is change into my comfy tank and lounge pants! You can get comfy nursing tanks almost anywhere but I preferred Target brand nursing tanks because they were inexpensive and came up to a size XXL (which is important for all us buxom mamas!).

 

essential-embrace_black A Good, Supportive, Nursing Bra – This is especially important if you are well endowed already because once you decide to brave leaving the house you will likely find that those comfy nursing tanks aren’t supportive enough.  Yes they will get bigger (Ugh, I know! Sorry…) so make sure to get fitted by a professional in your last month of pregnancy to have a better idea of what size the girls will be postpartum. You want to make sure that the bra is supportive but not too tight and many LC’s recommend avoiding underwires in nursing bras because the wire or bras that are too tight can contribute to developing mastitis (which as I understand it is no fun at all!). I know a lot of women really like the nursing bras they can get at Target (because of the price point) or Motherhood Maternity (because they have a cute selection) but I was unfortunate enough to be a large enough cup size prepregnancy that neither company offered nursing bras in my size.  The style bra that I found that I love is the Bravado Essential Embrace (pictured) because it was wire free yet still supportive, comfortable, and came in 3 colors (I hate bra shopping – it’s seriously traumatic – so I’m the type of girl that when I find a bra that fits I buy one in every color!).  The price point is pretty high on these bras, usually around $45-50 each, and while I’m normally quite frugal I cannot overemphasize the importance of a good bra in general, let alone a good nursing bra.  Well worth the money, hands down!

 

 

breast padsReusable Breast Pads – Boobies leak and reusable breast pads are a must if you don’t want to be throwing them away constantly (and if you’re reading my blog then you are probably hyper aware of your waste and carbon footprint too!).  You can find reusable breast pads at most retailers or boutiques nowadays but they tend to be really expensive.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m super cheap frugal so naturally I looked for the least expensive options.  I originally planned to DIY my nursing pads but stumbled upon a promotion for FREE breast pads so figured I’d give them a go before I took the time and effort to make them (besides I was busy making burp cloths, bibs, and baby blankets in my last couple months of pregnancy.  Apparently “nesting” for me means I must make ALL the things! lol).  My only constructive criticism of the free breast pads is that they do tend to show a bit through tighter fitting clothes.  So if your wardrobe is more fitted or this is a concern for you then you make want to invest in a more expensive brand like Bamboobies, which advertise that they are less visible (but I cannot attest to this as I personally have not tried them because I didn’t want to invest the money).  But the people I know who use Bamboobies swear by them!

Get 10 pairs FREE (just pay s&h – $12.95 – which seems expensive but is still cheaper per pair than buying reusable breast pads other places) from https://www.breastpads.com/ Current promo code for World Breastfeeding Week: WBWBP15 (If this code has expired a quick internet search will turn up several codes that should work on this site, including AThriftyMom1 or PJBABY)

Check out Bamboobies at their website: http://www.buybamboobies.com/

Feeling crafty? Make your own with this tutorial I found on Pinterest from DIY Mommy: DIY Nursing Pads (That Actually Work!)

B10-232-02_natural_nipple_butter_box_and_jar_whiteA Good Salve or Balm – Breastfeeding is hard work and nipples get raw and sore, especially in the beginning (or when those little teefers start coming in!) and a good salve or balm is a must!

medela-pisa1A Good Breast Pump – Thanks to the Affordable Healthcare Act most insurance companies will now cover the cost of a breast pump for nursing mothers. I have a Medela Pump in Style that my health insurance covered in full and I love it!!! There are lots of brands to choose from but availability will depend on your insurance company.  Medela, Ameda, AVENT, and Hygeia all get great reviews so you can choose the one that best suits your needs.  Something to consider, there are two types of breast pump systems: open and closed. An open system means that there is no barrier between the milk collection kit and the pumping mechanism which may allow your milk to be exposed to impurities in the air, such as dust, pollen, smoke, bacteria or viruses.  There is also the possibility that the milk could be sucked back up into the tubing and pump itself where it cannot be cleaned and could allow mold or mildew to grow (This is why you should NEVER resell or buy a used open pump system – no matter how many people you may see selling theirs online or in yard sales. Reputable consignment shops and sales will not accept open pump systems). All current Medela styles are open systems.  Closed systems have a barrier in place that protects the milk from impurities as well as protects the pump mechanism from sucking milk back up into it.  The AVENT Comfort Double Electric, Ameda Purely Yours, Lanisoh Affinity and Signature Pro breast pump series, and Hygeia Q are closed systems.  The Hygeia Q, although less well known, is the only pump endorsed by the La Leche League International.

