I've received a lot of calls lately about acupuncture and breast feeding. Many mothers are concerned with lack of milk production, and others have experienced the dreaded mastitis on more than one occasion. Both of these issues are something that acupuncture and herbal medicine can definitely help with (be sure to find an acupuncture practitioner who specializes in women's health, especially fertility and pregnancy!)

Lack of milk: There are several ways to boost milk production, and acupuncture combined with Chinese herbs is a great way to help promote more milk and improved flow. Getting a an acupuncture treatment is a great way to determine why milk production is lower, and finding the best herbal formula to help.  Each person has a unique constitution, and your practitioner will help you get the safest herbal formula for you and your baby.

A reduction in the flow of milk is often caused by either restricted flow of energy in the Liver, which is usually due to stress, or a blood deficiency. In Chinese medicine, the Liver influences the breast and chest regions. Stagnant Qi obstructs these channels to the breast, and then the milk cannot flow. Reducing stress whenever possible will help- finding half an hour to have for yourself every day will help immensely.
With blood deficiency, the lack of milk production is directly related to the blood. In Chinese medicine theory, blood produces the milk, and therefore a lack of blood will cause your body to produce less milk. This can be resolved with acupuncture an herbal treatment, as well as taking a good look at your diet, and making sure you are eating enough protein, such as beef, chicken, or vegetable proteins.

Mastitis: Acupuncture treatment includes acupoints in the hands, legs, upper chest, and possibly a few near the inflamed breast itself. Mastitis is inflammation of the breast, often caused by blocked milk ducts. It's necessary to move the stagnant blood and energy in the local area to clear the blockage, clear the inflammation, and get the milk moving again. Herbal medicine is also safe to take while breastfeeding- as long as you are taking the right herbs! Your practitioner will know what to give you.

If milk production just isn't working for some other reason, purchasing milk from another lactating mother is another option, and this is usually this is done through breast milk banks. You can contact a midwifery organization or your local hospital for more information about this. You can also make your own formulas- a rice or goats milk substitute is commonly used (I don't personally have experience with either of these, but would love more information from those who have used either of them!).

Another great resource is the La Leche League, a world-wide organization offers help to nursing moms, and can help with all breastfeeding concerns. It may be that you need to change the feeding schedule you are on to boost milk production, and often these small changes can make a big difference. This site has a great outline of what happens when you are breastfeeding.