Natural remedies for breastfeeding moms are so important! There are many great options for natural remedies, so let’s take a look.
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Moms Need Health Support, too
Sometimes breastfeeding moms get sick.
Occasionally breastfeeding moms have headaches and backaches.
And at times breastfeeding moms want to know how to increase their milk supply.
Breastfeeding moms always want to make sure their baby is safe.
As a lactation consultant, two of the most common questions I get are:
“Is it safe to take this particular drug?”
“Does this herbal remedy work to increase milk supply?”
Are you a breastfeeding mom who wants to avoid pharmaceuticals because you’re worried about the risk to your baby?
There are alternatives!
Something that used to be considered weird, crunchy or “out there” is quickly becoming mainstream.
It is estimated that 30% of adults use some form of complementary or alternative medicine aka CAM (source).
What are CAM treatments?
Practices that have not traditionally been considered conventional medicine include, but are not limited to:
- Essential oils
- Craniosacral therapy
All of these have been used by breastfeeding moms.
Natural doesn’t always mean safe.
Traditional medical professionals don’t always know what the effectiveness and safety of CAM treatments are. They may not believe they even work if they have not used them or researched them.
It is your responsibility to research the safety of all CAM treatments independently.
Why natural remedies for breastfeeding moms?
Breastfeeding moms often decide to breastfeed so they can give their baby the best start possible. They don’t want to do anything that could be risky for their baby.
However, life isn’t always a smooth ride down a straight highway. It is usually more like a rollercoaster with ups and downs and sharp turns that are unexpected.
Most common reasons breastfeeding moms seek natural remedies
- Low milk supply
- Common colds and flu
- Pain: headaches, back pain, muscle aches
- Engorgement, Mastitis, Clogged Milk Ducts
Herbal remedies must always be treated with caution. They carry the risk of allergic reactions and toxicity if taken in excessive amounts.
All herbs mentioned in this article have GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) recognition by the FDA (source).
Know the source of your herbs. Contamination of herbs is a very real concern.
Make sure what you take is safe and comes from a reliable source.
Natural remedies for breastfeeding moms with low milk supply
Always make sure you truly do have a low milk supply. This is a common concern of moms who in fact have a good supply.
How much success these remedies have will depend on the starting point. Some moms have very, very low milk supplies while others just need a little boost.
Another important factor in how effective something will be is the reason for the low milk supply.
These are the most common reasons moms experience low milk supply:
- They don’t have enough glandular tissue for an adequate supply
- Hormonal problems like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or low prolactin
- History of breast surgery
Another very common reason for low milk supply is not enough stimulation.
In the first couple of weeks especially, a mom’s breasts need frequent stimulation, a good latch, and thorough emptying.
This always should be addressed first before moving on to interventions.
Herbs that can increase milk supply
Fenugreek is the most common. It has been used in different cultures for centuries to support a good milk supply.
My experience has been that tinctures seem to work the best.
And, yes, that maple syrup smell thing you heard about is true. You generally have to consume enough fenugreek to make you smell like maple syrup for it to affect your milk supply. If your partner starts asking for pancakes, then you know you’re on the right track.
Shatavari, Alfalfa, Blessed Thistle, Fennel, Nettle, and Goat’s Rue are other herbs that many moms have used to increase their milk supply effectively.
I always recommend working one on one with a lactation consultant if you have a low milk supply. Additionally, you can check lowmilksupply.org. It has a thorough section on herbs.
I always encourage the moms I work with to try acupuncture.
Any herb should be discontinued if you experience any kind of an allergic reaction or unpleasant side effect.
Things like upset stomach can be from taking too much of an herb.
There are also herbal preparations that are made up if a combination of herbs. I recommend that you not start with these unless you have taken the individual herbs before and tolerated them well. Otherwise, if you do have a negative reaction, you won’t know what herb caused the reaction.
One thing that should be avoided is peppermint and spearmint. It can reduce milk supply. I have worked with moms who only needed to drink one cup a day of peppermint tea to see an effect from it. Think teas, lattes, candies, and breath mints.
Natural remedies for colds and flu
When the weather gets colder, more people get sick with colds and flu. Sad but true.
As we know, prevention is important, so good hand washing is extra important.
Busy moms don’t always have access to soap and water, so keeping some natural hand sanitizer on hand will help keep the bugs at bay.
Look for something with tea tree oil which is purifying.
You can also make your own.
Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic remedy, which is based on the belief that “Like cures like.”
It is made of infinitesimally small amounts of substances that can no longer be measured, but while it would cause symptoms of the disease in a healthy person, it cures the symptoms in a sick person. And It has shown to be effective.
It used to only be available in natural food stores and pharmacies, but it has become so popular that it can now be found at places like Walgreens, Target and grocery stores.
Other Natural Remedies
You can also make your own elderberry syrup to save money.
If you do fall victim to a cold or flu, you will be looking for treatments that target symptoms.
- Neti pot with saline
- Warm fluids like tea and soup
- Essential oils
- Drink lots of fluids
- Tea with honey
- Menthol cough drops
- Gargle with salt water
- Marshmallow root iced tea
Probiotics were originally promoted for gut health. They are now being found to have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health (source), mental health (source) and possibly allergic diseases (source) and other things.
There are some acupressure points on your body that can relieve headaches. Click here to find out how to use them.
If you are having backaches, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, and tapping can relieve backaches as well as pain in other parts of your body.
Tapping is a procedure that you do to yourself. You tap on the meridian points of your body and say certain statements. Tapping can be learned by watching one of the many YouTube videos that demonstrate it.
For most minor ailments there are alternative treatments. Doing some research can help breastfeeding moms avoid the risks from pharmaceuticals to both her baby and herself.
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Andrea Tran is a lactation consultant with over 24 years of experience. She and her husband live in Colorado. Andrea has three adult children and is patiently waiting for grandchildren. She is the creator and owner of Breastfeeding Confidential, a blog that helps breastfeeding moms with their breastfeeding plans, and work through their breastfeeding challenges by providing them with education and support in a place that is inclusive, accepting and non-judgemental.
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