Breastfeeding Information

Why breastfeed?

Decades of research have shown that breast milk is a unique substance that cannot be duplicated by artificial means. It is the most complete food for babies, as it contains the perfect balance of nutrients that are essential for a baby’s growth and development. Experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, recommend that women breastfeed for at least the first year.

Benefits for Baby
Breast milk has more than 100 nutritional components not found in infant formula that are critical to a baby’s brain function and to their visual and auditory development. Breast milk contains antibodies to many diseases and helps a baby develop a strong immune system. Studies show that breastfed babies have lower incidences of sudden infant death syndrome, and a reduced risk of childhood leukemia and juvenile onset diabetes. Breastfed babies also have a lower risk of allergies, asthma, diarrhea, respiratory and ear infections. Children that are breastfed are less likely to develop celiac disease and have a lowered risk of obesity later in life.

Benefits for Mom
Breastfeeding provides a wide range of benefits to the nursing mother. Breast milk is convenient, it is always available and at the right temperature. You can feed your baby anywhere and at anytime without having to pack up bottles, sterilizing equipment or formula. Breastfeeding helps mothers return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster than women who formula feed. There are numerous health benefits for women who choose to breastfeed including a reduced risk of osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, and ovarian and breast cancers.

Benefits for the Environment
Breastfeeding saves our natural resources as well. The production of infant formula takes valuable land, water and energy and contributes to air pollution. An estimated 87,230 tons of tin and paper end up in landfills every year due to formula consumption. There is a potential annual savings of $3.6 billion in decreased costs of public health programs, reduced absenteeism, and reduced environmental and energy burdens.

Motherlove believes new mothers should have access to information about the immediate and lifelong benefits breastfeeding can provide. Ultimately, the decision to breastfeed is yours. We are dedicated to helping women with low milk supply provide their children with the best start in life.

Low breast milk

What causes an inadequate supply of breast milk?

There are many reasons why women may not produce enough breast milk. While we are confident that our herbal extracts are the best formulas available, not all issues can be corrected with supplements. An inadequate or low supply of breast milk can result from a variety of causes; most of which can be addressed in order to produce more breast milk. Confer with a lactation consultant for help in determining the cause of a low milk supply.

Milk Supply Equation - Copyright © Lisa Marasco

    1. Sufficient lactation tissue
    2. Intact nerve pathways
    3. Intact ducts
    4. Adequate hormones
    5. Adequate receptors
    6. Adequate milk removal
    7. Adequate stimulation
    8. Sufficient frequency
  • Adequate removal of milk - Make sure that your milk is being removed frequently enough to maintain supply. Breastfeed or pump often, your body produces milk to replace milk that is removed, so the more milk that is removed, the more milk is made. Be sure your baby is latched correctly to maximize milk removal.
  • Hormonal - Hormonal imbalances can sometimes cause low milk production. Thyroid, insulin, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, prolactin and fasting glucose can all affect milk supply. Receptors and pathways must be intact for each hormone to work properly.
  • Mammary tissue - Women can have damaged or insufficient mammary tissue for several reasons. Breast implants, reductions and other types of surgery can reduce milk production by damaging glands, ducts, and nerves. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a possible cause of poor mammary tissue development. Goat’s Rue can help to increase mammary tissue.
  • Scarring - This can result from any type of surgery affecting the mammary tissue, including diagnostic, ablative and cosmetic breast and nipple surgeries. Areola piercings can cause scaring in the nipple that can damage nerves critical to milk ejection.
  • Anti Galactogogues (Galactofuge) - Women may ingest certain food items while breastfeeding, not realizing they might be having an effect on their milk supply. Try to avoid these spices in large quantity while breastfeeding; sage, parsley, thyme, and peppermint (including breath mints). Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (especially four months postpartum) and hormonal birth control (especially in the first weeks after birth) can also decrease milk supply.

What can women do to increase their supply of milk?

