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How to Increase Breastmilk Supply

How to increase breastmilk supply

Galactogogues

Galactogogue (pronounced gah-lakh’-tah-gog) is the funny sounding scientific word for foods, herbs and medications that stimulate breastmilk supply by increasing prolactin and oxytocin output. Do you need the help of galactogogues? The answer to that relies on a few factors.

How is breastmilk made?

Your body will make breastmilk when it receives the right signals. Usually this is when you have been pregnant and your baby has been born, or sometimes from a month or so beforehand.

For most people this works best if all the signals are from your own body. The oxyctocin that stimulates labour increases the output of milk when your baby is born, and then when you put the baby to the breast right after birth prolactin is stimulated, which is the signal to your brain is that you now have a baby to feed and milk is pushed out in response, as the suckling stimulates your nipple. This also increases the love hormone, oxytocin, at the same time which solidifies the bonding in your brain and the baby’s brain. When this happens in the golden hour after birth, you are set up to continue producing milk whenever your baby signals hungry.

Supply and Demand

As your baby grows and their needs change, your milk will change with them. When they are first born, the colostrum that you provide is very high in energy and nutrients, as the baby has been used to a constant supply of nutrients from the placenta, but has a stomach the size of a marble. This is why the baby will want constantly be on the nipple in the first 6 to 8 weeks. As the grow and their stomach gets larger, the milk will contain more proteins and water as well.

Your baby sends your body the signal for how much milk to make. Each time the baby suckles on your nipple, it is sending a signal to make milk, and it is setting a pattern in your brain for the frequency and amount of milk he or she will need in the future.

In the first 6-8 weeks you will make way more milk than your baby needs. This is natures way of ensuring that you have enough for multiple babies, if necessary. As time goes on, however, your baby sets the timing and amount of what it will need. It is important that during this time, your avoid bottle feeding, or using pacifiers or dummies, except in an emergency, as this can mess with nature’s perfect system of supply and demand, and may decrease your supply.

When you might you need galactogogues

When birth has been difficult or traumatic, and when the mother hasn’t had the golden hour with her baby, bonding and suckling right after birth, it can confuse the instinctive signals between mother and baby.

The baby has certain instincts to crawl towards the breast and to suckle right after birth. Unfortunately, the longer this skin to skin holding is put off, the less those instincts kick in. The baby can still learn to suckle, but it might be more difficult, and they might need extra help. This, in turn, affects the supply and demand production of the milk. If you experience these issues, its really a good idea to talk to a breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant. The behaviour between mother and baby is really the key to producing enough milk, as well as secure attachment.

After the first six to eight weeks, your body will have gotten used to the amount of milk to produce, based on feeding your baby on demand. For some people, this will mean that you are producing way less milk than during the first six to eight weeks. This doesn’t mean that you are losing your milk or producing too little. In the first weeks, you may get used to your breasts feeling “full”, but as your baby gets older and your body becomes attuned to the amount of milk they need, your breasts will stop producing more than the baby needs, and start producing it on demand instead. This might mean that your breasts feel softer and slightly smaller, between feeds, than they did in the first six to eight weeks.

Here are some signs to look for to gauge whether you are producing enough milk.

If you are producing enough milk, and your baby is feeding correctly , your baby will have bright eyes, they will be alert when awake, they will be eager to feed and have a strong suck, they will also produce six to eight wet or dirty nappies in 24 hours, and they will be gaining an appropriate amount of weight. They will also wake through the night to feed at least two to three times.

Your breasts produce milk on demand, so if everything is working properly, the slightest feeling that the baby is ready to feed will trigger the let down reflex, which is when your breast pushes milk from the lobes where it is produced, towards the nipple and you might start to leak a little. This feels like pins and needles around your breasts and underarms.

Generally speaking, if you have made sure that your baby is properly attached, is feeding on demand, but you still feel like you need extra help producing milk, this is when herbs and foods that are galactogogues can be helpful. Remember that extra stress, anxiety and not enough physical skin to skin time with your baby, especially if they are under six months, can inhibit milk production and the let down reflex.

Photo: Filip Mroz

If you have to work and pump, try putting on headphones with a recording of your baby making sounds, or a video of your baby and concentrate on them while pumping. When you get home spend plenty of time with them in your arms, skin to skin.

Other reasons for low milk supply and using galactogogues to boost your supply are: exclusively pumping for a premie or sick child in hospital or a baby with feeding issues, breastfeeding after surgery, stress, the return of menstruation causing a dip in supply, taking hormonal birth control, starting breastfeeding again after a break, breastfeeding an adopted baby.

