There is no doubt that breastfeeding is the most natural and beneficial way to feed your baby and it can be a rewarding experience for both mother and baby. However, it helps to keep in mind that the early days are a learning period for both mother and baby, but with the right support and information at this time, most women breastfeed successfully.
According to the NHS, breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months or more helps protect your baby against:
Breastfeeding has benefits for mothers too. For more on the benefits of breastfeeding, please see the longer list below.
Can homeopathy help with breastfeeding problems?
Problems that can make it difficult for women to breastfeed successfully include: milk supply issues, depression or ‘the baby blues’ that often comes on with the milk ‘let down’, painful cracked nipples, engorgement (very full breasts), blocked milk ducts and mastitis. Almost all breastfeeding problems can be addressed simply by ensuring a good latch and feeding position (more on this below). But if after getting advice and making adjustments, you are still having trouble, here are some practical suggestions and some remedies you can try. If the problem persists, however, you should seek professional help as soon as possible. Please contact me, your midwife and/or a breastfeeding counsellor if you want to breastfeed but find it difficult or painful (for a list of where to get support, including helplines and Camden & Islington drop-ins, see below).
If you would like to try any of the remedies listed below, take them in a 30c potency and don’t repeat them more than 3 times (three times a day for an intense acute attack, or once a day for three days for a less intense problem). If there is no improvement after three doses, try another indicated remedy or contact me.
If you are concerned that your baby may not be getting enough milk, ask yourself the following questions:
Does my baby have at least 6-8 pale, thoroughly wet cloth nappies in 24 hours, or at least five heavily wet disposable nappies? (In the first week after birth, this could be just one wet nappy per day, and in the first few days as the meconium – your babies first sticky poo – is coming out, they may want to feed virtually continuously).
Are the bowel movements soft? (The normal pattern for babies varies from one movement after every feed to one movement a week.)
Is your baby generally content even if at times unsettled or fussy?
Are the eyes bright? Is there good skin tone? (If you gently “pinch” your baby’s skin, does it spring back into place?)
Has your baby been gaining weight and growing in length? Keep in mind that weight gains can vary from week to week and are best looked at over a longer period.
If you have answered “yes” to the above questions, you can feel confident that your breastmilk is supplying all your baby’s growing needs. If you feel you have too much or too little milk:
Urtica Urens (made from stinging nettles) is a superb remedy to help balance the milk supply (either too much or too little). Most breastfeeding women can benefit from drinking nettle tea, or you could try it in homeopathic potency.
Lac defloratum can be used if the milk supply remains low, especially if you are chilly and exhausted from loss of sleep and / or diabetes.
If you are at all concerned, please contact me, your midwife, health visitor and / or breastfeeding counsellor (for a list of organisations that can give more information, including helplines and Camden & Islington drop-ins, see below).
Depression or the ‘Baby blues’
A certain amount of depression is common after birth, hence the term ‘baby blues’. This can range widely from being temporarily emotionally overwhelmed and a bit weepy, to post-natal-depression, to (in very rare cases) an extremely psychotic and deluded state. Often it is due to how we feel about the birth itself, the new responsibilities we feel for the baby, and of course the adjustment our body is going through after the release of so many hormones in quick succession, not least the hormones required for milk production or ‘let down’. Homeopathy, as a holistic form of medicine, can help the whole family with the emotional roller coaster that the post-natal period can be, and has been found to be at least as effective as anti-depressants, if not more so, but without the side effects or any dangers to your baby. For more information about how to recover emotionally after the birth, see Miranda Castro’s article here:
And you may also like to read Miranda’s excellent article for relationship survival after birth here. http://mirandacastro.com/articles/relationship_survival.html
You may like to try one of the remedies listed below, but if your depression is severe or lasting, do see a practitioner as soon as possible. There are many more remedies that could be better suited to you.
Agnus castus can be used if you have low milk supply accompanied by depression, and perhaps retained placenta.
Lac Caninum can be useful for an overabundance of milk or underabundance, often with anxiety and low self esteem.
Nat mur can be useful for an oversupply of milk, with stoic sadness or grief with little or no crying, and then only in private.
Ignatia can be used for a lack of milk with grief and crying, even hysterically.
Lac humanum, for scanty or profuse supply with sadness with every ‘let down’ reflex.
Pulsatilla, weeps while breastfeeding and needs a lot of support and company.
Sore and Cracked Nipples
Most mothers find that sore nipples respond quickly to treatment after establishing and correcting the cause, the most common (and easily corrected) being incorrect attachment. The video above illustrates the correct latch that keeps the nipple on the soft part of the palate of your baby’s mouth, rather than the hard part that can cause friction (if you want to know the difference, just run your tongue along the roof of your mouth until you find the soft part at the back). Careful detachment is also important (you should gently insert a finger into your baby’s mouth to break the suction before detaching).
