Most people who have breastfed a child know that while the body’s response to giving birth and producing milk is a natural one, the actual art of breastfeeding can be anything but natural. Many mothers and babies have a learning curve that can cause for a stressful first few weeks of nursing. Common problems include an incorrect latch, an oversupply of milk or not enough milk, and painful letdowns, not to mention painful engorgement and mastitis, a serious infection of the breast tissue that usually comes from the stagnation on milk in a milk duct, and can cause excruciating pain and high fever.
Not all mothers experience problems, but many may find themselves with a new challenge at some point, particularly if they return to work while breastfeeding, and are not able to pump their breasts as often as they would like. While no machine empties the breast better or more efficiently than a baby, lactation consultants have long stood by hospital-grade pumps as the gold standard of breast pumps. In general, with breastfeeding, supply equals demand, so the more that the breast is pumped or the baby is fed, the more milk the breast will produce. However, there’s bound to be times when that is a challenge for mothers – if they become ill and dehydrated for instance, or have to suddenly be separated from their baby in an emergency situation. Another common time that mothers struggle to produce enough milk is during a baby’s growth spurt – the infant instinctively cries to be at the breast more, but the first few days can be a struggle as mothers fret with not enough milk to feed their hungry babies.
While some women can supplement with formula and do well, for most women, this decreases their milk supply, because their baby is getting nutrition from an outside source that places no demand upon the breast. While sometimes medically necessary, many lactation consultants suggest that instead of supplementation with formula, women first increase their fluid intake, nurse or pump as much as possible, and introduce galactagogues – substances that have been known to increase the supply of human milk in breastfeeding mothers. That’s where, oddly enough, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream may help out.
There are many known galactagogues, most of them herbal, with one being the popular herb Fenugreek, which can be taken in tea or capsule form. Fenugreek can cause the odd side effect of making a mother smell like maple syrup, which many women don’t mind, but is a turnoff to some breastfeeding babies. A more popular galactagogue, however, is oatmeal. Yes, oatmeal, anyway you like it — old fashioned, instant, and even in cookies. That’s why Ben & Jerry’s flavor of “Oat of This Swirled” is a hit with moms.
The flavor, which is vanilla ice cream infused with brown sugar and huge chunks of oatmeal cookies, has been said by some mothers to help increase milk supply. The bonus of breastfeeding? Exclusive nursing can burn up to 500 calories a day, as much as running five miles, so moms need not feel guilty over that scoop of oatmeal deliciousness.
Of course, as with anything, moderation is key, and not all things work for everyone. Some moms and babies are lactose intolerant, which may make this particular attempt at increasing milk supply a non-possibility. While Ben & Jerry’s hasn’t been scientifically proven to increase milk supply, there’s enough oatmeal in a scoop that many believe it’s a real possibility. It’s also possible to combine eating oatmeal with other galatagogues, such as taking Fenugreek and increasing nursing and pumping sessions.
In the end, most people agree that a mom needs a little boost to her day with all the joys and demands of motherhood. If ice cream can also boost her milk supply, she has a guilt-free excuse to indulge.
[Featured Image by Adam McCarthy/Getty Images]