Pediatricians agree that exclusive breastfeeding is the healthiest head start to life that a baby can get.
However, for some women, nursing can pose quite a challenge. It is estimated that between one to five percent of women in the United States are unable to breastfeed. An even greater percentage–about one in ten women–faces the challenge of low milk production.
Low milk production is a stressful and highly challenging condition. For some women, it is genetic; However, more commonly, low milk production is due to outside factors.
Stress, for example, can cause a significant drop in milk production. Dehydration and inadequate nutrition also decrease the amount of milk a woman makes. If her own body lacks the resources to maintain itself, it will struggle to produce enough food for a child. Fatigue can also rob the body of its ability to devote energy to milk production.
If you suspect that you are dealing with a low milk supply, take a moment to consider possible triggers.
Making Self-Care Essential
While you’re caring for your baby, do you remember caring for yourself, too? It is always a good idea to talk to your doctor, seek support from friends and family, stay hydrated, and get as much rest as you can. You’ll feel better, and in all likelihood, your milk supply will bounce back when you do.
However, sometimes reducing stress is easier said than done–particularly when struggling with low milk production. Fortunately, there are additional measures you can take to support lactation.
One possibility is exploring herbal remedies, different forms of which have been used by new mamas for centuries to boost milk production.
Lactating Herbs That Support Breast Milk production
Lactating herbs which help boost the milk supply are called galactagogues. The following list of ten herbal remedies can introduce you to the diversity of galactagogues; consult with your doctor or lactation consultant, and discover what works for you!
Torbangun is a soft-leaved plant native to South Africa that has spread to many regions of the world. This herb has been used to stimulate breast milk production by women in Indonesia for hundreds of years.
Recently, researchers found that 65% of breastfeeding women saw their milk supply increase after consuming Torbangun daily for their first month postpartum. These results are incredibly promising and demonstrate the power of this herb to stimulate milk production!
How To Use Torbangun for Lactation
The traditional preparation of this recipe features a torbangun-leaf stew prepared for new mothers daily for the first month after giving birth. However, it is possible to purchase torbangun in powder or supplement form.
Maca is a root vegetable native to the Andes mountains in Peru. This vegetable, which is closely related to radish, has been used by Peruvians for energy and wellness for centuries.
Maca can help balance hormones, which can help alleviate the stress and postpartum blues that may contribute to low milk production. In addition, maca is thought to improve milk quality and increase flow.
How To Use Maca For Lactation
In Peru, maca is generally cooked as a whole root vegetable and incorporated into dishes with other foods. However, it is more common to encounter maca in its pulverized form, referred to as “maca powder.” Maca powder is a versatile ingredient. Add it to smoothies, hot cereal, or even homemade lactation energy balls for an added boost.
The powdered seeds of the Fenugreek plant, a clover-like legume, have been used by nursing mothers as a remedy for low milk supply for centuries. The mechanism by which fenugreek stimulates milk production is still unproven, but many women swear by its effects.
Some doctors suggest that taking fenugreek during the first few days postpartum amplifies its effects, but the herb still acts as a potent galactagogue throughout the nursing period.
Exercise caution when using fenugreek if you have a history of peanut allergy. Peanuts and fenugreek are closely related legumes, and in some cases, people with peanut allergies may also react adversely to fenugreek.
Side effects of fenugreek may include gastrointestinal upset and the gradual development of a maple syrup-like body odor, which is harmless and will fade when you eventually stop taking the herb.
How To Use Fenugreek for Lactation
Fenugreek may be steeped as a tea or taken in capsule form. Generally, women take between one to six grams of fenugreek per day to address low milk production.
In European countries, the dried leaves of Goat’s Rue have been popularly used as a galactagogue for centuries. Proponents of this herbal remedy believe that it helps mammary tissue develop and begin producing an increased quantity of milk.
Exercise caution when using Goat’s Rue if you take anti-diabetes medication. This herb can lower blood sugar concentration, making it dangerous to combine with other blood-sugar-regulating drugs. Do not consume Goat’s Rue that is freshly picked; only dried or processed herb is safe for consumption.
How To Use Goat’s Rue for Lactation
Goat’s rue may be taken as tea, which should be made with dried leaves steeped in boiling water for up to ten minutes. The herb can also be purchased in capsule and extract form.
This dandelion-like plant has been used since the middle ages to treat low breast milk production in areas around the Mediterranean. The herb’s leaves and flowers are thought to be anti-inflammatory and antibacterial in addition to their galactagogue qualities, making blessed thistle a great herb to incorporate into your daily routine.
