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TCM for Nursing Mums

Many new mums wonder if they can take herbs while breastfeeding.

The good news is that most TCM herbs are plant-based and will not cause adverse side effects. Traditionally, selected herbs were prescribed to mothers to promote recovery during the confinement period. These herbs are generally safe for anyone to consume.

Recovery after birth

According to TCM, once the baby is born, some of mummy’s blood gets converted into breast milk. This is the same blood that was flowing to the placenta prior to delivery.

It is normal for new mothers to feel weak after childbirth. This is a result of deficiency in blood and energy (also known as ‘Qi’), both of which are needed to produce milk. Mothers can take some herbs during the confinement period to help the body address this deficiency.

oversupply of breast milk

Lactation disorders

In TCM, there are two categories of lactation disorders, namely low milk supply and poor milk flow. Low milk supply is due to insufficient Qi and blood supply of the mother and is related to her body constitution.

Stagnation of Qi prevents milk from moving down the ducts and out of the nipple. This can lead to breast fullness, distension, pain and engorgement. Emotions such as stress, anger, resentment, frustration and depression are the main causes of the blockage. These can be alleviated with TCM herbs.

Mastitis is the stagnation of Qi, blood and milk in combination with infection. It is more effective to complement Western medicine with TCM when treating mastitis. While antibiotics help to clear up the infection, Chinese medicine or acupuncture can alleviate the blocked Qi, blood and milk in the breast.

The combined treatment will further reduce the engorgement and inflammation. Herbal prescriptions can be consumed safely with antibiotics and are also safe for the breastfeeding infant.

Do note that there are some herbs that breastfeeding mothers should avoid, as they contain high levels of alkaloids, which may negatively impact an infant’s nervous system. Some herbs that contain alkaloids are:

  • huanglian 黄连
  • huangbo 黄柏
  • dahuang 大黄
  • fanxieye 蕃泻叶
  • kushengen 苦参根
  • wuzuyu 吴茱萸
  • luhui 芦荟

It is recommended that you consult your physician before taking these herbs.

breastfeeding baby

Recommended herbs for breastfeeding mothers

  1. For mummy’s physical recovery
    • Ginseng 人参
    • Huangqi 黄芪
    • Danggui 当归
    • Heshouwu 何首乌
    • Shudi 熟地
    • Jizi 枸杞子
    • Sangjisheng 桑寄生
    • Duzhong 杜仲

 

  1. To stimulate milk production
    • Dangshen 党参
    • Jiegeng 桔梗
    • Tongcao 通草
    • Wangbuliuxing 王不留行
    • Loulu 漏芦
    • Lulutong 路路通

 

  1. To boost mummy’s mood
    • Dried rose flower 玫瑰花
    • Foshou 佛手
    • Yujin 郁金

 

  1. To improve milk flow
    • Qingpi 青皮
    • Juluo 橘络
    • Sigualuo 丝瓜络
    • Jili 蒺藜
    • Pugongying 蒲公英

 

  1. To relieve mastitis
  • Jinyinhua 金银花
  • Lianqiao 连翘
  • Mangxiao 芒硝
  • Muli 牡蛎
  • Zaojiaoci 皂角刺
  • Chishao 赤芍
  • Chuanshanjia 穿山甲

 

This article has been written by Physician Xiong Ying who practices at Thomson Chinese Medicine at Thomson Medical Centre.

She can be reached at:
Thomson Chinese Medicine
(Thomson Medical Centre)
339 Thomson Road #03-01
Singapore 307677
T: 6350 8850
E: [email protected]
www.thomsonchinesemedicine.com

A version of this article first appeared in Celebrating Life, Issue 17| Aug-Sep 2015

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