Herbal Therapy: Natural Boosters for Mother's Milk

Breast milk supplies all the nutrients a baby needs to develop and grow, provides increased immune protection and neurologic boosters, and helps create one of the closest bonds in the human experience.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breast-feeding should begin as soon as possible after birth and continue for at least one year. Although breastfeeding a new baby seems like the natural progression of things, it often doesn't come so easily.

Dr. Nancy Wight, neonatalogist and medical director of Lactation Services for Sharp Mary Birch Hospital in San Diego, uses herbs to help moms when breastfeeding becomes a challenge. Below, Dr. Wight answers some frequently asked questions about breastfeeding:

Q: Is there that much of a difference between formula and breast milk?

A: Formulas are better than they used to be, but they only provide nutrition. They do not provide the infection-fighting factors, growth hormones, special enzymes, or nutrients that breast milk does. Humans grow and develop best on human milk!

Q: What can I do if my milk isn't coming in?

A: The most important thing you can do is increase the frequency of breast-feeding or pumping your breasts. Breasts are a supply-and-demand organ; the more you demand of them the more milk they will make.

Also try to drink more water, get more rest, and eat a nutritious diet. If that doesn't work, you can try herbal remedies or prescription medications to increase your milk supply.

Q: Which herbs can help me increase my milk?

A: Fenugreek, fennel, and goat's rue can have a powerful effect on improving your milk supply. All of these come in tea or capsule form. Talk to an international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) or qualified herbalist.

Q: How long before I can expect to see a difference?

A: Moms usually see a difference, if any, in two to four days. Discontinue if there's no response in five to seven days.

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