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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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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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!