By Jen Cherewaty, RAc.
After a woman gives birth there may be a loss of blood and energy. If labor is long and difficult, there may be challenges supplying enough milk. Sometimes, there is enough milk but it may not flow properly because there is emotional stress. As a Registered Acupuncturist and Herbalist, I have been having more and more women come into the clinic with scanty or absent breast milk after childbirth. If you have little to no breast milk supply after birth, Traditional Chinese Medicine may be a really effective treatment for increasing breast milk supply.
Why is Your Breast Milk Supply Low?
1. Blood Loss During Labour
Women may lose blood during labour and birthing. In Chinese Medicine physiology, blood is the source of breast milk and if blood is deficient, low breast milk will be too. Here, the new mom will have watery milk, soft breasts, pale complexion, dry skin and poor appetite.
2. Long Labour
A long and difficult labour may lead to Qi or energy depletion which may result in insufficient lactation as there is not enough Qi to get milk flowing. The symptoms are similar to above.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, strong emotions such as worry, anger, frustration or resentment may cause stagnation of Liver Qi. The Liver meridian or channel influences the breast and controls the nipple, so stagnant Qi obstructs the smooth flow of breast milk. If Qi flow in the breast is compromised, the breast will be distended and hard, you may have rib-side and/or abdominal distension and be irritable.
“Breast milk is a product of the transformation of qi and blood..without qi breast milk cannot be transformed, without blood it cannot be generated.”
~Fu Qing Zhu’s Gynecology
Increase Supply and Flow of Breast Milk: Improve Your Qi & Blood
Acupuncture works wonders to tonify qi, build and nourish blood and remove obstructions from the breast. Certain points stimulate descent of breast milk. If there is strong emotions present, points can be added to smooth the flow. The acupuncture point at the end of the small finger called “shao ze” meaning smaller marsh is specific for insufficient lactation.
2. Chinese Herbs
Herbs are key for treatment here and can be prescribed in powder, capsule or tablet form. the beauty of being able to custom blend Chinese herbs is that I can add some herbs for nourishing the blood, some for moving Liver Qi and some for calming the mind. All herbs chosen are safe to drink while breastfeeding.
In Traditional Chinese medicine philosophy, when you lie down and rest, your blood flows back into the liver and can be rejuvenated. When the blood is rejuvenated, it can be transformed into breast milk. Additionally, often strong emotions come in new moms due to the lack of sleep from waking regularly to feed a newborn child. Resting gives your body time to regenerate energy, Qi, which not only gives you more energy, but also makes energy and emotions flow more smoothly.
4. Nourishing Foods
•nuts & seeds
Increase protein intake as breast milk is produced from protein drawn from either your diet or what is stored in your body (beef or chicken are especially good for nourishing blood) (vegetarians must pay great attention to eating enough protein)
Traditional Chinese Food Cure is Pig’s Trotters Soup
2-3 pig trotters (feet from a local butcher)2 TBSP soy sauce/tamari
6 garlic cloves
4 TBSP fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
salt & pepper
1. Rub the chopped pig trotters with soy sauce/tamari and place in a pot.
2. Cover with 4-6 cups of water and bring to a boil.
3. Remove any of the foam that rises to the surface of the water.
4. Remove and discard bones after the meat is tender. Add garlic and onions and continue to boil for 10 minutes.
5. Add salt & pepper and sprinkle with cilantro leaves.
6. Serve with steamed rice.
Nettle leaf has a tonifying effect and contains iron.
Alfalfa, blessed thistle, dandelion, fennel, horsetail and raspberry are excellent and safe for a breastfeeding mom.
AVOID black walnut, yarrow, sage as these can decrease milk supply.
More Breast Milk~Yeah!!!
Together acupuncture, herbal medicine, rest and nourishing foods and soups make a great team to support a breast feeding mother to nourish her growing baby.
By: Jen Cherewaty Registered Acupuncturist, Herbalist, mom and doula has been helping women increase their breast milk supply for over 10 years.