Here’s how to increase the amount of breast milk your body naturally produces from home, using Ayurvedic herbs and remedies.
How Lactation Starts in Breastfeeding Mothers
Lactation is used for the breast milk production or formation in mothers after the birth of baby. Lactation starts following delivery or birth of baby, the preparation of effective lactation starts during pregnancy.
The lactation can be divided into four stages to understand its proper physiology.
- Preparation of Breasts or Mammogenesis
- Synthesis and secretion of milk from breast alveloi or Lactogenesis
- Ejection of milk outside the breast or Galactokinesis
- Maintenance of lactation or Galactopoiesis
Mammogenesis Or Preparation Of Breasts For Breast Milk Production:
Pregnancy is associated with a remarkable growth in the size of breast. The enhanced size of breast in pregnancy is due to the growth of ducts and lobuloalveolar (ducts and segments) systems in breast. An intact nerve supply is not essential for the growth of mammary glands during pregnancy.
Progesterone, Estrogen, Prolactin, Adrenal steroids and Growth hormone affect the lobuloalveolar segment of the breast in this phase of breast milk production.
Lactogenesis For Breast Milk Production:
Some secretory activity is evident in the form of Colostrum or early milk during pregnancy or just after child birth. This secretory activity is accelerated following birth of baby. This early form of milk is essential and very good for the health of the baby. Secretory activity refers to secretion of milk in the milk producing unit of breast or in alveoli.
Actual milk secretion starts actually on 3rd or 4th day after the birth of baby. Around this time breasts become engorged, tense, tender and feel warm.
Despite the high prolactin level during pregnancy, milk secretion is kept in abeyance. Perhaps the steroids Estrogen and Progesterone that are circulating in the blood of pregnant lady make the breast tissue unresponsive to prolactin presence.
When the circulating Estrogen and Progesterone are withdrawn from the blood after the birth of baby, Prolactin begins its milk secretory activity in previously fully developed and prepared breasts.
This secretory activity is enhanced directly and indirectly by Growth hormone, Thyroxine, Glucocorticoids and Insulin. Nursing effort is not essential for secretion of milk.
Galactokinesis or Ejection Of Milk For Breast Milk Production:
Discharge of milk from the mammary glands of breast depends upon the suction exerted by the baby during suckling. Contractile mechanism also helps by expressing the milk from alveoli into the ducts.
During suckling, a conditioned nervous reflex is set up. The impulses start from the nipples to Supraoptic nucleus in brain and thence along the hypothalamo-pituitary axis to posterior pituitary. It appears to be so complicated and essentially when the love of baby is there, all this is simply a loving privilege of Moms!
Oxytocin is secreted from posterior pituitary which exerts several effects on the uterus and breast. In breasts, there is contraction of the myoepithelial cells of alveoli and ducts containing the milk. This is the “milk ejection” or “milk let down” reflex that forces the milk down into the lactiferous ducts. From lactiferous ducts milk is expressed either by the mother by hand or sucked out by the baby.
A sensation of rise in pressure in the breast is felt by the mother at the begining of suckling. It is called “draught”. This effect can be produced artificially by the injection of Oxytocin hormone.
The milk ejection reflex is inhibited by several factors like pain in breasts or body, breast engorgement, psychological upsets. In addition this ejection reflex might be weak for several days following breast feeding and it results in breast engorgement.
Galactopoiesis or Maintenance Of Lactation:
The hormone Prolactin appears to be the single most important factor for maintenance of lactation. Sucking is also essential for maintenance of lactation. Sucking is essential for the removal of milk from the glands in breast but also for the release of Prolactin.
Secretion of milk is a continuous process unless suppressed by congestion or emotional disturbances. Milk pressure reduces the rate of breast milk production. So periodic breast feeding is necessary to relieve the pressure that in turn maintains the secretion of milk inside the breast.
Lactation & The Structure Of Breast
Breast milk production is dependent on hormones, blood supply and our general physical and mental condition. It is essential to get in touch with the structure or anatomy of this important body part.
