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Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Experience with Lactation Boosters {Beer and Fenugreek}

Since Lily was born, I have had lactation supply problems thanks to an overzealous nurse practitioner who prescribed 6 ounces worth of formula supplements per day for Lily when she was 5 days old (because she had lost 10% of her birth weight, which is NORMAL at day 5).  I am a first-time mommy who has no prior experience to go on, so I trusted that the nurse was doing what was right for Lily.  The problem was that my milk had just come in 12 hours earlier, so I hadn't had a chance to really get her going with real milk instead of just colostrum.  So my breasts didn't know that they should have been producing 6 more ounces a day than they were.  So I wasn't producing what I should have. Great.

I did not want to use formula, yet it was thrust upon me by a "knowledgeable" authority.  I was devastated that I "wasn't producing enough" when in reality, my body wasn't even given the chance to adjust to Lily's needs, and it caused long term supply issues.  After 2 months of supplements, I had had it.  I wanted a breast fed baby, dammit, and I wanted formula out of my house.  I was about to go back to work, and I needed to get my supply up so I could pump while at work.

A friend of mine who is a labor and delivery nurse asked one of her lactation consultants for advice for me.  She said to try a beer a day.  BEER?! *angels singing*   I was totally down to try it!  And you know what?  IT WORKS!  After only a couple of days after starting my "beer therapy" I was able to quit formula supplements!  Joy!

Then came summer (yay!), and Lily's first yeast infection (boo!).  We battled the yeast for 3 weeks.  I figured beer was the culprit, so I stopped beer therapy (begin beer hiatus - bah humbug!).  After that, and after changing medications at the advice of the pediatrician, the yeast retreated.  Finally!!

But, guess what?  When I quit drinking beer, I started having trouble pumping enough for Lily's consumption during the day while I'm at work.  My stock in the freezer dwindled to nothing, and I am currently pumping day-to-day.  Supply problems suck.  Sigh.

I tried different sized breastshields for my pump, I tried hand expression, I tried drinking even MORE water than I normally drink.  No dice.

So yesterday, after much debate, research, and flip-flopping over what to try next, I tried Fenugreek.  I took 2 capsules after lunch with a full glass of water.  About 20 minutes later I started belching with the most god-awful flavor in my mouth and got a rager of a headache.  Then after dinner, my guts turned to liquid, and I spent 15 minutes in the bathroom.  Awesome.  So Fenugreek is off the menu.

Luckily, last night after my visit to the bathroom, I talked to my friend Melissa.  She had mentioned my yeast issue to her friend, who told her that beer wasn't my yeast culprit - babies just get yeast infections in the summer sometimes.  Say what?  No way!

"You mean, I can drink beer again?  Really?"  Beer hiatus OVER!

I'll be stopping for a 6-pack on my way home from work today.  I'll update if Lily gets another yeast infection.  But I seriously hope she doesn't.  I don't want to have to try any other herbals that may confine me and my sensitive tummy to the bathroom.

Moral of the story: ASK QUESTIONS if you do not agree with or understand what you are being told by a medical professional.  If your gut tells you that there's something not quite right with what you are hearing, don't ignore it!  Get a second and third opinion if necessary.  I wish I had called a lactation consultant BEFORE starting the supplements.  I truly believe that I would have had less (or no) problems with lactation supply. 

Moral #2:  Beer is awesome!!

P.S. Fenugreek works for a LOT of my mommy friends.  It just doesn't work for my body.  So don't discount it just because my tummy hates it.  I do suggest beer first though ;)




  1. I second what you said. Definitely ask questions if you do not understand something or do not agree with what you are being told. Lactation consultants are WONDERFUL. I saw one when my daughter was two weeks old. The LC helped me with latching my daughter on correctly and showed me what products I could get for my nipple crack.

  2. I've heard that beer helps but worried about it... luckily, fenugreek worked great for me (but I think it would've been nice to not smell like a maple tree).

  3. My baby had a touch of jaundice and the nurse practitioner pushed formula supplements. We got a 2nd opinion that just said sunlight and feed more from breast. I'm so tired of Drs and nurse practitioners just jumping to formula. They should be more breast feeding friendly and find alternate ways of treatment.


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