According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, breastfeeding can ensure your child's health and survival. Not exclusively breastfeeding during the first six months of life contributes to over a million child deaths every year. However, breastfeeding does not necessarily come naturally for everyone. New mothers may worry whether they are doing it correctly and even whether they have enough milk. If inadequate milk supply is a problem, though, there are herbs, such as marshmallow root, that can help increase milk supply.
Marshmallow root alone is not a major galactogogue, a milk increasing substance, notes Kellymom.com, a website created by lactation consultant Kelly Bonyata. Rather, she suggests that you use marshmallow root in combination with other herbs, such as fenugreek, blessed thistle, and/or alfalfa. She reports that marshmallow root appears particularly effective when taken with fenugreek, a known galactogogue, perhaps because marshmallow root increases the fenugreek's effectiveness.
Marshmallow root is available in tea form or in capsules. Bonyata proposes that taking herbs in pill form is more effective due to the regulated dosage, versus teas, where strength depends on the steeping process. Bonyata suggests that a breastfeeding mother can take up to four capsules a day, three times a day. Dr. Frank J. Nice, a pharmacist at the National Institutes of Health, recommends on the Indian Health Service website from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that a breastfeeding mother take no more than 3 grams of marshmallow root daily.
According to Bonyata and the authors of "Counseling the Nursing Mother," Judith Lauwers and Anna Swisher, if your child is gaining weight and has adequate wet diapers, then she is most likely getting enough milk. Adequate wet diapers are relative to whether cloth or disposable diapers are used. If it is hard to assess how often urination takes place in a disposable, place a tissue in the diaper. The best way to avoid a decrease in milk supply is to breastfeed often; think supply on demand. Worrying also can have a negative effect on breastfeeding, so relax and rest often.
Increased milk supply is no good if it cannot get to your baby. According to Lauwers and Swisher, for a good latch, make sure to aim the nipple toward your baby's nose, rubbing the nipple from nose to chin and waiting for the mouth to open wide. Pull the child into the breast, aiming the nipple upward in his mouth, getting in about an inch of the lower portion of the areola. The child should have flanged, fish lips, and the areola should be slightly indented.
Try different positions in addition to taking supplements. Using different positions will help empty more milk ducts and increase breast milk supply. La Leche League's website demonstrates some common positions. The cradle is the position most mother's feel comfortable doing. The cross cradle is great for positioning a newborn's head for a good latch. Both involve cradling the baby in your arm and bringing the baby up to the breast. Make sure not to lean over the baby to breastfeed. The clutch, also know as the football position, is useful for c-sections and tandem feeding and involves holding the baby back and to the side like a football. Another position called the Australian is good for a strong let-down. The mother is upright and slightly leaning back, the baby is on the stomach somewhat looking up at the mother. Breastfeeding while laying side by side allows you to get some rest.
Make sure to stay hydrated, drink eight or more glasses of water a day, and stay well nourished while breastfeeding. The easiest way to drink enough water is to drink a glass every time you breastfeed. Inadequate hydration and nutrition could cause breast milk supply to suffer. Lauwers and Swisher recommend that a breastfeeding mother consume 1,800 calories a day. Seek the help of a lactation consultant or a breastfeeding support group, such as La Leche League, if you are experiencing problems with breastfeeding.
Allergic reactions to marshmallow root are rare. If you experience any signs of an adverse reaction, such as difficulty breathing, discontinue use immediately, and contact a health care provider. Marshmallow root can also act as a diuretic and affect the amount of absorption of some medications. Those who have diabetes should note the sugar concentration of marshmallow syrup.
- "Counseling the Nursing Mother"; Judith Lauwers, Anna Swisher; 2005
- Indian Health Services: Breastfeeding
- La Leche League: How do I position my baby to breastfeed?
- World Health Organization: 10 Facts On Breastfeeding