Breast Milk Production & Its Quantity:
In the first week after the birth of baby, the total amount of milk yield in 24 hours is calculated to be 60 multiplied by the number of days after the child birth and it is expressed in ml or milliliters.
Milk on 4th day after child birth would be about 60X4 = 240 ml. A milk yield of 120 to 180 ml per feeding is reached by the end of second week.
Stimulation Of Breast Milk Production:
Following methods can be adopted to improve adequate milk yield.
- To improve the maternal instinct to nurse or breast feed the baby, mention the advantages of breast feeding.
- Take proper care and prepare the nipple and learn how to express the colostrum (the milk secreted during pregnancy and early days just after child birth) and to take care of the crust formed on the nipples.
Following Delivery Or Child Birth:
- If the conditions permit, allow the baby to be put to breast for 3 minutes at 3-6 hourly intervals on the very first day.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Express the milk with your hands before the breast feeding. It is a good step to avoid engorgement and trapping of milk in the breast.
Understanding The Anatomy For Breast Milk Production:
The breasts are glands on both side of chest wall and in females they are accessory reproductive organs as these mammary glands are involved with lactation after childbirth.
The shapes of breasts varies in women and also in different periods of life. But the size of base of breast is fairly constant. The base of breast extends from second to sixth rib in the line passing through mid of the collar bone.
The breast lies between the subcutaneous tissue below the skin and over the fascia of pectoralis major muscle. Sometimes a prolongation into the sides or axilla (Axillary tail) is also present.
The Structure Or Anatomy Of Non-Lactating Breasts:
Nipple is the muscular projection that is covered by pigmented skin. This part has blood vessels and is surrounded by involuntary muscles that makes it erectile. Nipple accommodates 15-20 lactiferous ducts and their openings.
Areola is placed around the nipple or the center of breast. This pigmented area is 2.5 cm in diameter. Numerous sebaceous glands that secrete some oily material are placed over the areola.
The whole breast is embedded with fatty tissue under the skin. The fatty tissue is absent under the nipple and areola.
Each breast is divided into 15-20 lobes or segments by fibrous partitions that radiate from the center. Each lobe is made up of chiefly fibrous and fatty tissue. The glandular tissue consists of duct system in non-lactating breast.
One lactiferous duct drains each lobe. Each duct divides and subdivides and ends into 100-150 alveoli. Each alveoli has epithelial cells that secrete the milk originally. This is the unit of breast milk production.
A network of branching lengthwise striated cells or Myoepithelial cells surround the alveoli and smaller ducts. There is a dense network of blood capillaries around the alveolus. Contraction of these cells squeezes the alveoli and ejects the milk into larger duct.
Below and behind the nipple, the main duct dilates to form Ampulla where the milk is stored. At places, the fibrofatty connective tissue extends from the skin down to the deep fascia in between the lobes. These bands are known as Suspensory ligaments of Cooper.
The Breasts Of Pregnant Lady:
Breast changes are evident in the lady who is giving birth to baby for the first time. They are characteristic for the first time breast milk production.
The size of breast increase even in early weeks. This is due to hypertrophy (increase in size) and proliferation (increase in numbers) of ducts and alveoli. Myoepithelial cells also become prominent. The blood vascular supply increases which results in appearance of bluish veins running under the skin.
Sometimes axillary tail becomes enlarged and painful. Occasionally there is lining over the skin of breasts due to stretching of skin.
Nipples become larger, erectile and deeply pigmented. Many sebaceous glands increase in size and become visible and these are called Montgomery’s tubercles. Their secretion keeps the nipple and areola moist and healthy.
Secretion can be squeezed out of the breast at about 12th week which is at first sticky. Later on, by 16th week, it becomes thick and yellowish.
This anatomical description is required to understand the process of breast milk production and how breast milk production is affected by physical.
Increase Breast Milk Production with Ayurveda
Ayurvedic Herbs can increase breast milk production. Besides medicinal plants, there are lifestyle suggestions that were known in the ancient system of holistic medicine. Let us explore what Ayurveda offers as herbal galactagogues.
What does it Mean By Galactogogue?