Foods that increase breastmilk supply

When you are breastfeeding you need a good balance of nutrients in your diet. Every day you should have 2-3 servings of protein foods such as poultry, fish, meat, eggs, dairy or a combination of beans, nuts, and seeds.

Each day eat a minimum of three servings of a variety of colourful vegetables, have two servings of fresh fruit and include other complex carbohydrates like nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains.

Drink enough plain water to satisfy thirst, have minimal caffeinated drinks as the caffeine can come through the milk, and can also be a culprit in lower milk supply, if you are having too much every day.

Vegetarian diets can be compatible with breastfeeding, if you are careful to plan your diet to get the nutrients you require. If you would like to avoid meat make sure to include other sources of iron and zinc such as dried beans, nuts, seeds, dairy and eggs. If you would prefer to have a vegan diet and avoid all animal products, add a nutritional yeast supplement and a B12 supplement so you and your baby don’t develop a B12 deficiency.

Specific foods that can help boost your milk in times of stress and or low nutrition are: garlic, oatmeal, barley, brown rice, brewers yeast, and yeast spreads such as Vegemite.

Photo: Ellieelien

Fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and lacto-fermented pickles are especially important to include as they keep your gut healthy and this is imperative to being able to absorb nutrients.

Green and leafy vegetables (particularly cos lettuce, watercress, parsley, rocket, spinach, silverbeet, broccoli, kale, alfalfa sprouts and asparagus) and yellow orange and red vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, red capsicum) promote rich milk as well as increasing volume.

Almonds and other nuts, chick peas, sesame seeds and tahini, sunflower seeds boost supply because they are nutritionally dense. Spices and cooking herbs like ginger, cumin, fennel, anise seeds, fenugreek, turmeric and coriander/cilantro moringa leaves, and dill can be very useful as a boost, especially used in conjunction with some of the other foods on this list.

Milk Boosting Recipes

Here are three recipes which I recommend as side-dishes to have in your fridge which help boost supply: hummus, tabbouleh and almond pesto.

Hummus

Hummus is a dip that is yummy on crackers, with flat bread or as a side dish for a meal.

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 4 tablespoons of tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 2 cloves of raw garlic, crushed
  • 4 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pink salt or sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  1. To your clean food processor bowl add tahini, lemon juice and garlic and blend till it turns creamy.
  2. Add your chickpeas, small amounts at a time, with the water from the can, alternating with a tablespoon of olive oil at a time. Some people like to remove the skins of the chickpeas for a creamier dip. You can also substitute canned chickpeas for ones that you have cooked yourself, by soaking a cup of dried chickpeas overnight with a teaspoon of vinegar, cook them the next day in two cups of fresh water with a pinch of salt until soft,(usually an hour with soaked chickpeas).
  3. Add cumin powder and blend till creamy. Keep in an airtight jar or container in the fridge for up to a week.

Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is a parsley salad which is delicious in wraps, or as a side dish.

  • 1 big bunch of parsley
  • 2 ripe firm tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs of fresh mint (or to taste)
  • 3 spring onions
  • 1/4 cup bulgur wheat, soaked overnight in the dressing (you can substitute cooked quinoa as a gluten free alternative)

Dressing:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  1. Make the dressing by crushing the garlic and adding lemon juice, olive oil and salt.
  2. Soak the bulgur wheat in the dressing for at least an hour, but overnight tastes better.
  3. Chop parsley, mint, spring onions and tomatoes finely, and combine with the bulgur and dressing.

Almond Pesto

Pesto is a paste usually used on pasta, but it can also be a condiment for any other meal that you would like.

  • 1 bunch fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cloves crushed raw garlic
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons grated parmesan or other hard cheese
  • 4 tablespoons almonds
  • 1 teaspoon salt

In a food processor blend the almonds while adding olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. When creamy add the basil and parsley and blend till fine. Add parmesan and salt and blend till fully combined. Store in an airtight jar or container in the fridge. Can last up to a week.

Herbal help to build breastmilk supply

Mother's Milk Booster Herbal Tea

Herbal teas are an easy way to increase your breastmilk supply, by increasing the intake of fluids as well as nutrients and the actions of specific herbs.

