Milk Thistle’s Possibilities in Helping New Moms Make Breast Milk as August Prompts Breastfeeding Awareness

BY SANDRA GUY

Experts tout the benefits of breastfeeding, but few explain how to help women who find it difficult to produce breast milk.

That’s top-of-mind during August — National Breastfeeding Month — and the first week of August, recognized as World Breastfeeding Week. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend women breastfeed exclusively for six months, and continue for another six months by combining breastfeeding with foods such as grains, fruits, proteins and vegetables.

Experts say breast milk contains the fat, protein, vitamins and antibodies that ensures babies grow, fend off viruses, and potentially lower their risks of asthma, allergies, respiratory illnesses and other health problems.

Studies show mom can benefit, too, by losing pregnancy weight faster and lower risks of breast and ovarian cancer.

One possible help to moms who find breastfeeding a challenge — and a natural remedy to boot — comprises Milk Thistle and its components.

As with most natural remedies, a dearth of scientific studies exists. So there’s no scientific conclusion that Milk Thistle benefits milk production. But random tests have shown that the supplements can help regulate cholesterol, blood sugar and boost secretion of the hormone prolactin. Pregnant women’s prolactin levels jump 10-fold to stimulate milk production.

Be sure to clear any supplements and their dosage with your doctor or a lactation expert.

Examples of how you can try Milk Thistle include:
• Tea: Put one teaspoon of ground, crushed or chopped seeds from the milk thistle plant into 8 ounces of boiling water, and let it seep for 10 to 20 minutes.

• Remove the spines from the milk thistle plant and eat the buds and leaves, either raw or cooked.

• As an ingredient in nursing teas or other supplements to aid breast-milk production.

Successful breastfeeding has even been linked to higher child IQ and lower childhood obesity, so it's worth the effort in the long run, experts say.

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