Breast milk is a complete nutrition for infants. Breast milk production is automatically stimulated in mothers due to secretion of specific hormones after pregnancy. Besides nutrition, it also provides digestive enzymes, minerals, vitamins and other necessary ingredients required for the growth of an infant. Breast milk contains valuable antibodies that may help the baby resist infections.
According to Ayurveda breast milk is a kapha substance. In the mother breast milk is produced by rasa dhatu. Rasa dhatu is the first of the seven tissues produced after proper digestion and assimilation of the food. According to Charaka Samhita, the most authentic textbook of Ayurveda, breast milk provides vitality and increases ojas, which is responsible for immunity and growth of the baby. It nourishes the child physically and emotionally, and is easy to digest.
Factors which decrease breast milk
Modern lifestyle and diet which includes processed food, mental stress and irregular eating and sleeping, may cause formation of toxins (ama) in the body. Ama is a mucus type of material produced as a result of indigestion and mental stress. This ama blocks the secretion of hormones and as a result breast milk production is stopped or reduced. Vata aggravation may also lead to dehydration and thus drying of the milk glands. In addition certain chemical medications, birth control pills, illnesses and dehydration may also cause improper formation of breast milk. Lack of emotional support, grief, sorrow and depression can also decrease lactation.
Diet: Mother should take more kapha foods and avoid foods that increase pitta/vata. Cold milk, cold juices and cold drinks should be avoided. In addition foods that are dry, crispy, light in weight like potato chips, corn flakes, and popcorn should be avoided or eaten only after soaking in warm water or milk. Acidic, processed and deep fried foods increase pitta and should be avoided. Coffee, smoking, meat, alcohol and junk food should not be taken.
Grains, milk products, porridge, rice, lentils, fruits, and cooked vegetables should be eaten for increasing breast milk. The breastfeeding mother should drink 3-4 cups of warm milk with honey in a day. Ghee or clear butter is also good for breast milk production. Sweet porridge with milk, khichari (rice and moong lentils cooked together), dry fruits and nuts are also beneficial.
The breastfeeding mother should receive emotional support and love, which is an important factor for breast milk production. Mother's mind should be calm and relaxed. Full body massage with sesame oil is very good. Ayurveda describes in detail about the postnatal care of women. Husband and other family members should care for the mother after delivery. Mother's love towards the baby also increases breast milk. Mother should try to keep the baby close to her and cuddle and fondle the baby.
Avoid overworking, physical exertion, vigorous exercises and hectic lifestyle. Full body massage with warm sesame oil and a warm shower half an hour after the massage is very good. Adequate rest is necessary for adequate milk production.
Frequent breastfeeding is required for increasing lactation. As the baby sucks the mother's breast, quantity of milk increases.
Special care for breasts during breastfeeding
- Massage around the breasts (when they are empty) with almond oil. Apply oil on nipples.
- Always clean your nipples before breastfeeding.
- Sometimes milk is blocked in glands and creates very painful situation. Use hot fomentation on the breast. It will help in opening the blocked milk channels.