Q. Dear Natalie, does eating certain types of food affect breast milk?
A. Everything you eat whilst nursing, in some way, affects your breast milk. Many of my clients have found that certain foods cause colic or digestive discomfort in their babies.
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, green peppers and tomatoes may cause excessive gas and therefore a little pain in your baby. Other foods such as caffeine, chocolate, citrus and wheat, in excess may also irritate your baby’s digestive system.
I suggest cutting out suspicious foods from your diet for a period to see if you notice any improvement. Sadly, it is possible to pass environmental contaminants such as mercury through your breast milk. Try to avoid or limit your intake of certain fish including king mackerel and canned solid white (or albacore) tuna.
Although it is advisable to avoid alcohol whilst breastfeeding, small amounts is usually okay. I suggest leaving breastfeeding for three hours after drinking so your body has time to metabolize and eliminate the alcohol.
If you have a disposition for any dietary allergies, be careful about ingesting common allergenic foods such as peanuts and soy products. If your baby shows signs of an allergic reaction you can also try avoiding milk and cheese products for a few days, since dairy sensitivities are not uncommon among new-borns.
Q. Dear Natalie, are there any natural remedies to help increase breast milk production?
A. Homeopathic remedies are a wonderful choice to help boost milk production since they work gently and in harmony with the body causing no side effects.
The first homeopathic remedy that usually comes to mind where there is suppression of milk is Urtica Urens. Take this if milk production is slow to get going or if you are swinging between the two extremes of over producing or under producing milk. Begin with this in the first few days to establish good supply.
The homeopathic remedy Pulsatilla can be excellent when the patient’s breasts are usually swollen and painful and the flow of milk can be absent or scanty. Pulsatilla is indicated for a nursing mother who is tearful and feels depressed. Calcarea Carbonica is another fantastic homeopathic remedy used to help stimulate milk production. The breasts are full, perhaps even sore, yet not much milk comes out.
The homeopathic remedy Lac Caninum works to balance the body; both to increase production of milk if not enough and to regulate if there is too much. You can also use this remedy if there are milk flow issues that switch from side to side.
Herbal teas can also be a great way to increase milk production. Try drinking Fenugreek tea three times daily until adequate milk production has been established. Other herbs in milk-boosting teas include Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica). Nettle has been shown to enrich the milk, and increase milk flow. I traditionally prescribe nettle tea as a tonic to restore women’s energy following childbirth.
The herb Agnus Castus is well known for its ability to promote breast milk and makes for a wonderful women’s hormonal tonic. It acts on both progesterone and prolactin which encourages milk production. You can also maintain and improve your milk supply by nursing your baby frequently for long periods of time. The sucking action stimulates milk production, so if possible, try putting the baby to the breast every 1 to 2 hours for a 24- to 48-hour period.
Q. Dear Natalie, I gave birth six months ago and have been suffering from a low libido. Does breast feeding have anything to do with this? If so, can you suggest anything to help?
A. Perhaps the most common "side effect" of new parents is the extreme fatigue and preoccupation of a new baby which makes it not surprising at all that new parents have little energy for sexual activity.
Although breastfeeding may contribute to maternal exhaustion, it is the caring for a baby which is very demanding, rather than which feeding method is used.
Excessive vaginal dryness is a common complaint among breastfeeding women since estrogen levels are low during lactation. If this is so, then the herb Saw palmetto helps to stimulate natural lubrication in the vagina. A nursing mother's nipples may also be less sensitive to sexual arousal, contributing to a lower libido. The sore, cracked or painful nipples can interfere with lovemaking, so make sure you have some infused herbal oils –such as the flowers of calendula or elderflower which ease the pain of tender breasts and sore nipples. Rub into the nipples and breasts whenever there is pain or sensitivity.
The intense physical intimacy of nursing can leave some breastfeeding women with little interest in their partner's sexual advances. Having a baby at your breast much of the day, can understandably perceive additional physical contact as just one more demand on your body.
Despite your inevitable exhaustion and preoccupation with your new responsibilities, I encourage you to make time for being intimate with your partner on a regular basis. Choose a time when your baby predictably sleeps soundly and plan a bedroom date.
Try as much as is possible to plan ahead to be as rested and renewed as possible so you will be able to focus on your partner and on giving and receiving pleasure. The herb Shatavari is a herb which is considered an excellent female libido enhancer since it balances the female hormonal system, especially useful after pregnancy.
This column is brought to you as general
information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor
is it based on medical experiments. This column is not a substitute for
medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more
information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.
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Someone Once Said: "A baby nursing at a mother's breast... is an undeniable affirmation of our rootedness in nature."
- David Suzuki