Saturday, December 15, 2012

Herbal Help for Low Supply

The holidays are a stressful time for everyone, but especially for moms. We get so busy cleaning, hosting, worrying about in-laws, buying presents, chasing kids, and baking goodies for everyone else that sometimes we forget to eat ourselves, let alone drink enough water during the day. On top of this some moms have work, or school. This time of the year is a busy time for most of us. We need to go, go, go; but most nursing moms forget that they need to stop for a minute, take a bite of something, and a big swig of water.

Sound like you? Fear your supply may drop a bit due to stress? If this you, even when it’s not the holiday season? Don’t worry mama, you are not alone. Even without the holidays, life is stressful, we get busy and sometimes our supply may take a hit. That’s why I’m sharing some tips and tricks to help maintain your supply, and if it does drop, to help bring it back up naturally.

First, remember that the only way to tell if your milk supply is low is through babies output. If your baby is having 6-8 wet/dirty diapers a day, then your baby is getting enough milk. If you feel like your milk supply is low, it won’t hurt to take some sort of herbal supplement, but you don’t have to if babies output is enough.

If you have tried the normal advice, such as, nurse more often, offer often, skin to skin, up water intake, and oatmeal (side note: Some babies react to oats, and have a hard time with mom eating them. They get gassy and colic-y, so use sparingly), then read on!

Any of these herbs may be taken as a tincture (under the tongue) or in capsule form. It really just depends on your preference. Always start with the lowest dose possible and build up to more if you don’t see any difference. Give the herb at least 4 days to work before upping your dosage. Please make you are comfortable with each herb before you take it. Also, speak to your naturopath or Dr about these herbs. I want to stress that the following information is just suggestion, not a treatment plan for a specific mother. Herbs should only be used for a few weeks, a month at tops, to help your milk boost up until baby can naturally pull it up.

First I want to address an herb that should not be taken, in high doses, while nursing. It is a common herb eaten during the holidays; peppermint. Peppermint can decrease milk supply. I know we all love peppermint mocha’s, peppermint lattes, candy canes and peppermint patties, amongst other peppermint, but be wary of this oil and herb (the artificial flavoring will do no harm). It may decrease your supply. If that happens these tips will help increase it again.

Alfalfa is an herb that is often used to help up supply. It is a pretty powerful herb full of lots of nutrients, including chlorophyll and fiber. It can cause diarrhea or loose stool in mom or baby. If this happens just reduce the dosage for a few days. Doses as follows – 1-2 teaspoons per cup of water, drink this up to three times a day. You can also take up to 8 pills a day. Avoid Alfalfa if you are taking blood thinners.

Anise can be taken (yes the spice) to help increase milk supply. The perks of Anise is that it is also a herb known for helping with digestion, upset stomach and colic, so if mom is taking it the affects will carry over to baby. The best way to take Anise is in tea form. Gently crush 1 - 2 teaspoons of anise seeds, and cover with one cup of boiling water. Cover and steep between 5 - 20 minutes. Sweeten it to your liking. You can take up to 3 cups a day.

Blessed Thistle is a fabulous herb. It helps with milk supply, but it also helps support the liver. Blessed Thistle can be taken as a tea, 1-2 teaspoons per cup of water. Steep for 5-10 minutes and sweeten as needed. This can be taken up to 4 times a day. You may also take 3 capsules, 3 times daily.

Dandelion herb and root is another herb that helps support the liver while raising milk supply. It is a bitter herb though, so it may need some extra sweetener if taken as a tea. To take as a tea add 1 tablespoon to a cup of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. Sweeten as desired. You may drink this up to 3 times daily. Dandelion is also good made as a decoction with other herbs, such as fenugreek or marshmallow or hollyhock root to boost supply. Gently simmer 1 tablespoon (of herbs total) of finely chopped fresh, dried or powdered root in 3 cups of water for 10 - 15 minutes.

Fennel is a good herb for upping supply, as well as colic relief. Moms and babies both will enjoy the benefits of this herb. It may also be eaten in its true form, as fennel seed, or fennel root. Fennel root is good roasted, or sliced into a salad. As an herb it can be taken as a tea, gently crush 1-2 teaspoons of the seeds, and add one cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for between 5 - 20 minutes. Longer steeping produces a more potent tea. Sweeten to taste.

I want to touch on fenugreek, it is one of the most known and advised lactation herbs. Fenugreek is not to be taken during pregnancy. Be careful with fenugreek. It is usually the last herb that we reccommend, and even at that it is with hesitation. Fenugreek can make both moms and babies have upset tummies. It can make babies appear reflux-y, colic-y and gassy. It can make moms "bulk up", and give mom diarrhea. It is not supposed to be used long term, three weeks is the limit, and when you cease taking it, it can cause your supply to drop again. It also can not be taken by people who are hypoglycemic.
If none of these things work, talking to your Dr about a prescription to help with milk supply is probably a good option. Remember; when it comes to nursing during the holidays, most drops in supply will simply be from stress and slight dehydration. Make sure you are taking care of yourself in order to take care of your milk supply!
All herbal dosages can be found at Motherhood International as well.