Meet Mirelle Leguia, founder of Mother Nutrient. She is a holistic nutritionist based in Austin, TX and the founder of Mother Nutrient, a line of supplements, probiotics and superfoods designed to help mothers in all stages of their motherhood journey. I met Mirelle a couple of years ago and have learned so much from her but it was something she casually mentioned to me in passing that stopped me in my tracks. She was preparing to breastfeed her son who was being carried via a surrogate. It’s not an easy task nor short as you begin preparing your body months in advance but Mirelle was determined and lucky for us, willing to share her experience on Love Child. Beyond being the kindest soul who genuinely cares about helping mothers, she has now expanded into products for children and breastfeeding. Mirelle is taking over our instagram stories to share more about induced lactation, Mother Nutrient, and to answer any and all questions you may have.  

Tell us about your background.

My interest in nutrition came after my own health challenges during and after my pregnancies, which left me very depleted and looking for holistic solutions to recover and thrive. After experiencing first-hand the power of good nutrition and adequate supplementation, I worked one-on-one with clients to help them through pregnancy complications and postpartum recovery. I am now dedicated to helping mothers feel their best through positive changes in nutrition and lifestyle. My husband and I are parents to a 6 year-old boy, a 5 month-old puppy and 8 backyard crazy chickens. We are excited to be growing our family by one more human in April 2020.

Tell us about your journey to surrogacy.

My motherhood journey has been rough to say the least. I am fortunate enough to have experienced a full-term pregnancy and giving birth to my son Nico, who is now 6 years old. Before having him, I had one miscarriage and after having Nico, we were excited to grow our family but lost 2 other babies at 9 and 10 weeks of pregnancy. During those pregnancies, I was extremely sick, in bed and my body was struggling to function properly. The mental and physical toll of those pregnancies was so severe, I was left totally depleted and it took me weeks if not months to recover, so we decided to stop trying for the sake of my health. I was heart-broken and disappointed because I still had this deep and strong desire to have another baby and felt that my body was failing me, even though I had explored every avenue. As the sentiment grew stronger, we evaluated other options and after speaking with a very close friend who had twins via surrogacy, decided this would be our new path.

We were super lucky to be matched right away with our amazing surrogate who lives in town and is very like-minded; we both had natural births, are into nutrition and holistic medicine and we both had boys.

Once we started our surrogacy journey, we hit a bumpy road again. Our first two embryo transfers did not succeed, and we proceeded to spend the next 8 months trying to figure out what was the exact transfer day that would yield the best results. We discovered we had been transferring a day too early and set the correct date for our last embryo transfer. This was our last chance, as we only had three embryos to begin with and were down to one embryo. Luckily, we had the timing right this time around and our little embryo implanted. Our surrogate is now 17 weeks pregnant with our second baby boy!

Now to induced lactation. What is the process like?

Because I am so familiar with the nutrition and immune benefits of breastmilk, I started looking at ways to provide breastmilk to my baby when he comes. Believe it or not there are ways to induce lactation in women who did not carry a baby, this is most commonly practiced in adoptive parents and surrogacy births. There are other benefits of induced lactation too, mainly for me developing a more intimate relationship with my baby, since I am not carrying him through pregnancy.

There are a few different methods and protocols to induce lactation, some more successful and invasive than others. I quickly began my research, read books and reached out to a wonderful local lactation consultant that has experience inducing lactation. We decided to go with the Newman-Goldfarb protocol, which has the highest success rate. Because I produced breastmilk for a year with my son, I am optimistic that this method will yield good results.

The process takes about six months. There are basically three stages: 

Phase 1: Preparation by growing breast tissue and milk ducts through birth control, herbs and a medicine called Domperidom. This phase takes about 4 months.

Phase 2: Starting to build a supply by mimicking birth (stop BC) and start pumping every 3-4 hours and taking lactation supporting herbs and continue with the Domperidom. It is recommended to start this phase about 6 weeks before the due date.

Phase 3: Once the baby is born, breastfeeding as much as possible and keep pumping to increase supply. Continue with the Domperidom and herbs.

