Throughout your pregnancy, you probably imagined how wonderful the breast-feeding experience would be for both you and your baby. All you could think about was looking down into that tiny, trusting face and feeling the closeness between you and this new little being. So naturally, when it finally came time to put baby to breast, you were excited. But now, you’re in agony. Your nipples may be painful, cracked, and bleeding (See below) or perhaps your breasts are uncomfortably swollen (See below). The milk may not flow when you need it to and may seem to flow uncontrollably when you most wish it wouldn’t (like when you’re standing in line at the grocery store or sitting at a dinner party).
So where are those tender, happy moments you’ve seen in the magazine and television advertisements? Well, hang in there. Those moments do happen, just not always right away. The problem is, many mothers give up breast-feeding in frustration because they don’t realize that things will get better with time and practice. They also don’t realize there are steps they can take to decrease breast-feeding discomfort and increase nursing success. This article will give you the helpful nursing home remedies that can make breast-feeding a rewarding and comfortable experience for you and your baby. Before we begin, we should examine the sources of breast-feeding discomfort.
Breast-feeding is the act of naturally feeding an infant with milk produced in the mother’s breast. This has great deal of benefits for the baby not only breast milk is healthier but the action of feeding the child is a moment of love in which the baby learns to bond, smell, and caress with his or her mother as she gives nourishment and affection.
Without a doubt breast milk is the best food for a newborn, nothing comes even closer to provide all the nutrients that the baby will need later in life. Breast milk is much easier to digest then any formula in the market, at the same time it provides protection against infections, prevents future food allergies, helps the growth of healthy teeth, and most important it improves brain development. Studies had shown that breast-fed babies are more intelligent than formula fed babies.
Increasing breast milk production
Milk production is a demand & supply process. If you need to increase milk supply, it’s important to understand how milk is made – understanding this will help you to do the right things to increase production.
To speed milk production and increase overall milk supply, the key is to remove more milk from the breast and to do this frequently, so that less milk accumulates in the breast between feedings. Many herbs have traditionally been used to encourage the production of breast milk. These include Fennel, Aniseed (Anise), Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle. Herb teas are the easiest ways to use Fennel and Aniseed. Blessed Thistle and Fenugreek are rather bitter to take as tea; capsules are available. Fenugreek can stimulate the womb so do not take it during pregnancy; more than 100g (3 ounces!) daily can cause digestive upset. Sage has been traditionally used to dry up milk, at time of weaning.
Increasing your milk supply
Is your milk supply really low? First of all, is your milk supply really low? Often, mothers think that their milk supply is low when it really isn’t. If your baby is gaining weight well on breastmilk alone, then you do nothave a problem with milk supply. It’s important to note that the feel of the breast, the behavior of your baby, the frequency of nursing, the sensation of let-down, or the amount you pump are not valid ways to determine if you have enough milk for your baby.
What if you’re not quite sure about baby’s current weight gain (perhaps baby hasn’t had a weight check lately)? If baby is having an adequate number of wet and dirty diapers then the following things do NOT mean that you have a low milk supply:
Breast Milk Increasing Herbs
Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica) has been shown to enrich the milk, and increase milk flow. It has been traditionally used as a tonic to restore women’s energy following childbirth. Nettle is considered safe in pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is available as loose tea or teabags, and has a pleasant ‘green’ taste. Don’t make it too strong if you are not used to it. You can make your own with fresh unpolluted nettle tops, one to a mug. Nettle is also available as capsules.
This is a widely useful herb for so many female problems, including fertility, menstrual and pre-menstrual problems, and thrush. See the reference at Women’s Health.
Agnus Castus acts on two hormones, progesterone and prolactin. During breastfeeding, prolactin encourages milk production. Agnus Castus is well recognised in Europe as a galactogogue – a herb to promote breast milk. One study shows Agnus Castus increasing milk production by up to three times that of control group, after 20 days of use.
Warnings: Not to be taken during pregnancy. Agnus Castus appears suitable for long term use at normal doses. Avoid with any progesterone drug, contraceptive pill or HRT. Agnus Castus may aggravate spasmodic dysmenorrhoea (menstrual cramps) if not associated with PMS. Caution with dopamine antagonist drugs.
Other remedies for increasing milk production
- Your baby nurses frequently. Breastmilk is digested quickly (usually in 1.5-2 hours), so breastfed babies need to eat more often than formula-fed babies. Many babies have a strong need to suck. Also, babies often need continuous contact with mom in order to feel secure. All these things are normal, and you cannot spoil your baby by meeting these needs.