Call your insurance company for more information on which pumps are covered by your plan.

Tips on how you can get your FREE breast pump in this article by USA Today: How To Get Breast Pumps Covered By Insurance

Also check out Baby Gear Lab’s Top Ranked Breast Pumps and breastpumpratings.org’s Pump Comparison Chart.  Both websites offer great side by side comparison of all the different features as well as lists of pros and cons of each pump.  This is a great resource when trying to decide which pump is the best choice for your family!

 

milksaverproductMilkies Milk Saver – Breastmilk is called liquid gold for a reason! You don’t want to waste even one precious drop and the Milkies Milk-Saver is a reusable, recyclable, BPA/Phalate free tool to help you capture every last drop!!! Simply place on the other breast when nursing or pumping to catch the milk from your let-down.  This is especially helpful in the early months when your supply is still regulating or after baby starts sleeping through the night and you wake up engorged. The down side? The price point on this item is really high at $27.99 but it is so worth it and makes a great gift!

For more information, reviews or to purchase visit Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Milkies-Milk-Saver-Breast-Collector-Storage/

 

Lanisoh TheraPearlCooling Gel Pads – Cooling gel pads are a wonderful idea for when your breasts become engorged or painful.  Simply throw in the fridge or freezer then place over your nipple for instant relief.  Most brands of breast pumps make their own line of cooling gel pads, including Lanisoh, Medela, and Avent as well as a few other non pump brands. I personally prefer the Lanisoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy pads (pictured) because they can be cooled to help with swelling or engorgement, heated to help with clogged ducts or mastitis, or even used as a let down aide while pumping. The Lanisoh TheraPearl pads are available at most major retailers but you can check them out here for more information.

 

Mother's Milk TeaTeas, Herbs, and Oils: 

Traditional Medicine’s Organic Mother’s Milk Tea is a favorite among nursing mothers and widely available at most supermarkets and health food stores.  It is comprised of several herbs known to help promote lactation, including organic bitter fennel fruit, organic anise fruit, organic coriander fruit, organic fenugreek seed, organic blessed thistle herb, organic spearmint, organic lemongrass, organic lemon verbana leaf, and organic marshmallow root.  (Note: some mothers do not like the subtle licorice flavor from the anise fruit)

Get your free sample of Mother’s Milk Tea by sharing your breastfeeding story here: http://www.askthelactationconsultant.com/freebies.html

Other Herbs:

