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Herbal Lactation Enhancers  RSS feed

 
D. Logan
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This is a question which has something in common with those asked by Matt Powers, but which are not quite the same. My wife suffers from severe thyroid issues, though in recent years we have been able to control it using coconut oil with surprisingly good results. With both of our children, she had no problem with lactation beginning, but was unable to maintain production in any major quantity after a few weeks. This is despite augmenting with pumping and other methods as well.

Are there any herbal treatments that are known to increase or maintain milk production? Also, are there any common herbs that may have contributed to the drying off effect that she suffered? If we should have another child, she very much wishes to maintain breastfeeding beyond just a few initial weeks?
 
Dawn Combs
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My first question would be in regards to her typical hormonal levels. She could be dealing with a hormonal imbalance that steps on her prolactin every time... I had a similar issue as well. In that case the herbal treatments may be to support lactation with galactagogues and support the body with hormonal balancing herbs. It would really take knowing what her cycles look like. Does she chart? Does she know when she ovulates based on temp and cervical fluid? Does she know how long her luteal phase is? These things would provide a better understanding of where she is normally before asking her body to make milk. There is often an underlying problem that keeps everything from working like clockwork.

As far as herbs that can dry up milk... sage (Salvia officinalis), parsley (Petroselinum crispum) and motherwort (Leonardus cardiaca) are common. You'd need to be using both of the first in pretty heavy doses to see a huge difference such as you mentioned.

I struggled with supply mightily. I wound up making my own supplement and feeding it at the breast with a supplemental feeding device so that my babies could get whatever I was producing while still getting fed.
 
D. Logan
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She doesn't track or know any of those offhand. We only seriously tracked anything during an attempt to conceive the first time and even then it didn't involve taking temperatures or such. I can't recall what method we used, but it did seem to work somewhat well. We hadn't been planning the birth of my second and at the moment she isn't interested in a third, so it may never be an issue. That said, if we ever change our minds about another child, it would be good to know these things. Does your book address how to track ovulation, luteal phase, etc?
 
Dawn Combs
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Yes, and I also suggest a book called "Taking Charge of Your Fertility". You can go to her website and download charts- tcohf.com
 
William Bronson
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Marianne West
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D. Logan. This is a bit off topic in terms of herbal use, but I highly recommend for your wife to check out Hormone Yoga Therapy. Not well known in the US yet, but she can teach herself from a book by Dinah Rodrigues http://www.dinahrodrigues.com.br/yoga/en/contact.htm It says for menopause, but is really for all women with hormone imbalance. If you are close to San diego, I can teach you and a couple of other therapists are here as well...... It does work.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Not related to herbs, but I was wondering if your wife wore a bra--especially a tight one--after birth. I recall reading that the pressure can reduce milk flow. Maybe try going bra-less, at least at home? Also, maybe avoid all pacifier-use and just comfort on the breast so the breast gets lots of stimulus....
 
Ryan Skinner
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My wife used Fenugreek when she was worried about supply. She has fed all our babies through their first year... The most important thing is putting the baby on all the time. Baby's suckling action is better than any pump and will stimulate let down. Drink plenty of water and if you have to pump for work reasons pump after the baby has fed. You may not get a lot at first but it will make sure the baby is fed first then help to stimulate more let down. Good habits and baby led feedings in the beginning are the best thing to keep supply up. Not sure if she has seen any lactation consultants or not. Most hospitals now have them. Great resource for information and support. I am happy My wife is planning on becoming one once the babies are done being babies and she can head back to school. Glad to see more people kick the bottle if they can but sometimes no matter what you try the lives we lead are to stressful and don't let us focus on our children enough. Sometimes stress alone can diminish a milk supply.
 
D. Logan
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Marianne West wrote:D. Logan. This is a bit off topic in terms of herbal use, but I highly recommend for your wife to check out Hormone Yoga Therapy. Not well known in the US yet, but she can teach herself from a book by Dinah Rodrigues http://www.dinahrodrigues.com.br/yoga/en/contact.htm It says for menopause, but is really for all women with hormone imbalance. If you are close to San diego, I can teach you and a couple of other therapists are here as well...... It does work.


I will have to look into it. I'm not sure if she can do it with her joint and spine issues, but it is certainly worth looking into. Thanks for the tip. We don't live near there, though I do thank you for that kind offer as well.
 
D. Logan
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Nicole Alderman wrote:Not related to herbs, but I was wondering if your wife wore a bra--especially a tight one--after birth. I recall reading that the pressure can reduce milk flow. Maybe try going bra-less, at least at home? Also, maybe avoid all pacifier-use and just comfort on the breast so the breast gets lots of stimulus....


She went mostly bra-less unless we were going out and then only a loose bra. As I recall, our daughter had issues latching on initially. The nurses gave her bottles against our directions, so she would refuse to even try at the nipple sometimes. My son spent his first week or so in the hospital, but they were better about things that time. Even so, it didn't end up working out as well and she started to dry off quickly regardless of what we did. I am pretty sure at least part of it is the hormone imbalance mentioned above. I know her Thyroid isn't right at all, so it was probably pushing other things off as well. We both regretted not being able to breast-feed the children more than was the case. I'm just thankful they did get some at least.
 
