Nursing an infant can be painful, tiring, and difficult, and many mums struggle with breastfeeding after birth. Coupled with loss of blood and Qi during childbirth and emotional stress, supplying enough milk may be a challenge. Here’s how TCM can help!
Causes for low breast milk supply from a TCM perspective
- Deficiency of Qi and Blood due to childbirth, causing low formation of breast milk
- Stagnation of liver Qi which obstructs milk flow
- Blockage of milk duct due to “phlegm-dampness”
How to identify which type of cause you belong to?
- Deficiency of Qi and Blood: You will experience low or no breast milk supply, soft breast, no bloatedness in breast, fatigue, bad appetite, loose stools.
- Stagnation of Liver Qi: You will experience low or no breast milk supply, tender breast and bloatedness in breast, emotionally unstable, easily irritated, loss of appetite, heatiness in the body.
- Phlegm-dampness: You will experience low or no breast milk supply, full breast, no pain or bloatedness in breast, chest tightness, nausea, sticky stool.
Food remedies to try
Crucian carp soup
This fish soup can help to regulate milk flow. This can be consumed 2-3 times a week.
- 1 Crucian carp fish, 鲫鱼
- Rice paper pith, 通草 10g
- Few slices of ginger, 姜片
- Clean the fish and rinse the rice paper pith.
- Fry the fish and on sides till golden brown.
- Add ginger, rice paper pith and the fish into a pot and fill it with water till the fish is fully submerged.
- Heat the fish on high heat until it boils. Then, turn to low heat and simmer for about half an hour.
- Add an appropriate amount of salt to taste and it is ready to be served.
Pork trotter soup
This pork soup can help to promote Qi and Blood flow to increase breast milk supply. Thus, it is suitable for those that belong to the Qi and Blood deficiency type. It is advisable to consume this once to twice a week.
- 1 Pork trotter, 猪蹄
- Peanuts, 花生米 50g
- Codonopsis pilosula, 党参 15g
- Astragalus membranaceus,黄芪 30g
- Wash and clean the pork trotter. Cut into small pieces and blanch into boiling water until cooked.
- Soak the peanuts in water for about an hour and rinse the rest of the ingredients.
- Put all the ingredients into a pot. Add the appropriate amount of water and cook in low heat for about 3 hours.
- Add the appropriate amount of salt and serve.
This porridge works to regulate Qi flow and promote milk supply. It is suitable for those with Liver Qi stagnation. This porridge can be consumed 2-3 times a week.
- Astragalus membranaceus, 黄芪 10g
- Bupleuri Radix, 柴胡 5g
- Rice paper pith, 通草 10g
- Peanuts, 花生米 20g
- Rice, 粳米 150g
- Rinse all the ingredients with water.
- Add about 8-9 cups of water to the rice and add in the rest of the ingredients.
- Bring porridge to boil and enjoy.
乳根, Ru Gen ST18:
Located in the 5th intercostal space, 4 cun lateral to the anterior midline. It is directly below the nipple, on the lower border of the breast. After locating, use your thumb to apply pressure and massage in a circular motion for 3-5mins. This can help to promote milk supply and for better milk flow.
膻中, Shan Zhong CV17:
Located on the anterior midline, at the level of the 4th intercostal space, midway between the nipples. After locating, use your thumb to apply pressure and massage in a circular motion for 3-5mins. This aids in regulating Qi flow and relieves Liver Qi stagnation.
阴陵泉, Yin Ling Quan SP9
Located in the depression posterior and inferior to remedial condyle of the tibia, in the angle formed by the medial condyle and posterior border of the tibia. After locating, use your thumb to apply pressure and massage in a circular motion for 3-5mins. This helps to strengthen the spleen and promotes removal of dampness in the body.
足三里, Zu San Li, ST36:
Located 3 cun (4 finger spacing) below the base of the patella, one finger-breadth lateral to the anterior border of the tibia. After locating, use your thumb to apply pressure and massage in a circular motion for 3-5mins. This acupoint is good for promoting Qi and Blood flow in the body.
太冲, Tai Chong, LR3:
Located on your foot about two finger widths above the webbing between your big toe and the next toe. After locating, use your thumb to apply pressure and massage in a circular motion for 3-5mins. This can help to regulate Liver Qi, removes stagnation and clears Liver Fire.
丰隆, Feng Long, ST40:
Located 8 cun superior to the tip of the external malleolus, two finger-breadth lateral to the anterior border of the tibia. After locating, use your thumb to apply pressure and massage in a circular motion for 3-5mins. This is a very good acupoint to help with removal of phlegm in the body.
Rest & Emotional balance
For new mothers, this period can be an extremely stressful and tiring time. However, emotional health and sufficient rest is crucial in order to ensure a good breast milk supply.
“Breast milk is a product of the transformation of Qi and blood..without Qi breast milk cannot be transformed, without blood it cannot be generated.” "夫乳乃气血之所化而成也，无血固不能生乳汁，无气亦不能生乳汁" ~Fu Qing Zhu’s Gynaecology
From a TCM perspective, rest is necessary to ensure regeneration of blood and Qi. When you rest, your blood can then be nourished in the liver. When blood is nourished, it ensures sufficient breast milk supply.
In addition, stress hormones and strong emotions like stress, anger, frustration, and depression may cause stagnation of Liver Qi. The Liver meridian influences the breast and controls the nipple, so stagnant Qi will also obstruct the smooth flow of breast milk.
Ensuring more rest and regulating your emotions will allow for better flow of energy, emotions, and breast milk.
If the above remedies do not work, it is advisable to visit a physician to have a more in-depth understanding and professional help. TCM treatments like acupuncture may be useful to help reduce stress and improve Qi.
As there is no “one size fits all” treatment plan, a consultation with a physician is recommended to more accurately diagnose your body condition and suggest treatment options customised for postpartum care.
Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.