The importance of breastfeeding and why breast is best

Breastfeeding is the best way of providing your newborn baby with essential nutrients they require for optimal physical and mental development. World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF highly advocates breastfeeding because of its many health benefits (e.g. cognitive and immune development) that extend through to adulthood [1].

WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding (i.e. infant receives only breast milk without any additional food, drink or water) to commence within one hour after birth, until your baby is 6 months old. With the addition of nutritious foods to your baby’s diet, you can continue to breastfeed for up to 2 years or more.

What does breast milk contain?

The composition of breast milk is fascinating because it is a complex, nutrient-rich liquid that is normally produced by breasts immediately after childbirth. Breast milk is the natural first food for babies, providing all the required energy and nutrients in the first 6 month, approximately half of the nutritional requirements during 7-12 months, and about one-third in the second year of life [1].

Initially your breasts produces colostrum or ‘pre-milk’, a yellowish, thick and sticky breast milk. WHO describes colostrum as ‘perfect food for the newborn’ and recommends feeding to be commenced within the first hour after birth. Colostrum is enriched with proteins and antibodies. Antibodies are important for your newborn’s immune system, it helps protect your baby from infections.

On day two or day three, your colostrum will change to mature milk – a thick, white fluid consisting of essential fatty acids, proteins, probiotics, carbohydrates, amino acids, vitamins and trace minerals [2].

Breast milk versus Baby formulas and breast milk substitutes

Breast milk is the optimal way to feed your infant, providing them with a best start to life. Compared to baby formulas, the many advantages of breast milk far outweighs these alternatives because many nutrients in breast milk are not available in baby formulas or breast milk substitutes, nutrients in breast milk is more absorbable and digestible for the baby, and breast milk contains higher energy content.

The challenges of producing breast milk and breastfeeding

Although WHO and UNICEF advocates women to breastfeed, globally an estimate of only 1 in 3 infants under 6 months are exclusively breastfed [1]. According to the ‘Australia’s health 2012’ report from the Department of Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), statistics showed that although most babies are initially breastfed (96%), breastfeeding rates quickly dropped over time, with only 39% of babies exclusively breastfed to around 4 months, and only 15% of babies exclusively breastfed to the recommended 6 months [3]. The drop in breastfeeding rates could be due to various factors that include women having the inability to produce adequate breast milk over time, which is a concern for mothers wanting to breastfeed and can lead to them having depressive symptoms [4].

The pressure of breastfeeding on mothers can be taxing on their physical and mental health. When a mother is unable to produce adequate milk, baby formulas and breast milk substitutes have been used as an alternative. However, there are natural formulations that mothers can use to help them express milk and breastfeed their baby for the duration they desire. In order to help mothers with their milk production during the important breastfeeding period, we developed a natural herbal formulation named ProLactation to support healthy millk production and quality.

How ProLactation can help you express milk naturally

ProLactation is a natural herbal formulation designed to assist women with their milk production immediately after birth. The active herbal ingredients in ProLactation have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years for their milk inducing (galactogogic) effects, and these effects have been validated in scientific studies. The active ingredients work by assisting the production of prolactin and oxytocin, two important hormones that regulate milk production and secretion.

ProLactation works by targeting 3 main aspects of milk production:

1 Yield: Help improve the overall quantity of breast milk produced

2 Secretion: Help stimulate breasts to release milk

3 Quality: Help improve nutrient content or consistency of production

A closer look at the active ingredients in ProLactation

The ingredients in ProLactation are sourced from quality and reputable herb providers around the world. Proudly made in Australia, the products are regulated by Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) – a division in the Australian Department of Health, and manufactured in Australia in compliance with the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) to ensure quality, safety and efficacy.

Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)

This ingredient is a standardized extract manufactured by Natural Remedies. Shatavari is a widely used Indian herb that exhibits galactogogic effects due to the presence of steroidal saponins in the root stock, such as shatavarin (1-2% w/w in ProLactation). A standardized extract of Shatavari has been demonstrated in a clinical study to stimulate prolactin levels, which is associated with a significant improvement in milk production and secretion, and potential milk quality as indicated by increased baby weight [5]. Additionally, Shatavari exhibits stress relieving effects, which may assist some women with feeding difficulties due to anxiety or depression.