This word is made up of two parts – ‘galact’ or ‘galacto’ or ‘gala’ is the prefix that is related to milk; and the suffix ‘agogos’ means leading or flow.
This means that the herbs or other medication or agent that can increase the flow of milk form the breast of post-partum lady (or breast feeding mother).
Causes Of Cessation Of Lactation From Ayurvedic Medicine Viewpoint:
Ayurveda authors mentioned the causes for lack of lactation and they are authenticated by modern medical science even today. They are…
- Lack of feeling of love or relatedness toward the baby.
- Excessive dieting and physical exercise and resulting fatigue.
- Eating too much of dry foods – without fat or oils.
- Excessive sexual intercourse.
- Too much use of Purification processes of Ayurvedic panchakarma.
- Becoming pregnant again after a short time or repregnancy.
Clinical Features Of Loss Of Milk In Ayurvedic Medicine:
- Laxity of breasts.
- decrease or absence of milk secretion.
Ayurvedic Treatment For Loss Of Milk Production:
This description is given in Ayurveda when advising in relation to low breast milk production condition.
- Use food articles that can increase Kapha.
- Use cereals like rice.
- Meat or meat soup is also good.
- Cow’s milk and curd are to be taken in diet.
- One should be allowed to take the delicious food articles of one’s choice.
- Ayurvedic medicine with self-fermented alcohols (7-12%) are also useful.
Ayurvedic Medicine For Increasing Breast Milk Production:
These dietary and nutritional and herbal supplements along with lifestyle modifications should be used by any mother who want to improve breast milk production. This advice might also be used for those breastfeeding mothers who are critically in need to increase breast milk production.
This group of ten herbs are useful as lactating herbs. When used properly the roots of these medicinal plants increase lactation. These herbs should be used in the form of decoction or their paste or powder should be used with milk or water.
- Gundra Or Bhadramustaka
- Katrina root
Other Substances That Increase Breast Milk Production:
- Some alcoholic preparations that are self-fermented and contain very low quantity of alcohol (7-12%) are used in low dosage (15-30ml twice or thrice a day).
- Meat soup of animals except of cow and pig.
- Vegetable and pulses soups are also good preparations.
- The diet should be rich in fluid, sweet, sour and salty taste.
- Some of the herbs that have some form of milk secreted from their body parts, can stimulate lactation like Dugadhika, Kalambika.
- Taking adequate milk in one’s diet is also essential.
- Breast feeding mother should avoid excessive exercise. She should be at rest and should take proper sleep.
- Fatigue – both physical and mental should be avoided.
- Mind should be happy. Anger and grief are the states of mind that might interfere with the process of lactation.
- Nadi vegetable is good esp. when it is processed with jaggery, asfoetida and jatiphala.
- Garlic and onion are also good stimulant. It can be added in vegetables, soups, pulses and other dishes.
- Shirgataka, Kasheruka, Bisa,
- Vidarikanda, Shatavari, Nalika, Alabu, Madhuka
- Coconut is also a good supplement.
- Milk is better processed with Rasayana or rejuvenative herbs of Ayurveda.
- The diet should have adequate fat in the form of oils and clarified butter.
- Some herbal plants that secret milk like Vata, Kshirika and others are to be used. Their decoction should be used after adding clarified butter, jaggery, salt. Rice should be taken in diet.
Ayurveda Panchakarma Therapy to increase Breast Milk Production:
‘Asthapana Basti’ is the ayurvedic panchakarma procedure that can be used for purifying the vitiated humors that are responsible for decreased quantity of breast milk. It should be used under expert ayurvedic supervision.
Galactagogue And Lactation Herbs
Galactagogue and lactation herbs are useful to increase breast milk production. These help to promote the supply of milk and help the baby to get proper nutrition. These are great herbal supplements for breast feeding mothers.
Some Other Related Terms:
Galactagogues: Galactagogues are those herbs or supplements or drugs that can increase the secretion or production of milk.
Hypogalactia: It is the condition where galactogue & lactation herbs are helpful. In this condition, there is inadequate secretion of breast milk.
Agalactia: This condition refers to loss of or complete lack of secretion of breast milk. One should consult a qualified herbalist or doctor for this condition.