Ryan Skinner
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Just out of pure curiosity was a C-section involved and was the baby able to be on her chest immediately after delivery? Hospitals are getting better about this but it is one of the most important things starting off. Huge release of oxytocin helps with the bond directly afterward and stimulates milk production sooner and stronger. Fenugreek had always worked so well for sarah... Improving Milk Supply

 
D. Logan
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C section both times. There was an extended delay the first time due to them putting her on morphine without asking and several hours of her being really out of it. The nurses also gave our daughter a bottle right away, which I think had a lot to do with why she had so much trouble latching on most of the time and such. With our son, the delay was much less and they didn't force a bottle on him while he wasn't in the room with us at first. Much better hospital and staff in my opinion on the second birth.
 
Ryan Skinner
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C-Section happens far to ofter in our country... And doctors willing to do VBAC are few. I hope you guys can keep her milk supply up. If she can find a breastfeeding support group that can help. Good to have lactation consultants help and peers around. Hoping for the best for you and you little guy.
 
Dawn Hoff
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I have a lactation tea: anís seed, fennel, caraway and nettle. Hoops stimulate milk production too (but alcohol is inhibiting - so alcohol free beer is good). Nuts, seeds, fat is good for her - you can find "the milk Bomb" recipe online (if you can't write back I'll find it in Danish and translate).

Regarding her hormone levels - even if you don't usualy track it pregnancy and childbirth can lead to "hormone storms", so it might be a good idea to track it in the time after giving birth. All "traditional" tricks only boost production so much. Rest rest and rest works - as stress reduces milk production and affect hormone levels. Also soy affects hormona levels - absolutoly no soy if she has thyroid problems.

Suplementation system (eg. Medela) can help her supplement (eg. with milk from a milk bank), while maintaining whatever production she has.

Do you have a doctor that you trust? Could you contact you local La Leche League chapter (you can find phone numbers on www.llli.org)?

Keeping milk production up with thyroid issues is really hard, getting her hormone levels straight is the most important step you can take for a successful lactation.

Even if her lactation did not come of to a good start she can re-induce lactation if she wants - but first she needs to fix the thyroid issues.
 
Fianou Oanyi
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I think there could be a number of factors that influenced the ability to maintain lactation.
Firstly, I think there could have been issues with establishing good lactation and initiating the right hormonal symphony post birth. I can't go into all of it here, but there is a complex orchestra of hormones that occurs during birth and oxytocin is a very important one. One important aspect of getting a good milk supply happening is for the mama to be able to smell the babies head and have plenty of skin to skin interraction. Even if this does not happen right after birth because of hospital routines etc... it can be done at home. Having a lot of time together to get the bond happening. Sleeping close with as much breast access and contact. The baby also has a role to play in regulating the milk supply and this could be a factor. I think it would be worth seeing a good lactation consultant and getting some support. The nurses bottle feeding the baby is a problem and will impact on the ability of a mother to establish good breastfeeding.
Secondly, the issue of hormonal imbalance is important. A good herb to look at is vitex agnus castus or chasteberry tree which is wonderful for gently regulating and adjusting hormone levels without unduly ramping up one hormone over another. It works at the level of the pituitary gland and can be great for reproductive hormones. I think your wife's normal issues with hormone levels were not helped at all by hospital interventions. The crux of it is, for perfect hormonal levels, a birth needs to be, ideally, undisturbed and unobserved. The hormones for giving birth are the same as for making love, so the circumstances should be like those that you would be comfortable making love in. Tricky to do in a hospital! Orgasmic birth is a great documentary for understanding and appreciating the sensual side of childbirth, especially in regards to hormones.
I know of women who use placentaphagy and do placenta encapsulation or freeze bits of plactena to make into smoothies. The placenta has hormones in it that help with post partum issues like milk supply, postnatal depression... it is the go-to therapy for the women in my circles for any birth that has been traumatic or needed medical intervention, or for women that suffer from postnatal depression. Particularly for women whose post-natal depression relates to hormonal issues.
Another issue can be latching, babies having tongue tie, or inverted nipples, which could explain why your wife established breastfeeding but it tapered off with time, if the baby is having trouble getting a good amount of milk out of the breast with each feed then the supply will dry up. You can even use little silicon attachments over a nipple to help a baby suckle. The mechanical aspects of breastfeeding are important. The more the baby can take from the breast the more the breast will make, so the supply is regulated by the demand.
Specific herbs for boosting milk supply include fenugreek, dates and almonds (I have a persian friend who makes an almond date halva for new mothers), hops, oats, brewers yeast.
Herbs to avoid are peppermint, sage, parsley.
Keep looking into it. Its amazing how much we learn about birth as we experience it..... it is certainly a process of enlightenment. My favourite blog which taught me a lot about birth is midwifethinking by rachel reed.
 
Joy Oasis
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Moringa Olifera leaves increase milk supply. They use it in Africa with malnourished women, and it helps them to make more milk. Not to mention, it is very healthy in many ways.
 
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