Herbs and breastfeeding
Herbs and breastfeeding, perfect together
by Kimberly Gallagher
As I think about the topic of herbs and breastfeeding, I realize that the breastfeeding years are perhaps one of the most important times to call on the nourishing qualities of the plants.
Our bodies are working to feed our babies and ourselves at the same time, and will take what’s needed to feed the babe from the most available source, depleting our own bodies if necessary. So as we engage with the herbs during this time it is important to ask how we can keep our babies and ourselves healthy and thriving.
What herbs to use when breastfeeding and how to use them
My daily practice throughout my pregnancy and breast-feeding years has been a to drink a standard brew of nettle leaves, oatstraw and red raspberry leaves.
I simply take one handful of each dried herb (enough to make up about one ounce total) and put them in a quart mason jar.
Then I fill the jar with boiling water, cover it and let it steep for at least four hours before straining it and drinking it.
You can drink it at room temperature or ice it in the summer or warm it in the winter. If you don’t love the taste like I do, you can also mix it with fruit juice.
I choose these three herbs for breastfeeding because they are nourishing, abundant herbs that are as easy on our bodies as the food we eat.
Nettle leaves are high in iron and help give me energy for happy days with a baby, even if I haven’t had much sleep.
Oatstraw is high in calcium and helps calm frazzled nerves and take the nervous edge off my days.
Raspberry leaves are great for milk supply and toning the female system in general.
Really, this brew is great any time, but as a breast-feeding mom, I swear by it, and look forward to drinking in its goodness every day.
Other herbs for breastfeeding...
I can think of two other specific times when herbs and breastfeeding go together.
• One instance is when you want to increase the supply of milk you have available for your baby.
• The other is when you are weaning and want to decrease the flow of milk.
In the first case you will be looking for galactagogues (herbs that encourage and increase the milk flow). In addition to the nettles and raspberry leaves I suggested above, Susun Weed recommends using comfrey, alfalfa, and borage leaves and red clover flowers as herbal infusions to help increase milk flow.
Tinctured blessed thistle leaves (up to 20 drops 2 to 4 times a day) can also be used to increase the milk available for the baby.
You might also consider adding more leafy greens, carrots, and sweet potatoes to your diet. In our family we have come to think of food as medicine, and usually start addressing any situation through our diet, then adding nourishing herbs. We use tinctures or pills only very sparingly. The results might not be immediate, but this kind of medicine works slowly with your body and produces positive, sustainable results.
Now, for the other specific instance when you might want to seek out herbs for a breastfeeding issue…weaning.
Of course, weaning gradually is optimal so that you can slowly decrease the flow of milk and reduce the discomfort of engorgement. However, for a variety of reasons, you may decide to wean more quickly. (In my case, my son breast-fed avidly until he was four. At that time I made the choice to wean. We created a weaning ceremony for him, and he went from breastfeeding often during the day and night to nursing only once in the morning the next day. I definitely found myself dealing with engorged breasts!)
Herbs that reduce milk flow include herb robert, red sage, and periwinkle. Adding garden mint, sorrel and sage to your meals and drinking a glass of carrot juice first thing in the morning can also help to dry up your milk and reduce discomfort.
When I weaned Rowan, a friend suggested drinking infusions of sage. I happened to have a large and healthy sage plant in my garden at the time, and have to say that this strategy worked rapidly and beautifully.
I wish you a healthy, nourishing experience with herbs and breastfeeding!
If you are interested in making your own tinctures, salves and home made medicine, I teach you how in the Herbal Medicine Making Kit. I make it quick and easy. It's designed for BUSY parents (like me)!
It will SURELY increase you confidence in your ability to help your child naturally. The kit and course teach you herbal nourishment foundations and much more!