I had been lucky. Even though I had trouble with proper latching and preventing nipple injury in the first months of baby, I had milk since day one. Technically, the first milk are colostrum and are a little different from the regular breastmilk that comes later. But either way, I could tell the baby was having input because she sure was having a decent amount of output.
I was very gung-ho about eating the right foods for postpartum recovery and breastfeeding in the beginning. Then as the second and third month settled in, I got a little lazy since my supply was stable. If I didn't pump or nurse for 3-4 hours, my boobs would swell up to 2X their weight and you could just tell that they're full of milk. Just when Josephine turned 3 months, we took her down to LA. So, I exclusively breastfed her (instead of occassionally having the nanny give her bottled breastmilk) and that definitely boosted it even more. She was sleeping 6 hours straight and even had two days of 8PM-4AM sleep. Then, I had a few days of running to meetings at work and forgetting to pump (going as long as 5 hours without pumping), skipping breakfast (a terrible mistake!), and not getting enough sleep (part of it was work stress-induced insomnia). My milk supply plummeted. I could tell because my boobs would no longer get engorged and the baby was latching on longer again. She was beginning to nurse only 5-10 min and would swiftly turn her head away when she was done, but with the dwindled supply, she would hang on for 15-20 min and still be upset.
I knew I was screwed, and if I didn't do something fast, I would quickly lose the milk and may just never catch up. Luckily I have a very understanding boss (and colleagues in general). So I spent about a week working from home, catching up and now I would say I am about ...back to 80% of my previous level? At least she isn't crying from hunger anymore and is POOPING A LOT everyday (as she always did).
So below are things I tried that I felt like all worked together to some degree:
Galactagogue foods I tried
Mother's Milk -- probably the singly most helpful thing. As soon as I drank it I could feel a little tingling in my breasts...as if I'm going to have a letdown! The directions say you could have 3-5 cups a day, which pretty means everytime I needed to drink water, I drank this tea instead. It has all the usual herbs that are supposed to be good for lactation (fennel, star anise, fenugreek, etc...) I like herb-y stuff so I actually love the taste of it.
Milk Tea & Soy Milk: the two things highly recommended by PTT breastfeeding moms. I make my soy milk from scratch using the soy milk maker and organic soy beans. For milk tea, I brew a cup of hot black tea and put as much milk as I want in it. Because of the caffeine, I only drink milk tea during the day.
Lactation Cookie -- I swear by this recipe! The key galactagogues are whole oats, brewer's yeast, and flax seed meal. I half the sugar amount from the recipe. It is delicious! Sometimes I also make the cooked oatmeal version of this with powdered milk and cranberries added.
Fish Soup: This is another Chinese recipe. I make the pot of soup using stripped bass (cut in big chunks), sliced ginger, and Chinese cooking rice wine. The rice wine and ginger removes the fishy smell, improves taste, and increases circulation. Plus eating fish itself is good for you. I definitely feel energized after eating this soup.
Black Sesame: Another Chinese recommendation. Chinese people love black sesame, so it's easy for me to get access to it. Sweet sesame buns, sweet sesame milk tea, sweet sesame paste...kinda like an excuse to indulge in sweet, haha!
Apple Juice: Recommended by a friend. I haven't tried it myself but wonder if other fruit juices would work as well?
There's a lot of other herbs/foods that the Internet recommends. There are even food recipes that uses galactagogues. However I decided to keep it pretty simple --- I simply try to eat healthiy and eat more meals with a lot of protein and veggies, and only supplement the galactagogues through drinks. This makes my cooking life a lot easier since learning and testing a new recipe is too time-consuming for me right now.
Foods I avoided
Even though doctors will tell you that you don't really need to avoid any foods for breastfeeding, the whole world of breastfeeding moms has provided their own lists of things to avoid, and I've decided to stick with it.
Herbs to avoid: Sage (according to a FB friend, she used this to reduce milk, so definitely something to avoid), Oregano, Thyme, Mint/Peppermint (another strongly recommended item for reducing milk), Kava Kava, Gingseng.
A few other food items that PTT moms said to avoid:
- garlic (Chinese) chives
- malted barley
- bamboo shoots
- pearly barley (Job's tears)
- watermelon, melon, cantalope
Other things that helped
Getting enough sleep --- I suffered 1-2 nights of insomnia. It was work-related and I should say, I kind of stressed myself out because no one was pressuring me but myself. It was terrible. On the worst night I slept only 3 hours TOTAL. And the baby was waking up every 1-2 hours to feed because I was producing too little milk for her. Eventually I was able to get it off my head and go back to my usual sleep, and once I did, it made everything else easier.
Getting a massage --- Realizing the gravity of my situation, I shelled out some big bucks and got a 2-hour deluxe Thai massage, and it was worth it. The massager worked out a lot of the knots I had. Half of them were from doing circus (haha), half of them were from holding the increasingly heavy baby (as of last week, she was 13 1/2 lb). The relaxation helped me sleep better too.
Nurse, Nurse, Nurse --- there is no better way to increase milk production than to have the baby do it. I went back to the newborn rhythm, letting her eat as often and as much as she wanted, even if she wasn't getting any milk out. This meant sometimes nursing for 20-30 min and sometimes on the hour. Brutal, but I have to say necessary.
Eat A Lot --- As impossible as it may sound, I believe I was not eating enough. I would often wake up around 3-4AM hungry but too sleepy to do anything about it. I just couldn't eat that much in a single sitting anymore. Plus, the baby won't let me. So instead of trying to eat more in a meal, I try to snack more during the day. A cup of cold soy milk, nuts, yogurt, even cookies & ice cream all count as snacks. I also made tons of deviled eggs for speedy protein access.
About a week after dropping to the bottom of milk production, I am slowly getting back up again. I cannot express how happy I was when, the other day when I was holding the baby to give her a shower (I sit on a stool in the tub and hold her across my lap using a detachable shower head to wash her), she giggled, and out comes a jetstream of milk from one of my boobs. I instantly shouted to myself: "Back in the game, baby! >o< !!!"
Baby J is about to turn 4 months old. While I don't have a set goal for how long I'd breastfeed her, I really want to make it at least past the 6 month mark, when she starts on solids. We shall see!