Kanika Chadda Gupta

Wellness

Got Milk? – How to Increase Your Milk Supply

One night, around midnight, I was feeling especially exhausted from the long day of work and “change-feed-put down to sleep” (repeat 11x times 2) routine. Half asleep, I propped up my hospital grade Medela breast pump on my night stand, plugged in the necessary parts (which look like you’re about to build a handheld periscope or a mini beer funnel), plugged in and was ready to go. After my session completed, I took the bottles off without their caps and placed them in my lap for just a second. As I turned to put away my phone, I noticed that I spilled the milk on me, the comforter, and onto the floor. “Nooooooo!!!!” I literally cried over spilled milk. That stuff is liquid gold! I wasn’t producing as much as I had hoped at the time (especially since I had two mouths to feed who were a month old), so I decided to take my milk production into overdrive. Here’s what I did:

  1. Supply and demand. I got on a breastfeeding & pumping schedule where I would alternate nursing the kids, pump, or tandem breastfeed when the three of us were up for it (using a Twin-Z pillow. It’s amazing!). Any lactation consultant will tell you that breastfeeding increases one’s supply since a child can extract more milk than a pump, and the more you do it, the more you produce. I didn’t exclusively breastfeed since my babies were given bottles at the hospital, but I nursed and continue to nurse as many feeds as I can and pump the rest. I just listen to my body’s cues and take breaks if I need to rest.
  2. Water. This seems like a no-brainer, but believe me, good ol’ H2O works wonders. When nursing, you need the additional liquid intake to flush out toxins and keep your body hydrated in order to produce milk. I drink a pitcher of water a day (8-10 eight oz. glasses). I always drink a full glass during a feed or pump session.
  3. Oatmeal. Oatmeal is an excellent source of iron and since many mothers face maternal anemia, the high doses of iron in oatmeal and bran cereals help increase supply. I eat oatmeal (I love Red Mill Rolled Oats) with walnuts, blueberries, and a touch of honey every morning.
  4. Warm Compress. Sometimes low blood circulation is the reason for inadequate milk supply. You can combat this with warm compresses with a small towel or Lansinoh Therapearl 3-in-1, which I highly recommend. You can use it as hot therapy (for plugged ducts and let down), cold therapy (for pain relief from soreness), or as an aid while pumping.
  5. Fenugreek. Fenugreek contains phytoestrogens that are believed to stimulate sweat gland activity and since mammary glands are modified sweat glands, consumption can create an increase in milk supply. Methi is the Hindi term for fenugreek and it’s a staple in Indian cooking. I take methi seeds raw (1/2 a tsp) swallowed with an 8 oz. glass of water every morning. If you can stand the bitter taste, you can also soak the seeds in water overnight, boil the solution with the seeds, strain it, and drink the tea. You can even ask your mom or mom-in-law (God bless them!) to make you methi ladoos which are an age-old cure-all for new moms. Here’s a recipe we used. When you make these ladoos in a big batch, put half in the fridge and the other half in the freezer (they last for 6 months!)
  6. Fennel. Fennel seeds are a known galactagogue, or substance that helps the body produce more milk. In addition, fennel seeds aid with digestion and prevent colic pain in babies. Add a tablespoon of fennel to one cup of hot water and let it steep for 30 minutes. Drink this tea twice daily for best results. You can also mix 1/2 cup of fennel seeds, cumin seeds, and rock candy (misri) in a bowl and grind it all up into a powder. Have one teaspoon with milk three times a day. If nothing else, you can add fennel into your cooking and masala chai. It’s the best.
  7. Cumin Seeds. Cumin seeds are believed to stimulate milk production and also combat acidity, constipation, and bloating. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds with a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Take this mixture with a warm glass of milk before bed. If you want a solution that’s more concentrated, you can add 2 teaspoons of cumin to 1/2 cup of boiling water. Strain the cup and add 1/2 cup of milk and 1 teaspoon of honey for taste.
  8. Cinnamon. According to Ayurveda, cinnamon may help improve the flavor of your breast milk and babies seem to like it. Mix a pinch of cinnamon powder with 1/2 teaspoon of honey and drink it with warm milk. You can also add cinnamon to your tea. 
  9. Garlic. Garlic is also a known galactagogue. According to studies, nursing mothers who eat garlic tend to feed longer and babies seem to like the flavor of the milk. Grate 3 garlic cloves. Boil the garlic in water so that it is reduced to 1/4 the portion. Add a cup of milk and bring it to a boil again. Remove from heat, strain, and 1/2 teaspoon of honey. Drink this elixir in the morning. 
  10. Supplements. I take a lot of pills. Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle, Fennel Seeds, and Malunggay are meant to increase milk production. For good measure, I also take my prenatal capsule, Immune Support gummies, and a probiotic. I know my body only retains what it needs and discards the rest, but I feel this miracle mix is working for me.
  11. Lactation Cookies. These special cookies contain ingredients like brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, flax seed, and whole oats, will all impact milk production. Shout out to What’s Up Moms’ awesome recipe. Watch and bake along here.

These Ayurvedic home remedies have been passed down for generations in my family and I managed to find variations of these recipes online. What I love most is that they are all natural, which means no side effects! Let me know if these tricks work for you. And if nothing else, make sure you close your pump bottles so you’ll never have to cry over spilled milk!

Meditation Clears the Clutter

A year ago, I came across an article on a Harvard medical study highlighting the biological benefits of meditation. Of course we all know the positive effects including reduced stress, anxiety, and overall clarity of the mind, but I was surprised to find that meditating can actually alter the brain. The study states, “it’s well-documented that the cortex shrinks as we get older — it’s harder to figure out and remember things. But in this one region of the prefrontal cortex, 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of grey matter as 25-year-olds.” During a second study, researchers found that the amygdala, “the fight or flight part of the brain which is important for anxiety, fear, and stress” is reduced in size. Here are three easy ways I incorporate meditation in my day to day.

  1. Surya Namaskars. During my stint working as an Anchor/Producer for CNN in India, I hired a private yoga teacher who was incredibly authentic and knowledgeable. He taught me how to do surya namaskars (sun salutations), which are a combination of 12 asanas (postures) including back bends, forward bends, and controlled breathing to help the body in a variety of ways. Surya namaskars can help you lose weight, strengthen your muscles and joints, promote better digestion, combat insomnia, keep anxiety levels at bay, and can even yield glowing, youthful skin. I start my day with 10-20 surya namaskars. Watch this video to learn how to maintain an ideal pace and good form.
  2. Guided meditations. Guided meditations are great when you feel like shutting off and simply following along. Headspace has an excellent UX and UI and features various meditations based on your mood, duration, and challenges you’d like to overcome. There are other such apps on iOS and Android and tons of YouTube videos out there. Give it a try!
  3. Breathing exercises. I do a series of my own breathing exercises when I pump. Since I’m free for 20 – 40 minutes, I feel this is a good use of my time. Celebrity physician Dr. Andrew Weil advocates the 4-7-8 rule where you breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and breathe out with a long exhale for 8 seconds. Sigh.

Meditation is exercise for the mind, and just like our physical health, we need our mental state to be in tip-top shape to truly feel healthy and happy.

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