It’s frustrating to begin and continue breastfeeding for the suggested six months to a year.
- Cracked nipples
- Too much milk
- Too little milk
Wouldn’t it be great if breastfeeding was easier?
But, here’s the thing.. it’s not always that blissful.
Trust me, I tried breastfeeding twins!
I lasted about three weeks and then rushed to Amazon to buy formula at 3:00 am one night.
Chances are you’ve tried breastfeeding and now struggling with one of the many challenges we face – along with sleep deprivation and the stress of raising a little one.
But don’t worry, botanicals can provide great support during this season of your life.
And don’t forget.. not all botanicals are safe while breastfeeding.
The greatest risk occurs 3-10 days postpartum as the child’s tight junctions of their gut may not be closed, and the newborn is the most vulnerable to chemicals ingested by the mother at this time.
It would be wise to wait to use medications, or even essential oils, before two weeks of age due to your child’s immature gut, liver, and kidney function. This kidney clearance capacity increases and becomes fully by 4-5 months of age, therefore as your child grows the concerns of safety and allergies decrease.
“1% of the maternal dose of any medication will enter the milk, and with some exceptions up to about 10%.”
So how can you make breastfeeding a little easier?
In this post, I’m going to share my favorite herbal remedies for moms who are breastfeeding.
2 Botanicals For Sore, Cracked Nipples
Some amount of discomfort will occur with breastfeeding, especially within the first week of latching. Nipples may become sore, cracked and may even bleed. Contact a lactation consultant or midwife if there is continued difficulty or infections due to latching.
Calendula is used topically for the treatment of minor inflammations of the skin. Typically used as an oil or salve. Apply to cracked, dry nipples to prevent infection and soothe inflammation. Caution: The oil or salve may stain clothing and although there are no known risks with minimal ingestion, wipe off your nipple before breastfeeding again.
The German Commission E. approves chamomile for the use of skin inflammation and bacterial skin diseases. Chamomile Matricaria oil has demonstrated activity against Candida albicans at the concentration of .7%.¹
Taking preventative steps to support your immune system, rest and apply an herbal salve will prevent cracked nipples which increase your risk of mastitis.
Additional tips to reduce cracked nipples
- Ensure proper latching
- If nipples are sore or cracked, gently rinse and pat dry after each feeding
- Avoid the use of breast pads, when possible, and spend time without a bra
- Wash nursing bras regularly to avoid infection
- Treat oral thrush in the newborn with yogurt and probiotics to prevent the spread to the nipple
- Apply an herbal salve several times a day after nursing and wipe off before nursing again
- When there is an infection, use an antimicrobial – like Echinacea– to support the mother’s immune system
3 Herbs For Plugged Ducts & Mastitis
Milk ducts can become inflamed, tender and distended creating a ‘plugged duct’, In mastitis, the plugged duct is accompanied by infection.
Personally, I liked to take homeopathic medicine when I had mastitis. Along with Echinecea, this helped resolve the inflammation within minutes. If you are having these symptoms, consider Phytolacca as a remedy. Click here to purchase.
Dosing: Take 2 tablets, wait 20 minutes, take another 2 and you should see improvement.
“For sore, cracked nipples, which hurt when the baby nurses. One of the most commonly used remedies for mastitis, especially where the pains radiate from the affected area and the breast is hard and lumpy. The patient may feel heavy with flu like symptoms, or may have a breast abscess threatening.” ¹
#2 Echinacea Tincture
Boost your immunity with Echinacea tincture. In Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Years, Susan Weed recommends a dose of a 1/2 drop for every pound of body weight (so a 130 lb woman would take 65 drops). According to Kellymom.com, this dose can be taken up to 3-5 times per day. Susan Weed says even up to 12 times per day is fine and may be effective.
Dosing: 20-30 drops, 3-4x day
#3 Ashwagandha Tincture (Withania somnifera)
Known as a Category 1, safe adaptogen during breastfeeding, Ashwagandha can help reduce stress and ease the anxiety that may be causing the inflammation during breastfeeding. You can purchase a tincture here.
Dosing: 20-30 drops, 3-4x day
5 Signs of Mastitis
- fever as high as 104
- local redness, hard tender inflamed area
Diabetes, steroid use, and oral contraceptives may also increase the risk of candida mastitis.
Herbal Treatment For Mastitis
If you are experiencing recurrent breast infections, you may want to be evaluated for adequate nutritional intake.
Particularly see if you are low in:
- Vitamin c
Along with good nutrition, consider adding an adaptogen to support your immune system during this stressful time.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) Tincture are considered safe adaptogens during breastfeeding.
Along with supporting your immune system with adaptogens, consider these tips to avoid mastitis.
- Use compresses of hot water, ginger root or chamomile infusion.
- Apply a poultice of freshly grated raw potato 2-3x day.
- Take 1/2-1 tsp. of Echinacea tincture every 2-4 hours.
- For high fever, drink teas of elderflower and spearmint.
- To reduce muscle tension drink teas of lemon balm, chamomile, and catnip.
- To relieve pain tinctures of crampbark, passion flower and hops tinctures can promote sleep and relieve pain.
Increase milk supply
Galactagogues are the main category of herbs that enhance milk production, but you’ll also want to address your stress with botanicals that soothe your anxiety in order to increase milk supply.
12 Herbs To Increase Your Milk Supply
- Marshmallow Root (Althea Officinalis)
- Dill (Anethum graveolum)
- Oats (Avena sativa) A cup of oatmeal every morning may help soothe digestion and increase milk supply!
- Caraway (Carum carvi)
- Blessed thistle (Cnicus benefictus)
- Fennel Seed (Foeniculum vulgare)
- Goat’s rue (Galega officinalis)
- Barley (Hordeum vlugare)
- Hops (Humulus lupulus)
- Anise seed (not Star anise) Pimpinella anisum
- Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
- Chaste berry (Vitex angus castus)
How can you increase your milk supply?
- Try by eating oatmeal in the morning.
- Make Lactation cookies. Recipe here or Bars here
- Drink tea of stinging nettles and milky oat tops or purchase Our Lady Of La Leche Tea
- Don’t forget to address your stress as well with adaptogens!
- ea Recipe
- MOTHER’S MILK TEA BLEND
- • Chamomile Flowers 1 ounce
- • Dried Catnip 1 ounce
- • Fennel seeds 1/4 ounce
- • Dried lavender flowers 1/8 ounce
- Combine all the herbs.
- Put 1 tbs. of the mix in a cup and fill with boiling water.
- Cover and let steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain and drink plain or slightly sweetened. Dose; 1-3 cups/day.
Too much milk? Try these herbs to decrease your milk supply.
Botanicals can provide great support during this season of your life. Particularly if you are getting recurring infections, antimicrobial can support your immune system and decrease your risk of infections. To increase your supply, adding botanicals can help and then don’t forget to address your stress.
What botanicals do you use to support breastfeeding?
Leave a comment below.
- ¹Romm, Aviva, Botanical Medicine For Women’s Health