Now this is a common story for breastfeeding mums when they are usually feeding through out the night and then their baby/toddler/child suddenly decides to sleep longer than usual (it happens eventually I promise!). However my little one doesn't usually feed through the night anymore. What had happened differently was that I wondered last night if my supply had dropped due to using a particular batch of brewers yeast, so I tried a new packet. Many people already know my story of low supply, and due to this, I need to use galactogogues (medications, herbs or other chemical compounds that increase milk supply) in order to make enough milk for my toddler. I feel blessed to have access to herbs, medication and supplements that have enabled our breastfeeding relationship to be enough to nourish him physically and emotionally, however what many don't realise is that once you throw galactogogues into the mix of breastfeeding you are over riding the bodies natural supply and demand function of ensuring your baby/toddler/child gets the amount of milk they need and want.
Lets go back a step...
Put very simple, in the first two weeks after baby is born, your milk supply is driven predominantly by hormones. Oxytocin, prolactin and some others all react to your baby and your environment and make breastmilk. If all is going well, supply and demand takes over. So the more your baby nurses, the more breast milk you make, for example when they are going through a growth spurt or are sick. When the needs lessen, like when baby is eating a lot of solids or is a distractible toddler, your breast will respond with a lessening of milk available. This is completely normal and how babies naturally wean themselves off nursing.
Adding galactoguoges into the equation changes that supply and demand framework. Your supply will be influenced by the many external factors, and less so by your baby. The timing of taking medications or supplements, missing a dose, a doctor deciding they think you shouldn't be taking that medication anymore, finances problems meaning you cant afford to buy the supplement, or the quality of the supplements changing from batch to batch can have consequences, which is what happened for me. Sometimes it results in a lower supply, and baby can be distressed and confused by not having a enough milk, leaving a mama scrambling to fix yet another problem.
I see many women now using medication and supplements with such ease it concerns me. Many women make lactation cookies for their friends post birth as a generous thing to do. Please don't!. If you think there are supply issues for your baby, seek professional advice before taking supplements. A lactation consultant, breastfeeding counsellor or the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) can help. Be aware that very few GP's have any training in lactation. If you can get to the cause of the issues and find solutions without taking supplements you and you baby will benefit.
Galactoguoges can be a life saver for a breastfeeding relationship, however we need to be aware of what we may be committing to before we make the commitment.