The herbs that I have in my Mother’s Milk Booster are raspberry leaf , stinging nettles, goat’s rue, lemon balm, lemon verbena, red clover, blessed thistle, fennel, fenugreek, marshmallow root, chamomile, rosehips, hibiscus, rose petals and coconut. These herbs in combination are the ones that I found the most helpful when breastfeeding my own babies. I hope they help you as well.

Happy breastfeeding!

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9 Ways to Support Your Immune System

9-ways-to-support-immune-system

In these uncertain times with a pandemic on our doorstep, it’s important to understand some ways to support your immune system. Your immunity is a finely tuned system that repels invaders, and remembers which invaders it has had to repel before. There is no “one size fits all” natural remedy that you can take. However there are a variety of ways that you can strengthen your body and its resources so that you are in the best condition possible to fight off whatever comes your way.

Your immune system is 99% dependent on your management of stress, sleep, exercise and nutrition. The other 1% is where a supplemental approach can be useful.

  1. Exercise Outdoors
  2. Sleep
  3. Vitamins A,D, E and C
  4. Eat Fermented Foods
  5. Include Broccoli and Cabbage
  6. Get Enough Omega 3
  7. Mushrooms, Oats and Barley
  8. Zinc for Healing
  9. Herbs to Strengthen Your Immune System

Exercise Outdoors

Exercise builds your stamina and general health, and exercising outdoors also gives the benefits of added Vitamin D from the sun as well as healthy gut bacteria from inhaling air around trees and growing things. Better muscle tone gives your body more resources to draw from for energy as well as general strength. Aerobic exercise like walking, running and lifting weights can help expand your lung capacity so your body can process oxygen more efficiently. Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio exercise, increases the strength and stamina of your heart muscle, which pumps blood through your veins to circulate oxygen and nutrients throughout your body, which in turn, aids your immune system to work efficiently. A study published in The American Journal of Medicine showed that women who walked for 30 minutes a day, over the course of a year, had half the number of colds as a group who didn’t walk.

While most of us are isolated at home, due to social distancing measures, we can still get enough exercise. You can go walking or bike-riding in the local park or around the neighbourhood. There are also videos on the internet which show High Intensity Interval Training workouts. These exercise patterns can be done inside if necessary due to weather, or in your backyard, on a balcony or the local park, with an appropriate distance between you and other park users. A set of light hand held weights is useful and can be bought inexpensively. Other options can include using 2 litre bottles filled with water for a light weight workout or other innovations for exercising at home. Where possible exercise in the sunshine outside.

Sleep

Sleep is a vital function that supports our body to heal as well as to stay strong to fight off invaders. Most of us have trouble knowing how much sleep is enough, as well as how to set up our lives so that we get enough.

There is no optimum amount for everyone. Some people naturally need less and others need more. However there have been studies which show that the minimum we should have to prevent our bodies becoming weak and our brains from degenerating is 7.5 hours.

If you have trouble getting a minimum of 7.5 hours every night, a good option to help is our Sleepytime or Serenity blends.

Get enough Vitamin A, D, E and C

Lack of vitamins A,D, E and C has been shown to slow down healing. The best way to get these vitamins is from foods that contain them, but a quality multivitamin can help, especially if some foods are expensive or in short supply. Luckily most people living in Australia have the opportunity to get enough foods that contain the important nutrients. Quality doesn’t necessarily equal expensive. Most vitamin supplements produced in Australia are decent quality, even the cheaper ones. Follow the dosing guidelines on the bottle and don’t megadose any vitamin. This can cause liver damage.

Vitamin D can be gotten by exposing approximately a third of your skin to the sun for 15-20 minutes when the sun is at its highest, between 11 am and 2 pm. You can do this by uncovering your arms and shoulders. If you are uncovering your legs, you must be lying down so that the suns rays can reach them without your body being in the way. You must be outside as glass blocks the rays which produce Vitamin D.

Foods that are high in vitamin A: Orange,yellow and dark green leafy vegetables and fruits contain a type of vitamin A called “beta-carotene”. Beta-carotene needs to be eaten with a healthy source of fat so that it can be absorbed properly. Other sources of readily available vitamin A are: eggs, cod liver oil, oily fish such as mackerel and salmon, milk and dairy products, and liver. Herbs and spices that are high in vitamin A: paprika, cayenne, turmeric, parsley, coriander, dill, basil, tulsi.

Foods that are high in vitamin D: Maiitake mushrooms and portobello mushrooms supply D2. Sunshine, egg yolks (four eggs supplies your recommended daily amount), cold water fatty fish, free range grass fed dairy products and liver supply Vitamin D3. Some fortified foods supply vitamin D3, also called cholecalciferol on the nutrition table of the package. Herbs and spices that are high in vitamin D: allspice, aniseed, caraway seed, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel seed, fenugreek, ginger, nutmeg, paprika, cayenne, and black pepper.