  • Fenugreek – Fenugreek is probably the best known herbal supplement to boost milk supply.  Fenugreek is a middle-eastern spice that comes from a plant in the pea family. It is found in capsule form as well as in tea.  The tea may not be as strong as taking it in capsule form. It can be used in conjunction with Blessed Thistle. Warning: a common side effect is that it may make you smell like maple syrup, so if you are opposed to this smell you may want to avoid it.  You can buy Fenugreek capsules at most health food stores or through Amazon.  Or you can buy the seeds, extract, powder, or capsules through Mountain Rose Herbs.
  • Blessed Thistle – Blessed Thistle is another really common herbal supplement recommended to help increase breastmilk production.  Often recommended to be used in conjunction with Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle is highly regarded by the breastfeeding specialist, Jack Newman. Traditionally used to help with indigestion and with loss of appetite. Blessed Thistle is not the same thing as Milk Thistle, although both have been identified as galactagogues.  Milk Thistle is more often used as a food (peeled, tender shoots) rather than an herbal supplement.  YOu can buy blessed thistle capsules at most health food stores or through Amazon. Or you can buy blessed thistle in bulk to make your own tea or get the extract through Mountain Rose Herbs.
  • Red Raspberry Leaf – Red Raspberry Leaf is a common ingredient in nursing teas and tinctures.  It is high in vitamins and minerals, including niacin (in the B Vitamin family). Also known as a uterine toner it can help the uterus return to it’s normal size immediately following birth.  Some recommend Red Raspberry Leaf to help support uterine health while trying to conceive as well as to prepare for birth after 40+ weeks gestation.  You can buy Red Raspberry Leaf capsules at most health food stores or through Amazon. I buy mine in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs and make my own tea.
  • Chasteberry (Vitex) – Chasteberry is actually a prolactin-inhibitor usually recommended to help balance hormones but has been proven through repeated studies to increase breastmilk production in nursing mothers.  This may be an ideal choice if you are struggling with hormonal imbalances while breastfeeding, including PMS. Note: Chasteberry may start menses in nursing women so avoid if you are relying on lactational amenorrhea as a birth control method.  You can buy Chasteberry (Vitex) capsules at most health food stores or through Amazon.  Or you can buy the berry, seed, powder, or extract through Mountain Rose Herbs.
  • Other less common herbal galactagogues include: Fennel seed (may help with let down and to ease mother’s digestive issues), Goat’s Rue, Alfalfa (avoid if you have an auto-immune disorder), Wild Asparagus, Nettle and Hops.

Get your free Guide to Herbs and Breastfeeding published by Earth Mama Angel Baby here: http://www.earthmamaangelbaby.com/herbs-for-breastfeeding-ebook 

Essential Oils – There is a lot of information out there about essential oil safety that lists oils that should be avoided when pregnant or nursing and you would do well to take heed and research any essential oil before using it to know your risks.  Essential oil use should always be practiced safely.  Only 100% pure, therapeutic grade essential oils should be used, especially while pregnant, nursing, or with children.  Some brands of essential oils contain fillers or synthetic chemicals that you don’t want to expose yourself, or your baby, to. Do your research and make sure you trust your brand implicitly before using (I prefer Young Living – for more information on why check out my blog post Why I Chose Young Living Essential Oils). But there are several essential oils that when used appropriately can actually help boost lactation, decrease lactation when ready to wean, and even help relieve pressure and aches associated with engorgement or clogged ducts, including Fennel, Basil, Geranium, Lavender, and Myrrh to name a few.  For more information on essential oils and nursing check out my previous blog post How Essential Oils Can Enhance Your Breastfeeding Experience!

 

IMG_2779 Lactation Cookies – Want to go the extra mile when making a gift basket for a new mom in your life? How about throwing in some homemade lactation cookies! Check out my favorite recipe in my previous blog post Homemade Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies!

 

Do you have a product you love that I failed to mention? Share it in the comments below to keep the conversation going!


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Lactation Smoothies: A Healthier Alternative to Cookies! #WBW2015

To continue celebrating World Breastfeeding Week 2015 I thought I would follow up on my Lactation Cookie recipe with a healthier alternative for those mamas who follow a clean eating lifestyle or who are trying to shed some of that baby weight. If you missed my previous post a couple weeks ago head on over and check it out now for tips on how to increase your breastmilk production naturally and get that cookie recipe for when you are needing a sweet tooth fix!

I’ve mentioned several times before how much I love my Vitamix.  Not only does it help us make healthy and nutritious baby food but it helps us stick to our clean eating lifestyle by making green smoothies when we need a quick meal or a protein boost. There are all sorts of smoothie recipes on the interwebz that you can find with simple Google or Pinterest search so I won’t go into a great deal of detail on smoothies but I will mention that we prefer “Green” smoothies, which means that we add dark leafy “power” greens to our smoothies to help provide an energy boost, increase our fiber intake, and get all the delicious nutrients like Vitamins A, K, D, and E!  I really like this blog post on How to Create the Perfect Green Smoothie from 100 Days of Real Food.