- Your baby suddenly increases the frequency and/or length of nursings. This is often a growth spurt. The baby nurses more (this usually lasts a few days to a week), which increases your milk supply. Don’t offer baby supplements when this happens: supplementing will inform your body that the baby doesn’t need the extra milk, and your supply will drop.
- Your baby nurses more often and is fussy in the evening.
- Your baby doesn’t nurse as long as she did previously. As babies get older and better at nursing, they become more efficient at extracting milk.
- Your baby is fussy. Many babies have a fussy time of day – often in the evening. Some babies are fussy much of the time. This can have many reasons, and sometimes the fussiness goes away before you find the reason.
- Your baby guzzles down a bottle of formula or expressed milk after nursing. Many babies will willingly take a bottle even after they have a full feeding at the breast. Read more here from board-certified lactation consultant Kathy Kuhn about why baby may do this and how this can affect milk supply. Of course, if you regularly supplement baby after nursing, your milk supply will drop.
- Your breasts don’t leak milk, or only leak a little, or stop leaking. Leaking has nothing to do with your milk supply. It often stops after your milk supply has adjusted to your baby’s needs.
- Your breasts suddenly seem softer. Again, this normally happens after your milk supply has adjusted to your baby’s needs.
- You never feel a let-down sensation, or it doesn’t seem as strong as before. Some women never feel a let-down. This has nothing to do with milk supply.
- You get very little or no milk when you pump. The amount of milk that you can pump is not an accurate measure of your milk supply. A baby with a healthy suck milks your breast much more efficiently than any pump. Also, pumping is an acquired skill (different than nursing), and can be very dependent on the type of pump. Some women who have abundant milk supplies are unable to get any milk when they pump. In addition, it is very common and normal for pumping output to decrease over time.
Things that can help increase your milk supply:
- Make sure that baby is nursing efficiently. This is the “remove more milk” part of increasing milk production. If milk is not effectively removed from the breast, then mom’s milk supply decreases. If positioning and latch are “off” then baby is probably not transferring milk efficiently. A sleepy baby, use of nipple shields or various health or anatomical problems in baby can also interfere with baby’s ability to transfer milk. For a baby who is not nursing efficiently, trying to adequately empty milk from the breast is like trying to empty a swimming pool through a drinking straw – it can take forever. Inefficient milk transfer can lead to baby not getting enough milk or needing to nurse almost constantly to get enough milk. If baby is not transferring milk well, then it is important for mom to express milk after and/or between nursings to maintain milk supply while the breastfeeding problems are being addressed.
- Nurse frequently, and for as long as your baby is actively nursing. Remember – you want to remove more milk from the breasts and do this frequently. If baby is having weight gain problems, aim to nurse at least every 1.5-2 hours during the day and at least every 3 hours at night.
- Take a nursing vacation. Take baby to bed with you for 2-3 days, and do nothing but nurse (frequently!) and rest (well, you can eat too!).
- Offer both sides at each feeding. Let baby finish the first side, then offer the second side.
- Switch nurse. Switch sides 3 or more times during each feeding, every time that baby falls asleep, switches to “comfort” sucking, or loses interest. Use each side at least twice per feeding. Use breast compression to keep baby feeding longer. For good instructions on how to do this, see Dr. Jack Newman’s Protocol to manage breastmilk intake. This can be particularly helpful for sleepy or distractible babies.
- Avoid pacifiers and bottles. All of baby’s sucking needs should be met at the breast (see above). If a temporary supplement is medically required, it can be given with a nursing supplementer or by spoon, cup or dropper.
- Give baby only breastmilk. Avoid all solids, water, and formula if baby is younger than six months, and consider decreasing solids if baby is older. If you are using more than a few ounces of formula per day, wean from the supplements gradually to “challenge” your breasts to produce more milk.
- Take care of mom. Rest. Sleep when baby sleeps. Relax. Drink liquids to thirst (don’t force liquids – drinking extra water does not increase supply), and eat a reasonably well-balanced diet.
- Consider pumping. Adding pumping sessions after or between nursing sessions can be very helpful – pumping is very important when baby is not nursing efficiently or frequently enough, and can speed things up in all situations. Your aim in pumping is to remove more milk from the breasts and/or to increase frequency of breast emptying. When pumping to increase milk supply, to ensure that the pump removes an optimum amount of milk from the breast, keep pumping for 2-5 minutes after the last drops of milk. However, adding even a short pumping session (increasing frequency but perhaps not removing milk thoroughly) is helpful.
- Eat alfalfa or take it in capsules, it stimulates lactation, improves quality and quantity of milk.