Foods that are high in Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, peanuts, brazil nuts, avocado, abalone, Atlantic salmon, Rainbow trout, red sweet capsicum, mango, kiwifruit. Two to three servings of these will give you your recommended daily amount. Herbs and spices that are high in vitamin E: cayenne, paprika,turmeric, caraway, cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, nutmeg.

Foods that contain Vitamin C: acerola cherries, rosehips, chili peppers, guavas, sweet capsicum, blackcurrants,mustard greens, kale, kiwi fruits, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lemon juice, lychees, papaya, strawberries, oranges. Cooking reduces the vitamin C, but even when cooking certain vegetables, such as kale, Brussels sprouts and broccoli, a half cup still provides half of the RDA of Vitamin C as well as making other antioxidants more readily available. Herbs and spices that contain high vitamin C: turmeric, rosehips, thyme, parsley, paprika, cayenne, chili, basil, allspice, peppermint and other mints, black and white pepper, tulsi.

Eat fermented foods

Fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria, which provide a wide variety of benefits for your health including helping your digestion, keeping pathogens under control by populating the gut, teaching our immune system how to behave, producing specific “natural killer” cells which get rid of “bad” bacteria, fungi and viruses. Some fermented foods that are very helpful are sauerkraut made from cabbage or a combo of vegetables, lacto-fermented pickled cucumbers, kimchi, Indian green mango or lime pickles, kefir, yoghurt, miso, and natural tofu.

Include Broccoli, Cabbage and Garlic

Your gut has special cells called lymphocytes which have receptors on them which specifically receive a molecule from cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cabbage. When this molecule clicks into the receptor the lymphocytes switch on and stimulate other cells to be alert and ready to attack invaders. Cruciferous vegetables prime your immune system to be ready as your first line of defense. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, watercress. Other vegetables that have a similar function are onions and garlic. Garlic is especially powerful when crushed and added raw to foods such as salads or added to your soup right before you eat it.

Get enough Omega-3

Omega 3 fatty acids like DHA are found in fish oils, and enhance B cells, which are a type of white blood cell. They help regulate and strengthen the immune system. You can either eat cold water fish, such as salmon, trout or cod, or take a supplement like fish oil or cod liver oil.

Mushrooms, Oats and Barley

Beta-glucans are naturally occurring sugars found in mushrooms, oats and barley. These substances increase your immune defenses by activating complement systems, like your natural killer cells, to attack viruses and pathogenic bacteria.

Zinc for Healing

Zinc is a micronutrient essential for human health, without it our bodies cannot heal. Because we cannot make zinc in our bodies it must be provided through our diet. Zinc is required for the body to manufacture the proteins to close wounds, for immune function, healthy gene and DNA expression, and for growth and development.

Zinc is necessary for metabolism, digestion and nerve function. Zinc is vital for healthy skin and is your bodies first defense against invaders. Lack of zinc can lead to losing your sense of taste and smell. Immune cell function is reliant on having a good supply of zinc, as it aids the communication of immune cells and their response to invaders. Lack of zinc equals weakened immune response. Food sources of zinc: shellfish, lamb, pork, beef, turkey, chicken, flounder, sardines, salmon, sole, chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, cashews, hemp seeds, milk, yoghurt, cheese, eggs, oats, quinoa, brown rice, mushrooms, kale, peas, asparagus, beet greens. Herbs and spices high in zinc: poppy seeds, cardamom, caraway seed, aniseed, coriander seed, turmeric, paprika, fennel seed, ginger, fenugreek, cayenne, thyme, basil.

Herbs to Strengthen Your Immune System

Although I have already listed some herbs and spices that are useful for getting vital nutrients, there are other reasons to take herbs.

Some herbs are adaptogens, also known as immunomodulators and immune tonics, which means that they help your body to cope with stress and support your body’s immune system for the long term. Stress can come from all sorts of directions such as hard work, exercise, lack of sleep, increased anxiety, and illness. Taking an adaptogenic herbal tea can be a great support for your body to help you cope. Some adaptogens that are easy to take as a tea are liquorice root, tulsi (also know as Holy Basil), Siberian ginseng(eleuthero) and turmeric, found in our Liquorice Lovers, Peace Love and Ginger, Tulsi Chai, Sarsaparilla Detox, Focus, Elderberry Immune Boost and Golden Turmeric Latte.

