Traditional Chinese Medicine categorizes lactation disorders into two areas: low milk supply and lack of milk flow, which can sometimes be related to mastitis. When there is an issue with milk supply, it is assimilated with a deficiency of energy, or Qi. On the other hand, an impediment in the actual milk flow down the ducts and out the nipple is associated with stagnation of energy, or Qi. It is not uncommon for a combination of these patterns to occur simultaneously.

The production of blood in the female body is a crucial component given that the blood that is utilized during menstruation, is converted into breast milk after delivery. This blood supply is the same that nourishes the placenta during gestation. Every time the conversion between milk and blood takes place, a certain amount of energy, or Qi, is required. A patient that has a history or predisposition towards anemia or significant blood loss during delivery can result in diminished blood supply after delivery. Difficult labor, as well as lack of sleep, can all be contributing factors to lack of energy for milk production.

In cases where energy and blood supply are deficient, leading to low milk supply, a combination of treatments such as acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutritional guidance will be utilized. Foods that nourish and tonify the blood are wonderful for breast feeding mothers; for example, eggs, fish, red meat, soups, and chicken stock. If the nursing mother is a vegetarian, it is imperative that she ingest an adequate amount of protein.

When milk becomes stagnated in the breast, it can lead to fullness, pressure, distention, pain and pressure. If left untreated, this stagnation can lead to mastitis. Different factors, such as stress and elevated emotions, can worsen stagnation along the liver channel.

The liver channel controls nipple function, as well as regulates the flow of Qi energy surrounding the ducts in the breast. Acupuncture, massage, herbal compressions and stress management are a wonderful combination for battling mastitis. The combination of Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine work together in the management of mastitis by using antibiotics to clear the infection in certain cases. Along with these treatments, it is of utmost importance that the milk be expressed frequently to combat the onset of inflammation.

By being mindful about nutrition, supplementing with an herbal formula and having regular acupuncture treatments, preparing the body for the demands of breast feeding can be a smooth and easy process free of complications, such as mastitis and low blood supply.

Love and serenity,

Dr. Zakes

About Dr. Carolina Zakes, DOM, AP

Fertility in women's health specialist.