What a breast-feeding mother eats is as important as a pregnant mother. The nutrients go directly to the baby and affects the baby’s health, growth and development. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are certain practicesthat the breast-feeding mother ought to observe.
These are pointers that should be followed.
- Balanced diet. A balanced diet comprises of a good mix of different nutrition groups, namely, protein, carbohydrates, vitamin and minerals and healthy fats. Calorie and water intake should also be more than usual as supplying milk to the baby does take away calories and water from the mother’s own body.
- Good quality protein. Sources of good quality protein include eggs, yogurt, soy products, fish, chicken and lean meat.
- Fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are necessary to ensure sufficient vitamins and minerals intake as well as dietary fibre. A good mix and variety of different colours are needed as they contain different nutrients and phytochemicals required for different functions in the body.
- Specific food items to boost milk production. There are specific food items that are observed to boost milk production. They can be included into the diet if needed. Examples: soy milk, black sesame seed, lentil, oatmeal, pig trotter, carp, asparagus, lotus root, herbs such as Chinese angelica root (dang gui), rice paper plant pith (tong cao) and fenugreek seed.
These should be avoided or limited in their intake.
- Cold food. Cold food hampers proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients, and regular consumption of cold food weakens both the mother’s and baby’s digestive system. If the baby has diarrhoea, cold food should totally be abstained. Examples: cold drinks and desserts, ice-cream, fruits directly taken out from refrigerator.
- Food that are cold in nature. In TCM, the nature of food is classified into three main groups — cold, neutral and warm. Just like cold food above, food that is cold in nature also affects digestive function. For breast-feeding mothers who have just given birth, it is even more important to avoid consumption of food in this category as they can cause health problems such as joint or muscle ache and lower backache. Examples: water melon, pear, banana, bitter gourd, cucumber, kang kong, raw salad, crab.
- Deep-fried, overly-“heaty” and overly-spicy and stimulating food. Consuming too much food in this category can cause irritation in the mother and baby. Food in this category also decreases the “Yin” in the mother’s body, which can result in a reduction of milk supply. Examples: hot curry, chocolate, kimchi, wasabi, French fries, chips, crackers.
- Alcohol and caffeine. Intake of alcohols and caffeinated beverages should be limited as ____. Examples: beer, wine, coffee, tea, coke.
- Preserved food and food with too much artificial additives. Preserved foods are known to contain carcinogenic substances. Some artificial additives are also known to be carcinogenic. It has also been observed that artificial additives can cause allergic reactions in babies and children if taken too much and/or too early. Examples: preserved vegetables, salted fish, smelly tofu, sausage, bacon, processed food.
- Food items that reduce milk supply. Certain food items are found to affect the quantity of milk supply in nursing mothers. These should be avoided, especially if the mother already has scanty milk supply. Examples: Sichuan pepper, hawthorn fruit, celery, germinated wheat and barley, herbs such as parsley and peppermint.
Here are recipes of two dishes that are known to enhance milk supply:
- Qi and Blood Nourishing Soup. This soup is an all-rounder for mothers who have difficulty with sufficient milk supply. Pig’s trotter is a traditional Chinese food item that is used to nourish blood and promote lactation; it also beautifies the skin as it is rich in collagen. Chinese angelica root and astragalus root tonifies blood and Qi respectively, they increase milk production and strengthen the mother’s body. Anemone clematis stem promotes lactation and is also diuretic; hence it also helps with water retention in the body.
- Pig’s trotter 2 pcs
- Chinese angelica root (dang gui) 10g
- Astragalus root (huang qi) 25g
- Anemone clematis stem (chuan mu tong) 6g
- Ginger 3 pcs
- Remove excess hair on pig’s trotter and cut into big pieces.
- Blanch pig’s trotter in boiling water for 2 minutes and remove from water.
- Heat all ingredients in a new pot of water till it boils.
- Turn to small flame and boil for half to one hour until pig’s trotter is tender.
- Add in salt to taste.
Note: As pig’s trotter is rather high in fat content, mothers with high cholesterol level or high blood pressure should limit intake of this dish, or substitute pig’s trotter with lean pork or chicken.
- Home-made black sesame paste. Black sesame nourishes the Blood and tonifies the Liver and Kidney. It also increases milk supply and beautifies the hair and skin.
- Black sesame powder (raw or baked) 2 tbsps
- Chinese yam powder 1 tsp (or corn starch ½ tsp)
- Molasses sugar 2 tsps
- Water approx. 250ml
- Mix Chinese yam powder with a little water to be used as thickener.
- Put black sesame powder and water in a small pot and bring to boil, stirring frequently.
- Turn to low flame, pour in Chinese yam powder thickener and stir till it thickens.
- Turn off the flame and stir in molasses sugar till it dissolves.
(by Tan Shiau Tse, TCM Physician, Copyright® HST Medical Pte Ltd)