Oral Motor Series
Introduction to the MOBI Herbal
Based on "A Lactogenic Herbal" from Hilary Jacobson's Mother Food
It is wise to initially take a new herb or food at minimum dosage for a few reasons,
Sometimes mothers experience side effects with herbs. Side effects are different from allergies in that they usually pass after a few days of taking the herb at reduced dosage, and the mother can then build up her dosage again. Side-effects might include an episode of low blood sugar, slight nausea or headache. If a side effect continues, it's best to discontinue the herb. If you are pregnant, be sure to read the next section on pregnancy considerations. As well, see pregnancy recommendations in each herb's section of the MOBI Herbal.
Potential allergies and side effects are listed in each herb’s section. If no remark is made about allergy and side effects in an herb's section, that herb or spice is not generally considered allergenic, and has no typical side effect.
However, any person, even those with no previous history of allergy, can become allergic to any herb or food—though allergy usually develops when a person comes into excessive contact with a food or substance.
Take the food or herb and observe your response over the next few hours: Does your heart beat more quickly for no reason? Do you find yourself breathing rapidly, do you develop indigestion, have skin changes such as a patch of red skin on the face, or bright red ears, have difficulty swallowing, sinus congestion, breathing problems, sudden fatigue, or involuntary movements such as nervous, twitching legs?
You probably will not experience any of these signs, and can increase the amount you take.
Individual dosage requirements
Mothers have individual needs when it comes to so-called "lactogenic foods and herbs." Although most mothers produce milk well without having to consider their use at all, a few mothers find they need to take a good amount every day. Some may need to take a high dosage for two to four days to kick-start lactation.
As a breastfeeding mother gathers experience about her unique reaction to herbs and foods, she will learn about the dosage that works best for her, both for building and for maintaining her milk supply.
For example, some mothers respond to low-dose, mildly steeped teas, i.e., a low dosage of borage leaf or lemon balm tea may be mood elevating, are mild hops tea may be relaxing. Different persons have different levels of sensitivity; each of us has to experiment to learn about our responses to the herbs we use.
More milk is not always better. Mothers should consider the following: If you do not have low milk supply, and you take an abundance of herbs and foods to increase your supply, you may create unnecessary difficulties for yourself such as over-supply, engorgement, plugged ducts, or mastitis. Your baby may develop colic due to too much foremilk, or sucking difficulties due to an overly strong let-down reflex, both of which are common with over-supply. Use these foods and herbs wisely, and reduce or stop their use if you notice such problems developing.
During pregnancy, mothers take herbs for their nutritional value, to tone the uterus for birth, and to promote an abundant milk supply.
Experts warn against taking large amounts of anise, basil, blessed thistle, chasteberry, fenugreek, thyme, and verbena during pregnancy, due to the slight risk of miscarriage associated with these herbs. Red raspberry leaf, widely used as a tonic for the uterus, should be introduced slowly for the same reason.
The medical tradition of India cautions against all so-called warming herbs during pregnancy: anise, basil, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, black seed (Nigella sativa), and turmeric. In India, foods are spiced with rather large quantities of these herbs. Women in the US and Europe, who use these herbs infrequently have little cause for concern. However, if you have a history of miscarriage and you enjoy a spicy cuisine, you may consider avoiding these herbs.
Herbs to promote health and glandular tissue during pregnancy
The herbs recommended for pregnancy are selected for their wealth of vitamins and minerals, their vitamin K and their folic acid. Some support the mother's liver and kidneys. Others may maximize the development of glandular tissue.
Take the herbs listed below regularly, starting at mid-pregnancy when the breasts begin preparing for lactation. These herbs can be mixed together (“Combinations”) or alternated as single teas (“Singles”) every one or two weeks. Taking “singles” prevents the body from becoming insensitive to an herb, or from getting too much of any one herb, and is preferred by some herbalists. If you prefer combinations of two or three herbs, alternate these every few weeks.
alfalfa leaf • dandelion leaf • nettle • oat-straw • red clover
Infusions for pregnant women
To avoid developing an over-supply of milk, reduce your intake of these herbs —especially alfalfa—about two weeks before your due date unless you have a history of low milk supply with a younger baby, or have good reason to suspect that you will have low milk supply.
If you drink red raspberry leaf tea in addition to this program, introduce it slowly (see MOBI Herbal section on red raspberry tea).
Which galactagogue should I use?
Mothers frequently ask which herbal galactagogues are the best. Which will work best for me? They ask this not only because they are eager to find that works, but also in light of expenses. Buying herbal preparations does add up. Before special high-quality tinctures and teas were commercially available, mothers took a selection of inexpensive herbs in capsule form. These combinations were successful for most mothers. They are: fenugreek, blessed thistle, alfalfa, red clover and marshmallow. For more information, see our section on fenugreek.
Lactation consultants studying galactagogues are also eager to find answers to this question. Unfortunately, there is no one galactagogue or combination of herbs and foods that works equally well for all women. However, some lactation experts have discovered special herbs or combinations to be most effective for certain situations.
Find your best holistic solution
From what some mothers report, low milk supply can sometimes be linked to a nutritional deficit. Many foods contain substances that interact with our endocrine systems, and these substances may play a role as well.
For some mothers, revamping their eating habits is key.
A mother may shake her head in wonder when she takes a certain healthful oil, or takes barley water, or oatmeal—and has a strong increase in her supply when she has tried lots of herbs or medication without success. She may be amazed when she begins experimenting with excluding or including certain foods, and her milk supply responds. The answer is likely that the mother has managed to find the nutrients or substances she was previously missing.
We know that variable factors can contribute to low supply, so it is wise to take a holistic approach and learn all about lactogenic herbs, spices, and lactogenic foods and oils. Start by revamping your diet be sure you are getting all the nutrients you need from whole foods. Even if a mother discovers that pumping or medication such as metformin or domperidone leads to a significant increase in her milk supply, she should not miss the opportunity to learn about dietary changes for her milk supply--an opportunity to reap long term health benefits for herself and her family.
This article has presented a brief overview of dietary suggestions to increase milk supply. See Hilary Jacobson's book Mother Food: foods and herbs that promote milk production and a mother's health to learn more about the far-reaching impact of diet on the mom and baby.