August is National Breastfeeding Month!

Both Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine can agree: the benefits to breastfeeding your baby are tremendous.  Both mother and baby benefit from this bonding (and sometimes frustrating!) experience in emotional and physical ways. Below are some of the reasons to breastfeed first if possible:

  1. The feel good hormone oxytocin is released during breastfeeding – not only biochemically reinforcing the bond between baby and mother, but also encouraging milk production and the healing of the mother’s postpartum body
  2. It may lower the risk of cancer in both baby and mother. It will also help build up baby’s immune system – potentially lowering the risk of future allergies and digestive issues.
  3. Research has shown breastfeeding may increase baby’s cognitive function.

But what if you’re having trouble with milk production? Or feeling so fatigued/depressed/anxious that you don’t think it’s an option for you and your baby? This is where Chinese Medicine steps in.

Chinese medicine divides lactation difficulties into two categories:

  1. Lack of milk production – a deficiency: this is often seen in women after labor when their body is fatigued. Blood is lost in labor, and a tremendous amount of energy is spent. Blood and energy (or Qi) are also the building blocks of breast milk, so it makes sense women experience this lack of milk production postpartum. Chinese herbs, a burning herb called “moxa”, and rest are all helpful and necessary to correct this type of deficiency diagnosis.
  2. Blockage – an excess: Some women have plenty of milk but are unable to breastfeed. While it may be due to a blocked duct, Chinese medicine also looks at the emotional component of postpartum life – viewing emotions (like depression and anxiety) as blocking the free flow of breast milk. Both acupuncture and herbs can be key to treating this energetic and physical stagnation.

Chinese medicine can be successful in treating women in both of these groups, as well as those who fall a little bit into each category. Being pregnant can be challenging, labor is hard, and postpartum life is not easy – it’s natural for the body and spirit to need time to heal after such an ordeal.

It is extremely important, for both their present and future, that women and their bodies are supported during the “Fourth Trimester”.  Chinese medicine can also help with a variety of other post-natal conditions, such as:

  • Energy loss
  • Depression and anxiety
  • After pains – perineal soreness
  • Weakened immunity
  • Caesarean section recovery
  • Persistent lochia
  • Puerperal complications
  • Urinary problems

A good post-natal recovery plan includes:

  • Rest, rest, and more rest! In many cultures women are expected to be on bed rest and not leave the house for up to 30 days after labor. While this may not be doable for you, it is important for your present and future health to rest and recover as much as possible in the postpartum months. Try to avoid heavy lifting in the first 4 months, and refrain from excessive exercise in the first 4-5 months.
  • Acupuncture starting as soon as you can get into the office. We recommend weekly sessions for one month, after which we can reevaluate how you’re doing.
  • Eating warm, cooked foods that other people prepare for you! Soups are especially good to consume during this time.
  • Chinese herbal medicine formulas, which will depend on how depleted you are and will be adjusted accordingly if you are breastfeeding.
  • Find a local postnatal community support group. The Postpartum Support International Website is a wonderful resource and good place to start.

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