Breastfeeding: How to boost your milk supply
Isn’t it funny (read, unfair!) that breastfeeding coincides when we are probably the most daunted and tired we’ve been in our entire life?
There’s no practice run. And the weight of the world is on your shoulders to get it right because your little baby depends on it. This article isn’t about helping you to breastfeed. There is so much help available – your Lead Maternity Carer (midwife) is your first point of call in those early weeks.
This article is for parents who need to boost their supply. And we say parents because even though your partner isn’t breastfeeding, they are an integral part of the support network.
As we specialise in traditional plant medicine, we highlight some wonderful plants proven to help boost milk supply.
Breast Milk Production
Different factors inform the production of breast milk. Prolactin is a hormone that promotes milk production and secretion. While oxytocin helps with milk ejection. Stress and fatigue can effect milk supply.
To increase milk supply:
- Surround yourself with supportive people
- Use plant medicine to stimulate breast milk production
- Feed your body good food
- Breathe, you’ll get through this
Within plant medicine, there are certain plants that can help maintain adequate milk production. We can track their use over hundreds of years as they’ve supported new families.
Galactagogues are medicinal plants, spices or medications used to stimulate an increase in milk production. Unlike medication, most medicinal plants have added benefits, like calming properties to manage stress or support digestive health. This is the benefit of supporting your body with traditional plant medicine. Take these plants before or during breastfeeding. The traditional way to prepare them is as a tea so your body absorbs the full therapeutic benefit. Plus it’s a great way to hydrate. If taking a tea, don’t drink while feeding due to the risk of spilling some on your baby.
Fennel: Used since ancient Greek times, Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) supports the stimulation of breast milk production. The added benefit from Fennel is, via the milk, you baby gets special volatiles oils that help relax spasms in the digestive tract - helping to relieve wind. Fennel also increases appetite and assists in the proper absorption of nutrients, timely since you need as many nutrients as possible right now.
Aniseed: (Pimpinella anisum) supports the normal flow of breast milk. It also helps to reduce baby’s gas, which will ease griping and wind issues.
Nettle: (Urtica dioica) helps support milk production and increases the nutritious quality of breast milk. It is a highly nutritious plant, containing essential minerals, vitamins and enzymes to help your body heal and strengthen after birth. Plus, it’s an effective blood cleanser. It helps the body’s formation of new blood cells. This is helpful post birth to treat anaemia and reduce inflammation.
Raspberry Leaf: (Rubus idaeus) stimulates milk production. It also helps strengthen pelvic tissue and supports the recovery of strained pelvic floor muscles.
Good nutrition is very important. Your body craves nutrients as it produces milk and keeps you going. Easy to prepare, nutritious food is a must. Smoothies, bliss balls, lactation cookies, fruit, scrambled eggs, a stocked freezer of frozen meals. This is where your support network comes in, make this their contribution. People love to feel helpful. Let them.
Common foods and spices used as galactagogues include; Almonds, asparagus, chicken soup, coconut, coriander, cumin, mushrooms, oat straw, papaya, pumpkin, rice, seaweed, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.
If eating is hard to remember, drinking lots of water can completely fall off your radar. But it’s crucial. Breast milk is around 88% water so you need to drink regularly throughout the day. If you’re pee isn’t transparent yellow by 11am, you haven’t drunken enough.
Our #1 tip: Make a flask of our Breastfeeding Tea first thing in the morning and don’t let it leave your side. Drink it all day to hydrate yourself with traditional plant medicine to help boost your supply. We call this ‘tea with purpose’.
Help and Advice
If you’re concerned that your baby is not getting enough milk the best advice is to check with your Lead Maternity Carer, Plunket nurse or doctor. Weight gain is the best indication if milk flow is impacting growth. Rather than dwell on it, talk to someone qualified to give you advice and recommendation.