One useful remedy for sore, cracked nipples, which hurt when the baby nurses is Phytolacca. It is also useful for breast infections (mastitis) where there are painful lumps in the breast (see more on this below).
If nipple soreness persists, it would be a good idea to consider if soap or detergents are drying and irritating. Avoid plastic-backed nursing pads and consider using washable cotton styles if disposable pads chafe sensitive nipple skin.
Diets that contain a lot of sugars and yeast’s can often aggravate nipple soreness, so if nipple soreness persists beyond a few weeks it may be advisable to go on an anti-candida (no sugar and no yeast) diet and seek constitutional homeopathic help. Good tissue integrity is promoted when the diet contains adequate fatty acids and zinc. Oily fish and a variety of nuts and seeds are good sources of these nutrients.
Castor Equus is a remedy used principally for sore and cracked nipples, where there are no other symptoms. If symptoms persist or keep returning, do not keep taking this remedy or use Castor Equus creams. Instead you should seek homeopathic help for the underlying cause.
Borax can be used where the nipples are sore due to thrush, and you may have a sensation of falling backwards.
Engorgement most commonly occurs in the early days after the milk comes in. Following delivery of the baby and placenta, the extra blood that has developed in your system to nourish your baby in the uterus now re-routes itself to the breasts to help build up the hormone levels needed to initiate lactation. Gradually, the body reabsorbs the extra blood and the breasts settle. However, discomfort can be eased by having a warm shower or bath and allowing the milk to flow. Sometimes, just a warm face towel placed on the breast will do.
Again, one of the most common causes of engorgement however is also a bad latch or positioning of the baby, that does not allow the breasts to drain fully but still stimulates them to produce more milk. First of all therefore, check that you have a good latch and get help if needed. If the breasts are very hard and distended, it will be difficult for your baby to even get the nipple in her mouth. If this is the case, try soaking the breasts in a solution of a heaped teaspoon of Epsom salts in a dish of warm water. This should help the milk to flow freely from the ducts, and once they are softer you can try to reposition your baby to get a good latch. It’s a good idea to try and not handle the nipple by expressing, as this will ultimately result in even more milk being made (the more babies suckle, the more milk is produced). Cold compresses, such as gel packs or cold cabbage leaves, provide pain relief after feeds and help to reduce the swelling.
Blocked Milk Ducts
Blocked milk ducts may occur when pressure is placed on breast tissue. Unusual causes may include sleeping soundly too long in one position or taking an extended car trip with the seat belt lying against the breast. However, the most common causes are due to ill-fitting bras or other clothing, or by placing a finger against the breast during feeds to make an airway for the baby’s nose. A well-attached baby should be able to breathe while feeding. It is important to continue breastfeeding at this time, as the milk is not harmful to the baby. A baby’s suck is very strong, so frequent feeding (try a variety of positions) is often the best way of clearing a duct, especially if you can massage the area gently during feeds.
Mastitis & abscesses
Mastitis is an inflammation or infection of the tissue surrounding the milk ducts. It can follow missed or interrupted breastfeeds, which cause the breast to become overfull. It may also occur as the result of not being able to clear a blocked duct. Incorrect attachment, which results in poor drainage of the breast, may also be a cause. Frequent feeds and/or expressing will help; weaning is NOT recommended at this time. Warmth (hot washer, shower, bath or soak of breast in warm water) applied before feeds will encourage milk flow. Cold compresses (gel packs, cold cabbage leaves) following feeds may ease the pain. If inflammation does not ease within 6-12 hours you may begin to show signs of infection. These include: fever, aches and pains and a flu-like feeling. If you are breastfeeding and have a fever, please see my guidelines on if, when and how to treat fevers. They apply to breastfeeding mums just the same.
Phytolacca is one of the most commonly used remedies for mastitis, especially where the pains radiate from the affected area and the breast is hard and lumpy. You may feel heavy with flu like symptoms, or may have a breast abscess threatening.
Belladonna is for the sudden onset of symptoms where the breast is hot, red and hard with throbbing pains.
Bryonia is used for mastitis where the breast is pale, hard and hot, and the pains are worse for any movement.
Hepar sulph is one of the best remedies for an abscess with cheesy puss.
Lac humanum can also be used for breast abscesses, but do also contact a practitioner if any abscess does not resolve speedily, as surgery to drain the pus may be required and other remedies can then be used to better effect.
For more information about homeopathy for breastfeeding problems, please contact me.
