Today, I am going to talk about an important issue that affects women – lactation.  To be crystal clear, lactation is the process of breast milk production and supply. As an expectant mother, your mammary glands are naturally supposed to start producing breast milk the moment you become pregnant. Lactation is a natural process because every woman is expected to breastfeed her baby. Therefore, it is normal among pregnant women to expect breast milk at some point in their pregnancy journey.

As I mentioned earlier, your body produces milk through the mammary glands, which are made up of several glands. These glands are alveoli, milk ducts, areola and nipple. However, the interaction of three hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and human placental lactogen) leads to the production of milk. That said, I won’t get into those details.

When does Lactation Start during Pregnancy?

As you already know, a pregnant woman undergoes three trimesters before delivery. However, you should start lactating the moment you get into your second trimester. At that point, you are going to experience increases in estrogen and progesterone levels. As a result, your body prepares you to start secreting baby milk by enlarging the milk ducts in your breasts. The function of the ducts is to ensure that milk is transported from the alveoli to the nipples. If things go smoothly, you should start experiencing your colostrum, which is your baby’s first milk.

To maintain lactation, you have to prioritize your wellness. Eat healthy meals with high calories because low-calorie meals reduce milk supply. You should also drink plenty of water to stay hydrated because breast milk contains plenty of water. Lastly, avoid smoking, abusing drugs and drinking alcohol excessively.

Common Causes of Low Breast milk Supply

There are instances where a woman experiences low breast milk supply. When this happens, it is not uncommon to see these mothers become worried sick. There are certain factors that lead to it. It could be that you are waiting too long to start breastfeeding; it could also be that you weren’t breastfeeding enough or that you are using medications, herbs or supplements during breastfeeding. If you have had breast surgery in the past, chances are that the procedure would affect your breasts’ ability to produce the baby food.

Apart from those factors I listed so far, other factors that are likely to slow down breast milk production include premature birth, maternal obesity, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and insulin-dependent diabetes. If you are using hormonal birth control or using pacifier in-between feeding, it can lead to low breast milk supply. As you have seen, there are lots of factors that can lead to it. The good thing is, herbs and acupuncture can help rewrite your story.

Using Acupuncture to Boost Breast milk Supply

If you are struggling to stimulate breast milk production, acupuncture may be all you need. According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), lactation disorder is grouped into two – namely low milk production and poor milk flow. Mothers are unable to produce enough breast milk because of insufficient flow of energy (qi) and blood supply through the body. TCM also holds that the blood supply that nourishes the placenta is converted into milk the moment you give birth to your baby. A woman’s ability to naturally produce breast milk is subject to many different factors. Also, the entire milk production process requires a certain amount of energy regulation. However, certain factors, such as sleep and exhaustion from labor, can adversely affect it. So, what acupuncture does is to provide the necessary energy required to improve milk supply.

Once acupuncture is applied, it increases the prolactin supply in the blood, thereby necessitating breast milk supply and production. It is noteworthy that prolactin is a hormone that helps in milk production while oxytocin is a hormone that helps to move the breast milk. The traditional remedy stimulates the pathways for the flow of energy, thereby relieving the illness and disease preventing the release and flow of breast milk. In other words, the traditional Chinese treatment affects both prolactin and oxytocin. Some nursing mothers have symptoms of mastitis, which is a medical condition due to the inflammation of the mammary gland by bacterial infection. Sure, acupuncture and oriental medicine can treat that as well.

Recommended Acupoints for improving Lactation

To boost breast milk production, an acupuncturist has to bring back harmony through the body, eliminate blockages and restore blood flow. You can stimulate the acupoints discussed below 2 – 3 times daily in order to achieve this.

  • CV 17 (Shanzhong): Located at the sternum or center of the chest and between the breasts, CV17 helps to open the chest. Apply some 1-inch needles here to gently stimulate the qi around your chest. The needles should be inserted to the depth of 0.4 inch and manipulated to obtain the deqi sensation.
  • GB 21 (Jianjing): This is located at the highest point of the shoulder. Most specialists use it for treating back and shoulder pain. However, it also plays a vital role in stimulating the flow of breast milk.
  • LI 4 (Hegu): To find LI 4, go to the back of your hand as it is located between the base of your thumb and index finger. When you apply acupressure on this point, it also helps to relieve pain and enable your body to relax. You can also do it yourself by pressing it with your other fingers.

Using Herbs to Improve Breast milk Supply

When milk is not flowing properly (stagnation), it is often because of the woman’s body constitution. Other factors that can lead to this include breast fullness, distension, and pain and engorgement. You can also suffer from stagnation when you have emotional issues like stress, anger, resentment, frustration and depression. The emotional issues often lead to blockages.  In this case, you apply herbs like basil, marjoram turmeric and anise.

Additionally, you can use herbal teas such as mint and barley. What they do is replenish the shortage of qi and blood in the body. Chinese herbs you should use for relieving mastitis are jinyinhua, lianqiao, chishao, muli, and mangxiao. As for milk flow, use qingpi, juluo, jili, pugongying, etc. In a similar vein, the Chinese herbs for milk production are dangshen, jiegeng, tongcao, loulu, lulutong, etc.

In conclusion, while using acupuncture and Chinese herbs to boost breast milk production and supply is not 100% guaranteed, many people have attested to its efficacy for centuries. In this article, I have explained key acupoints you should focus on and shared useful herbs for boosting breastmilk production and supply. Some specialists also recommend other acupoints like SI1 (Shaoze) and ST36 (Zusanli). I hope you found this article useful. However, if you need help with using these herbs or acupuncture for boosting breast milk production and flow, please feel free to contact your nearest acupuncturist now: 754-755-8088.