We have all heard how breastmilk is the perfect food for newborns and how nursing your baby helps both mother and child recover from birth and thrive, but as natural as it is, sometimes it comes with difficulties, struggles, and complications. The good news is that most of these struggles are common and easy to overcome, once you have the understanding, tools, and support.
Some common breastfeeding complications include low supply, blocked milk ducts, mastitis, and thrush infections. In this series, we will discuss natural, effective, evidence-based, and cost-effective solutions for these struggles.
Supply issues are often misunderstood. There are no ounce markings on breasts to measure how much a baby is drinking, so new mothers have to learn other ways to see if their babies are getting enough. Newborns typically feed 10 to 12 times a day, which is about every two hours. It may seem to be a lot but that is normal and has nothing to do with low supply. As a matter of fact, your supply will increase the more your baby-nurses. When you hear your baby gulping, that is a good sign. Well-fed babies will be alert and active. They will have about 5-6 wet diapers a day with light-colored or clear urine and about 3 poopy diapers.
If your baby seems very sleepy without much energy, only has a couple wet diapers and you notice the urine is dark, then you will want to increase your supply. If your baby is gaining weight well, you might want to nurse a bit more often and drink more water. Focusing on your own health is vital to that of your little one. Your baby should be back to birth weight by about 2 weeks old. If your baby is not gaining well, you may want to consider medicinal herb supplements.
Galactagogues are herbs that have been used to induce, support, and increase lactation in women since ancient times. They are used all over the world and have been promoted by both naturopathic and allopathic physicians, sold in rural apothecaries and city hospitals alike. One of the most popular herbal supplements is fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum). The fenugreek plant contains small golden seeds and has a maple-syrup type scent, which often can be smelled strongly in both the mom’s milk and the baby’s urine. Fenugreek has also been used as a digestive aid and as a poultice. It has a long history of use in India and China and is one of the most widely used galactagogues in the US.
Fennel, (Foeniculum vulgare), is another herb that increases milk supply in nursing mothers. The fennel plant contains anethole, a phytoestrogen, that may increase prolactin levels. Prolactin is a hormone involved in the production of breast milk. Studies have shown an increase in prolactin levels of mothers taking fennel supplements. Fennel is also a great herb for digestion. The Cherokee used fennel for both childbearing women and infants for digestion. Studies have shown increases in multiple areas with the use of fennel including milk volume, fat content, and infant weight gain.
Goat’s Rue (Galega officinalis) stimulates mammary gland development. It is so effective that it is used by farmers to increase milk production in their livestock. Goat’s rue can also help stimulate and build milk supply for women who have hormonal conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or a lack of glandular breast tissue.
Moringa (Moringa oleifera), as well as being a galactagogue, is high in protein nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, including vitamin C and calcium. Moringa leaves contain essential amino acids and a number of glycosides. It is used to induce, support, and increase breast milk production in nursing mothers and has shown results when used to stimulate milk for mothers of preterm babies.
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosa), is an ayurvedic herb with a long tradition of use in India and China for hormonal imbalances such as infertility and menstrual disorders, as well as increasing milk production.
Remember that there are many factors to milk supply such as latching issues, positioning, maternal diet, and stress, so be such to discuss all breastfeeding issues with a trained professional, such as a Lactation Consultant, Pediatrician, or your KIYA Longevity Naturopathic Doctor. These work individually or in combination, to enhance your milk supply. Both anecdotal and scientific evidence supports the use of these herbs for overcoming breastfeeding obstacles. These galactagogues are available as capsules, teas, or liquid supplements through KIYA Longevity.
Overcoming Breastfeeding Obstacles with Natural Solutions: Part I – Low Supply
Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. (2007). ABM Clinical Protocol #2 (2007 revision): guidelines for hospital discharge of the breastfeeding term newborn and mother: “the going home protocol Breastfeeding Medicine, 2(3), 158-165.
Al-Chalabi M, Bass AN, Alsalman I. Physiology, Prolactin. [Updated 2020 Jul 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507829/
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012). Policy statement: Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 129(3), e827-841.
Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2006-. Fennel. [Updated 2020 Nov 16]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501793/
Estrella MC, Mantaring JB, David GZ, Taup MA. A double-blind, randomized controlled trial on the use of malunggay (Moringa oleifera) for augmentation of the volume of breastmilk among non-nursing mothers of preterm infants. Philipp J Pediatr. 2000;49:3-6
International Lactation Consultant Association. (2005). Clinical Guidelines for the Establishment of Exclusive Breastfeeding. Raleigh, NC: International Lactation Consultant Association.