As many of you know, my sister just had her second baby boy a few weeks ago, making me a proud aunt of two. That, combined with my many patients undergoing IVF or TTC naturally… babies have been on the mind.
After giving birth, patients are often overwhelmed with being a new mom and take a break from acupuncture (or doing anything for themselves 🥴). I am here to remind you that Chinese medicine is wonderful for all postpartum care, but more specifically, breastfeeding.
When women are pregnant, our Qi (energy) and blood are directed to the fetus to nourish the baby and help it grow. After birth, the mother is typically depleted (especially if it was a traumatic birth or involved increased blood loss). Additionally, new moms are further depleted by lack of sleep and rest, leaving their body unable to replenish its stores of Qi and blood. This is one reason for low milk supply in breastfeeding.
The second reason that milk supply can be low is due to a blockage of Qi or blood. Blockages are often caused by worry, frustration, or anxiety causing the Qi in our bodies to stagnate. When Qi cannot flow freely, blockages form which can create issues getting milk and nutrients to the mammary glands, and ultimately to the baby.
Receiving regular acupuncture treatments up until childbirth and postpartum can ensure that the blood and Qi of the mother is strong enough to breastfeed following birth, and that there are no blockages present.
📈 Electroacupuncture increased serum prolactin, infant weight and maternal perception of milk production more than domperidone alone.
📈 Two systematic reviews concluded that acupuncture and acupressure are effective in increasing breastmilk volume. Acupressure combined with back massage increase serum prolactin and milk production more than either alone in one study.
📈 Acupuncture therapy has been used to treat breastfeeding for milk stasis (engorgement). Randomized, nonblinded studies in an outpatient Swedish lactation clinic compared routine care (including oxytocin spray) to routine care plus acupuncture at 2 or 3 points for treating milk stasis. A meta-analysis concluded that women who received acupuncture were less likely to develop an abscess, had less severe symptoms on day five, and had a lower rate of fever than women in the usual care group.
I have included below acupressure points that you can do at home to promote lactation. You can massage the points or use pressure on them with the tip of a blunt object (like a toothpick or closed ballpoint pen).
Dr. Charlotte Morgan, D.Ac.
Rosetti MA, Spatz DL. Effects of Acupressure on Lactation: An Integrated Review. MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2022 Nov-Dec 01;47(6):345-352. doi: 10.1097/NMC.0000000000000866. PMID: 36227074.
Hajian, H., Soltani, M., Seyd Mohammadkhani, M., Sharifzadeh Kermani, M., Dehghani, N., Divdar, Z., & Moeindarbary, S. (2021). The Effect of Acupressure, Acupuncture and Massage Techniques on the Symptoms of Breast Engorgement and Increased Breast Milk Volume in Lactating Mothers: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Pediatrics, 9(2), 12939-12950. doi: 10.22038/ijp.2020.54458.4305
Kvist LJ, Hall-Lord ML, Rydhstroem H, Larsson BW. A randomised-controlled trial in Sweden of acupuncture and care interventions for the relief of inflammatory symptoms of the breast during lactation. Midwifery. 2007 Jun;23(2):184-95. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2006.02.003. Epub 2006 Oct 18. PMID: 17052823.