Are alternative and complementary therapies safe for new mums and while breastfeeding?
For years women (and men) around the world have chosen to use therapies as an alternative to traditional medicine and now this has become a popular choice for new mums too.
There’s a range of therapies available from acupuncture to homeopathy but if you’re breastfeeding you may want to do your homework before you take part of use any of these.
Here’s a few that are safe.
At a glance
- Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese treatment using fine needles at certain key points in the body
- Herbal teas are fine to drink by breastfeeding mums
- Osteopathy is sometimes used by new mums suffering neck, shoulder and back pain
This ancient Chinese treatment using fine needles at certain key points in the body is sometimes used by new mums who are having trouble breastfeeding. It’s used for problems with engorgement and milk supply. Needles are usually inserted into the hands and feet. Acupuncture is safe for new mums, but studies show mixed results when it comes to effectiveness.
Arnica is one of the best known homeopathic remedies, and is often used by new mums to treats wounds and bruising. Studies haven’t proved that any homeopathic remedy – including arnica – works for any condition; in 2010 a House of Commons report concluded that the principles of homeopathy (where the active substances in a remedy are diluted to the point where there is none or almost none left) were scientifically implausible'. Some mums use homeopathy for breastfeeding problems; it’s also occasionally used by specialist homeopaths to treat a baby’s colic.
Herbal teas are fine to drink by breastfeeding mums, especially if they contain familiar kitchen ingredients, such as mint and fennel. But herbal medicines should be avoided by both pregnant women and breastfeeding mums because no one can be sure they are safe. This includes Traditional Chinese Medicine and herbal remedies such as St John’s Wort, which is sometimes used to treat depression. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), part of the Department of Health, says: “The safety of many herbal medicines has not been established in certain key groups, including pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, children and the elderly... and caution should therefore be taken.”
This is sometimes used by new mums suffering neck, shoulder and back pain, perhaps after a complicated birth or because of problems caused by sitting in a hunched position while breastfeeding or holding a baby. Some mums also swear by cranial osteopathy, a gentle manipulation of the head, to treat their baby’s crying and colic, particularly if their baby has had a difficult or traumatic birth.
This hands-on manipulation therapy is often used to treat bad backs (where there is evidence it can work). It’s also used by specialist practitioners to help with infant colic and asthma, although there are few studies on whether it works.