My favorite ingredients to make Green Smoothies with are:

  • Greens – we like Kale, Rainbow Chard, Spinach, or our favorite is the organic “Power Greens” blend from the produce section at Costco.  You can portion it up into individual portion sizes and freeze it to keep it from going bad since it’s a giant bag!
  • Fresh or Frozen fruit – We prefer frozen so it makes the smoothie cold without having to add ice. We like to buy the organic Antioxidant blend with strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries from Costco.  They also have a Mango blend of frozen fruit that is really yummy!
  • Bananas – Aside from tasting really good bananas are loaded with vitamins making them really good for you.  They are an excellent source of Potassium which can help prevent cramps after long workouts! Plus they help keep the texture of your smoothie nice and creamy.
  • Greek Yogurt – Adds protein to your smoothie and is an excellent source of probiotics to keep your gut healthy and happy.  We buy the Kirkland Signature two-pack at Costco.
  • Soy Milk – I find that Green Smoothies can be really thick and often need a bit of liquid to smooth them out and make them a texture that I like to drink.  So I add Soy Milk instead of water.  We get the Vanilla flavored Silk brand from Costco.  It’s got a little added sugar to it to make it sweet.  Between this and the fruit I find I don’t need to add any natural sweeteners. Plus the isoflavones in soy help lower cholesterol naturally and can help fight heart disease!
  • Chia Seeds – Packs a whopping punch of extra fiber, protein, and vitamins for your smoothie!

Already have a smoothie recipe that you love? Add the following to your favorite smoothie recipe to help boost your breastmilk production and stick to your healthy eating plan!

  • 1 tbsp Brewer’s Yeast
  • 2 tbsp ground Flax meal
  • 1/3 cup of Oatmeal

Have a tried and true Lactation Smoothie recipe you want to share with us for World Breastfeeding Week #WBW2015? Share it in the comments below!


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Kicking Off World Breastfeeding Week By Donating 600 oz of Liquid Gold to Alabama NICU Babies!!!

World Breastfeeding Week is August 1-7, 2015.  This year’s theme is Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work!  Did you know that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusively breastfeeding your child up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond? Breastfeeding helps provide optimum nutrition for healthy growth and brain development, provides protection from respiratory infection, diarrhoeal disease, and other life-threatening conditions, as well as protection against obesity and other non-communicable diseases, such as asthma and diabetes, as they grow up.  Yet globally, only 38% of babies born are exclusively breastfed and suboptimal breastfeeding conditions contributes to over 800,000 infant deaths worldwide each year.

Mothers across the globe are faced with the decision of whether or not to re-enter the workforce after their babies are born. For some it’s a choice, to continue a career they’ve worked hard to build or a little added income to help support the family.  For others, its a necessity. A daily struggle to make sure there is enough food on the table.  Yet many work places are not conducive to supporting breastfeeding mothers.  Bringing babies to work is often not an option.  Taking the time off to go feed your baby every 1.5 to 3 hours is difficult to manage logistically.  Finding a private location to pump milk may prove to be difficult.  And many supervisors may not be supportive of taking extra breaks throughout the day to pump milk for your child.  These very real struggles combined with increased formula marketing over the years have led many mothers to choose not to continue breastfeeding, simply because its too much of a hassle.

The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) launched a campaign in 1993 called Mother Friendly Workplace Initiative in order to help women combine breastfeeding and their career.  Over the last 22 years they have been able to help create stronger maternity entitlements, encouraged more countries to get involved in creating breastfeeding and mother-friendly workplace environments, and helped promote a greater awareness of working mothers’ rights to breastfeed.  But they aren’t ready to stop there! By the year 2025 the WABA hopes to increase the number of exclusively breastfed babies worldwide from 38% to 50%.  They hope to do so by working to limit formula marketing, empower women to exclusively breastfeed by supporting paid maternity leave, strengthen health systems by expanding the baby-friendly hospital initiatives, and provide community-based strategies to support exclusive breastfeeding counseling for pregnant and lactating women.

