Tips for Increasing Lactation and Breastfeeding with Herbs and DietSean Russell
As any mother doing research knows, breastfeeding their children is an important and superior feeding method over formula. Formula continues to have lists of recalls, breastfeeding offers immunity to your child prior to them developing their own, breastfeeding has all natural nutrients for brain and body development, breastfeeding is obviously less expensive, near zero chance of allergic reactions or sensitivity to breastmilk opposed to different formulas. Seems easy enough, only problem is many woman are finding it difficult to produce enough breastmilk to feed.
In times past women were able to give birth and have time to rest and dedicated time give to the baby. In Chinese Medicine a 30 day rest period was given and relatives would take care of the child in that first month while the mother got adequate recuperation. As you know we use terms in Chinese Medicine like ‘blood deficiency’ in our diagnostics, but even in biomedicine it is clear here that a woman has really lost a lot of blood, has been sweating for hours to days, and in labor that long (a very literal word used). Its no wonder protocols for rest were used. Today woman have jobs, financial stress, and other obligations to get to. Not to mention many aren’t living with relatives as some other traditions do.
It is my opinion the top two reasons for insufficient lactation are diet and fatigue (Qi and Blood deficiency in Chinese Medicine). Diet is sometimes lacking correct foods and often enough food. These times women are looking to check out of the hospital and get to loosing all the weight they put on in pregnancy. Cardio is great, but your body needs to rest and your body desperately needs those nutrients and calories. Instead celebrities are in a competition to have a baby and lose the weight the fastest to end up on a magazine cover in a bikini. Set yourself up with a proper whole grain, whole food, well rounded diet. Then there are some extra foods that help with lactation. These are typically nutrient dense foods that help your body have a foundation for breast milk.
Stout Beer: This is an old time trick. Having a beer or two daily helps in many cases. Not only does the small amount of alcohol move blood and remove stagnation the nutrient rich beer offer B vitamins and minerals. Remember a STOUT beer like a Guiness, not a lite or regular beer.
Amazake: This may be a new one for most of you. This is wholesome cooked down sweet rice into congee type form and then koji is added and the drink is fermented. This traditional Japanese drink is often served warm and made in house at tea houses and such. Here in the west we can find it at Whole Foods and similar stores in the fridge as a ‘smoothie’ looking drink (similar looking to Odwalla drinks). This natural drink is packed with nutrients and adds natural bacteria to improve your digestion. We use this for ill patients as well for breast feeding mothers. It is DELICIOUS and will be an easy additive to your daily diet.
Congee: Congee is technically rice cooked in extra water for a longer period of time which makes its more like a ‘porridge’ rather than rice. Because of the extra water and cooking the food is easy to digest and is made to cook herbs into. It also tastes good, here is a recipe for congee that will help- Energy Congee
Huang Qi / Astragalus: This herb is number 1 post pregnancy. This herb is great literally post delivery, as in as soon as you can take herbs. Dosage on Huang Qi is 15-30 grams a day. I work directly with midwives providing them with extract and pills for 30 gram doses for a period of time, about a week. This helps to quickly get over the exhaustion of labor. Afterwards it helps boost energy and ability to create substance for lactation. This makes a great base herb to add other herbs known for lactation. This is technically in the category of tonifying Qi
Dang Gui / Tang Kuei: Dang Gui is another obvious addition later to help with lactation as a foundational ‘blood builder’ as it is extremely effective and well known. Dang Gui can be add with Huang Qi in 9g doses and combine to form a rudimentary Qi and Blood builder.
Wang Bu Liu Xing / Vaccaria Seed: There are several empirical herbs and different ways to help with lactation, I particularly like the approach of Qi, Blood, and Movement. This herb is an empirical herb to help lactation and adds movement which means it not only helps with building formulas to not cause digestive problems, but it also combats stagnation that is often present in those deficient in producing adequate breast milk. Depending on the size of the formula 3-6g daily should work well.
That is a good overall look at some help both for dietary and deficient. Remember your breast milk is made DIRECTLY from the nutrients you are taking in with YOUR food. If you eat a bag of Doritos for lunch you will have ORANGE breast milk, and I am not kidding. Eat a well rounded whole grain diet with lean proteins with plenty of veggies and you and your baby will be very happy.