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)

Manufactured by Network Nutrition, this extract is a standardized form of Milk Thistle seed. In its natural form it has been used for over 2000 years in European traditional medicine as a galactogogue. Its galactogogue effects are related to the flavolignans, silybins (standardized to 80-88% in ProLactation, with 50-58% as the key compound Silymarin). These compounds increase prolactin and oxytocin, stimulating both milk production and secretion simultaneously. In a clinical study, milk thistle was shown to increase milk production by as much as 85% [6].

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)

The Fenugreek seed extract is sourced from Huisong Pharmaceuticals, a reputable herbal supplier in Asia. Modern usage of fenugreek seed dates back to Ancient Mediterranean and Middle-eastern times, when it was prescribed for general women’s health conditions. Today, it remains one of the most popular herbs used in Australia to increase milk production [7]. Fenugreek stimulates milk production and secretion [8] with rapid results observed within 24-72 hours, and a reported doubling of milk volume by the second week [9].

Cowherb (Vaccaria segetalis)

A traditional Central and South-East Asian medicinal herb used to facilitate lactation, remove duct blockages and target inflammation. Vaccaria seed (known as Wang Bu Liu Xing in Chinese Herbal medicine) has traditionally been used for lack of breast milk supply, and to alleviate breast tenderness. The presence of compounds known as segetalins in cowherb provide estrogen-like effects [10] that support mammary gland maturation and contraction of the milk ducts to secrete more efficiently.

Summary

ProLactation is a natural herbal formulation designed to assist women during the important breastfeeding period by supporting healthy milk production and quality. Consisting of herbs with milk inducing (galactogogic) effects, this formulation is suitable for women who experience breastfeeding challenges (e.g. inadequate breast milk production) and women seeking support in milk production.

WHO and UNICEF highly advocate breastfeeding because of its many health benefits that extend through to adulthood. Women having the ability to breastfeed their child for their desired time can help them feel empowered and confident that they are giving their child the optimal start to life.

References:

1. http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/topics/child/nutrition/breastfeeding/en/ Accessed on

2. Picciano, M.F., Human milk: nutritional aspects of a dynamic food. Biol Neonate, 1998. 74(2): p. 84-93.

3. http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737422172&tab=3

4. Woolhouse, H., James, J., Gartland, D., McDonald, E., Brown, S. J., Maternal depressive symptoms at three months postpartum and breastfeeding rates at six months postpartum: Implications for primary care in a prospective cohort study of primiparous women in Australia. Journal of the Australian College of Midwives, 2016. 29 (4): p. 381-387.

5. Gupta, M. and B. Shaw, A Double-Blind Randomized Clinical Trial for Evaluation of Galactogogue Activity of Asparagus racemosus Willd. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research : IJPR, 2011. 10(1): p. 167-172

6. Di Pierro, F., et al., Clinical efficacy, safety and tolerability of BIO-C (micronized Silymarin) as a galactagogue. Acta Biomed, 2008. 79(3): p. 205-210.

7. Sim, T.F., et al., Perspectives and attitudes of breastfeeding women using herbal galactagogues during breastfeeding: a qualitative study. BMC Complement Altern Med, 2014. 14: p. 216.

8. Turkyılmaz, C., et al., The effect of galactagogue herbal tea on breast milk production and short-term catch-up of birth weight in the first week of life. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine, 2011. 17(2): p. 139-142.

9. Swafford, S. and P. Berens. Effect of fenugreek on breast milk volume. in Academy of breastfeeding medicine Fifth Annual Meeting 2000. Tuscon, Arizona, USA.

10. Itokawa, H., et al., Estrogen-like activity of cyclic peptides from Vaccaria segetalis extracts. Planta Med, 1995. 61(6): p. 561-2.

 

 

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