Breastfeeding. Ah, the ever contentious subject. Breast vs formula; breast is best; fed is best; blah blah blah. But let’s be real for a minute; however we all manage to feed our babies, it does remain true that nothing can compare to breast milk in all it can do for our tiny babies and their tiny tummies.
That’s not to say that it comes easily for everyone. I was one of those people who found it extremely difficult. I couldn’t believe that something as natural as breastfeeding came so hard, and it made me realise why women sometimes give up.
As is probably evident with me from this blog, I tend to research to the high heavens before embarking on any major life decisions for me or my family, so I’d done a lot of preparation for breastfeeding. I went to the classes, read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (seriously, read it!), and had a lactation consultant to hand. I still did things wrong and still struggled immensely. Every single breastfeeding obstacle that could happen, happened. Braxton had tongue tie leading me to get mastitis. Twice. And I’m talking full-on mastitis – fever and all. I had cracked, bleeding and blistered nipples. You name it, I had it. But thankfully my research had taught me that these obstacles are things I might face and although it was hard and I wanted to rip my boobs off my body, I did persevere and by 6 weeks it started getting easier. In my mind I knew that the antibodies I was giving my son through breast milk would be the first step in developing his immune system and helping to prevent potential onset of the autoimmune diseases that he is genetically predisposed to because of my genes. I just felt it wasn’t even a choice and I had to give him that chance and that’s why I made the choice to persevere even when it got as hard as it did.
So this time I’m even more prepared and hoping to do things differently because regardless of how much preparation I put in, I still got things wrong and would love to think that experience has taught me some lessons and I can do my best to try and make it a bit easier this time round. And with a toddler ambling about this time, I really need it to be a bit easier!
With under 2 months to go, nesting is in full swing and for me that doesn’t just mean preparing a nursery that the baby won’t even sleep in for the first few months. For me, nesting is about preparing fully for birth, practicing my hypnobirthing, doing my daily Spinning Babies routines and pre-natal yoga – to keep my body strong but also to aid the labour. It’s about preparing my mind and body, and part of that is through nourishment. So I’ve been busy making vitamin gummies, elderberry syrup (recipe to follow), lactation flapjacks (to freeze until I need them) and now this amazing lactation tea.
Giving my body the right nourishment to keep a healthy and nourishing milk supply is important, and a great way to do this is through herbs. This was originally inspired by the traditional Ayurvedic nursing teas, but I’ve added some other bits along the way to create my own blend and here I’ll explain each ingredient:
Red Raspberry Leaf
There has been a bit of speculation in the past about whether or not drinking red raspberry leaf tea before pregnancy is full term, is healthy. But I’ve been drinking it through my pregnancy for all its health benefits and found this quote particularly helpful.
The findings suggest that the raspberry leaf herb can be consumed by women during their pregnancy for the purpose for which it is taken, that is, to shorten labour with no identified side effects for the women or their babies. The findings also suggest ingestion of the drug might decrease the likelihood of pre and post-term gestation. An unexpected finding in this study seems to indicate that women who ingest raspberry leaf might be less likely to receive an artificial rupture of their membranes, or require a caesarean section, forceps or vacuum birth than the women in the control group. (Source)
As I delve deeper into the world of Morley Robbins and our dire need for magnesium, it seems only natural that a herb like RRL which is so high in magnesium and potassium, be used to increase levels in as natural a way as possible, especially when we are giving more of ourselves away when breastfeeding and therefore need to reclaim it from elsewhere. It is also high in vitamin c, another vitamin that is best gained from whole food sources. Lastly, it is known for aiding hormone health, something we all need postpartum and when nursing.
All in all, RRL has to be the number one choice to make it into this tea blend!
Also high in the trace minerals our bodies are so deficient in thanks to our soil being so depleted in them nowadays, it offers magnesium, potassium, copper, calcium, boron, iron, manganese and phosphorus.
It is also a great herb for urinary health which I think is really important for pre and post birth.
Just like red raspberry leaf and nettle leaf, dandelion offers a great mix of vitamins and minerals. It offers A, C, D, and B vitamins, as well as minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, copper, choline, calcium, boron, and silicon.
Also great for urinary health and helps aid digestion, which will be superb for the baby who will be reaping the benefits of all these wonderful herbs thanks to your super milk.
Needs no introduction really, does it? It’s calming and soothing and will do wonders in keeping baby calm and keeping digestive system healthy, but keeping you calm is just as important as your mood will affect your baby’s behaviours.
This is part of the Ayurvedic approach. Fenugreek helps to increase milk supply so only a little is needed because once desired levels have been reached, you may want to stop this herb. I tend to leave this one out of the blend and just add each time you drink it for the first couple of days / weeks depending on supply, then stop once supply is established so you don’t end up with oversupply.
Fennel seeds are one of the more commonly known herbs for breastfeeding as most midwives recommend it. It is a source of iron, folate, and vitamin C and also helps improve digestion for mothers and also for babies struggling with colic as it helps dissolve mucus in the upper respiratory tract, as it passes through the milk. When Braxton suffered with a little bit of colic, I added a few fennel seeds to a little warm water in a bottle.
Hippocrates himself swore by fennel seeds for all the aforementioned reasons, so I’m going to take my cues from the Father of Medicine!
Although many western cultures advise against using cinnamon when breastfeeding, ancient Ayurvedic traditions advise adding cinnamon to warm milk or to a tea blend to help milk supply and as a warming component to mother’s milk, and I do tend to steer on the side of ancient cultures as I think they pretty much knew what they were doing! But of course, it’s up to you what you choose to add to your blend.
Warming, nourishing foods and herbs are the way to go with breastfeeding, and nothing says warmth and nourishment like cardamom. Adding a dash of this to the blend will make it taste delicious and add that warming effect to your milk.
So there you have it, my complete nursing tea blend, with all the whys.
1/2 cup raspberry leaf
1/2 cup nettle leaf
1/2 cup dandelion root
1/2 cup camomile
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
Fenugreek seeds – add to tea only until milk supply established
Add all ingredients to a big jar (like in the image above) and mix well and store, then add a spoon or 2 to your teapot each time and strain. For easier tea making, I advise a product like this or this.
You can also make a big batch and drink it cold, like ice tea.
You could also use smaller amounts just to make one batch, but I advise making a larger batch in advance for easier access.
Love & health & wishes for a peaceful breastfeeding experience,