Breastfeeding and Chinese Medicine
We all know that breastfeeding has so many benefits to not only a newborn’s development and health but also a mother’s well-being that most mothers don’t think twice about breastfeeding their kids. Many experts recommend mothers breastfeed their kids for 1 year or longer but statistics show that 60% of mothers don’t breastfeed as long as they planned. There are many factors that contribute to the shortening duration of breastfeeding: physical blockages, hormonal imbalances, psychological causes and social norms.
Acupuncture and herbal remedies have been used for thousands of years to help mothers with breastfeeding issues which include insufficient lactation, delayed lactation, blocked ducks, and mastitis.
During birth, a good deal of energy is used and a significant amount of blood is lost leaving mom feeling depleted, exhausted, and in pain. From a Chinese medicine perspective, breast milk is closely related to blood, it being the foundation for the development of milk. If there is insufficient blood there will be insufficient milk. The flow of breast milk is governed by woman’s Qi (life force). If there is low (or deficient) Qi milk will leak or if Qi is not free moving throughout the body (or stagnant) milk flow can be impeded. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are used to build blood and increase one’s Qi from within to help develop ample amounts of milk, prevent leakage, blockages, and inflammation of breast tissue.
Some wonder if Chinese herbs are safe to take while breastfeeding. Generally, Chinese herbs are safe because most are plant based causing very little side effects. It is recommended before taking any herbs you should seek guidance of a licensed practitioner who can tailor a specific herbal formula to your unique symptoms. Licensed practitioners are trained in knowing what herbs should be avoided and which are most beneficial for your presentation.
Here are some recommendations to take in consideration to help with the development breast milk:
1. Eat blood nourishing meals. Mothers lose a lot of blood during childbirth and it is important to eat foods that build blood: bone broths, chicken, beef, cooked leafy greens, eggs, and legumes. Other foods that have been known to help relieve scanty breast milk include barely, papaya, fennel, beets, apricots, and sesame seeds. Eat smaller but more meals throughout the day to not over load your digestion.
2. Avoid eating extreme temperatures. In Chinese medicine, eating cold food and drinks (raw vegetables, sushi, juices, smoothies, iced drinks) and spicy foods can further deplete an already exhausted body which can impede in milk production. It is important that you eat cooked warm meals that are easy to digest. Eat an array of veggies and meats that are in season and organic.
3. Avoid emotional stress. Emotional stress prevents the flow of energy to circulate properly throughout the body which also inhibits milk production and flow.
Facts. (2019, December 28). Retrieved July 22, 2020, from http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/facts.html
Liang, L. (2010). Insufficient Lactation. In Contemporary gynecology: An integrated Chinese-Western approach (pp. 163-175). Boulder, CO: Blue Poppy Press.