How To Use Blessed Thistle for Lactation
Steep the stems, leaves, and blossoms of the plant in boiling water for up to ten minutes to make a beneficial tea. Alternatively, blessed thistle can be purchased in capsule or tincture form.
Similar to blessed thistle, milk thistle has also been used throughout the ages to increase milk supply. Milk thistle can also be used to decrease inflammation and relieve stress on the kidneys. The mechanism by which it increases the flow of breast milk is unknown, but herbalists and mothers alike recommend taking this herb daily during the first few weeks of breastfeeding your newborn for best results.
How To Use Milk Thistle for Lactation
Milk thistle achieves the best results when a regimen is begun early, soon after the birth of your child. Drink a tea made from the seeds of this herb several times a day to achieve results, or find milk thistle supplements at your local health food store.
The father of medicine himself, the Greek physician Hippocrates, recommended fennel as a remedy for low milk supply in the early 400s BC. Fennel is a popular herbal remedy in cultures the world over.
Some studies have shown that fennel effectively increases a woman’s levels of prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production. Whether this increases milk production is unclear; however, fennel can certainly help support healthy lactation.
How To Use Fennel For Lactation
Steep half a teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds (the fresher, the better!) in a cup of boiling water for five minutes; strain and serve.
Alfalfa is another historical remedy used to support healthy lactation. The leaves and sprouts of the alfalfa plant contain compounds similar to estrogens, the female sex hormones which govern female processes such as lactation.
One theory surrounding alfalfa’s apparent galactagogue properties is its estrogen-like effects. Alfalfa has been one of the most popularly cultivated herbs in all of human history.
How To Use Alfalfa For Lactation
Steep several tablespoons of dried alfalfa leaves and shoots in a cup of boiling water for five to ten minutes, and enjoy.
Like Alfalfa, Anise contains chemical compounds very similar to estrogens, the female sex hormones. Consuming anise can give your body a hormonal boost and may help support your breast milk production. Anise may cause stomach upset, so exercise caution when taking this herb.
How To Use Anise For Lactation
Anise seeds can be directly consumed at a dosage of several tablespoons every day to help support milk production. Alternatively, brew the seeds into a tea, or seek an anise tincture or powder capsule.
Caraway seeds are also used in traditional medicines as a breast milk booster, though the exact mechanism by which they have this effect is unknown. These seeds have a very similar look and smell to fennel. However, unlike fennel, caraway is said to have a unique impact on the infants whose mothers take this herb: relief from colic.
Colic, or excessive crying, is said to be remedied by maternal consumption of caraway seeds.
The chemicals present in the seeds are easily passed from mother to offspring through breast milk and are thought to relieve some colic symptoms. If your baby is fussy, taking a caraway may help you reduce some stress and increase your breast milk production.
Dill seeds most likely owe their galactagogue properties to their high nutrient content. These super-seeds contain the essential nutrients of magnesium, iron, and calcium, all of which are essential to your wellbeing and that of your baby.
Many women have deficiencies in one or several of those nutrients. Such a deficiency could lead to a decrease in milk production. In this case, consuming dill seeds may be a helpful remedy.
How To Use Dill For Lactation
You may choose to consume dill seeds daily while nursing or take a dill-seed extract or capsule.
Marshmallow root is a traditional remedy for upset stomachs, swelling, and respiratory tract swelling. Marshmallow as a topical remedy can be applied to nipples that have become sore from nursing. However, marshmallow has other uses for nursing moms: traditionally, marshmallow is considered galactagogue.
How To Use Marshmallow Root For Lactation
Marshmallow root for breastfeeding women can be consumed as a tea or capsule.
Herbs Are a Lactation Boost, Not a Cure-All
At Greater Than, we understand that using lactating herbs is a healthy and natural way for new moms to support and foster plentiful milk production. Not all herbs will work for everyone; therefore, try different herbs to find what works for you.
Do your best to get plenty of rest, and seek out a support network of friends or family. Eat balanced meals, making sure to increase your calorie intake to compensate for the energy you burn through milk production.
Dehydration is common among lactating women; drink extra water during this time, and consider supplementing with a natural, hydrating electrolyte beverage.
Herbalism is a discipline full of possibilities when it comes to supporting healthy lactation. Go explore the world of natural remedies, take care of yourself, and don’t forget to give yourself credit for doing so much to support your baby!
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