Chinese Medicine and Breastfeeding
Friday, 28th August 2015
August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, this year the theme is around ‘Women and work – Let’s make it work’ which emphasizes the need for better support systems and policies to enable working mothers to breastfeed.
On a global scale breastfed children have at least six times greater chance of survival than non-breastfeed children, drastically reducing deaths from acute respiratory infection and diarrhea. You can read more on the UNICEF website)
Chinese Medicine and Breastfeeding
When you’re a new mother the challenges of breastfeeding can be fraught with emotion. We all know that Breast is Best, but it can also be painful, exhausting and and filled with complications. Thankfully it get easier the longer you stick with it. With time both Mum and bub get to know each others’ quirks and things just seem to flow better. If you run into serious complications such mastitis or poor milk supply Chinese Medicine has natural, quick and effective treatments to get you back on track.
In Chinese Medicine theory breast milk is an expression of Blood energy and Qi (vital energy). It is understood that once a baby is born the Blood that was once nourishing the placenta is now transformed into breastmilk. This process requires loads of Qi, “without Blood breastmilk cannot be generated, but without Qi the Blood cannot be transformed into breastmilk”.
Low Milk Supply
Low milk supply is considered to be due to a insufficient Blood and/or Qi. If a mother was deficient in Qi or Blood before birth, lost a lot of blood during labour or has been unable to recover fully it can result in poor milk supply simply due to exhaustion. It is incredibly important to eat, rest and drink plenty of fluids to replenish the Qi and Blood that is used during pregnancy, labour and sleepless nights.
Foods which help for low milk supply includes red meats, fish, eggs, soups made from ham-hocks or chicken. Some soups to try our Ham Hock Soup Recipe. For vegetarians, a protein-rich diet is important with foods like: eggs, yogurt, lentils, quinoa, beans, nuts, soy-milk and tofu. You could try our Breakfast Broth with Mama Love Healing Herbal Stock.
Acupuncture or acupressure can help by stimulating prolactin secretion, which in turn will stimulate an increase in milk production. Home acupressure or moxa for 5 mins a day at the empirical point for breast milk Shaoze – SI1 is excellent to encourage milk production as is acupressure at Shanzhong – Ren17 and Jianjing – GB21 as show in the photo.
Milk Not Flowing
This is all about emotions – milk not flowing is due to either a deficiency or a stagnation of Qi preventing the letdown of milk through the ducts and out of the nipple. Feelings of stress, anger, resentment, frustration and depression will stop the free flow of Qi through the body and thus the expression of milk. Think of how tense you feel when you are stressed or angry, how can anything flow when your body is feeling like that?
Sitting and taking a few deep breaths before or as your baby is latching on helps release muscular tension as does acupressure, the best point for this is Jianjing – GB21 pictured below.
Acupuncture treatments can target emotional tension and is fabulous for clearing those stress hormones out of the body.
Mastitis is inflammation and infection in the breast tissue. The first signs of mastitis is a red mark on the breast and usually a blocked duct. The inflammation may quickly become infected where chills, fevers and general flu like symptoms will follow. You’ll see very quick results with acupuncture for Mastitis – at the first sign of a red mark on the breast or a duct that is not clearing, come in for a treatment. You will be able to avoid antibiotics if you jump on it quickly. The points used are locally around the breast and Shaoze – SI1. This point is best needled in order to drain the breast, however stimulating it with a pencil, or end of a ballpoint pen is worth doing at home.
Colic and Foods to Avoid
Colic is a nightmare to deal with. There is nothing more distressing than an unsettled baby. As a newborn your babies digestive system is super sensitive. Although your baby is going through rapid growth and development, it still takes at least 4 months before what you eat doesn’t affect their tummy so much. If your baby is full of wind after a meal, unsettled or looks like they are in pain it’s really important to keep to an non-irritating diet. What is irritating differs from bub to bub, so there is a bit of trial and error involved here, but as a general rule of thumb the more “gassy” veggies including onion, cabbage, garlic, cauliflower and broccoli, are best to cut out first. Chocolate, alcohol and caffeine are known irritants as are wheat and dairy. You may need to play around with cutting these foods out and slowing re-introducing them. A couple of mls of Fennel tea can be effective in settling a babies tummy. Just soak a few fennel seeds in hot water, let it cool and give 1-2ml with a feed.
If you are struggling with any of it, please ask your practitioner for advise on herbal remedies, or come in for a treatment, it can make the world of difference.