I have been very blessed in my breastfeeding journey. I switched jobs in the middle of my pregnancy, interviewing for what I hoped would be my dream job as a mental health counselor at a local University while 20 weeks pregnant. I’m not a small girl (although somewhere in between average and plus sized) and was still able to hide my baby bump at the time. I knew I didn’t have to disclose my pregnancy but felt that it would be underhanded to hide this information so I confided in my now supervisor about my family way. He was and continues to be a great support. I got the job and started in September 2014 at 7 months pregnant! HR was wonderful and allowed me to take unpaid leave after my daughter was born despite the fact that I didn’t qualify for FMLA benefits (you have to be employed at a company for at least 12 consecutive calendar months to be protected by FMLA).

I knew that I wanted my daughter to have the benefits of colostrum and the nutrition and immunities from continued breastfeeding and swore that come Hell or high water I would find a way to make breastfeeding work for us. I was truly blessed to have almost no problems at all and apparently to have been a dairy cow in a former life. We had some minor latch difficulties the first couple days but through support from the hospital’s on staff Lactation Consultant and a local online Facebook breastfeeding support group we worked through the bumps in the road and found our natural rhythm.

I knew I had to return to work in 6 short weeks, which meant my daughter would have to start daycare and bottle feeding would be a necessity. I didn’t want to give up the benefits of breastfeeding so I started pumping almost immediately after she was born. I had seen so many of my friends struggle to get their babies to take a bottle so at risk of “nipple confusion” we started introducing bottles of pumped milk when she was 5 days old. We were only giving her one bottle a day, an opportunity for her Daddy to bond with her and a bit of me time without the baby attached to my boob which meant that I quickly started to stockpile some milk. I squirreled away my little stash and would peek in the freezer to muse over the fact that I made that! Something so beautiful! Just the idea that my body could create something that could sustain life!!! How freaking cool is that!?!

I had assumed that once my daughter started daycare that I would start to go through my stash of milk so I bagged it, labeled it, and stored it in my deep freeze. But as she started to eat more my body naturally started producing more milk and my stash continued to grow. One day I opened up my freezer and my stash looked like this:

Nearly 1000 oz of liquid gold!!! And I knew that my daughter couldn’t possibly drink that much milk, especially now that we’ve started supplementing with solids as well, so I started really considering the idea of donating my milk.

See, here’s the thing, not all women are as blessed as me to be milk machines. Maybe they tried and struggled to keep up with baby’s demand. Maybe they have an injury or illness that prevents them from nursing. Or maybe they take medication that they don’t want to expose their babies too. Many of these women may want their babies to be able to benefit from the nutrients in an exclusively breastmilk diet. I’ve seen many of these women shamed by other mothers for having to choose to supplement with formula because they didn’t have donor milk available or didn’t even know that donor milk was an option.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to cast judgment on those mothers who knowingly choose to give their child formula instead of breastmilk or choose to supplement their own supply with formula for reasons they’ve discussed with their pediatrician. In fact I think this mommy shaming has got to stop! I am a firm believer in supporting all mothers no matter what they choose as the best option for their families. But I do think that we can make a difference and increase the number of mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies by normalizing breastfeeding, educating the underprivileged on the benefits of breastfeeding instead of just handing them bottles of formula at the WIC office with little to no information about alternatives, and supporting organizations like Human Milk 4 Human Babies and local milk banks.

I had considered donating to local mothers directly and strongly support organizations like Human Milk 4 Human Babies that network communities of local women to help donate breastmilk to families in need.  But about two months ago I learned that a local milk depot had opened up near my hometown in North Alabama that collected and stored milk to deliver to the Mother’s Milk Bank of Alabama (MMBAL) located in Birmingham. MMBAL is a new milk bank that collects donor milk and pasteurized it to send to sick and premature infants in NICUs in Alabama and the Southeast.

