Reviewed by Dr Nurul Aishah Jamaludin, Physician Ng Qing Xiang and Physician Ho Li Ying
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.
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,”
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
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)
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 ‘
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
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.
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
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.
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- 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]
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- 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]
- 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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