Monday, June 4, 2012

Milkmaid tea...a galactagogue review

a lovely cup of tea on the porch
  Most breast-feeding new mums have a lot of worry about whether or not they are producing enough milk. I know I did, especially when the doctors were getting on my case about Evening gaining weight too slowly during our CF scare.  Lately it isn't something I've been worried about, but for the past few nights Evening has been sleeping straight on through for 10 hours or so, which has me worried the supply might start to dwindle.  Fortunately, I did my homework three months ago so I'm on top of this.

  Most pharmacies carry some sort of tea for nursing mothers, but it isn't always organic.  Eventually I discovered the Earth Mama Angel Baby ™ brand.  With adorable photos of mums and babies with wings adorning their products, I wholeheartedly admit I tried their tea over all others just to have the picture on the box (see photo).  I officially love this company.  They offer several organic teas for Earth Mamas, including Monthly Comfort tea, Heartburn tea for pregnant mamas-to-be (wish I'd known about that while I was pregnant!), Peaceful Mama tea for a good sleep, Morning Wellness tea for morning sickness, and even a Third Trimester tea; all of them happily organic.  You can see their full range of products (and lots more adorable mama and baby pictures) on their website  They also offer a free and very helpful ebook called A Comprehensive Guide to Herbs and Breastfeeding on their website that I highly recommend for breastfeeding mums (, as it offers an easy to follow list of what herbs are good for your milk, and which are not so good. 

  I have a box of Monthly Comfort tea sitting in my pantry waiting for my monthlies to return, and I have a sample box en route as we speak, but for now I've only tried the Milkmaid Tea.  The main galactagogue (holy crappers!!  What a magnificent word!!!  No need for the dictionary today mum, a galactagogue is something that induces milk production) in Milkmaid Tea is fennel, which has a bit of  black licorice flavour.  This seems to be the common ingredient in most galactagogue teas, and that is wonderful because it packs a secondary use for baby.  Fennel assists in easing gas and tummy upsets in baby and is one of the ingredients in Gripe Water ™ which mums of colicky babies everywhere have heard of.  A herb that induces milk production AND makes baby's tummy feel better?  Nature, you wonderful, wonderful creature, you.   No wonder they call you Mother.  

  Some galactagogue teas contain only fennel, like the pharmacy brand I tried first, and I found it to be a bit intense for my liking.  The Milkmaid Tea combines other galactagogue herbs (fenugreek, stinging nettle, milk thistle, anise seed, caraway, and alfalfa) as well as orange peel with gives a nice flavour to the tea.  It also contains red raspberry leaf, which is a fantastic herb for uterine health.  What uterus doesn't deserve some extra love after pregnancy?   The tea is certified organic by the USDA and QAI, and certified kosher by EarthKosher, so it's not only safe - it's pure! 

  Milkmaid tea is not a looseleaf tea and also the tea bags were clustered and wrapped in what seems like plastic, but then I discovered that the tea bag is biodegradable, and the 'plastic' is isn't plastic at all.  I just hope it isn't like the Sun Chips™ bags in my compost that I so love to hate.    

  The real question, though, does Milkmaid Tea work?  I can tell you that it definitely works for me.  When I first drank this tea months ago I would be completely and painfully engorged within an hour, which certainly suggested that I didn't need to be drinking it (even if I was stubborn for a while just the same).  In truth, the non-organic pharmacy brand I tried had me engorged within a half hour, but it wasn't organic and didn't taste as good, so I prefer the Milkmaid Tea.  The suggested serving on the box is 1-3 cups daily, and I've never needed more than one.  I'm  not experiencing any engorgement this time around, but my breasts certainly feel fuller and firmer sooner after she nurses, which tells me that it's working fine and that one cup is all I need for now.  Which is too bad, because it's tasty enough for more

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

how to shower with an infant

  You might find this a rather strange thing to write about, but when I was pregnant with Evening I wondered a lot about how mums showered.  This was important to me and I imagined that when the days of being covered in spit-up, poop, and other lovelies showering was going to be vital to my sanity.  