Galactophyga: Herbs which diminish milk-flow and arrest the secretion of milk.
Galactopoiesis: The secretion and continuing production of milk by the mammary glands beyond need of the baby.
Galactorrhea: The excessive flow of milk from the breasts during lactation; spontaneous milk flow, such as when happens when a nursing mother hears another infant cry and her own breasts spurt milk.
Common Conditions Where Galactagogue And Lactation Herbs Are Required:
Galactagogue and lactation herbs are needed in certain normal physiological conditions and after some medical and surgical procedures.
- In obese or overweight ladies, the prolactin response to suckling is low so that there will be inadequate milk supply.
- It can also arise when the mother doesn’t let the baby suckle as frequently as she may need.
- If the weaning or adding the nutritional supplements is too early.
- If mother is breast feeding from one breast only.
- When the mother is on poor nutrition.
- This is found in women who undergo Caesarian section surgery.
- When there had been previous breast issues, abuse or previous breast surgeries.
Galactagogue And Lactation Herbs For Increasing Breast Milk Production:
Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus)
Blessed thistle or milk thistle stimulates milk production, especially in combination with red raspberry leaves. Milk thistle is also an antioxidant that is equal in potency to vitamins C and E. Besides it can help to boost up liver function.
Fenugreek Or Trigonella foenum-graecum Or Methika:
Fenugreek is the most common galacagogue and lactation herb. Fenugreek can be taken as herbal tea twice or thrice a day. Fenugreek is considered a uterine stimulant, so do not use this herb if you are pregnant.
Fenugreek also works on the digestive system. It helps to expel the gas or flatus out that is why it might appear as causing gas in some individuals. On regular use the problem of flatulence will disappear.
Insulin-dependent diabetics should use the herb with caution or not at all, as it may affect their blood sugar readings and insulin needs. This herb, along with other therapies, has even been used successfully by non-birth mothers to help them produce breast milk for their adopted babies!
Fennel Or Foeniculum vulgare:
Fennel seed stimulates milk flow and relieves gas and colic. It increases breast milk production, but also helps to expel gas and aids in digestion and relieves colic.
Shatavari Or Asparagus racemosus:
This ayurvedic herb is greatly reputed as a galactagogue and lactation herbs. This provides nutrition to mother as well as baby. Shatavari can even be used during pregnancy. Shatavari can be used as first line herbal remedy for increasing breast milk.
Anise seed aids in digestion and promotes mother’s milk production for nursing mothers.
Cumin seed (Cuminum cyminum):
Cumin seed is a good digestive and galactagogue. Cumin seed can be used with jaggery.
Goat’s Rue or Galega officinalis :
Goat’ Rue stimulates milk production.
Borage is also an effective galactagogue and lactation herb, but it should not be used for longer than a week at a time as it contains an alkaloid that may be harmful to the liver. It is a great herb for cooling fevers and balancing the adrenals, and its beautiful purple flowers are edible and are a lovely addition to any salad!
Hops has been used to increase mother’s milk (which is why they say to drink beer while nursing), but can cause depression when used over an extended period of time. It may also make you sleepy! The beer in some countries contains Hops that are helpful like galactagogue and lactation herbs, but the beer in the United States doesn’t seem to have the same content or quality.
Caraway (Carum bulbocastanum):
Black Caraway aids mother’s milk production and helps in digestion disorders. It is helpful for post-partum ladies (after child birth) as a galactagogue and lactation herbs.
General Nutrient Herbs Supporting Galactagogue And Lactation Herbs:
These herbs supplement galactagogue and lactation herbs as they are rich in minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.
Red raspberry Leaf is high in vitamins and minerals and will also help the uterus to recover and regain its size and shape quickly.
Alfalfa is rich in vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, and Vitamin K (the blood coagulant vitamin). Alfalfa is already a reputed tonic and rejuvenative herb.
Nettle or Stinging nettle is loaded with vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, and Vitamin K (the blood coagulant vitamin) just like alfalfa.
