Breast Milk

If we were unable as a race to make it, we, as a species, would not be here.

Babies have to be able to find a nipple, attach and suckle if they are to live (in the ‘wild’).  Mother Nature has not gone to all the trouble of creating your baby, to lose at the finishing line.

So – what is all this business about baby not having tongue in the right place – it’s in his/her mouth, surely? Is the real problem more that we ‘broke’ baby’s ability to bond with mum’s body, so deeply out of it baby was when induced/extracted from her before he/she was ready?

Stumbling past these very obvious issues, I would firstly like to explain the mechanisms behind milk production, as seen through the acupuncture/Chinese medical model.

It is our blood ENERGY that is used to manufacture the milk, whilst our uterine bleeding should be on hold.  If we have not listened to our own cycles BEFORE pregnancy, we are likely to run into problems when we expect our blood energy to support ourselves and baby through easy lactation.  Especially if we feel under pressure to return to a pre baby shape immediately.

Two Crucial Facts

Milk is made under the same conditions as the blood that we bleed with.

As with easy menstruation, our bodies rely on normal production and circulation of qi (energy) and blood to do this well.  Thus, if we have had any deviation from perfect periods – 28/9 day cycle, no prelude, no hiccups, no pain, no PMT, bowel/gut/pimple etc disputes with ourselves or others, red blood not gushing, but a good flow starting red and peaking on the second and third days, clean, clear flow; no lumps, stopping after 4/5 days with no spotting, dripping or other discomforts – we can expect to run into other issues in our reproductive years.

By not straightening these out in our teenage decade, and often INSTEAD allowing all sorts of chemical castration to befall us BEFORE we choose to become pregnant, we not only suffer needlessly, but we set the scene for less than perfect pregnancies, lactation and life after our babies arrive.

Menstrual Blood is excess to our own requirements.

We need to be very well nourished when lactating – not to fill us up, but to renew ourselves and actually grow a new person – our baby needs to physically become more of what he/she arrived with.  Our building blocks are protein.  Fat needed is to be of very high quality, to ensure the brain and hormonal tissues are well developed and matured.  We need to eat possibly even better now bub is ‘out’ as to grow stunning babies, we need stunning milk, and to do this, we need to be not eating to fill our own tummies, emotional holes, or habits, but to create life.

Thus, if we persist in the ‘yummy mummy’ mythology, we not only flood baby with all the toxic heavy metals and other fat soluble wastes that have clogged us up (and now our body can see a way to relieving us of them), but we are likely to run into production/quality issues as our post-baby bodies have a lot of remodeling to do, and require a ready source of high quality fuel to keep us AND baby going well.
So, what does the blood energy do?

It allows ease of a woman’s life – easy trouble free periods, great fertility and pregnancies and lactation abundance.  It allows us to have lustrous hair, nails and complexion, good emotional harmony, mental clarity and restful sleeping. It also allows us resilience and the ability to calmly move through our lives.

If this does not sound like you, it is likely that breast feeding may be a problem.
Improving our blood energy is a pivotal issue at every stage of our lives.

This is partially as we bleed too early (see later article) bleed to freely, and have far more menstrual cycles than nature ever intended us to – we are better nourished (some would say far too well) and can choose to breed, starting later than in native cultures, and limiting the number of pregnancies and lactation time we undergo.

(A far more specific look at this is available in the book “What Dads Can Do” by Heather.)

Sample page:


If we have particularly strong blood energy or have a lot of heat (see later article) or great inner weakness, we may find ourselves being drained on many fronts.  This may lead to losing far too much blood, hence weakening all the aspects of self I have mentioned above – especially our post natal health, sanity and lactation ease.

Thus, looking at some of the major lactation issues through the acupuncture eyes, we can see all is related to strength and flow of the blood energy.

1 – What Stops Flow?

Being quietly resentful, angry and not expressing it (‘pissed off’) and/or having cold introduced into any aspect of the woman’s body.
That sums up a lot of women’s experiences of some aspect of birthing, and may translate into the ‘attachment’ issues that seem epidemic within the population of hospitalized births. This does not mean that a true physiological third stage necessarily allows ease of feeding, but it sure helps to have baby attentive at this primal bonding time, mum also alert, and both aware in their first meeting without distraction.  (See “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Dr Sarah J. Buckley for more) .

