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Try These 5 TCM Breastfeeding Tips for You and Your Baby

Published | 5 min read

The post-partum period is critical for both mother and child. Learn about the TCM perspective and tips for breastfeeding success.

Young mother breastfeeding her newborn baby while lying on the bed.

After giving birth, a new mother will worry about whether her baby is getting enough nutrition. There is no shortage of breastfeeding tips out there. Conventional medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) do share similar views on the overall importance and benefits of breastfeeding. However, TCM also offers holistic tips for breastfeeding that focus on supporting the mother’s innate ability to provide for the child. 

Breast Milk Is Considered a Complete Food in TCM Too  

According to Senior TCM Physician Qi Xiao Yan, breast milk is the most natural source of nutrition for the baby, and its benefits cannot be replicated by powdered milk.

“The carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins are all easily absorbed by babies without any wastage,” explains Physician Qi. She points out that the protein found in breast milk can be easily absorbed by the baby, different from those found in powdered formulas. 

TCM also recognises the immunity-boosting ability of breast milk. “Breast milk contains a lot of antibodies; this can raise a baby’s immunity and lower its chances of catching an infection,” Physician Qi adds. Experts note that breastfed babies are less likely to develop atopic dermatitis and gastroenteritis. They also tend to have higher IQs later in life. 

5 Breastfeeding Tips: The TCM Perspective  

Here are 5 tips on breastfeeding that draw from TCM philosophy and practice. 

1. Eat a balanced, nutritious diet (and know what to avoid) 

Chicken Porridge
According to TCM, breastfeeding mothers should avoid spicy, oily, cold, and raw foods. Warm foods like congee make an ideal meal.

The TCM approach to breastfeeding comes from understanding the baby’s dependence on the mother. TCM advises new mothers against going on a diet to lose weight. Balanced nutrition is needed to nourish qi (vital life force) and blood, both for the mother’s health and, more importantly, so that she can produce sufficient breast milk for the baby.

There are certain foods to avoid. “Spicy food should be avoided because it can cause babies to experience diarrhoea. Fried food should also be avoided because it can cause ‘heatiness’ in the baby,” advises Senior Physician Qi. TCM also recommends against cold and raw foods during breastfeeding, as these can deplete Heat in the body and affect breast milk. 

She insists that a simple and balanced diet is key. Mothers should hydrate with a diet with plenty of soup and water to help with milk production. Meanwhile, TCM physician Ho Li Ying recommends consuming Si Shen powder (四神), Codonopsis (dang shen, 党参), Chinese yam (shan yao, 山药), poria (fu ling, 茯苓) and red dates (da zao, 大枣) to improve appetite and invigorate the Spleen

2. Don’t worry about supplements for the baby while breastfeeding 

Although TCM’s core modality includes herbal medicine, it recognises breast milk is already a complete food. Senior Physician Qi emphasises that milk is more than enough for babies up to four months old; only when your baby is sick do medication or supplements play a part. “Keep in mind that your baby’s organs are tender, so it is important to take note of the food you feed your baby. Solid foods should be given incrementally after four months, and never rush this process,” she explains. 

3. If needed, feed your baby water in addition to breast milk 

Conventional or Western medicine considers that breastfed babies already get enough water through breast milk. However, Senior Physician Qi believes otherwise, especially for babies born into a hot and humid climate like Malaysia. The Western point of view is concerned that additional water may cause the baby to take in less breast milk.

However, Senior Physician Qi points out that in warm climates, babies also lose fluids when they sweat, urinate, and defecate. She recommends that water be fed twice as frequently at half the amount as breast milk. For example, if your baby is fed 50ml of breast milk every three hours, then you can feed them 25ml of water every one and a half hours.

4. Breastfeeding problems stem from insufficient rebalancing  

TCM views the lower part of the body, where the uterus is, as Cold and Deficient after giving birth. Meanwhile, it also recognises that the upper part of the body, where the breasts are, is susceptible to Heat and Stagnation. Insufficient qi and blood that remain uncorrected during the post-partum period can lead to inadequate or stagnated milk production. TCM also cautions that this disharmony can develop further and present as milk blisters or mastitis.

5. Emotional health is just as important as physical health

New mother holds breast with a pained and concerned expression
TCM believes strong negative emotions are connected to Qi Stagnation and blockage, leading to poor milk flow.

TCM also advises paying attention to emotional symptoms when experiencing poor milk flow. This is because strong negative emotions like anger, irritability, and depression are often a result of blocked Liver Qi and Stagnation.

Fortunately, TCM already has a framework of herbal medicine and acupuncture to help new mums deal with these challenges. A recent study in China demonstrated that a comprehensive TCM regimen of compress, acupressure, and cupping therapy reduced breast pain, increased milk production, and relieved emotional distress. 

Ultimately, these breastfeeding tips, viewed from the TCM perspective, are predicated on a very important observation. The female body can grow a baby and undergo the heavy trauma of childbirth. But that ability stems from learning how to help our bodies heal and nurture themselves and the child it cares for. 

This is an adaptation of the article “TCM Views on Breastfeeding”, which first appeared on the Eu Yan Sang website.


  1. . American Family Physician. 2018. Breastfeeding: Common Questions and Answers. [online] Available at: <https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2018/0915/p368.html> [Accessed 16 November 2022] 
  2. Parenthood.my. 2021. Is It Safe to Consume Chinese Medicine Herbs While Breastfeeding? [online] Available at: <https://parenthood.my/bump-to-birth/is-it-safe-to-consume-chinese-medicine-herbs-while-breastfeeding/> [Accessed 16 November 2022]
  3. Pregnancy, Birth & Baby. 2020. When Can Babies Drink Water? [online] Available at: <https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/when-can-babies-drink-water> [Accessed 16 November 2022]
  4. Pacific College of Health and Science. Mastitis, Breast Feeding, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. [online] Available at: <https://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/press-releases/2015/05/14/mastitis-breast-feeding-and-traditional-chinese-medicine> [Accessed 16 November 2022]
  5. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2022. Application of Traditional Chinese Medical Science Characteristic Nursing Mode Based on Evidence-Based Medicine to Puerperal Breast Tenderness and Pain. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9262500/> [Accessed 16 November 2022] 

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