  • Herbal galactogogues have gained a reputation for increasing breast milk from years of traditional use. Our liquid extracts and liquid capsules are stronger, more easily absorbed and more effective than dried herbal capsules or teas. Some popular herbal galactogogues are: fenugreek, blessed thistle, nettle, anise, dill, fennel, goat’s rue, raspberry, and alfalfa. Motherlove’s More Milk contains blessed thistle, nettle, and fennel seed. More Milk Plus contains fenugreek, blessed thistle, nettle and fennel. More Milk Two, for women who are nursing and are pregnant, contains raspberry leaf, nettles and alfalfa. Our newest combination More Milk Special Blend, adds Goat’s Rue to the popular More Milk Plus formula and is helpful for women who need to build mammary tissue. Please consult our Product FAQ’s to find the formula that is right for you.
  • Talk to a professional - We always recommend working with a lactation consultant. They can best advise mothers on their exact situation. Every woman’s body, physiology, biology, hormonal levels, baby’s habits and personal habits are different. One on one consultation can really help target the reason and solution to low milk supply.
  • Pumping - Sometimes the body needs extra stimulation and milk extraction to produce enough milk to feed your baby. Residual milk can be pumped after feedings and stored for later use.
  • Latching correctly - Your baby might not be latching deeply enough, preventing adequate milk removal. Have a lactation specialist check for problems such as a tongue tie if it appears that your baby is struggling to latch, frequently slips down on the nipple, the nipple has compression stripe, clicking is heard during nursing or if pain continues after the first few weeks.
  • Alternative techniques - There are a variety of alternative therapies that can help address low milk production including chiropractics, acupuncture, reflexology and yoga. Visualization can be a helpful tool, visualize abundant milk as it effortlessly flows from you to nourish your child.
  • Nutrition - Remember that food can be medicinal too. Eat a well-rounded diet with adequate calories (even more than during pregnancy) that includes vitamins and minerals with levels high enough for yourself and to produce milk. A healthy diet rich in protein, fiber, iron, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and omega 3 can make a big difference. Avoid junk food. You need adequate liquid so drink plenty of fresh water.
  • Lack of Confidence - Sometimes it takes time to feel comfortable with motherhood. It doesn’t just come naturally for every new mother! Some may be uncomfortable with the new feelings of pleasure or pain while nursing. Find a place that is comfortable for you to nurse. You may want privacy or quiet until you feel comfortable. Having eye contact with your infant while you nurse can help you relax and feel a nurturing bond. Find a friend or support group to talk with.
  • Relaxation - Remember to relax and do not put yourself under additional stress. Many women are too hard on themselves when struggling with milk production. It may very well be something out of your control. Some breast milk is better than no breast milk! It is important to find the stress relievers that work for you (quiet time alone, talking with someone, exercise, getting plenty of rest, taking a warm bath). Keep trying, expand your resources and let us help you any way we can.

Where can I find more information?

  • La Leche League International has support groups throughout the country.Contact one in your area. There are also lactation consultants working in private practice and in hospitals to answer your questions.
  • Low Milk Supply provides information and support to mothers who are experiencing low milk production.
  • has lots of helpful information on breastfeeding and resources to help you network with mother’s in similar situations.
  • is yet another wonderful resource for breastfeeding questions.
  • The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk, by Diana West and Lisa Marasco McGraw-Hill, 2008.
  • The Nursing Mother’s Herbal, by Sheila Humphrey, Fairview Press Minneapolis, 2003.
  • The Nursing Mother’s Companion, Kathleen Huggins, Harvard Common Press, 1999.
Herbs to avoid while nursing

This list is compiled from the American Herbal Product Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook, not to be used while nursing unless otherwise directed by an expert qualified in the appropriate use of this substance.

  • Aloe vera
  • Basil
  • Borage (contains Pyrrolizidine alkaloids which may cause liver damage)
  • Bugleweed
  • Cascara sagrada
  • Coltsfoot
  • Comfrey (contains Pyrrolizidine alkaloids which may cause liver damage)
  • Elecampane
  • Ephedra
  • Parsley (galactofuge reduces milk flow)
  • Sage (galactofuge reduces milk flow)
  • Wormwood
Breast engorgement / mastitis

What Causes an Engorged Breast?

A breast becomes engorged when there is a rapid increase in the milk supply (often when breast milk first comes in), and the milk is not completely drained in nursing. Breasts will feel tender and hard. Engorgement can also occur when the milk ducts are plugged. There may be spots of dried milk on ducts, which should be cleaned from the nipple.

What Should I Do?

Plugged ducts and engorgement can usually be cleared up within 24-48 hrs.

  • It is important to empty the affected breast. Nurse frequently, massaging your breast gently toward the nipple while nursing.
  • If it is too painful to nurse, express milk by hand while in a warm shower or tub or hang your breast over the sink and run water over it, as you gently massage toward the nipple.
  • Do not wear tight fitting clothes or nipple shields across the breast.
  • Warm, moist heat applied with a compress or hot water bottle will help unplug the ducts and ease swelling. Herbs that work well in a breast compress are anti-inflammatory and reduce swelling (comfrey, chamomile, calendula, lavender), increase lymph circulation and drainage (cleavers, burdock root, yarrow), and draw out infection (slippery elm, marshmallow root). Mullein leaf relieves pain. Pour boiling water over the herbs and steep 10-15 minutes. When cool enough to touch, apply herbs as a poultice, or dip a cotton cloth in the warm infusion, wring it out and wrap around the breast and under the armpit. Keep the poultice on until it cools. Reapply throughout the day. If infection is present, a clean poultice or cloth should be used every time.
  • Try a grated potato or cabbage leaves on an engorged breast to draw out inflammation. It can be mixed with hot water or applied cold, whichever feels better.
  • A home remedy that has been used successfully to unplug ducts is to drink a small amount of undiluted apple cider vinegar.