- Chaste tree Increases flow of milk, by affecting pituitary’s prolactin secretion.
- Chinese use a herb called codonopsis to increase lactation and strengthen the blood.
- Goat’s rue this herb has been used by midwives for hundreds of years to improve breast milk production by as much as 50%.
- Vervain encourages milk secretion and flow, it also increases absorption of nutrients from food and helps with postpartum depression.
- Medical studies have shown bovine colostrum to be identical to human colostrum in composition. Colostrum is the milk secreted for a few days after birth. It is characterized by a high protein and immune body content. Colostrum has been shown to stimulate normal growth, regeneration and accelerated repair of aged or injured muscle, skin collagen, bone, cartilage and nerve tissues. Colostrum helps build lean muscle and helps stimulate the body to burn fat. Research has shown that colostrum has powerful natural immune and growth factors. Colostrum helps combat disease-causing organisms such as bacteria, viruses, yeast and parasites. Research has shown that bovine colostrum is easily assimilated by humans and is up to 40 times richer in immune factors than human colostrum. It is very important that the highest quality Bovine Colostrum is taken.
Potential causes of low milk supply or low quality
Low quality of milk can be cause by medications or a poor diet, many antibiotics contaminate the milk and a diet high in caffeine may cause colics and sleeping problems. For the baby it is very important that the the mother keeps eating a well balance diet after giving birth, and preferably foods with no traces of pesticides these poisons become highly concentrated in the milk.
The use of a breast pump may inhibit the production of milk, lowering the amount available to the baby, this gives the false idea that the infant should be change to formula in order for him to be satisfied, when in fact the problem is the quantity of milk that the mother is producing. Home remedies can help with both of these common problems
These things can cause or contribute to a low milk supply:
- Supplementing. Nursing is a supply & demand process. Milk is produced as your baby nurses, and the amount that she nurses lets your body know how much milk is required. Every bottle (of formula, juice or water) that your baby gets means that your body gets the signal to produce that much less milk.
- Nipple confusion. A bottle requires a different type of sucking than nursing, and it is easier for your baby to extract milk from a bottle. As a result, giving a bottle can either cause your baby to have problems sucking properly at the breast, or can result in baby preferring the constant faster flow of the bottle.
- Pacifiers can cause nipple confusion. They can also significantly reduce the amount of time your baby spends at the breast, which may cause your milk supply to drop.
- Nipple shields can lead to nipple confusion (See Above). They can also reduce the stimulation to your nipple or interfere with milk transfer, which can interfere with the supply-demand cycle.
- Scheduled feedings interfere with the supply & demand cycle of milk production and can lead to a reduced supply, sometimes several months later rather than immediately. Nurse your baby whenever she is hungry.
- Sleepy baby. For the first few weeks, some babies are very sleepy and only demand to nurse infrequently and for short periods. Until baby wakes up and begins to demand regular nursing, nurse baby at least every two hours during the day and at least every 4 hours at night to establish your milk supply.
- Cutting short the length of nursings. Stopping a feeding before your baby ends the feeding herself can interfere with the supply-demand cycle. Also, your milk increases in fat contentlater into a feeding, which helps baby gain weight and last longer between feedings.
- Offering only one breast per feeding. This is fine if your milk supply is well-established and your baby is gaining weight well. If you’re trying to increase your milk supply, let baby finish the first side, then offer the second side.
- Health or anatomical problems with baby can prevent baby from removing milk adequately from the breast, thus decreasing milk supply.
Pain in the fleshy part of the breast, on the other hand, is most often caused by engorgement of the breast with milk. This is most likely to occur during the first few days after your milk comes, before your body has a chance to adjust its milk production to the needs of your baby. Initially, a woman’s body makes enough milk for twins, but then gradually changes its milk production based on the amount of milk regularly removed from the breasts. So if you are nursing only one baby, your body gradually lowers the amount of milk it produces to match the amount consumed by the single baby.
Engorgement (See Below) can also occur any time the amount of milk produced exceeds your baby’s ability to siphon it off, such as when the baby’s appetite is diminished due to illness. Mild cases can even occur between feedings, especially if feedings are spaced several hours apart or if a feeding is unexpectedly delayed. Fortunately, no matter the cause, the engorgement will naturally resolve itself within a few days if not sooner (as long as you don’t do anything that encourages your body to make too much milk).
