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by Marie from Jolly Mama

Nursing teas to boost milk production

breastfeedingLactogenicMilk supplyStimulate lactation

A lack of milk is one of the main reasons for stopping breastfeeding. 50% of mums stop breastfeeding because they don’t have enough milk

according to the study entitled “Why WIC women stop breastfeeding? Analysis of maternal characteristics and time to cessation, 2013”.

The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommended duration for exclusive breastfeeding is 6 months and yet only one child in five continues to feed on breast milk at 6 months.  Milk production appears to be a determining factor in maintaining breastfeeding long-term.

For a long time women have looked for natural, effective ways of stimulating and increasing their milk supply, especially through teas that contain lactogenic plants, i.e. plants that promote the production of breast milk.

What is a nursing tea?

Nursing teas are herbal teas that are aimed specifically at women who are breastfeeding. 

There are two types:

– those that help ease baby’s colic,

– and those that are for stimulating breast milk production, since they are made with lactogenic plants. .

These herbal teas will help keep you hydrated, and encourage milk production on a daily basis.

There’s nothing magical about them, however.  They will never be able to replace a healthy, balanced diet (essential for the quantity and quality of the mik, and for keeping you in good shape) and frequent breastfeeding.

The more frequently your baby feeds, the more milk you will produce.  So the first thing to do when you feel you have less milk, is to nurse your baby and make sure that the feeds are productive.  Also, since fatigue is often one of the first causes of a drop in milk production, it is essential that you rest as much as possible, sleeping when baby sleeps.

In addition, to start off and maintain your milk production, try as far as possible to avoid infant formula, bottles and dummies/pacifiers in the early weeks.  These can bring about a drop in milk supply because the breasts have less stimulation and send a message to the body to produce less milk.

If you try to follow this advice, nursing teas will be an extra aid to producing more milk, naturally and rapidly. 

Nursing tea content

What do most of these nursing teas contain?  Generally there are lactogenic plants (plants that stimulate milk production) such as:

– Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum) which is good for digestion too, and its soothing properties are reputed to help with infant colic,

– Fennel seeds (Foeniculum vulgare) which are also good for soothing infant colic,

– Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) which, as well as its lactogenic properties, helps recovery after the birth, and helps regulate fat metabolism, as well as maintaining normal blood sugar levels.  In other words, the ideal postpartum plant!,

– Cumin (Cuminum cyminu) and caraway, also known as meridian fennel (Carum carvi),

– Galega, also called Goat’s rue or French lilac (Galega officinalis),

– Verbena (Verbena officinalis), which is also known for its soothing properties, with a sweet pleasant taste.

Of course nursing teas often include other non-lactogenic plants (thyme, orange, mint, raspberry…) to balance out  their otherwise strong and somewhat medicinal taste.

Nursing teas to avoid infant colic

Infant colic occurs frequently and is often due to the immaturity of the digestive tract.  Count your lucky stars if you’ve never encountered it!

Certain plants such as fennel or verbena have a soothing effect on the stomach.  Taken in herbal teas, their active ingredients will make their way to the breast milk and will help soothe baby’s colic, gas and other tummy pains. Nursing teas can really help with severe cases of colic.

The recommendation is to try to reduce dairy product intake if colic symptoms persist.

Stimulating milk production with nursing teas

Nursing teas have been used by mums and midwives for generations.  In France, 52% of women say they have already taken, or intend to take, food supplements as an aid to breastfeeding.  A recent study in Canada and Switzerland showed that almost all breastfeeding counsellors use lactogenic foods in their practice.

Consuming lactogenic plants is said to boost mums’ confidence in themselves and their capacity to feed their babies.  Another advantage of lactogenic plants is that they have few, if any, side effects. 

In terms of good practice for breastfeeding, these plants and other lactogenic foods can be real allies during difficult times such as:

– Major fatigue or stress, which adversely affect milk production,

– A return to work which can mean a drop in the number of feeds or breast expressions,

– Growth spurts at about 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months, where baby’s needs increase and demands on the breast can be more frequent (the infamous breastfeeding marathons),

– Taking hormonal contraceptives, whose side effects can include a drop in milk production,

Wanting to produce more milk to build up a stock (with a view to going back to work for example).

Among the better-known lactogenic plants that are used to support breastfeeding, we find fenugreek, which has been used since ancient times for its lactogenic properties and to aid recovery after birth.  It contains diosgenin, a steroidal saponin, which is involved in the growth of mammary cells.  Several studies have shown an increase in the quantity of milk in the 24-72 hours following fenugreek intake. 

Fenugreek should however be avoided by pregnant women (as it is said to bring on uterine contractions), and should be used with prudence by diabetics.  Consult your doctor in this case.

Nursing teas can be found in the shops.  We would advise you to go organic, and there are several brands: Weleda (organic nursing tea with fenugreek, aniseed, caraway, verbena and fennel), Romon Nature’s organic nursing tea, BONA FAMA, to name just a few.

If you have a creative bent, you could make your own by buying the (preferably organic) plants from a herborist.

To make your tea:  infuse the recommended quantities for 10 minutes, then filter.  Add basil, mint, lemon, slices of orange, a little honey or agave syrup to soften the taste and create the nursing tea of your dreams.

Want to try out our secret Jolly Mama recipe?

You can drink these teas all day long (1-3 cups per day).  Don’t forget that good hydration is a key factor for good milk production.

Our alternative to nursing teas: Jolly Mama products

Nursing teas are great allies for breastfeeding mums, and they encourage you to drink more, which is great.  However some women are put off by the taste.

Including the team at Jolly Mama!  Which is why we had the idea of creating the perfect accompaniment to nursing teas: our cereal squares.

Our organic snacks contain fenugreek (and other ingredients that are generally considered lactogenic, like oatmeal and flax seeds (see our article on Lactogenic foods).  The cherry on the cake is that they provide vitamins and minerals that are essential for good quality milk, and they help fight cravings and fatigue.  So they’re good for breastfeeding mums (among others!). 

Because healthy is good but healthy AND tasty is better, we have created them in 4 flavours: Chocka-chocolat for the chocoholics out there, Tout Mymy to stock up on antioxydants, Mega Crunch with hazelnuts and almonds for those who like a bit of crunch for their brunch, and Happy Seeds, our tasty superfood combo.

All of the taste, none of the guilt!

In conclusion…

Nursing teas, thanks to their lactogenic plants, help promote lactation.  They do not replace good breastfeeding practice such as frequent, on-demand feeds, productive feeds, hydration throughout the day and a healthy diet.  Remember a breastfeeding mother also needs 500 kcal more per day compared to what she ate before she was pregnant. 

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