Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My secret to successful breastfeeding--an easy tip plus delicious quinoa recipe to increase milk supply

Two weeks after Weston's birth we had a rather scary weekend -- lots and lots of crying and fussing. No matter what we did, he just wasn't happy. This was quite a shock as we were used by then to having a VERY easy baby in the house. He would sleep for nice long stretches without swaddling or any other extreme measures, in the bed, in his swing, on a lap, etc. He would wake to nurse, be changed, and have a look around, and then he would fall asleep again.

After worrying about possible constipation, abdominal pain, or other hard-to-detect phantom problems that can drive a parent nuts, I finally determined into day 2 of this that he was HUNGRY! It seemed my breastmilk supply had dropped off sharply. And of course a hungry baby is a fussy baby. I think it's entirely possible that a fair number of fussy or "difficult" babies out there are just not getting enough milk, making them very cranky and hard to soothe.

Fortunately I remembered an important lesson from when Oliver was a wee one: you have to drink lots of fluids to make lots of breastmilk! [Now of course this is a very simplistic solution to a problem of low milk supply; there can be a myriad of reasons why a new mother would have difficulty breastfeeding or low milk supply, and in some cases this really can't be remedied (this would be a good time to try making a nutrient-dense formula at home). However, the first thing to look at is always diet (more on this coming later), and the second thing is fluid intake.]

I read recently that an average baby might consume 32 oz. of milk in a day! This would vary based on the baby's age, but it's safe to say that a nursing woman is putting out quite a lot of fluid on a daily basis, and in order to make that quantity of breastmilk it is imperative that she be drinking lots and LOTS!

I upped my intake of fluids dramatically by consuming about 14 oz. per hour on Sunday, and by that evening everything was A-OK. My beverages of choice: a 50/50 blend of coconut water and filtered water, chicken bone broth (homemade of course), raw kefir (also homemade), plain water, and herbal tea.

I also ate an extra serving of my special sprouted quinoa pilaf which has the effect of increasing breastmilk supply. Here's how to make it:

1) sprout quinoa (awesome instructions and photos here) -- I use 1 cup of organic whole grain quinoa from Bob's Red Mill, a quart-size glass Mason jar, and a special fine-mesh sprouting lid from Sprout People. (Actually, I do this in triplicate, with 3 jars and 3 cups of quinoa, which yields about 3.5 quarts of finished quinoa pilaf! I eat this every night before bed, so I go through a lot, and it does last very well in the fridge, but you may want to cut the recipe down to 1/3.)

After about 2 days you will have lots and lots of lovely little sprouts -- aren't they cute?

Not only are they fun to look at as they grow, they also are really really good for you! Quinoa sprouts contain all nine essential amino acids which makes them very special in the plant world. Quinoa was considered to be exceptionally nutritious to traditional Incas in Peru (where quinoa comes from), and was deemed especially important for nursing mothers. Quinoa is gluten-free and high in iron, and is actually a seed, not a grain, which is probably why it works great for me health-wise whereas actual grains do not. I also love how sprouting takes away that odd characteristic quinoa flavor that always made me steer clear of quinoa in the past.

2) melt lots of lard (about 1/2 cup if making the full recipe) in the bottom of a large pot.

If you're new to lard you may find the smell off-putting at first, but let me assure you the finished pilaf will be delicious. The lard will only lend a neutral succulence, not a porky taste.

3) saute 2 minced onions, several chopped carrots, and several chopped stalks of celery until they begin to soften. Dump in lots of curry powder, and a few pinches of sea salt.

4) add the quinoa sprouts and stir them around until they are just mixed with the veggies and melted fat. 

5) Pour in 6 cups of homemade chicken broth (2 cups for each cup of dry quinoa you originally sprouted) and mix well. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat, allowing the quinoa to absorb the liquid and become fluffy. If you want your pilaf drier and fluffier, use a little less than 2 cups of liquid per cup of dry quinoa, and be sure to let it sit for a couple of hours undisturbed so it can absorb all the liquid. I don't mind my pilaf a little mushy, personally. Once it's finished to your liking you can add sea salt to taste.

Be sure that you let it cool completely before storing in glass jars in the refrigerator.

My preferred serving method is in a bowl of hot chicken broth, but this pilaf is also delicious warmed in the toaster oven (please, no microwaves!) and topped with either lots of raw butter, or plenty of grated raw cheese (or both!).

It's also wonderful as a filling for stuffed peppers or stuffed cabbage, with crumbled cooked ground beef or sausage added. You may want to experiment with other vegetables as well, such as tomatoes, bell peppers, or winter squash. (And of course, if you do not happen to be a nursing mother you should still feel free to indulge in as much quinoa pilaf as you like -- it's not going to have any undesirable lactation-producing effects. :)

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