Herbs Supporting Galactagogue And Lactation Herbs & Used In Common Abodminal Conditions:
These herbal supplements help galactagogue and lactation herbs. Additionally these are useful in common abdominal conditions like gas formation, flatulence.
- Marshmallow root
- Lemon balm or Melissa officinalis is helpful for relieving gas and colic pain. Lemonbalm is calming as well.
- Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is calming and is useful in colic or spasmodic pain for both mother and baby. Besides Chamomile helps with teething pain.
- Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) is useful in the form of cream or ointment externally on sore nipples between feedings. Pot Marigold keeps the skin of nipple in healthy condition.
Herbal Remedies for Increasing Breast Milk Production
To increase breast milk production, various food supplements and herbal supplements can act as Galactagogues and boost up lactation. Some of these are better included in our diet and others can be used at home like home remedies. After getting consultation from qualified herbalist, you can use them with great effectiveness.
Common Food Supplements Supporting Galactagogue Herbs:
Aviva Romm, in “Naturally Healthy Babies and Children” (publisher Storey Books) mentions certain foods that have a reputation for encouraging milk production, including barley, oats, beets, carrots (especially carrot juice), winter squash, avocados, brown rice, leafy greens and sea vegetables (especially dulse, hijiki and kombu).
Some Recipes To Increase Breast Milk Production:
Mothers Milk Blend Tea:
To increase breast milk production, Romm suggests drinking up to 4 cups a day of her “Mother’s Milk Blend Tea”, which can be made as follows:
- 1 ounce dried chamomile flowers
- 1 ounce dried catnip
- 1/4 ounce fennel seeds
- 1/2 ounce dried nettle
- 1/8 ounce dried lavender flowers
- 1 cup boiling water.
How To prepare:
Combine all the herbs. Put 1 tablespoon in a glass jar, add the boiling water, cover, and steep for 10 minutes. Strain. This tea also helps with digestion and relaxation of mother and baby.
Shatavari Or Asparagus racemosus As Herbal Galactagogue Granules:
Shatavari granules is form of preparation that can be prepared at home and used as an aid to increase breast milk production.
- Shatavari or Asparagus racemosus powder 100 gm
- Cumin seed 25 gm
- Caraway 25 gm
- Fenugreek 25 gm
- Fennel seed 25 gm
- Long pepper 25 gm
- Sugar 250 gm
How to Prepare:
Take sugar in an iron pan used for frying curries and pulses. Add equal quantity of water. Heat the sugar syrup on medium position. Check for the time when sugar syrup gives two or three threads. It is done by taking one drop of cooled sugar syrup between thumb and index finger and then taking the thumb and finger apart.
When there are two or three threads, get the pan down from the burner. Pour the powder of all the herbs that had been mixed together earlier. Mix it with the help of wooden or steel. Mix regularly and within a few minutes the preparation will turn into granules.
This is sweet and tasty preparation that can be used with milk or water. The dosage is 5-10 or 1-2 teaspoonfuls twice or thrice a day to increase breast milk production.
Getting the sugar syrup prepared properly is only thing that should be timed rightly. If you mix herbal powder too early, the preparation will be a heavy sugar syrup. And if you happen to be late (only 1-2 minute late), there will be a deformed hard mass of sugar and herbs and that should be discarded.
So best advice is to take 1/4 of all the material first for testing with formation of granules. Once you sense the right timing, everything will be OK. This little practice will help you to prepare at home many of ayurvedic preparations for your family!
Quite obvious, this formula should not be used by diabetics – both on Insulin and on oral hypoglycaemic drugs.
Use These Herbs With Caution To Increase Breast Milk Production:
Herbs and teas that should be used with caution to increase breast milk production because of possible harmful side effects are:
- Comfrey tea
- Sassafras tea
- Ginseng tea
- Licorice tea
Spirituality & Health:
You are the one who put me together inside my mother’s body, and I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me. Everything you do is marvelous! Of this I have no doubt. Nothing about me is hidden from you! I was secretly woven together deep in the earth below, but with your own eyes you saw my body being formed. Even before I was born, you had written in your book everything I would do. (Psalm 139:13-16)