To prevent discomfort from turning you off to breast-feeding, it helps to keep in mind that breast-feeding is a learned skill, and you’ll need time, practice, and patience to make it a comfortable, successful experience. It’s also important to remember that the early days of nursing may leave your breasts a bit tender and sore, but pain, cracking, blistering, or bleeding means there’s a problem that needs to be solved. Fortunately, most breast-feeding problems can be remedied, and the pain either alleviated or prevented, with some fairly simple adjustments.
The most frequent causes of sore nipples are incorrect positioning at the breast and suction trauma. During the first two to four days after birth, the mother’s nipples may feel tender at the beginning of a feeding as the baby’s early suckling stretches her nipple and areolar tissue far back into his mouth. If a baby is positioned well at the breast, this temporary tenderness usually diminishes once the milk lets down, and disappears completely within a day or two.
When helping a mother to overcome nipple pain caused by improper positioning, Leaders need to ask the mother about both the position of the nipple in the baby’s mouth and the position of the baby’s body in relation to his mother’s body. A poorly latched baby may pinch off the nipple to protect his airway from a forceful milk-ejection reflex. Sometimes a baby will pinch the nipple or irritate it due to a short frenulum, short tongue, small mouth, receding chin, a high palate, or other anatomical condition
Pain in the nipple, for example, is most often caused by the baby latching on to the nipple incorrectly. Nipple discomfort can also result from a certain fashion choice and therefore tends to be more prevalent in American women: Women in the United States are more likely to wear bras, which protect the delicate nipples and leave them more sensitive to the friction and exposure that comes with breast-feeding. In contrast, many foreign women go braless much or all of the time and often sunbathe in the nude, which gradually toughen the nipples. As a result, they experience less discomfort when they begin nursing a child. Preexisting conditions, such as inverted nipples or nipple sensitivity that developed during the pregnancy, can also lead to breast-feeding discomfort.
Cracked nipples can develop when the baby is being position wrongly or by using damp breast pads. The nipple becomes irritated, red, and painful in some cases bleeding may develop.
- Calendula cream will soothe and encourage the healing of cracked nipples and is safe for the baby to swallow.
- Chamomilla helps heal cracked nipples.
- Pulsatilla helps heal cracked nipples.
Tea bags: There are better ways to heal sore nipples. Warm water dips (or saline dips), breastmilk, medical-grade lanolin (Lansinoh, etc.) and hydrogel dressings are more commonly used to treat sore nipples. Any time that mom has sore nipples, the cause of the soreness should also be addressed. Studies are conflicting on whether tea bags are helpful for reducing the pain of sore nipples (Riordan 2005). The tannic acid in the tea (which has astrigent qualities) can cause drying and cracking (Lawrence 2005), and anecdotal evidence suggests that some babies do not suck as well after tea bags have been used. In some locations, wet tea bags remain a popular folk remedy for the treatment of nipple pain. They are inexpensive and can be found in most homes, making them easily accessible at the onset of difficulties. They may be soothing because of the moist warmth. Tea bags have been the subject of a number of studies; they appear neither to prevent nor reduce nipple soreness (Lavergne 1997). Furthermore, the tannic acid in the tea can act as an astringent causing drying and cracking, rather than healing.
Breast engorgement is a very common problem that start affecting the mother in the first two or three weeks after delivery and is more annoying to women with poor skin elasticity. Engorgement is due to milk excessively filling the breast together with blood and fluid retention in the same area.
Usually the breast feels full, hard, tight, tender, painful, hot to the touch and a fever may develop, the baby may have a hard time to latch on and suck.
- Take a handful of Confrey leaves and steam them for a few minutes wrapped in a gauze and placed on the breast is very helpful relieving engorgement.
- Soak a towel in hot water and place it on the breast ten minutes before feeding.
- Poke roots reduce swollen breast and pain. Use under doctor supervision.
- Elder is used to reduce swelling of engorged breast.
- Chamomile help control inflamed breast.
- Give your baby frequent feeds on both breast 10 to 15 minutes each.
This is a problem that occurs when the baby does not empty the breast completely on each feeding, the milk remaining in the duct hardens and blocks the duct eventually plugging it. Tight bras can cause plugged ducts as well. If the breast feels sore it might be a sign of plugged ducts. A plugged duct should be taking care of as soon as possible, if not so it can develop into Mastitis.
- Castor oil helps with inflammation and pain.
- Elder is used to reduce swelling of plugged breast ducts.
- Queen’s delight Clears congestion of lymphatic vessels, stimulates white blood cells to react to infection.
- Check your nipples every day, if you see dry milk on them or dark dots remove them with a cotton and warm water and feed your child as soon as possible from that breast.
- Place the baby in different positions every time, this will ensure that all ducts are being used.