How to AVOID  this?

Easy – don’t break the connection mother – baby at birth.

Don’t distress mum leading up to birth, during or after.

Avoid all cold compresses, cabbage leaves, ice cubes to suck – cold is what causes contraction and stagnation, hence more pain, and loss of circulation, leading to local infections, over-bleeding and later prolapses.

Pressing a point on the top of the shoulders (GB 21) may allow milk to descend, although a full upper back massage and allowing mum time to herself rather than running the superwoman programme (one of the many advantages of a baby moon) will be better.

Nutritionally, ensuring mum has enough Vitamin B (a half a tablet six times a day); plenty of Magnesium and zinc – preferably in a liquid source – can mean the difference between depression (stuck/unexpressed/unresolved rage&/or deficient blood energy) and happy mothering.

2 – What causes lack of supply?  Including milk not coming in initially?

Either lack of flow – see above, or/and lack of blood energy- translating as – her nutritional input.  None of us live in a third world environment and all of us have the ability to easily nourish our young. This means that none of us really have the excuse that there was not enough (milk)
However there may have been

a – Not enough RESPECT FOR HER BONDING TO BABY AND BABY TO HER BODY (the ‘safe’ birth option tends to ignore what we must do for the rest of our lives – support unconditionally our children – how do we do this if we have not the mammalian connection that is their birth rite and our emotional safety net?)


Go to bed naked with naked baby and don’t get up.  Like voluptuous lovemaking. When do you feel in the mood? Not when someone is standing over you barking instructions, all the while you telling yourself how hopeless it is. Try a win – win solution. We are mammals, and naked snuggling is what baby wants most.

b – Not enough SUPPORT for us, whilst we established flow

c – Not enough GOOD NOURISHING FOOD AND FLUIDS easily within our reach, whilst we learnt how to be a nursing mum

– Not enough ATTENTION TO MUM’S NEEDS on all levels, but it is highly unlikely that her body was incapable of providing for baby – just as her body nourished bub inside – it has enough to continue the job outside her.


This involves not filling up mum’s stomach, but paying attention to the protein content.  Baby needs to grow and mature and this is protein based.  The biggest problem I have seen in clinic is women listening to hospital dietary advice.  Eat as per building a baby, not keeping your own tummy satisfied is the essence.  By avoiding all gluten products (rice is fine) and snacking on nuts (not peanuts) and cheese at least in between meals, the increase in protein will translate along with the extra fluids and Vit B and zinc into milk easily, PLUS Mum will be calmer and able to cope with everything.  Eating a repeat of evening meal – protein and vegies is easy to do – cook an extra meal each time, and have it for breakfast – is will be baby’s evening meal – or Mum’s own lunch.

Breast milk recipe – protein – every snack.
•    Water (at least 3 glasses – not cold) – EVERY TIME baby attaches
•    Vitamin B – as above
•    Zinc and magnesium – as above
•    Rest – whenever baby sleeps – not the housework – sleep, or at least horizontal posture.

This translates to a initial breastfeeding mother being like a jersey cow – nothing else to do except ensure perfect nutrition, and no distractions away from the job of providing the best start to both her baby and her mothering.  This means a PROTEIN – not carbohydrate/ sugary (ban all gluten – baby will have far less colic/allergic responses if you do) snack and fluids whenever baby is feeding.  Topping up as it is being siphoned off.

3 – What about not good enough quality, although there is plenty/baby not putting on enough weight?

Look past the weight charts for bottle fed babies that used to be our “bible”.  Look to the info above. Milk quality is dependent on mum’s diet and on her own state of health.  To an extent this is also an issue of her gut strength.  A really healthy mother (not absence of illness) – is very capable – biology ensures this.  (Of course if assisted reproductive techniques were employed, there is a case for ensuring normal is possible through pregnancy attention with a good acupuncturist to allow the pre pregnancy issues to not continue on, even though there is a baby on board – nature stops conception naturally usually for a very good reason).

