Herbs have been used traditionally to improve milk production, flow and as a way to help treat minor ailments in babies like colic safely for hundreds of years. Here are my top 5 essential herbs all breast feeding mums should know about.
Milk thistle – Traditionally, Milk Thistle was given its name specifically because it helps to improve milk supply in breast feeding Mum’s. It can be easily found as a capsule in health food shops – try to buy it as pure as possible if you use it in this form as there are often lots of fillers added to capsule in cheaper products that you simply don’t need. I have used Solgar for years and always found their products extremely good quality, but there are other reputable suppliers available
I prefer to use this herb as a decoction of the seeds. It is a bit bitter sweet in flavour, but I love it. The added bonus is that it helps to improve and repair liver function, and you will notice your bowel function improves too as it helps to support production of bile and digestion.
Doseage: decoction – boil a teaspoon in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes and drink the cooled down water, discarding the seeds. Capsules – follow manufacturers guidelines, usually 1-3 capsules daily.
Fennel – this herb is very easy to find as tea bags in supermarkets. However, they are quite weak and if you want to use Fennel to increase breast milk production, I would advise finding the seeds from a Medical Herbalist. Of course Organic is best too! It not only increases milk supply but its essential oil components will pass into the milk working as a carminative to the digestive system to alleviate colic in young babies – you can often find fennel in some types of gripe water.
Doseage: 1 teaspoon per cup, brew for 10 minutes, 3 – 6 cups a day
Nettle – known to be full of useful nutrients including high levels of Iron, much needed after birthing when anaemia can be a common cause of low milk production. This herb can help to remedy the blood deficiency and thereby help the body rebalance and have enough nutrient to promote a healthier milk supply. Very easy to find as a tea in bags, but better as a loose leaf herb bought from a Herbalist or herb shop.
Doseage: 2 teaspoons per cup, brew for 10 minutes, 3 cups a day
Echinacea – If you have experienced mastitis you will want to know more about this herb! Known as ‘snake bite’ by the Native American Indians this powerful herb helps to clear poisons from the blood, reduce inflammation and improve the immune system alleviating the pain and clearing infections which can lead to flu and fever symptoms.
Doseage: use at the first sign of mastitis, follow manufacturers instructions. I find 1 capsule, 3 times a day for 3 days usually does the trick. If you need more support than this talk to a Medical Herbalist who will be able to prescribe something a bit stronger but also baby safe.
Calendula – a gentle but powerful healing herb. Useful in treating cracked nipples and thrush. Drink the loose flower petals as a tea, add a handful in a muslin bag to the bath water, or use the cream topically. Apply to the nipple after breast feeding. Although it is safe for babies – it would be best to wipe off any excess before feeding again to prevent baby being put off by the taste.
Doseage: tea – 1 table spoon per cup, brew for 5 minutes, 3 cups a day. In the bath – add a big handful to the bath water, which is around 15g. Either use it directly in the bath in a muslin bag, or brew it up in a pot or big tea pot first and add the tea to the bath water (it saves a lot of cleaning this way!).
1 last piece of common sense to remember…
Drink lots of water, at least 3 Litres a day – or you risk drying out quite literally! Herbal teas can be included in this volume – but beware caffeinated drinks which stimulate the kidneys to dehydrate the body, and drink 1 cup of water for every cup of tea, coffee or cola you may indulge in – as you are probably not sleeping as much as you might like!
And remember to talk to a Medical Herbalist if you need any further support with these issues, or are worried about safety in any way. You can contact me at the chamomile clinic, or find a local herbalist through the nimh website
The Chamomile Clinic can supply you with organic loose leaf teas, £7.00 per 100g.
For capsules I use the Natural Dispensary and we have organised a 10% discount for all our friends too! Simply use the code: sfr10 at the checkout to receive your healthy discount.