Nourish Yourself: How Ayurveda Can Help Boost Breast Milk Production
One of the most common stressors that I hear about from new moms is low breast milk production. I feel for moms when they describe feeling inadequate and anxious while trying to feed their baby. Early motherhood is hard enough. So, I wanted to give all the new mamas struggling out there some resources to address this issue.
Low Milk Supply Ayurveda
From an Ayurvedic perspective, the body experiences an excess of vata, one of the three Ayurvedic doshas, during postpartum. Vata has drying qualities which can hinder milk supply. Breast milk (stanya) is a bi-product of rasa, the first of the Ayurvedic tissues. If you can make small adjustments to your diet and lifestyle to alleviate this dry quality, you may be able to activate rasa, also known as your lymphatic system.
I know this is a very sensitive topic for new moms but if you're trying to invite some natural suggestions on your own, feel free to see if any of the below resonate. Try out some of these easy and holistic tips to boost milk supply.
1. Add Fenugreek to Your Diet
Fenugreek is a plant with seeds that are used as an herb to flavor dishes throughout the world. You can order it online or find it at a local grocery store. In small doses, fenugreek can promote milk production. Try adding it to the meals you cook or even making a tea out of it.
Try out this simple fenugreek tea recipe:
Boil about a liter of water for 5 minutes
Add half a teaspoon of fenugreek
Simmer the fenugreek in the water for 20 minutes, letting the herb steep
Simply pour the mixture in a thermos and drink it throughout the day. (Dump the tea after 4 hours as it'll begin to lose it's medicinal properties.)
Fenugreek is a wonderful option for moms struggling with milk production. However, I would opt for cooking with the herb or drinking the tea as opposed to including both options in your diet.
Please note: Fenugreek can be quite drying in excess. The old adage "less is more" applies to this powerhouse plant.
2. Add Fennel to Your Diet
Fennel is another plant that can act as an herb to flavor meals. Many also eat the plant raw or cooked. I prefer to chop up fennel, roast it and add it to my salad. I love its complex, licorice flavor.
Fennel is most beneficial for new moms when it emulates warm, grounding qualities. Therefore, I recommend consuming the plant roasted or steamed. You can also bake bread or pastries with fennel seeds in the batter. Finally, you can make a tea out of fennel seeds. Just follow the above recipe and replace the fenugreek with fennel seeds.
3. Apply Rosemary Essential Oil to Your Chest Area
Rosemary oil activates the rasa or the lymph, which may lead to higher milk production. I recommend taking 1-2 drops of the essential oil and applying it around the breast, up the breast bone area, near the underarm and across the clavicle.
I would avoid applying it directly on the nipple as the smell and taste would likely be too pungent for the baby as they breastfeed. If you're still worried about the smell, then you can always dilute the rosemary with coconut oil.
I encourage all you hardworking mamas out there to treat this as an act of self-care. You can even incorporate gentle massage to the process as you apply the rosemary oil. Try to take these few moments to release stress and center yourself before or after a busy day.
4. Consume Lactation Enhancing Foods
As we discussed earlier, postpartum is a vata time with dry and cold qualities. In order to balance that dryness we want to add foods to the diet that are warm, hydrating and nourishing. Some examples are high quality dairy, oats, saffron, ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil, garlic, dates, olive oil, and naturally sweet foods like sweet potato.
I encourage you to avoid foods that are light, dry, astringent, bitter and cold. Some examples are arugula, beans, rice cakes and dry crackers. We want to ground vata, rather than exacerbate it with foods containing similar qualities.
I know that cow's milk and dairy can be a contentious topic, especially for moms concerned about keeping excess preservatives and chemicals away from their baby. I agree! But I'm talking about high quality, organic, non-homogenized milk. If you can get it at a farm or a farmer's market, even better. Milk is particularly helpful for new mamas as it penetrates and nourishes the body's 7 dhatus, or layers of tissue.
5. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
We all know that drinking water is not only necessary to our survival, but has so many health benefits. Think about how you feel when you're dehydrated. Cranky, dizzy and achy, right? Always drink water regularly! However when you're a new, hydration not only supports your health, but it also alleviates those dry qualities of vata that cause low milk supply.
As a rule of thumb, aim to drink half your weight in fluid ounces (e.g., if you weigh 150 lbs., drink 75 ounces of water). This way you ensure you are hydrated and giving your body what it needs to produce more milk. Decaffeinated teas can also count towards this daily water count, but coffee or other caffeinated drinks would deduct from the total as caffeine embodies drying and mobile qualities that can effect the body.
Be Kind to Yourself During This Momentous Time
New moms, I know that every setback can feel like a reflection of your parenting. But know that you are doing the best that you can during a major life change! If you are struggling and can only offer formula to your baby, understand that your baby will be okay.
If you're feeling any frustration or guilt because of low milk production challenges, I invite you to step back and ask, "how can I love myself and my little one more in this scenario? Where can I find more kindness and compassion?" While I live by Ayurveda, I also get reality. Choose love over stress.
And if you've tried everything here and still notice no change in production, I invite you to connect with me. I'd be happy to offer you a free mini-breakthrough session where we can investigate what's going on. I'm here if I can support you in any way. It takes a team.