Breast milk is the best nourishment you can give a baby, for whom it is custom made. It contains so many nutrients that they have not all been identified yet. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be breastfed exclusively for six months and that breastfeeding continue for at least the first year. Any amount of breastfeeding benefits the baby. It is a nurturing and rewarding experience for most mothers that will effect both mother and child long term. In my opinion two years is a minimum time for breastfeeding.
For some mothers, breastfeeding brings frustration and feelings of inadequacy, usually because their milk supply is not enough for their baby. The initial days of breastfeeding are often time consuming and tiring. Stress and fatigue can lead to a lowered milk supply. It can take a month before a new mother feels comfortable nursing her baby. Lactation, the production of milk, depends upon several hormones produced by the mother’s body. During pregnancy, high levels of oestrogen and progesterone prevent milk from being made. After birth, oestrogen and progesterone decrease and prolactin levels increase. Prolactin is responsible for stimulating milk production in the breast.
Prolactin does not work alone. Oxytocin, which a mothers’ body releases in response to the babys suckling, has two roles. It helps maintain the levels of prolactin necessary for milk production and it stimulates the release of milk from the breast, sometimes called ejection.
Mothers have used herbs to foster better production of breast milk for centuries. Many of these herbs can’t be taken during pregnancy, because they may stimulate uterine contractions. Once your baby is born, herbs not only can help boost the supply of your breast milk while you’re nursing, once you’re finished they also can help your body reduce the supply and eventually eliminate it. Some herbs can help ease nipple soreness or other minor complaints associated with nursing.
Nurse/midwives often teach breastfeeding to new mothers. The La Leche League is a long established organization that assists new mothers with breast feeding.
You might find it difficult to either commence milk production or to maintain a high enough level of production when breastfeeding. Since it is best for the child to be on breast milk for as long as it is feasible, herbs that will help can be invaluable.
- Aniseed (this seed contains a volatile oil component that promotes prolactin secretion and thus milk production)
- Blessed Thistle
- Milk Thistle
- Caraway Seeds
- Fenugreek (these seeds are an ancient treatment for increasing milk production. They have oxytocin like effects on the body, stimulating milk production and contracting the uterus. Do not use while pregnant)
- Fennel Seeds
- Goats Rue (the strongest herb that increases milk production)
- Raspberry Leaf
- Alfalfa Tablet (leaf or powder)
- Chaste Tree Berries
- Ginger Root
- Lemon Grass
- Strawberry Leaf
- Oat Straw
- Marshmallow Root
Most of the seeds can be made into herb tea by powdering them. The other herbs may be drank as tea. None of the seeds should be taken during pregnancy.
To Decrease Milk Supply: Black Walnut Bark, Sage, Yarrow.
- Friendly Bowel Flora
- Vitamin B Complex
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Floradix Formula
- Barley Grass
- Red Meat
Tips for Successful Nursing:
- Begin as soon as possible after birth.
- Nurse whenever your baby appears to want to, up to a dozen times every 24 hours.
- Set up a comfortable nursing station.
- Avoid pacifiers, they confuse your babys’ suckling response.
- Air dry your nipples after nursing to prevent cracking and infection. Apply aloe vera gel to nipples after nursing to avoid cracking and dryness.
- Eat right and get enough rest.