Got Milk?

If you’re a nursing mother, you’ve probably wondered if you are producing enough milk. If your baby is gaining weight and urinating regularly, you most likely are doing just fine. But there are times when your breast milk production may dip due to health issues and factors like diet, stress, lifestyle choices, and medications. Or maybe you’re just on the lower spectrum of steady milk production.

What you can do to increase milk production

1) Work with a certified lactation consultant. It’s important to determine whether in fact your milk supply is low. And if so, what is the underlying cause. The effectiveness of techniques used to increase milk production really depends on the actual cause - such breastfeeding management, something the baby is doing, physiological factors such as hormones, or physical damage to your ducts and nerves, such as from breast surgery. Thus, techniques that work for one mother are not necessarily the best methods for another. A lactation consultant can help guide you in the right direction.

2) Galactagogues. Galacta-what? A galactagogue is a substance that promotes lactation. (The word “galactagogue” comes from the Greek “galact” meaning milk, and "ogogue" meaning leading to or promoting.) There are many common foods and herbal supplements that are believed to be effective for increasing milk production.

  • Include these foods in your diet: oatmeal, barley, ginger, green leafy vegetables, garlic, brewer’s yeast, almonds, fennel, brown rice, yams, beets, carrots, papaya.

  • Try these herbs as a steeped tea or integrate the herbs into your meals and snacks: fenugreek, alfafa, blessed thistle, milk thistle, stinging nettle, goats rue.

3) Acupuncture and herbal medicine.

Having been a nursing mother, I can personally attest to the effectiveness of acupuncture and Chinese herbs to support milk production! Research suggests that acupuncture treatment helps to promote prolactin secretion, which in turn stimulates an increase in milk production. It may also help the release and flow of milk when the breasts are engorged or inflamed.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, the pathology of insufficient lactation can be differentiated between deficiency and excess. Deficiency of Qi and Blood postpartum can be the cause of low milk supply. When there isn’t enough Qi and blood, the breasts are soft, and there isn’t enough “fuel” to produce enough milk. Excess refers to a stagnation of Qi in the breast, which blocks the flow of milk. Here, the breasts are distended but not flowing. If they become engorged for an extended period of time, it can lead to mastitis.

There are also herbs in the Chinese herbal pharmacopoeia that have been traditionally used to support healthy lactation and milk production. Their actions are are believed to stimulate lactation, promote blood circulation, remove obstruction from the breast channels, generate fluid and nourish.

Acupuncture itself is proven to increase milk supply. In a controlled investigation of 116 women with deficient secretion of milk (hypogalactia, hypogalactorrhea), acupuncture successfully increased breast milk secretion from an average of 49.63 ml to 115.21 ml. In addition, lactating mothers receiving acupuncture had a concomitant improvement in prolactin (a hormone that stimulates milk production) levels.

Book an acupuncture session if you are concerned about breast milk supply. We can help!