You can't turn around without hitting an ad or a story in a magazine about the purported benefits of apple cider vinegar. I'll admit, I've jumped on the bandwagon as well, using it for everything from buffing furniture to cleansing my throat before voice lessons or after a long day spent talking. You likely have a friend or two who chases you around with it like the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding does with Windex. But can it help a mom beyond just cleaning and digestion? Can apple cider vinegar help your breast milk supply?
While apple cider vinegar (ACV) has many documented health benefits — though not all thoroughly studied — the ability to improve or even support breast milk supply in breastfeeding mothers isn't one of them. Foods and drinks and even medicines that improve the quality or quantity of milk production are referred to as galactagogues. The most commonly referred to galactagogues are fenugreek, blessed thistle, and fennel, according to Breastfeeding Today.
However, Kelly Mom, a popular web resource for breastfeeding mothers, noted that when considering supplementation to increase supply, the first step should always be a full evaluation provided by a certified lactation consultant. Kelly Mom suggested that many cases of undersupply or decreasing supply are aided most by strategies like pumping and skin-to-skin contact.
However, there are plenty of benefits to apple cider vinegar that might help you in other areas while you breastfeed. For instance, if you're anything like me, those prenatal vitamins that you take while you're pregnant and breastfeeding can do a number on your digestion. For me, these supplements can lead to painful bloating and constipation. Luckily, fermented foods like apple cider vinegar have been shown to alleviate these symptoms, according to a report in BMC Gastroenterology.
Also, lots of women report massive breakouts during their time spent breastfeeding (raises hand), and there is anecdotal evidence that shows that a diluted ACV solution can help clear up the spots that have begun to show themselves all over your face. Dr. Sejal Shah, M.D told Women's Health that while it's by no means a double blind, peer-reviewed proven treatment, there is scientific basis for the assumption. Apple cider vinegar can be used safely if diluted, but can be dangerous if used straight from the bottle, even going so far as to cause chemical burns. (Ever eat too many salt and vinegar chips and burn the crap out of your tongue? Imagine that on your forehead.)
So, can apple cider vinegar help your breast milk supply? Probably not, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the foods created with the delicious flavor additive. However, you want to be careful when you're sourcing your ACV for recipes and the like. While most homeopathic practitioners tout the benefits of ACV, they're speaking of the benefits of raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. While that's usually perfectly safe to eat and drink, and even more flavorful if you ask me, it's not the safest choice when you're pregnant or breastfeeding because unpasteurized foods don't go through the same decontamination procedures as their pasteurized counterparts. That process kills any harmful bacteria which may be present in the vinegar to begin with, but it also kills a lot of the beneficial bacteria as well, as it's impossible to pick and choose which bacteria dies in the heated process, noted Mom Junction.
Also, ACV supplement tablets are contraindicated for breastfeeding because of their concentrated form, and because they've not been given a full clinical trial that would be able to assess their risks and potential drug interactions which may occur when they're ingested. The bottom line is that if you're concerned you're not making enough milk, talk to a lactation consultant. They can evaluate you and give you strategies that may hopefully improve your supply and calm your nerves. Maybe save the vinegar for your chips.
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