As you know, when Kavya…

As you know, when Kavya was first born, I had a lot of trouble with breastfeeding.  She's doing better now, thankfully, though she still refuses the left breast a lot of the time (flat nipple) and still gets tired on the right pretty often and wants to finish off with pumped milk from the bottle.  Much of the breastfeeding process seems very individual, but there's one aspect that I can offer some general advice on -- increasing your milk production.

I was really anxious that I wouldn't make enough milk for her, especially since for the first few weeks, she was mostly refusing to suck from the breast at all.  I researched online and in print (because when I'm in trouble, my first instinct is always to go look it up), and there seemed to be universal consensus that the best thing to try for increasing milk production was taking fenugreek (which is also often known as methi seed, if you go up to Devon to buy it in bulk, cheap, at an Indian grocery store).  Now, you can buy powdered fenugreek in pills, but it's pricey and no fun.  You could also just boil the seeds in some water and drink the resulting tea straight up, which is very cheap, but is also quite bitter.  So again, no fun.  I thought about just gulping down some seeds, but it was pointed out to me that they'd probably  just pass through my system entirely undigested -- you need to cook them somehow to get the good stuff out.  So what's a girl to do?

Kevin came up with a solution -- cook the seeds in a sugar syrup, and then add a tablespoon of the syrup to tea or coffee (moderate caffeine intake is fine for breastfeeding moms, according to the research I've seen, though you could also drink decaf if you preferred).  Or, if cold drinks are more your style (esp. considering the high temperatures we had last week, which we'll be seeing more of next week), you can add some cold fizzy water to the fenugreek sugar syrup, and make yourself a fenugreek Italian soda.  I've been drinking both the tea and the soda, and they're not bad at all.  The taste is a bit odd -- I don't think fenugreek tea and soda will ever catch on at the hip coffeeshops.  But for an easy homemade breastmilk increaser, I think you'll find it's a lot more pleasant (and affordable) than taking a lot of pills.

Fenugreek Sugar Syrup Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup fenugreek seeds

Boil water and fenugreek together for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, stirring until it dissolves. Bring back to a boil and let boil for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour through a strainer to remove seeds. Store syrup in a covered container in the refrigerator (we use a squeeze bottle, which makes it easy to add the syrup to tea, soda -- heck, you could even pour it over ice cream... :-)

If you're feeling more ambitious, you can also make yourself a curry with fenugreek.  Traditionally, we tend to use the seeds in our seafood curries -- so you can just pick your favorite seafood and curry it, adding fenugreek seeds at the appropriate moment.  (You could also throw tradition to the winds and use chicken, meat, vegetables, or even tofu.  I won't mind.)  The seeds do add a strong flavor, so don't overdo it; I recommend experimenting with 2-3 teaspoons at first, and then adding more to a later curry if you think it can take it.  Below is a fancy seafood recipe with a normal amount of fenugreek (taken from my Sri Lankan cookbook, A Taste of Serendib).  If I were going to make a seafood curry right now, just to increase breastmilk, I'd a) switch to a pound of fresh raw shrimp or perhaps some nice tilapia (cubed), for ease of preparation, b) skip the whole toasting coconut and blender bit and just use 1-2 cans of coconut milk, and c) increase the fenugreek to 2 teaspoons to start.  In fact, that sounds pretty yummy.  I think I'll make it for dinner tonight!

Sri Lankan Crab Curry

  • 2 large crabs
  • 3 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 rounded t. finely grated ginger
  • 1/2 rounded t. fenugreek seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 3 inch stick cinnamon
  • 2 rounded t. chili powder
  • 1 rounded t. ground turmeric
  • 1 heaping t. salt
  • 4 c. thin coconut milk (2 c. coconut milk + 2 c. water)
  • 2 T dessicated unsweetened coconut
  • 2 c. thick coconut milk
  • 3 T lemon juice

1. Remove large shells of crabs and discard fibrous tissue found under the shell.  Divide each crab into 4 portions, breaking each body in half and separating large claws from body.  Leave legs attached to body.

2. Put onion, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, curry leaves, cinnamon, chili, turmeric, salt and thin coconut milk into a large saucepan.  Cover and simmer gently 30 minutes.  Add crabs and cook for 20 minutes if using raw crabs.  Cook for only 5-7 minutes if cooked crabs are used.  If pan is not large enough, simmer half the pieces of crab at a time.  Crab should be submerged in sauce while cooking.

3. Heat desiccated coconut in a dry frying pan over moderate heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning, until golden brown.  Put in an electric blender container, add half the thick coconut milk, cover and blend on high speed 1 minute.  Add to curry with lemon juice.  Wash out blender with remaining coconut milk and add.  Simmer uncovered a further 10 minutes.  Serve hot.

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