Promoting healthy lactation

Bowls of different foods on a table

Difficulty with production of breast milk is a common challenge that new mothers may face. Severe cases result in no breast milk supply at all, often leading to frustration for moms who are trying to provide the best source of nutrition for their baby. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are effective remedies for difficulties with lactation.

In Chinese Medicine, one pattern that frequently leads to decreased milk production is a deficiency of qi (energy) and blood in the mother. This can happen if there is excessive blood loss during childbirth or if the constitution of the new mom has been weakened such as during a long labor. There may be a decrease or complete cessation of milk secretion. In this situation, acupuncture and herbs are used to strengthen the qi and nourish the blood while freeing the flow of milk. 

Acupuncture points may also be used with moxa. Moxa is made from the herb mugwort and
is burned near acupuncture points on the body to further strengthen qi and blood in the channels of
the body, thereby enhancing milk production and flow. In addition to acupuncture with moxa, herbs may be used in a formula taken internally to support qi and blood. Herbal medicine can work effectively to contribute to proper milk production and flow.

Another common factor in the decline of normal milk flow is postpartum emotional disturbances. Worry, depression, or frustration may result in stagnation of energy in the body, often in the liver channel, and cause obstruction of the channels. This can contribute to decreased flow of milk. There may be diminished milk production or complete cessation. Acupuncture and herbs are used to soothe the energy of the liver, resolve depression and emotional disturbances, and promote

Good nutrition is also helpful with lactation, particularly when there is deficiency of qi and blood. Eating plenty of nutrient rich foods at this time helps to strengthen qi and nourish blood. Examples of foods that strengthen qi include lean beef, chicken, dates, shiitake mushrooms, and cherries. Foods that nourish blood specifically include beets, salmon, spinach, eggs, dark berries, and dark leafy greens such as kale or swiss chard. More adventurous traditional remedies that are especially beneficial for strengthening qi and nourishing blood include foods such as pig’s feet soup and fresh carp soup.

During the breastfeeding months, it is especially beneficial for new moms to avoid emotional
 stress and get as much rest as possible. This will help with recovery from the birth and promote healthy lactation. If you have questions about enhancing breast milk production with Traditional Chinese Medicine, please feel free to call or email the clinic and speak with one of
our acupuncturists.

Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth, Zita West, Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh, 2002.

Fu Qing-zhu’s Gynecology, Yang Shou-zhong, Blue Poppy Press, Boulder, CO, 1995.

Practical Therapeutics of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Yan Wu, Paradigm Publications,
Brookline, Mass., 1997.

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