New mothers always want to do everything possible to care for their new baby. One of the best ways to care for that new bundle of joy is by breastfeeding them. Breast milk contains vital nutrients and antibodies that can boost the baby’s immune system. And as an added bonus, breastfeeding allows for the bond between mother and baby to strengthen.
However, for many women, breastfeeding does not come naturally. For some, due to their own nutritional deficiencies, breastfeeding may not be the best choice. And for others, the lack of milk produced by the mammary glands can be why they are unable to breastfeed.
For those mothers who are unable to produce enough milk on their own, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be a helpful tool. According to TCM, there are two major causes of low milk supply. Both of these causes deal with blood and qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi is frequently translated into energy. And everything on the planet contains energy, even the table and chairs we sit on daily.
The first major cause of low milk production is due to the stomach and spleen being deficient in their production of qi and blood. The spleen and stomach take the nutrients from the food mother ingests and then transforms those nutrients into blood and energy that nourish her body. During pregnancy, more energy and blood is sent to the uterus to feed the growing baby, which can leave mother’s body deficient after giving birth. Giving birth is a traumatic experience for the body and mother needs time to heal and rejuvenate. But when there is a newborn baby that needs attention, most new mothers tend to neglect themselves, making it more difficult for their bodies to produce enough milk for the baby.
The second major cause of low milk production is due to the liver and heart being weakened by negative emotions like worry, frustration, and anxiety. When this occurs, the blood and qi of the liver and heart are unable to flow freely, leading to blockages that can prevent nutrients from being processed properly and keeping them from getting to the appropriate areas, such as the mammary glands. For most new moms experiencing milk production problems, it is a combination of both of these major causes.
Regular acupuncture treatments leading up to birth and even after the baby is born can be very beneficial for the new mother. Studies conducted at the Hanzhong Shanxi Hospital demonstrated that the application of specific acupuncture points actually increase the quantity of milk being produced by the mother. Acupuncture increases breast milk production by removing blockages through increased circulation. Acupuncture can also assist digestion, allowing it to be more proficient in metabolizing the nutrients from food to create milk for the baby.
The most important way that acupuncture can help improve and increase lactation, is by decreasing stress. When cortisol, the stress hormone, is elevated, the body cannot function properly. New mothers are often stressed and sleep deprived.
If you or somebody you know is pregnant or has just had a baby and low milk production is an issue, looking into acupuncture might be a good way to help.