Breastfeeding seems like it should be the easiest, most automatic thing in the world, but sometimes it's not quite that simple. Sometimes a new mother has low milk production, which is frustrating for the baby and the new mom. Many women try traditional ways to solve the problem, like pumping, changing their diet or drinking special teas, but when you have no success with that, you may turn to less conventional medical treatments, like acupuncture or acupressure to see if there are pressure points that can boost your milk supply that would be your saving grace.
Acupuncture and acupressure are thought to work in increasing lactation by followers of Eastern medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) who believe that a woman's milk is her menstrual blood redirected to become fuel for the baby after she gives birth. They also believe that the reason milk may not be well-produced is because the woman's qi (pronounced chi), or her flow of energy, is off balance and that there's a spleen qi deficiency and a liver qi unbalance, causing her milk production to be insufficient. Pressure points can serve to balance this. You can either work the pressure points manually or an acupuncturist can use very fine needles to access them.
In an interview with Romper, Masha Schmidt, a Licensed Acupuncturist at River Alchemy, says she sees two major problems in patients. The first are women who have the milk, but it's not flowing. "Their shoulders are tight, they may be in pain," she says, "and they retreat into themselves." Schmidt has seen firsthand how a patient can relax during and after acupuncture and in these moms she can usually tell during the session if the acupuncture will be successful for them in improving their milk supply. The second problem is blood deficiency or qi issues. According to Schmidt, both of these are well-addressed with acupuncture or acupressure, though she has a higher success rate with the group whose milk is in, but it's not flowing. She also advises her patients on improving their diet, including warming foods such as bone broth and herbal tea as well as greens, and making sure they have support at home — from a partner, a neighbor, a relative or an older sibling of the baby.
If you want to see if acupuncture is helpful, you should seek a licensed acupuncturist. Before you do that, you could try to use some recommended pressure points, either applying the pressure yourself, or asking for someone to help you. Schmidt cautions that, "there is no ‘one size fits all’ acupoint prescription that works for everyone. Any points used would need to be part of a greater clinical picture to be effective." With that in mind, there are pressure points she says you can try focusing on to help with milk production.
Although there's no guarantee that acupressure, acupuncture, or other holistic remedies will improve milk supply, it is worth a try before you give up on breastfeeding. Here are the pressure points that can boost your milk supply, according to holistic experts.
Small Intestine 1 (SI 1): Lesser Marsh
According to Masha Schmidt, SI 1 is "an empirical point for lactation." It's located on the pinky, at the corner of the fingernail.
Conception Vessel 17 (Ren 17): Chest Center
Putting pressure on CV 17, located directly in the center of the chest, between the breasts, gently stimulates qi in the chest. Schmidt says that putting pressure there should feel good, but it's possible you may feel tenderness. If this is the case, she suggests you start slow, perhaps using a warm compress. As you feel the point releasing, you can apply more pressure.
Gallbladder 21 (GB 21): Shoulder Well
Schmidt says that GB 21, "descends qi and affects the breasts." According to Ying Yang House Theory Site, it's located, "on the shoulder directly above the nipple." Schmidt thinks this is a great pressure point to use to help tired moms and suggests finding a friend or partner to help apply the pressure from above the point.
Large Intestine 4 (LI 4): Union Valley
Ying Yang House Theory Site lists LI 4 as on the hand, in the middle of the 2nd metacarpal bone (between the thumb and index finger), on the side of the hand near the radius. Schmidt says that this point is typically pretty tender, which is how you know you have the right spot. You should be able to work this point yourself with your other hand. It's also a good point to use to reduce stress and manage tension headaches. Sounds like a useful pressure point to be familiar with for many reasons.
Like most breast-milk boosting tips, tricks, and galactagogues, there is not a 100% guarantee that any of these methods will work in increasing your milk supply, but if you are struggling with your production, it doesn't hurt to try a series of methods. Of course if you are really concerned, then it's probably a good idea to reach out to your doctor or a lactation consultant for their advice.
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