Increasing milk supply: Korean seaweed soup

Although I was planning on breastfeeding, I wasn’t entirely prepared for it: I didn’t have fenugreek, mother’s tea, or lactation cookies at home. I figured I’d get them when I need them, not realizing how desperate a mother without milk would feel. (Of course, the fastest way to get milk ASAP is to have some formula on hand. This is way more important, especially for newborns.)

My in-laws are Korean, and in their culture, post-partum nourishment is simple: seaweed soup. My mother-in-law proudly proclaimed that it was all that a mother need to produce abundant milk for her baby, even if they are poor and don’t have much else to eat. I happen to enjoy the taste of seaweed soup, so we keep seaweed in the freezer. Just to keep the in-laws happy, I dutifully cooked and ate seaweed soup the day after we got back from the hospital. A day later, my milk supply kicked in – but I didn’t think much of it. It’s supposed to right?

The pack of seaweed I used to make seaweed soup. It’s a fairly large pack (larger than a piece of legal/A4 paper) but very light.
There are many types of seaweed. Buy the one that says Mi Yook (like the words I cropped from the larger picture).

My mother had quit breastfeeding because of painful engorgement issues, so I was certain that milk supply wouldn’t be an issue. I was definitely engorged the first few days. And then about a week later, I felt that my boobs were not filling up anymore. Oh dear.

My husband asked if we should get formula. I said we should try the seaweed soup in the freezer (I had made a huge pot). I had seaweed soup for lunch, and by dinner, my boobs were engorged again. Did it work? I thought the seaweed soup was an old wives’ tale. For me, it has worked time and again, during the early hormone-driven period, and the later demand-driven period of milk production.

Do lactation aids work?

The medical community doesn’t seem very supportive of lactation aids like fenugreek and lactation cookies (lack of evidence they say), but I see hundreds of women swearing by it. The traditional herbs have been used for centuries, and they are cheap enough that if one doesn’t work, you can try another one. For instance, start with oatmeal for breakfast, and maybe buy a small bottle of fenugreek if you need more help. If fenugreek-inspired milk makes your baby gassy, try ordering seaweed soup at your nearest Korean restaurant.

Caveat: “Dwindling” milk supply post 6 weeks is normal

We are recently past the 6 week mark, and I suddenly found my boobs getting softer. I took seaweed soup, and filled up my boobs, but a few days later I found my boobs soft again. I thought my milk supply was running low for some odd reason (period? Too tired?), and decided to google. It turns out that your boobs are supposed to stop feeling engorged sometime around 6-12 weeks, because you are finally not overproducing milk. I had thought that the engorgement was something good, but apparently it isn’t. Boobs getting less firm is a sign that I am producing just the right amount of milk.

I’m not sure what to make of this new development. I was tempted to supplement with formula the other night, but my husband stopped me since LO didn’t appear to be excessively hungry (she screams pretty loudly when I don’t give her the boob the moment she starts to root). He told me to not panic, and to trust my body. After a few nights of clusterfeeding, my milk production seems to have ramped up again even though I didn’t take seaweed soup (which actually causes uncomfortable engorgement.) My boobs feel full, but are not engorged.

Trust your baby

I just wished that someone posted this information more prominently. I didn’t know that soft boobs were normal post 6 weeks. I can imagine that many moms would have felt daunted, and gone over to formula earlier than they want to. I also wish there was a better description of what it feels like, but I realize that I can’t quite describe it either.

The best person to guide you through this is your baby. You know what she looks like when she’s hungry, so if she’s happily sucking on what you think is an empty boob, go with it. A softer boob is the new normal.

Leave a Reply