Breastfeeding is a natural phenomenon that benefits both the mother and the baby. For the first six months of a child’s brain development and better immunity breast milk plays an important role. At the time of breastfeeding a mother transfers all positive energy to her child due to love and satisfaction bonding that occurs between mother and child. By the fifth postpartum day, women may produce 500 to 750 mL of milk daily, with production reaching a volume between 700 and 1000 mL after the second week postpartum.
Mothers suffering from stanyakshya (less milk production) are increasing day by day. This can be treated by some change in daily activities,a favourable state of mind in the mother, dietary modifications and with certain Ayurvedic medicines. But, before that, it’s mandatory to know how milk is formed in the body.
MODERN VIEW ON LACTATION:
For proper and adequate milk production we can take help of three parameter
DIET (Aahaar) Recommendations to Boosting Lactation
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.
1. Clarified butter (GHEE) – In India ghee is the most widely used form of fat in post-natal care. Studies show that ghee prepared by traditional methods contain a higher amount of docosa-hexa-enoic acid (DHA) and omega-3 long-chain poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Maternal n-3 fatty acids levels, particularly DHA, are decreased during pregnancy. A low n-3 fatty acids level is found to be associated with postpartum depression (PPD). Oral administration of ghee may be useful to prevent the incidence of PPD.
2. VEGETABLES – Vegetables like pumpkin guard (kushmanda), radish, cucumber etc. fried in ghee are recommended. As these gives most benefits when combined with healthy fats.
Green leafy vegetables: Paalak, Sarson ka saag, and Bathua are tasty veggies to enjoy for a natural lactation boost.
Ginger: This flavour-enhancer has galactagogue properties that make it one of the most popular foods for promoting lactation.
Garlic: This ayurvedic ingredient helps improve breast milk production and flavour.
Lauki: Lauki and Tinda from the guard family are traditional lactation foods.
Carrots: This tasty treat helps promote lactation while being rich in Vitamin A.
Beets: This veggie is packed with healthy minerals and fibre which help promote blood purification as well as boost milk production.
Sweet Potato: This contains plenty of fibre, energy, Vitamin C, and magnesium which in turn increases milk production.
3. FRUITS – Here is a list of fruits to increase breast milk:-
Watermelon: This hydrating fruit is a great way to take in fructose, fibre, and essential minerals. It also helps promote milk supply in new moms.
Papaya: This galactagogue containing fruit tastes great as is or with cereal.
Grapefruit: This fruit contains Vitamins C and A along with essential dietary fibres. It also makes for great lactation-boosting fruit.
Apricots: This fruit is known to help improve hormonal balance while also being rich in calcium and fibre, making it one of the best lactation-boosting fruits.
Fenugreek (Methi): In small doses, fenugreek can promote milk production. Try adding it to the meals you cook or even making a tea out of it. Fenugreek can be quite drying if used in excess. The old saying “less is more” applies to this powerhouse spice. Try out fenugreek tea
Fennel (Saunf): Fennel emulates warm, grounding qualities and has an ability to boost estrogen levels which make it a great supplement for breast milk supply. You can make a tea out of it or chop up fennel, roast it and add it to your salad.
Sesame (Til): Til ke ladoo found in most of the Indian households are great in boosting lactation. It is known to improve appetite, bowel movements, and relax the mind.
Cumin (Jeera): Cumin is a rich source of calcium and riboflavin which helps promote milk supply.
Cinnamon (Dal-chini): This spicy-hot ingredient can be added to your tea or milk for a boost in milk supply.
Lentils: Masoor dal is rich in protein, iron, and fibre. It helps new mothers to boost their milk supply naturally.
Dried fruits & nuts: Almonds and cashews have plenty of calories, minerals, and vitamins. These are some of the best foods to increase breast milk supply.
Tofu: This superfood which is known to boost lactation and is also packed with calcium, protein, minerals, and vitamins, plays a vital role in production of milk.
Brown rice: For new moms, brown rice can help stimulate the milk supply. Eating brown rice is one of the easiest home remedies to increase breast milk.
Asparagus: This food stimulates hormone levels that boost lactation. It also contains Vitamin A and K while being rich in fibre.
Barley (Joo): Including barley in your diet can help boost lactation and promote hydration. Most people go for drinking water that’s infused with barley overnight.
