Its incredible how our bodies work. I’ve always heard that stress is a killer. There is talk about stress being a cause for depression, for being overweight, for cancer, for heart disease, I’ve even heard stress affects your gums. There are books and seminars all focused on managing and reducing stress. The word STRESS is quite common in our vocabularies. Yet it came as a complete and utter shock to me when I was recently told that my newborn baby is not gaining weight because stress is affecting my milk supply.
Since the birth of Ryan, my third son, I have gone through a series of events both positive and negative that have not allowed me to slow down. Having a newborn is a stressful event all by itself if you consider the physical part of the labor, the sleepless nights, and a new little person making its demands with cries instead of words. So when you sprinkle on work, other children, and exigent circumstances that require your presence and time, it can make for a bit of a disaster. I knew I was stressed. And I knew I was tired. But I also consider myself to be a person who copes very well under difficult situations. I thought I was juggling my life just fine.
And then last Thursday I took Ryan to a mommy and me class that I enjoy attending. I had not been able to go for about 3 weeks because I had been traveling or so busy…but on Thursday I felt I had to go. I felt I owed it to Ryan to spend a little quality time just him and I. It was there that Faith (the lady who heads this group) looked at Ryan and told me “honey, I think Ryan has lost weight since the last time I saw him. He is alarmingly thin. You should take him to your pediatrician.” I almost died. I had not noticed that my son looked so thin. All my other children have been pretty thin so I wasn’t expecting to have a chunky baby. But this lady has known me a long time and has never uttered those words about any of my boys. I went straight to the Pediatrician that day and discovered that Ryan was not gaining the appropriate amount of weight. My pediatrician sat with me and heard about what had been going on during this time and said… “Caroline, stress is the anti-milk.” The baby was not dehydrated and had been peeing and pooping so it seemed that I had enough milk but it wasn’t “fatty enough.” Well, as it often does, everything seemed to crash at that moment. I couldn’t get enough milk out when I pumped, my son cried frustrated at the breast as if he couldn’t get it out…I thought it was over… I lost my milk.
I am thankful to my pediatrician because he didn’t force me to give up. He recommended to me that I drink “malta with leche condensada” (an old cuban remedy) to increase the fat in my milk and said to come back in a week. “If in a week the baby doesn’t gain weight…then we’ll talk about it” he said. I left the office so upset. I immediately called my general practitioner for some words of wisdom and even took the baby to see him. He said the baby was neurologically doing great but a bit too thin…and so was I.
Although he did not recommend the malta with leche condensada…he did give me a series of steps I needed to take to increase the fat in my milk. But he reiterated over and over to me that the key was that I RELAX.
This has been an eye opening experience for me. I thought I was doing right by not eating “unhealthy foods” but my lifestyle was no better than before I was eating healthy. I had to take a hard look at what I had been doing recently and I realized:
- I had been forgetting to take my vitamins
- I was not drinking enough water
- I was skipping meals because I was in too much of a hurry all the time
- I wasn’t eating “bad” foods…but I wasn’t eating enough of the “good” foods either.
- I wasn’t sleeping enough.
These are just a few of the factors that went into my milk production shutting down. You see, our bodies tell us in different ways when there is something wrong. We gain weight, we lose weight, our blood pressure goes up, our cholesterol goes up, our gums get inflamed, we feel depressed and tired, we get chest pains. There are always signs to indicate that we are not living our life optimally from a physical, emotional, or spiritual perspective. Yet we often ignore the signs until we are in a critical state.
I could no longer ignore anything because it wasn’t about my life, it was about my child’s. And isn’t it incredible that the only way that I could help my son was by taking care of myself? Nature is incredible. Our bodies are incredible. I had to make changes and they had to be drastic. I started with the easy part first…the nutrition. Based on a combination of advice from my doctor and pediatrician, I supplemented my diet with the following:
- 5 protein shakes a day – (Jay Robb organic protein) with chia, sesame, flax, and hemp seeds, unsweetened almond milk and organic maca powder.
- Horchata with water
- hard boiled eggs, avocados, coconut oil (in increased quantities)
- 4 1.5L bottles of water per day (I believe this one was the key to increasing my milk supply)
- gaia lactation support tea before bed
- Guinness beer ( I drank about 3 of them during that first week)
I’m still working on the more difficult task…the RELAX part. I’m not a very relaxed person in the first place… so this one was quite the challenge. I bought lavender oil and took hot baths with epson salt and lavender. I also tried to slow down in general and get more sleep, laugh more, and listen to music. And I tried to alleviate my anxiety by trusting in what I was doing. I believed my milk supply was going to increase. I believed the changes I made would help make the baby gain weight. I’m happy to report that I took my son back 1 week later and he had gained 4 oz! Yay!
This is a work in progress and its not over, but my milk supply has definitely gone up. My son is back on track and things are improving. And I’ve learned a lesson. Taking care of yourself is the best way to take care of your family. If you’re not okay, then you are of no use to those that depend on you. So address the issues you are having. Don’t ignore the signs!!!!!