Many of you checked in on my blog when I shared the challenges I have had with breastfeeding and some of the negative associations with formula. It seems that the issues never seem to disappear when it comes to breastfeeding. I am pleased to say that we are still breastfeeding, although she is now getting most of her nutrition from a bottle. Céline is 3 1/2 months old and is thriving!
To continue where I started with my last post, I wanted to mention a few more things that you might not be aware of when it comes to breastfeeding. One of the things that isn’t really mentioned are the side effects of the herbs and drugs that are recommended to increase breastmilk production. First, is it recommended to use fenugreek, which is a herb specifically for increasing milk production – one of the wonderful side effects of this product is a maple syrup smell. That’s right, you end up smelling like Aunt Jemima! Or in my case, just not smelling very pretty at all. It’s even worse when you realize that new moms don’t always have time to shower every day!! And that breastfeeding hormones can cause hot flashes and excessive sweating. Second, in conjunction with the fenugreek, blessed thistle is recommended. One of the wonderful side effects of blessed thistle is increased appetite. Great, so now I smell funny and I’m hungry all of the time. Sure, you’re supposed to get an extra 500 calories a day while breastfeeding, but I think an extra 800 is too much!
Finally, the drug that is recommended to increase breastmilk is Domperidone. This is the magic drug that has a positive side effect of increasing breastmilk in women. Original use for this drug is for use with GI tract disorders but someone figured out that Domperidone increases prolactin (hormone for milk supply) indirectly. Some of the wonderful side effects of this drug (which aren’t listed on the site I shared above) include weight gain, constipation and headaches.
So now here I am – trying to lose some of the baby weight I’ve gained – yet taking products that increase my appetite and make me gain weight! I was really starting to wonder why I hadn’t lost any weight since two weeks after she was born. I had also noticed more headaches (this did seem to resolve itself) and of course some uncomfortable GI complications too. And although I am grateful that these products did increase my milk supply, I feel that I wasn’t clearly informed about the side effects on my health. The midwives, the lactation consultant and the breastfeeding clinic I worked with were quick to recommend all of these products but I don’t recall finding out the negative effects until much later, on my own. Now it is quite possible that in my sleep deprived state of those first few weeks after she was born, I got the information but did not read it, and it’s probable that I would have done anything in order to increase my milk supply so the side effects on my body would not have been too important at the time.
As I wean myself off these products, I have noticed changes for the better. Almost immediately after going off the blessed thistle, my appetite has been more under control. And as I wean myself off the Domperidone, I notice that many of the negative side effects have been diminished. True, the other side effect seems to be some reduction in milk supply – or just that Céline’s needs have grown and therefore she needs more formula and the milk supply has remained the same. I plan to continue a little while longer, as I have really enjoyed our time together when she is at the breast. It is a nice time for us to just be together, skin to skin, and for me to give her something that no one else can. I have basically given up pumping – I wanted to have my life back – and it also allows me to spend more time with her.
This breastfeeding journey has been challenging and rewarding all at the same time. For the moms out there that are more successful with breastfeeding, I hope you have the opportunity to breastfeed for a year and beyond. And for those who are in my situation, I understand how you might feel and I’m here for you! We should definitely start a support group for moms who are having difficulty breastfeeding or are bottle feeding. We need support too!
Many of you shared your experiences with us last time, and I thank-you for you kind and supportive words and for sharing your stories with other readers. I encourage you to check in this time if you didn’t before and have a story to share.