I started my application process about two weeks ago and it was quick and easy! I filled out the application and signed release forms for MMBAL to contact my OB and my daughter’s pediatrician to verify the health information I provided. Once reviewed they sent me an order to get bloodwork drawn at a local lab of my choice (they covered the cost) and at my convenience. I bagged up 600 oz, keeping about 400 oz reserve just in case and I scheduled a drop off time with the local North Alabama depot, Connections Breastfeeding.  On Friday, July 31, 2015 we met with Elizabeth, who was really sweet and a pleasure to chat with, to make our donation!

600 oz liquid gold bagged and ready to drop off! 

My She-Ra moment! Me and my rainbow baby in our new Girasol Gothic Cuervo twill wrap dropping off our milk to donate! 

And I got this pretty cool t-shirt!


Have you donated milk to a local mother or milk bank? I’d love to hear about your experience! Comment below to keep the conversation going!!!
Find out more information about World Breastfeeding Week at their website – http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/

More information on the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and their mission here – http://www.waba.org.my/ 

More information on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations on breastfeeding here – http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/ 

More information about Human Milk 4 Human Babies and their mission here – www.hm4hb.net

Find a local milk bank here – www.prolacta.com/find-a-milk-bank 

More information about the Mother’s Milk Bank of Alabama (MMBAL) at their website – https://www.mmbal.org 


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Increase Breastmilk Production Naturally: Plus, a recipe for Homemade Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies!

I have blessed to have been a dairy cow in another life and have never had supply issues. In fact, I have approximately 700 oz of breastmilk squirreled away in my deep freeze in the garage. I’m not sure why but I have a deep rooted fear that one day I’ll suddenly stop producing enough milk to feed my child, as insane as this sounds. But since starting my daughter on solids I have noticed a bit of a dip in my supply and I only seem to be pumping about a day’s worth rather than having enough to add to my freezer stash like I had been for the 5 previous months.

I had done a little bit of research while pregnant on galactagogues, or substances that promote milk supply, but thankfully hadn’t had to use any of the things I learned. But recently i had been asked by a friend how I had enough milk to be able to use extra milk in my homemade baby food recipes so I thought I would share what I know in case it helps her, or anyone else.

First, most women actually produce enough milk for their baby based on supply and demand.  But if you have concerns or your baby isn’t gaining enough weight a consult with a good lactation consultant (LC) is invaluable!  Check local hospitals, mommy groups, and milk banks for recommendations of LC’s in your area. They can help ensure that your baby has a good latch and offer a number of techniques and tricks to help promote a good supply, which may include nursing more frequently, pumping after feedings, or “power pumping.”

If you just wanted to boost your supply a bit here is a list of commonly recommended galactagogues that I’ve run across while doing my research.  Always do your research to educate yourself on any side effects and always consult with a medical professional before using any herbs or supplements.

Herbals:

  • Fenugreek – Fenugreek is probably the best known herbal supplement to boost milk supply.  Fenugreek is a middle-eastern spice that comes from a plant in the pea family. It is found in capsule form as well as in tea.  The tea may not be as strong as taking it in capsule form. It can be used in conjunction with Blessed Thistle. Warning: a common side effect is that it may make you smell like maple syrup, so if you are opposed to this smell you may want to avoid it.
  • Blessed Thistle – Blessed Thistle is another really common herbal supplement recommended to help increase breastmilk production.  Often recommended to be used in conjunction with Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle is highly regarded by the breastfeeding specialist, Jack Newman. Traditionally used to help with indigestion and with loss of appetite. Blessed Thistle is not the same thing as Milk Thistle, although both have been identified as galactagogues.  Milk Thistle is more often used as a food (peeled, tender shoots) rather than an herbal supplement.
  • Red Raspberry Leaf – Red Raspberry Leaf is a common ingredient in nursing teas and tinctures.  It is high in vitamins and minerals, including niacin (in the B Vitamin family). Also known as a uterine toner it can help the uterus return to it’s normal size immediately following birth.  Some recommend Red Raspberry Leaf to help support uterine health while trying to conceive as well as to prepare for birth after 40+ weeks gestation.
  • Chasteberry (Vitex) – Chasteberry is actually a prolactin-inhibitor usually recommended to help balance hormones but has been proven through repeated studies to increase breastmilk production in nursing mothers.  This may be an ideal choice if you are struggling with hormonal imbalances while breastfeeding, including PMS. Note: Chasteberry may start menses in nursing women so avoid if you are relying on lactational amenorrhea as a birth control method.
  • Other less common herbal galactagogues include: Fennelseed(may help with let down and to ease mother’s digestive issues), Goat’s Rue, Alfalfa (avoid if you have an auto-immune disorder), Wild Asparagus, Nettle and Hops.

