A Guide to Mother's Milk Tea
Is mother's milk tea right for you? Here's everything you need to know about lactation teas and how to use them.
Mother's milk tea is made up of a blend of herbs that can increase milk production in nursing moms. There are many herbal tea blends available at stores, but you can also make your own loose leaf blend and customize it to meet your needs. Whichever type of tea you choose to use to increase milk supply, it is important to educate yourself on what these teas do and whether or not they will help you.
What Is a Galactagogue?
When looking into mother's milk teas, you will come across the term galactagogue. These "are foods, herbs and medicines that help increase a mother's breast milk production or promote better milk flow," says Lisa Lahey, a registered nurse, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and owner of Advanced Breastfeeding Care. Lahey cautions that a "mom who believes she may have a low supply or has a need for a galactagogue may have many other physical factors that contribute to low milk production. Lactation consultants want to observe a feeding, take a full history and examine baby's mouth and mom's breast because that is often helpful in finding a root cause."
Hilary Jacobson, a certified Swiss holistic lactation consultant, author of "Mother Food" and cofounder of MOBI Motherhood International, agrees that there are many different potential causes for low milk production. "Sometimes, there are problems on the mom's or the baby's side that complicate that simple equation," says Jacobson. "For instance, a baby's tight frenulum, that is, the fold of skin beneath the tongue, connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth, may inhibit his suckling. Or a mother may have a hormonal imbalance, such as an undiagnosed thyroid disorder or PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) or insulin resistance, that interferes with lactation." Before you try a mother's milk tea, even if it is a pre-blended option, such as Traditional Medicinals, you should speak to a professional to see how this product can be used to address your specific needs.
All lactation teas contain a blend of herbs. There "are 30 or so herbs (also many everyday spices!) that support milk production and milk flow," says Jacobson. These herbs "act to support digestion, to encourage relaxation and to support certain hormones that are specific to lactation."
According to Lahey, some of the most common herbs to look for in nursing teas include "alfalfa, anise, blessed thistle, fennel, fenugreek, goat's rue, hops, marshmallow root, malunggay, nettle, oat straw (oats), raspberry leaf and shatavari." She advises that you avoid "sage, peppermint, spearmint, oregano and parsley," as they "can be used to wean or decrease milk supply."
Making Mother's Milk Tea
Whether you blend your own tea using herbs from a reputable company, like Mountain Rose Herbs, or buy a blend, all you'll need to make lactation tea is hot water and a tea strainer. Jacobson recommends that you "have lactation teas freshly brewed, hot, 15 minutes before a meal." You can also make a batch in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to two days, she says.
The Advantages of Using Mother's Milk Tea
When combined with a balanced diet, mother's milk tea can have several advantages. The teas are generally inexpensive, easy to make and readily available. Unless you or your baby has an allergy to any of the herbs, the teas are safe and low-dosage. Jacobson points out that "lactation teas have other benefits as well. For instance, nettle and alfalfa are rich in minerals and help alleviate iron-deficiency anemia, which is widespread in young women. And many of the herbs are also mild antidepressants, so they help prevent postpartum depression." Of course, speak to your doctor or midwife before trying these.
For extra guidance and assistance during your newborn's first weeks, find a doula on Care.com.
Kit Arbuckle works as a freelance writer covering many parenting and health topics. She has a certification in herbal medicine from a botanical sanctuary.
*This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.
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