What is Mastitis?

Mastits is an engorged breast that is accompanied by infection, high fever, and flu-like symptoms. The breast is more painful and hard, and may be streaked with red. Mastitis can become very serious. Seek medical attention if the infection persists.

What Should I Do?

It is very important to rest! Mastitis commonly occurs when one is overtired and not taking the time to rest.

Continue to express milk by nursing or by hand. Apply moist heat and compresses as described with plugged ducts.

Drink plenty of fluids - herb teas, nutritional broths and soups. Useful herb teas include calendula, yarrow and elderflower to break a fever.

Take an echinacea tincture every 2-4 hours along with Vitamin C to fight infection.

Homeopathic Phytolacca works very well for most women.

Sore nipples and thrush

What Can I do About Sore Nipples?

  • Change your nursing position often to find one that is the most comfortable. Try to relax and express some milk so that it is flowing when the baby latches on. Be sure to empty your breasts so that you do not become engorged.
  • Bathe your breasts in fresh air and sunlight as often as possible.
  • Do not use soap on your nipples.
  • Apply a salve on your nipples that contains olive oil and skin healing herbs such as calendula, chamomile, marshmallow (see Motherlove’s Nipple Cream). Aloe vera and honey also promote rapid healing, but need to be washed off before nursing.
  • Apply warm, wet black tea bags, which contain tannin.
  • You may have thrush, a yeast infection that causes sore, cracked nipples.

What Is Thrush?

Thrush is a yeast infection that grows in moist places, such as in the folds of a baby’s skin. It appears as red, irritated patches on the neck, armpits and thighs; and as white patches on the tongue and insides of the cheeks. It can also be a diaper rash that doesn’t clear up easily. When thrush spreads to a nursing mother’s nipples, it makes nursing painful. The nipples are red, itchy, cracked, and sometimes have white patches. Both the mother and infant should be treated to keep from re-infecting each other, even when the symptoms appear in only one.

What can I do?

Treating thrush effectively takes a holistic approach, including diet and household hygiene.

  • You can treat thrush similarly to a yeast infection. Eat foods to rebalance live cultures in the intestines. These foods include miso, yogurt that contains live cultures, and liquid or powdered acidophilus. Acidophilus can be diluted for babies and swabbed in their mouth. Probiotic combinations are available in capsules that will increase the “good” intestinal flora. These are available for infants as well. Eat fewer foods made with yeast and cut down on sugar in your diet.
  • Boost the immune system with Vitamin C, zinc, B complex, echinacea, and garlic capsules.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water to help prevent thrush from spreading. Yeast can live on towels, so you may want to use paper towels until all signs of thrush disappear. Wash bath towels in hot water after each use and add distilled white vinegar to the final rinse (yeast cannot survive the distillation and PH). At the very least, be sure towels dry thoroughly between use.
  • Sanitize all items that come in contact with the baby’s mouth or breast milk in hot water or run them through the dishwasher to keep yeast from spreading. Clean places where mold grows (damp or moldy corners, bathroom floors, windowsills, etc.) with a bleach solution or white vinegar.
  • Swab the insides of your baby’s cheeks four times day with baking soda and water (mix 1 tsp. baking soda in 1 cup of water). Or, coat the inside of the mouth and your nipples with yogurt that contains active cultures.
  • Spray moist areas (baby’s armpits, folds of skin, under breasts) with 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar diluted in 1 cup of water. Do this several times a day until two weeks after symptoms disappear. Dust slippery elm powder on your nipples and folds of baby’s skin to keep them dry, as well as to help with healing.
  • Keep nipples exposed to air and sunlight as much as possible. Do not wear nipple shields and change breast pads often. Go bra-less, if possible, and change your shirt as soon as it becomes moist from nursing. Thrush thrives on milk and moisture.
  • After nursing, wash your nipples with apple cider vinegar (1 T. to .50 cup water). Wash it off before nursing again.
  • Olive oil has anti-fungal properties. Apply olive oil or an herbal salve made in an olive oil base to your nipples. Find one that does not need to be washed off.
  • Myrrh, oregon grape root, black walnut, goldenseal, olive leaf and pau d’arco are anti-fungal herbs. Our Diaper Balm is effective on thrush infected nipples.
  • Get plenty of rest.

Where can I find more information?