The knowledge regarding the breast milk is unique in Ayurveda.
In Kashyapa Samhita, one of the classical textbooks on Ayurveda which has an exclusive focus on child health, the importance of breastfeeding is explained in the following verse..
अव्याहतबलाङ्गायुररोजो वर्धते सुखम्
शिशुधात्र्योरनापत्ति शुद्धक्षीरस्य लक्षणम्
avyāhatabalaṅgāyurojo vardhate sukham,
śiśudhātryoranāpatti śuddhakṣīrasya lakṣaṇam.
Unimpaired strength of body parts, longevity, sufficient growth and development in a disease free state, along with a comfortable state of child and mother are the features of pure milk .
Several recent observations are made that breastfeeding is found to prevents breast cancer and ovarian cancer and also helps in weight reduction of mother.
How to assess the quality and quantity of Breast Milk?
यदद्भिरेकतां याति न च दोषैरधिष्ठितं तत् विशुद्धं पयो…
yadadbhirekatāṃ yāti na ca doṣairadhiṣṭhitaṃ tat viśuddhaṃ payo..
Breast milk which mixes completely in water forming a homogeneous mixture and that does not have any dosha vitiation is best for feeding. Good sleep, proper growth and development of baby indicate the good quantity of the milk.
Tips to increase Breast Milk
Generally, foods that are highly sour, pungent and/or salty in taste may lower breast milk production. On the other hand, intake of milk and milk secreting medicinal plants help in the increase of breast milk. Avoid intake of food incompatibilities (virudhaahaara).
Avoidance of grief, anger, day sleep etc. helps in production of ideal breast milk.
Day sleep causes an increase in kapha dosha, which in turn leads to respiratory illness in babies. Good mother-child bonding also helps in production of breast milk.
Herbs that Purify Breast Milk
There are 10 drugs fabled in Ayurveda for their action in purification of breast milk:
- Cissampelos pareira L. [Midwife’s Herb / Velvet Leaf (Eng); pāṭhā (San)]
- Zingiber officinale Roscoe [Ginger (Eng); mahauṣadha, śuṇṭhi (San)]
- Cedrus deodara (Roxb. ex D.Don) G.Don [Deodar (Eng); devadāru (San)]
- Cyperus rotundus L. [Nut Grass Tuber (Eng); mustā (San)]
- Chonemorpha fragrans (Moon) Alston [Frangipani vine (Eng); mūrvā (San)]
- Tinospora cordifolia (Willd.) Miers [Tinospora (Eng); guḍūcī (San)]
- Holarrhena pubescens Wall. ex. G.Don [Ester tree (Eng); kuṭajam (San)]
- Swertia chirata Buch.-Ham. ex. Wall. [Indian gentian (Eng); kirātatiktā (San)]
- Picrorhiza kurroa Royle ex Benth. [Hellbore (Eng); kaṭurohiṇī (San)]
- Hemidesmus indicus (L.) R. Br. ex Schult. [Indian sarsaparilla (Eng); śāribā (San)]
Herbs that increase the production of breast milk
- Chrysonpogon zizanioides (L.) Roberty [Cuscus grass (Eng); vīraṇa (San)]
- Oryza sativa L. [Rice (Eng); śāli (San)]
- Oryza sativa L. - Maturing within 60 days [Rice (Eng); ṣaṣṭika (San)]
- Saccharum officinarum L. [Sugarcane (Eng); ikṣu (San)]
- Imperata cylindrica (L.) Raeusch. [Thatch grass (Eng); darbha (San)]
- Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf [Halfa grass (Eng); kuśa (San)]
- Sesbania bispinosa W.F.Wight [Spiny sesbania (Eng); itkaṭa (San)]
- Typha elephantina Roxb. [Elephant grass (Eng); eraka (San)]
- Saccharum spontaneum L. [Wild sugarcane (Eng); kāśa (San)]
Steps to be taken before and after delivery to increase the breast milk
Inappropriate and prolonged use of antibiotics cause a decrease in the production of breast milk. Reduced use of sour, pungent and salty food before and after delivery and avoidance of day sleep helps in production of ideal breast milk.
Alternate feeding in the absence of breast milk
Goat milk or cow’s milk boiled with the five small roots (hrsvapanchamoola), Desmodium gangeticum (L.) DC [ticktree (Eng); sthir (San)] and mixed with sugar is mentioned to be given.
[Cover Image: "The Suckling Child'- Oil on Canvas by Raja Ravi Varma.]