Water: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
When you’re a new mother, hydration not only supports your health, but it also alleviates those dry qualities of vata that cause low milk supply. Hydration is the key, but for that, boiled and cooled water should be used.
Milk: Drink a glass of milk, twice a day, to improve lactation. You can also add ground-soaked almonds to your milk for added benefits. Milk is particularly helpful for new mothers as it penetrates and nourishes the body’s 7 dhatus, or layers of tissue.
Herbal teas: Drinking herbal tea can help relax the mind and boost blood circulation. It also purifies the body and is said to boost breast milk production.
Juice: Pomegranate has blood purifying benefits and is great for nursing mothers.
Lifestyle (Vihaar) Recommendations to Boosting Lactation
Eating the best foods to increase breast milk is just one part of the Ayurvedic equation for healthy lactation. The other sides include lifestyle (vihaar) and medication (chikitsha).
Massage: Learning to massage your breasts can be one of the most effective ways to boost lactation for new moms. Using just your fingertips, lightly massage the breast from the top, and down over the nipple. For best results, apply moist heat before starting the massage. A warm shower or bath before massage is recommended by doctors.
Yoga: Ayurvedic scriptures suggest yoga to help promote milk supply. Yoga is a great way to help you stay active and start exercising in the postpartum period. It can even help improve your mood, (which is important in the postpartum period to keep baby blues at bay). The only thing is, you shouldn’t do it right away.
– In general, mothers are encouraged to resume yoga 6 weeks after a vaginal delivery. Just make sure to ask your doctor before you start your yoga journey.
– You can do yoga even after a C-section. But, we often recommend that you wait around 8 weeks before doing it. The reason is that yoga can put a lot of stress on your abdominal area. It is important to remember that a C-section is major abdominal surgery. Your tissues need several weeks to heal and every woman heals differently. If you did a lot of yoga before delivery, your body may be ready earlier than expected. Your doctor can give you more personalized recommendations.
Here are the top three yoga asanas to help promote better health and lactation:
1. Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)
Bhujangasana is a popular yoga asana for new moms because it helps tone the stomach while expanding the chest. Also, note that Bhujangasana is also the 7th pose in the Surya Namaskar.
2. Chakrasana (Wheel pose)
Chakrasana is an intermediate back-bending yoga asana that helps engage the whole body. It helps open up the chest muscles and is helpful for breastfeeding moms. It also combats stress, anxiety, depression, and sadness.
3. Surya Namaskar (Sun salutation)
The Surya Namaskar is probably the most popular and well-known yoga asana in the world. It consists of eight yoga poses performed in a natural flow. Start your day by performing the Surya Namaskar for all-day energy to take care of your little one!
Meditation: A happy mood can do wonders in boosting lactation. According to research, milk supply is associated with the presence of two hormones, prolactin and oxytocin; Prolactin promotes milk production & Oxytocin triggers the ‘milk ejection reflex’ that lets babies extract milk from the breast.
Your mood can affect Oxytocin levels, and happier and more relaxed women having higher levels of oxytocin. This is why meditation and guided relaxation sessions can really help promote breast milk. By the way, this study also found that women who were relaxed and happy gave birth to babies who gained more weight. So, meditating every morning can really help give you the best results, along with the right foods to increase breast milk.
Medication(Chikitsa) Recommendations to Boosting Lactation
Galactogogues: Galactogogues in foods to increase breast milk can work well when paired with yoga, meditation, and ayurvedic herbs that promote lactation. However, there are some points to remember when buying foods that promise to boost lactation.
– Always consult the doctor before starting any new lactation-boosting diet
– Make sure you and your baby aren’t allergic to the herbs
– Only take herbs in the prescribed amounts
Ayurvedic herbs that act as galactogogues are:
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus): In ayurvedic medicine, the roots and leaves of shatavari, are used as hepato-protectant, immune-modulators, and galactagogues.
Doses -Root powder: 1 g stirred into milk or juice daily
In Ayurvedic classics, Acharya Charak has described ten herbs for improving breast milk under the name “Stanyajanana Mahakashaya” which can be utilized for mother and child’s preventive and therapeutic aspect. The purpose of this work is to present a conceptual analysis of stanyajanan mahakashaya and its utility for mother and child in breast feeding.
Drugs that are vitalizing (jeevaniya), nourishing (brimhaniya), sweet, and alleviating vata are prescribed in general to restore the health of a woman.