The following organisations can also be of great help regarding breastfeeding problems:
La Leche League
The National Childbirth Trust
National Breastfeeding helpline (open 9.30am – 9-.30pm) 0300 100 0212
Camden Baby Feeding Service: 0800 389 5789 or 020 7974 8961
Islington Breastfeeding support: 0203 316 8439
“Our aim is to empower parents by ensuring they receive the most up-to-date information to assist them with their breastfeeding baby. We strive to provide them this information through breastfeeding resources which include, but are not limited to, free information sheets, video clips, and articles. Some resources, such as books, protocols and videos can also be purchased through the website. Our resources help to diagnose breastfeeding concerns, treat pain, milk supply issues, concerns around babies’ health as related to feeding, and help to prevent future problems… At Breastfeeding Inc, we are here to make available all the information that parents – both new and experienced – need to make breastfeeding their baby an easy and wonderful experience”.
Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding
From a leading midwife and the author of “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” comes this deeply compassionate and comprehensive guide to making breastfeeding a joyful experience for both mother and child. Drawing on her decades of experience in caring for pregnant women, mothers, and babies, Ina May Gaskin explores the health and psychological benefits of breastfeeding.
Inspiring as well as informative, “Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding” is a powerful and practical guide filled with helpful advice, medical facts and real-life stories that will help mothers understand how and why breastfeeding works and how they can use it to more deeply connect with their children and their own bodies without fear, inhibition, or embarrassment.
“Ina May Gaskin is an international treasure. Her new guide to breastfeeding is the best thing ever written on the subject. A must-have for all pregnant women interested in the best start for their babies.” Christiane Northrup, M.D., Author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.
The Milk of Human Kindness
defending breastfeeding from the global market & the AIDS industry by Solveig Francis, Selma James, Phoebe Jones Schellenberg & Nina Lopez-Jones.
“The attack on breastfeeding is an attack on all of us, on our right to the best, from birth, freely given. With The Milk of Human Kindness we see not only the value of breastfeeding, but the forces for and against this caring work of women, in fact for and against life itself.”
The Homoeopathic Physician’s Guide to Lactation
Patricia Hatherly, who enjoys the unique perspective of being a Homoeopath as well as a Lactation Consultant, has worked extensively with mothers and babies for over 30 years. During this time she has amassed a wealth of clinical experience in dealing with all manner of clinical issues relating to breasts and lactation.
“Patricia Hatherly has offered an outstanding combination of scientific, practical and homeopathic information on the subject of lactation in her book. It is both informative and, above all, thorough. If helping people is your goal, and you work with pregnant and nursing women and infants, this is a book not to be missed.”
Neil Tessler Simillimum XIX Winter/Spring 2006
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastmilk is “species-specific” which means that it is the very best milk for human babies.
Breastmilk contains all the nutrients your baby needs for at least the first six months of life and continues to be an important part of his/her diet throughout the first few years (as long as both are happy to continue with breastfeeding), until weaning occurs at a mutually convenient time.
The colostrum your baby receives, and the breastmilk that follows, contains a range of protective factors that help to increase your baby’s resistance to infection (including being rich in vitamin K – making injections or oral doses at birth unnecessary in breastfed babies).
Research shows that breastfed babies have the potential for a higher intelligence because breast milk contains the fatty acids important in brain development. Lactose is also important for brain development. Human milk has the highest levels of lactose of all the mammalian milks because humans have the biggest brains. The baby’s brain keeps developing well into the second year.
Because babies feed from both breasts, they receive visual and tactile stimulation during feeds on alternate sides. This helps brain development in the area of left or right hemispherical dominance.
Ensuring that your baby has only breastmilk for at least six months may help lessen allergy problems. It is especially helpful if the mother avoids any known familial allergens in the diet until this time and then gradually reintroduces them as the baby gets closer to one year old. In this way, the baby is sensitised in a gradual manner through the breastmilk and may then be free from the symptoms of allergy.
Infants’ eyesight, speech and jaw development are all known to be enhanced by breastfeeding.
Breastfed babies have a higher resistance to disease and are less likely to become sick.
Breastfeeding is one of the recommendations for lowering the risk of SIDS.
Breastfeeding may lower the risk of your baby developing juvenile diabetes in the future. It may also reduce the risk of heart disease.
Breastfeeding helps a mother’s body return to its pre-pregnant state more quickly. Many women also find they lose excess weight while breastfeeding.
Ongoing research is showing that breastfeeding may lessen the incidence of cancer of the breast and ovaries, heart disease and osteoporosis in the mother.
Breastfeeding delays the return of menstruation in most women. Breastfeeding’s contraceptive effect can delay the return of fertility in most women.
Breastfeeding is usually easy and convenient (you always have a free hand). Breastfed babies are very portable and you have an instant, safe, pre-warmed, ready-to-serve food wherever you go.
As a totally sustainable resource, breastfeeding is also good for the environment.
Most of the information on this page was compiled thanks to Patricia Hatherly, Lactation Consultant, a Homeopath based in Brisbane, Australia, and can be found in the Appendix to her book: The Homoeopathic Physician’s Guide to Lactation.