  I asked some mums about it, and usually got responses like “I shower when hubby can watch the kids”. My hubby works 12 hour days, so I doubted that would work for me.  Surely single mums were not going unshowered until their children were grown.  “I just shower when I can,” I heard, without any real explanation of when that would be.  Bigger kids could join mum in the shower, but what about infants?

  I wondered if mothers showered while their babies were napping, but then I was consumed with nightmares of not hearing the baby monitor over the water and not being able to get to baby quickly enough.  I figured there had to be another way.  And of course there was.  There’s probably a thousand ways to pull it off, each of them unique to every mum’s problem solving skills.  The world is just not talking about it.  So for the pregnant ladies of the world wondering how to shower with an infant, this is how one mum manages to stay clean.

  First of all, you need some kind of seat you can strap baby into.  A car seat would probably work fine and is something most mums have on hand.  I was given a hand-me-down vibrating chair that I use, and I am fairly certain the vibrations help Evening stay calm and relaxed as well.  It came with a large, arching mechanical doo-dad that had blinking lights and sounds and whatnot, but it was far too over-stimulating when Evening was first born, and nowadays I find it just makes her angry for some reason, so we don't use it.  I'm certain babies actually learn a lot more by watching people..or mum.

an example of high contrast
  I put her in the chair facing the shower.  If you have a shower that uses a shower curtain like mine does, it’s worth it to invest in a high-contrast shower curtain.  Babies are quite interested in high contrasts (like black and white) long before colours and details.  If baby has something interesting to look at, odds are baby will be contented longer.  Evening seems fascinated by our dark-green-ferns-on-white shower curtain.  

  I do judge Evening’s mood carefully to time my shower, and fortunately her best time of the day coincides with my favourite time to shower; early in the day.  On really fussy days it just isn’t worth it and I’ll skip the shower, which is something I rarely have to do.

  I get my clothes ready beforehand, and I usually sign to her that its time to ‘wash mummy’.  For her bath time I sign that its time to ‘wash baby’, and I hope that this helps her make the connection.  At this point Evening usually squeals with delight.  She never fails to laugh when I take my clothes off, which is rather adorable (if not a little insulting).  Seeing mum naked probably plays an important role in her sexual development and identity as well.

  When I turn on the shower and close the curtain, I peek out right away with a big smile and say “Hi Pumpkin!” in a really exaggerated voice.  Every minute or so I do the same thing, like a full body game of peek-a-boo.  This way she knows that I haven’t left her alone and she doesn’t need to be frightened.  If she looks like she’s going to get upset, I start singing to her and peeking out more often. 

  If she really starts crying, I get out right away, but this has probably only happened once.   She usually seems to enjoy mummy’s shower time as much as I, which means I don’t have to rush through the whole process.  My shower has become my me-time.  
Evening's vibrating chair

   When Evening was only a few days or weeks old she would fall asleep to the vibrations in her chair which spoiled this new mum rotten when it came to showering.  In the dry, dry winter the humidity is also really good for babies; helping little sinuses and keeping croup at bay.  So go ahead and have a relaxing shower, mum, you deserve it.

  When I’m done the actual showering and shut the water off I’m on borrowed time.  Evening giggles again when I open the curtain wide, but after some time alone seeing mum’s breasts puts her in the mood to nurse.  She will usually give me 10 minutes before she gets upset, so I have to hurry, but everything gets done.  

  Afterwards I always oblige and nurse her out of respect; she gave me that time to myself so I’ll give her the closeness she craves in return.    

  For us this is a fantastic system, though I am sure mums everywhere have come up with a lot of variations on my method.  

  The vibrating chair also works well when I have to cook alone and she’s awake.  I would never babywear while cooking so into the chair she goes and she generally enjoys watching me fly about the kitchen, talking to her and telling her what I’m doing.  

  I’ll have no idea how to shower or cook if/when another baby joins our family, but I am fairly certain there is a way.  Necessity is the mother of invention and all that.  Maybe by then mums will be a little more forthcoming on these nitty gritty details, because they do matter.  Tiny little pieces of comfort can go a long way after a rough night with a newborn.