Going to a good acupuncturist and perhaps also coming away with Chinese herbs at any stage if this will allow the quality issue to soar ahead.  This is also important for mum, who needs to be aware that after she stops feeding, there still needs to be enough of her left, for her to be sane, happy and lustrous in her own body.

4- What about different breasts producing differing amounts?

Providing there is no underlying breast pathology, and baby is suckling equally on both sides, this is easily remedied using an acupuncture approach.  Look at Heather’s book (“What Dads Can Do”) and take evasive action by using moxa on the point Si 1 on the lessened side and Cv 17 on the middle of the chest.

5– What about implants/previous reduction operations?

Go to an acupuncturist prior to pregnancy optimally and get them the needle all around the scars. This will not only give you normal sensation through out the entire nipple and breast back, but will also make feeding a dream.  This is then to be followed up with rubbing comfrey ointment on the scars vigorously twice daily for a few weeks. Comfrey is an amazing herbal product that will heal on many levels.

6 – Nipple issues

The beginning of breast feeding will either create an easy life as a nursing mother or break it.
When I was first having my babies – nearly 30 years ago, and then throughout the 80’s, there were draconian midwives trawling the wards. They ensured that we initially had one minute each side for the first feed – they stood over us – two minutes the second, three the third etc up to the tenth feed and ten minutes, when we could them do what we liked – but we did not have cracked/ grazed/distressed nipples, and mastitis was a rarity.

By the time I had a baby in the 90’s, I was considered to be an old hand, and left to my own devices.  As I had not before this had a baby as a C-section, or in the state I was in, nursing did not easily happen; letting baby suckle as long as he wanted, not following the schedule above, meant that my cracked nipples even got thrush in them.

I understood finally why we were hassled earlier on so much.

I wished someone had been paying attention.  The torture of those nipples leaked through the medication for C-section post operative pain, and without my maternal laziness – who in their right mind would choose all the work of bottle feeding over breast?  I persisted. If you have nipple issues, please get the right help, rather than hoping it will go away. It can be excruciating, and was almost enough to stop this confirmed breast-is-best-advocate in her tracks.

Chinese Medicine

From an acupuncturist’s perspective the nipple is situated on the stomach meridian.  If you have had a hot stomach – wanting to drink cold fluids, and heart burn/reflux/possibly constipation – again a good acupuncturist and Chinese herbs may straighten out the underlying energy disharmonies that help set this up, and stop appropriate healing.

“Baby Moons”

Now women are evicted from hospital almost as soon as baby arrives, and are not allowed to stay in a maternity ‘home’ to learn the baby’s schedule, to let her body heal and to return to being herself, before she is to be the nurturer of all at home, we have an epidemic of related problems that were not apparent decades ago, when women were more protected initially after birth.

Honouring our bleeding is not part of our culture.   What about having time out (like going into the long house/red tent) when bleeding? Not as a form of ostracism, but a recognition of selfing – and renewal.  Whilst this is impractical in our insular culture, all living in little boxes as we do, we could reorganize our own schedules to be far more respectful of our own woman’s body physiology.

We pretend that we are the same day after week, after month – and we are not. Our bodies flow in time to rhythms and tides that are subterranean and primal.  By pretending that we are like men – stable physiologically – we are losing in the honour and respect that being woman should afford us. We bring forth new life.  We are geared throughout our early adult decades to reproduce within, and by sitting with and in this, and by letting go the male /rational models, we may have more ‘luck’ in being what we already are – bountiful creatures.

There is a move to ‘baby moons’, which is a start.

At least give back a few weeks where mum is left to become at one with the new life she has created.  All win when she is content.

Heather Bruce has breastfed four children, for a total of 6¼ years. One of these was a massively brain injured neonate, breastfed whilst in a coma and throughout various life threatening illnesses.  This became an epic in  maternal bloody-mindness assisted by naturopathic and acupuncture practitioner skills to ensure supply maintenance throughout the hospital trauma for both of them.