Motherhood can be wonderful, demanding, and exhausting – often all at once!
Whether it’s your first baby or your seventh, there will be lots of times when you feel a little overwhelmed.
Breastfeeding is one of those times. And you’re struggling with low milk supply, things can be even more stressful.
Causes of low milk supply
There can be many reasons that your body isn’t producing the quantities of milk your baby needs. Hormonal issues are commonly to blame. In fact, a major cause of low milk supply is stress.
Stress affects all mothers, especially in the first few weeks after giving birth. High levels of cortisol can lead to lack of sleep, which in turn can affect normal hormone production. Postpartum mums can be so stressed, anxious, and run-down that their milk supply dramatically decreases.
Diet and nutrition are also very important. Breast milk is composed of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and probiotic bacteria that your little one needs. What’s more, breastfeeding can burn several hundred calories a day, so you need to be eating the right foods in order to replenish your body’s natural milk production. Be sure to eat plenty of lean protein, brightly-coloured fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats such as avocado and nuts.
Keeping up your hydration is also important. Ninety percent of breast milk is water, so you should be topping up your own fluid stores throughout the day.
Of course, not every mum can take time out to ‘de-stress’, catch up on sleep, or even eat a perfect diet every day. Mother Nature knows this – and that’s why she provided a wonderful apothecary of herbs and plants to encourage and maintain your milk supply. These special plants have been used by women for thousands of years in the form of breastfeeding tea.
What is breastfeeding tea?
Breastfeeding tea is made up of herbs and plants known as galactagogues. The word ‘galactagogue’ is Greek for “bringer of milk’. Over many centuries, herbalists have successfully used different combinations of these herbs to stimulate and support breast milk production. Many of the herbs used in these teas have since been proven effective (and safe!) by scientific research.
Breastfeeding tea is a wonderful remedy for lactating mums who are struggling with low milk supply. A good tea will help to stimulate milk production and increase milk supply during the breastfeeding period. The specific herbs used in these teas harbour calming properties that soothe both mum and baby, while also lending a pleasant flavour to breast milk.
The best herbs for breastfeeding tea
Fenugreek is one of the most famous galactagogues known to herbal medicine. It has a sweet flavour similar to maple syrup.
A 2018 review published in the journal Phytotherapy Research showed that a combination of fenugreek and turmeric improved lactation in 122 mothers. The authors of the review stated that the herb significantly increased the mothers’ milk production. It has even been shown to boost milk supply within just 24 to 72 hours after the first cup!
This galactogenic plant has long been celebrated for its ability to support milk flow and lactation.
Fennel harbors important estrogen-like properties known as phytoestrogens. These help to enhance breast milk production. Some studies show that it can increase serum prolactin levels, the main hormone responsible for stimulating milk production.
It’s also very effective in supporting digestive function. Fennel is a carminative, which means it helps soothe stomach cramps and relieve gas and bloating.
It is an aromatic herb that helps to improve the flavor of breastmilk. It’s believed that the smell is very pleasant to babies. Fennel also increases the quantity of breastmilk.
Goat’s rue (Galega)
Goat’s rue (also named Galega) has long been used by new mums to help build mammary tissue.
Some small studies have shown that it can increase milk production in lactating mothers. An Italian study reported that a combination of goat’s rue and milk thistle helped to improve normal breast milk production in mothers whose babies were born prematurely.
This wonderful herb is also reported to support the liver, the adrenal gland, and aid digestion.
Chamomile and caraway
Chamomile is a sweet-smelling flower with incredible carminative properties. It’s very helpful for breastfeeding mothers when their baby is suffering from colic.
Caraway – also known as meridian fennel – and has been used as both a galactogogue and a digestive aid. Some small studies found measurable amounts of d-carvone in the milk of mothers who took caravone, the active compound in caraway. Like chamomile, this is beneficial for infants with colic.
Nettle is a nturitive, which means it provides beneficial minerals. Nettle contains small but important amounts of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and traces of iron, sodium and zinc. In fact, nettle is considered to be one of the richest sources of minerals among the plant foods. This is very helpful for stressed-out mums who need extra nutrients.
It’s also believed to stimulate milk production and increase the supply of breast milk in breastfeeding mothers. Herbalists often recommend taking nettle immediately after giving birth, and to continue drinking nettle-based tea throughout breastfeeding.
Nettle can even help to reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure. The leaves of the nettle plant add a fresh and pleasant flavor to a herbal tea.
How to use breastfeeding tea
As with any new herbs or supplements, it’s usually advisable to start with the smallest dose and gradually build up. This allows your body to adjust to the benefits of the tea, and also to the extra quantities of liquid you’re drinking. The effects of each dosage can also vary from person to person.
Making your tea is very easy. The directions will tell you how much to add to the water, and how long the herbs need to steep for. This is usually around 5-10 minutes. You can make a large brew and then store it in the fridge and drink up to 3 cups a day.
It’s also very important to choose a product from a reputed herbalist or natural health practitioner. There are many different formulas and brands available today, so you must read labels carefully and understand each ingredient. It’s also a good idea to consult your doctor or a lactation consultant before using any herbs or supplements (including tea) when pregnant or breastfeeding. A fabulous option is the Mother’s Breastfeeding Tea 2-in-1 from The Potion Tree. It’s made with all the herbs mentioned above to improve low milk supply and help stressed-out mums relax!
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Katie is a qualified naturopath specialising in health, wellness and nutrition. She loves words, travel, and exotic foods, and is much happier in running shoes than in heels!