Antiviral herbs which are known for interfering with a virus as it tries to spread, are a very important way to keep yourself healthy when viruses are going around. Some pathogenic bacteria also try to get a foot hold when we get a virus, so its good to take some herbs which strengthen the immune system against these invaders. Some antiviral herbs are immunostimulators and are best not taken long term, just when you have come into contact with a virus or are fighting a viral or bacterial infection. They stimulate natural killer cells which cause minor inflammation for a time, but reduce the viral numbers in your body. These herbs are elderberry, elderflower and echinacea. Our teas which are useful to take several times a day when fighting a virus or infection are: Elderberry Immune Boost and Elderflower Throat Soother.

Other herbs which support immune function and the flushing of bacterial infection are: liquorice root, mullein, elecampane, eucalyptus, lemon myrtle, lemon balm, peppermint, ginger,fennel, chamomile and valerian. Some of these herbs interfere with the replication of viruses, some prevent viruses from entering the cell, others help by flushing out bacterial infection by stimulating the mucous membranes. Our teas that contain these herbs are Elderflower Throat Soother, Elderberry Immune Boost, Lemon Balm Mint Drop, Australian Bush Tea, Sleeptyime, Serenity, Meditation, Happy Tummies, Liquorice Lovers, Peace Love and Ginger and Moroccan Mint Spiced Green Tea.

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5 Reasons to Use Herbal Tea When You’re Sick

woman pouring tea

Herbal teas and infusions are the oldest form of medicine.

Herbs are the origins of all medicines. Nowadays medicine has progressed so far that we often forget that if it weren’t for the original herbs, many medicines wouldn’t exist. In fact the basis of many medicines are the active ingredient of a herb.
Despite medicine having come so far and become so advanced, there are still times when herbs are a better choice than a pharmaceutical medicine.

When you have a cold or flu.

Many people go to a doctor for prescribed antibiotics when they come down with a head cold or cough. Some medications, like antibiotics, should be saved for when you have a bad infection, otherwise antibiotic resistance can develop. This can be dangerous when you need antibiotics to save your life. Herbs like liquorice root, echinacea, elderflower and elderberry have been proven to help shorten the duration of your cold or flu as well as reducing symptoms. They are gentle on the body and bacteria cannot develop resistance to them.

When you feel anxious.

Anxiety is becoming quite common in today’s world of pressure and stress. If it becomes something that gets in the way of living your life, it can be helpful to take something to help you cope. Daily meditation, exercise and healthy eating as well as good gut bacteria are all an important part of reducing anxiety. Herbs such as camellia (tea), mugwort, tulsi, chamomile, lemon balm, rose petals, passionflower and valerian  can all be a useful part of reducing anxiety during the day, and helping you to get better sleep at night.

When you have regular headaches or long term pain.

Stress headaches and migraines can be debilitating, and you should definitely consult your doctor if you have them more than three times a week, or if you have a long term headache or pain that won’t go away. Long term use of pain relieving medication can have serious side effects, such as liver damage,  reduced sensitivity to the medication and addiction to some opioid style medications. Taking herbal tonics with ingredients such as lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, turmeric, white willow bark and valerian can not only reduce your long term pain by immediately treating it, they can also reduce underlying inflammation which can be part of the cause of the pain, and promote healthy nerves.

When you have an upset stomach.

Rarely do you need to take a medication for an upset stomach, but a herbal tea can be very soothing for your stomach when you have a 24 hour bug, or indigestion. Some herbs are antibacterial, but specifically go after pathogenic bacteria while promoting and nurturing the good bacteria which we are supposed to have in our gut. Herbs and spices such as chamomile, lemon balm, mugwort, cinnamon, ginger and tulsi soothe the mucosal lining of the stomach, reducing spasms, and relaxing the body. Fennel and aniseed can reduce the effect of heartburn.

When you are chronically ill.

Many people who are chronically ill run the risk of taking too many medications, or combining the wrong medications. For example over the counter pain medications with prescribed medications. This can be quite damaging for your liver and other organs and can cause you to develop a condition called Drug Induced Cognitive Impairment, or even liver failure. Many herbal medicines, especially taken in tea form, are a lot gentler and less likely to cause these issues. Consult your doctor and herbalist about combining herbs with medications.

Always consult with your doctor before starting a new treatment, and discuss with your herbalist about which herbs and medications should not go together.