From what I have read, the success rate of this protocol is the highest, producing between 40%-95% of breastmilk requirements. With induced lactation, there are two things to consider, whether you produce milk, and if you do, how much you produce. It is very common for mothers inducing lactation to produce only a portion of baby’s needs and supplement with either formula or donated breastmilk. Although I would love to produce a full supply, my goal is to produce at least some breastmilk to take advantage of the immune and attachment benefits that breastfeeding provides and look for donated breastmilk to supplement his needs.

You recently started phase one.  How is the first week going? 

I am currently in phase 1. It took me a little longer to start because I had to order Domperidon from a pharmacy in Canada, as this medicine is currently not available / approved in the US. I started taking birth control and Dom last week. The birth control simulates pregnancy and breast growth via estrogen and progesterone, and the Domperidone increases prolactin to start creating breast milk.

So far, it has been challenging to be honest. I am not used to taking hormones or medicines other than herbs and supplements. I have been experiencing nausea, vomit, headaches, food aversions and fatigue.

I started taking a B vitamin supplement, because birth control depletes our bodies from B vitamins, which play a big role in energy production, so the fatigue has improved. I’m experimenting with taking the Dom 1-2 hours before eating and the birth control late at night to reduce the nausea. At this point I am not taking the full 4 pills-a-day dose, as my side effects are not yet under control. I’ll continue to experiment with this, though. I am in a Facebook group for induced lactation and have been able to get lots of good tips through them.

What will the next phase be like? 

I’m supposed to double the dose of Domperidone next week, to 8 pills a day! And then continue that dosage until 6 weeks before the due date, when I will start pumping.

Are you currently taking any other supplements to prepare your mind and body? 

Yes, I am taking a lot of supplements!  After all, I’m the founder of a supplement company and truly believe in the power of nutrients.

Here is what I currently take:

  • Prenatal / Postnatal by Mother Nutrient. I want to make sure the milk I produce has all the nutrients baby needs and also that I am not left depleted by milk production
  • A lactation booster called Cash Cow by Legendairy Milk. They are also an Austin based company that makes all kinds of organic lactation supplements without fenugreek. Fenugreek is a legume and can disrupt digestion in mothers and babies. The blend I am taking contains moringa, nettle, alfalfa and goat’s rue.
  • Biotin gummies by Mother Nutrient. Biotin can do wonders for your skin, hair and nails, but it also helps with breast tissue renewal. My breast tissue is pretty dense,  and biotin has helped in loosening the tissue and getting the milk to flow easier.
  • Women’s probiotic by Mother Nutrient. Studies have shown that breastfed babies of mothers that took probiotics during pregnancy and lactation, suffered a reduction in colic, spit up and were 27% less likely to develop eczema, compared to babies of mothers who took a placebo. I didn’t take probiotics with my 6 year old and he was pretty colicky, so I am not risking it this time around.
  • Breastfeeding probiotic by Mother Nutrient. When I breastfed my older son, I had 5 bouts of mastitis, not fun. I know I’m prone to mastitis, given my history and my dense breast tissue, so now I am taking this probiotic that has specific strains to prevent and treat mastitis.
  • Endura by Metagenics. I did a lot of research on what to do to increase production and hydration is key. Some experts recommend nursing women to drink Gatorade, coconut water or electrolyte powders, but those are full of sugar. I found this awesome electrolyte powder that only has 2 gr of sugar and is sweetened with Stevia and it also tastes great. One packet of Endura in a glass of water is the equivalent of drinking 3 glasses of water!
  • Mother’s Milk tea by Traditional Medicinals. I usually drink 2-3 cups per day, and have noticed how it helps keep my supply up.
  • Lactation bites by Majka. These do have fenugreek but not in huge quantities, I like that they are made with organic unprocessed ingredients, are gluten-free and sweetened with dates.
  • Organic Ashwagandha by Mother Nutrient. It is an ayurvedic herb that has been used as a galactagogue in India and reduces stress by decreasing the stress-hormone Cortisol and supporting the adrenal glands. It has really helped me when dealing with stress and anxiety about Covid 19 and having a baby in the middle of the pandemic.

For more on Mirelle and Mother Nutrient, visit her website. She offers a short quiz with recommended nutrients. We highly recommend you take her quiz! We’ll be back next week with Part 2 of our Induced Lactation series.

Featured Image by Heather Gallagher