Food and Ingredients:

  • Oatmeal – Lactation consultants will often recommend that you start your day off with a bowl of oatmeal, whole or steel cut oats, because they have more of the nutrients to help boost milk supply than instant oatmeal.
  • Brewer’s Yeast – Brewer’s Yeast contains iron, protein, and B vitamins, as well as chromium, selenium and other trace minerals that help boost milk supply. In addition, Brewer’s Yeast may help decrease fatigue and fight off the “baby blues.” Brewer’s Yeast may cause gas, bloating, or diarrhea in some women and/or colic-like symptoms in babies if used too often. **The combination of Brewer’s Yeast and Hops in beer may be why you hear some women say they “breastfed their babies on beer!” You often see women in online chat groups recommend that you have a good beer to relax at the end of the day.  However,alcohol may actually inhibit milk production and if you drink enough it can pass through your breastmilk, so drink sparingly, if at all.
  • Flaxseed – Flaxseed contains phytoestrogens, a plant-based compound that can mildly mimic estrogen and is believed to increase milk supply. In addition, it is a great source of fiber, which nursing mothers also need.  It can easily be ground up and added to oatmeal, cereal, baked goods, smoothies, etc.
  • Other foods include: Fennel, dark leafy greens, other whole grains (including barley, millet, and quinoa), chickpeas (break out the hummus!), nuts (especially almonds), sesame seeds, ginger, and papaya.

Store bought products:

  • Mother’s Milk Tea – Mother’s Milk Tea is often recommended by nursing mothers.  It has several of the ingredients mentioned above, including Fennel Fruit, Anise Fruit, Coriander Fruit, Fenugreek Seed, Blessed Thistle herb, Spearmint, Lemongrass, Lemon Verbana, and Marshmallow root. Some people don’t like it because it has a slight licorice taste and odor, however. Check it out here: Mother’s Milk Tea by Traditional Medicines.

I had been gifted some Brewer’s Yeast by another mother and had been holding on to it for awhile without having used it because I didn’t have all the ingredients for cookies.  But over my 4 day holiday weekend I got a hankering for some chocolate chip cookies and went to the store just to make some! While certainly not the most healthy recipe these were really yummy and a big hit in my house (the hubby approves but was a little weirded out when I mentioned that they were “lactation cookies” lol).  I may research how to make a healthier recipe in the future since we have been trying to get back into a more clean eating routine lately.   But here is the recipe I used.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp flax seed meal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups oats
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2-4 tbsp brewer’s yeast (I only used 2)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix the flax seed meal and water and let sit for 3-5 minutes
  3. Using hand mixer, beat butter, sugar and brown sugar well. Add eggs, vanilla and flax seed mixture and beat until well blended.
  4. Sift together flour, brewer’s yeast, baking soda and salt.
  5. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture
  6. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  7. Spoon mixture into greased baking sheet approximately 2″ apart.
  8. Bake for 12 minutes.
  9. Let cool before removing from baking sheet.

Makes approximately 60 cookies (if you don’t eat the batter – I think I got like 55 out of mine…)

Original recipe from Food.com

I found that my supply did increase over the weekend.  In fact, this is what happens when you eat 5 (holds head in shame) lactation cookies before bed, skip pumping because the bed was calling your name, and your almost 6 month old unexpectedly sleeps through the night for the first time in months…

And yes that’s my LEFT supply on the left (like most women, my left breast has trouble keeping up with my right).  That’s how I know the cookies worked!

Do you have a tried and true lactation cookie recipe? Share it below!