The primary reason why women discontinue breastfeeding in the first few months is inadequate supply of breastmilk. As long as baby is growing and developing normally, and has normal patterns of urination and stool frequency, the concern as to whether mom is producing enough milk often arises from baby being fussy or wanting to nurse frequently. Often, fussiness has to do with other issues, such as imbalanced intestinal flora, sensitivity to foods in mom’s diet, or a growth spurt that signals the need for increased feedings. Well-meaning advice from a physician, relative or friend who may not fully understand where the infant’s fussiness is coming from may trigger anxious feelings or self-doubt for breastfeeding moms who may not wish (or need) to introduce supplemental formula or solid foods just yet. Babies who have difficulties with positioning or sucking should have their latch assessed and be screened for “tongue tie” by a lactation consultant or doctor. Your child’s naturopathic doctor is a resource for dealing with low milk supply, failure to thrive, and other concerns in infants and breastfeeding moms.
From a naturopathic perspective, I always consider both nourishment and relaxation/stress management to be really important in helping moms with breastfeeding. Consider these self-care tips for breastfeeding support:
• Nursing and infant care are activities that use up nutrients from mom’s body that need to be replaced. Moms need to stay well-nourished and hydrated. Try whole grain oatmeal, barley stews, nettle tea, alfalfa tea and extra protein with meals and snacks. Apricots, green beans, asparagus, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, pecans and leafy greens including parsely and watercress are all considered to be helpful foods in supporting lactation. Emphasize cooked foods (soups, stews, casseroles) over raw as they are easier to digest and absorb.
• Remember the rule of supply & demand: supply increases with increased sucking (by baby or breast pump).
• Wear your baby: being skin-to-skin as much as possible can increase breastfeeding success.
• Breastfeeding and caring for your infant is a new experience (even if you’ve nursed older children) and stress or even feeling “watched” can inhibit the milk let-down reflex.
• Encourage the relaxation response: experiment with some deep breathing, visualization or meditation (tip: visit fragrantheart.com for some brief, free guided meditations), get a massage, enjoy some relaxing herbal tea (see below).
• Herbs from your kitchen can be safely and effectively used to support breastmilk production. Some herbs increase milk production, and others promote relaxation and milk let-down. Make a simple tea using a ratio of 2 tsp (dried) of any of these herbs that you may already have in your spice rack: dill seed, fenugreek, caraway, fennel seed and/or anise seed (not star anise); combine with another 2 tsp (or 1 tea bag) of chamomile flowers, hops, or lavender flowers and pour 1 cup boiling water over the herbs, cover and steep for 15 minutes and enjoy a few cups daily. Herbs are like foods for specific systems of the body, and the extra fluid intake from herbal teas can be helpful.
Dr. Cherevaty attends births as a naturopathic doctor & doula, and is a member of the Association of Perinatal Naturopathic Doctors (APND) and the Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians (PedANP). Naturopathic care can help you with preconception, pregnancy and postpartum health. For more information visit http://guelphnaturopathic.ca/perinatal-care/
Dr. Elizabeth Cherevaty, ND
Romm A. Botanical medicine for women’s health. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier 2010.
Weed S. Wise woman herbal for the childbearing year. Ash Tree Publishing 1986.