By Kristin Lail, Certified Aromatherapist & SEOR Admin
Bonding with baby through breastfeeding can be an incredibly rewarding, yet trying, experience. Many women struggle with supply issues, sleep deprivation and more. I remember the times when I wanted to throw my hands up and shout! No one told me that there would be times when I would feel tired, touched out and like my body didn’t even belong to myself. The truth is, moms tend to forget the bad once their babies have weaned. Our babies quickly grow up and we remember those precious moments with a rose-tinted hue. But if we’re really being honest, those difficult moments do exist and we’re not doing anyone favors by pretending that they don’t. We are going to address some of those issues and empower mothers to choose essential oils that will help ease some of the emotional and physical concerns that interfere with breastfeeding.
Which Essential Oils Are Safe to Use?
First and foremost, make sure that you’re choosing from oils that are safe for nursing moms and using them at the proper dilution. Our blog post Are Essential Oils Safe to Use While Breastfeeding gives a comprehensive guide for usage. Generally, we recommend a 1% dilution of nursing safe essential oils. However, do not apply essential oils to the breast or nipples. We also recommend avoiding peppermint essential oil because some women have reported a dip in milk supply after using the oil. While there are no scientific studies done on the effect of peppermint on milk supply, it would be best to play it safe and avoid the oil altogether. Particularly for women who already suffer from supply issues. 
Supply issues are one of the biggest concerns that moms have. Maybe baby isn’t gaining enough or they’re eating so frequently that mom begins to look for something to give her supply a boost. Unfortunately, there is very little research that indicates that essential oils could be helpful for increasing milk supply. Because of this, it would be remiss to recommend essential oils over the care of a trained professional who is equipped to help with supply issues. I know this feels discouraging but please keep reading! Just because essential oils aren’t known to boost supply doesn’t mean that they can’t help with some of the stress and anxiety that can have negative impacts on breastfeeding.
Before we get into what may be helpful, we must first address some potentially harmful advice that mothers are often given. Though it is often recommended in online groups, we do not recommend the use of essential oils such as Basil or Fennel because these oils are estrogenic and should not be used around little ones. For breastfeeding mothers, this means that the estrogenic properties could transfer to the milk and this would not be healthy for baby.
What About Supplements?
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about galactagogues. In case you were wondering, a galactagogue is a substance that helps to boost milk supply. It is very important that mothers consult with a lactation expert before beginning any routine with a galactagogue. Often times supply issues could have an underlying cause that needs to be addressed and sometimes a supplement really isn’t the best choice. Issues that can impact breastfeeding would best be recognized by a lactation expert. Consulting with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) may be a mother’s best chance for figuring out what is causing supply issues. 
The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine recommends the following protocol, “Before the use of a galactagogue, a lactation expert should thoroughly evaluate the entire feeding process and maximize non-galactagogue management. In the absence of evidence for low milk supply, the mother should be reassured. When intervention is indicated, modifiable factors should be addressed: maternal anxiety and mental health issues, comfort and relaxation for the mother, frequency and effectiveness of milk removal, and any underlying medical conditions. Medication should never replace evaluation and counseling on modifiable factors. There remain selected indications for the use of galactagogues, but the current data are insufficient to make any definitive recommendations.” 
Reducing Stress & Anxiety
Stress and Anxiety can have an effect on breastfeeding. Though stress doesn’t directly affect milk supply, it can certainly affect mom. When mom is stressed, she may not take the time for self-care. When the body is stressed, it releases a hormone called cortisol that could make the baby cranky. And this could decrease how often baby is nursing. What started as stress then becomes an issue of dehydration, fatigue, a cranky mom and baby, and less time spent at the breast. All of these factors could result in lower milk supply. 
Inhalation of essential oils can help reduce stress. A clinical study in 2016 on 140 women showed that inhalation of lavender essential oil was helpful for reducing stress and anxiety in postpartum mothers.  Additionally, Bergamot and Yuzu are two citrus oils that have been the focus of clinical studies for their anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) effects in recent years. Both of these oils showed promising results at helping reduce stress and anxiety and for improving overall health and wellness. [6, 7]
Addressing the stress and anxiety that goes along with breastfeeding is a great first step at improving the nursing relationship. Using a personal essential oil inhaler is also an excellent choice for moms who just need a moment. Take that moment and breathe. Don’t forget…you’ve got this!
You’ve Got This Inhaler Blend
What you’ll need:
- 5 drops Yuzu
- 4 drops Bergamot
- 3 drops Orange Sweet
- 3 drops Vanilla Oleoresin
- Personal Aromatherapy Inhaler
What you’ll do:
In a personal inhaler combine the following essential oils and inhale deeply when feeling stressed and anxious.
Need more tips on how you can use essential oils to support your breastfeeding journey? Feel free to email our aromatherapists at [email protected] or check out our Safe Essential Oil Recipes group on Facebook for DIY recipes and support!
- Peppermint and Breastfeeding – Results of Poll. (2019, March 28). Retrieved from https://tisserandinstitute.org/peppermint-and-breastfeeding-results-of-poll/
- What is a galactagogue? Do I need one? • KellyMom.com. (2018, January 02). Retrieved from https://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/herbs/herbal_galactagogue/
- Brodribb, W. (2018, 06). ABM Clinical Protocol #9: Use of Galactogogues in Initiating or Augmenting Maternal Milk Production, Second Revision 2018. Breastfeeding Medicine, 13(5), 307-314. doi:10.1089/bfm.2018.29092.wjb
- How Does Stress Impact Breastfeeding? (2018, February 20). Retrieved from https://insured.amedadirect.com/stress-impact-breastfeeding/
- Kianpour, M., Mansouri, A., Mehrabi, T., & Asghari, G. (2016). Effect of lavender scent inhalation on prevention of stress, anxiety and depression in the postpartum period. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27095995
- Han, X., Gibson, J., Eggett, D. L., & Parker, T. L. (2017, May). Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) Essential Oil Inhalation Improves Positive Feelings in the Waiting Room of a Mental Health Treatment Center: A Pilot Study. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5434918/
- Matsumoto, T., Kimura, T., & Hayashi, T. (2016). Aromatic effects of a Japanese citrus fruit-yuzu (Citrus junos Sieb. ex Tanaka)-on psychoemotional states and autonomic nervous system activity during the menstrual cycle: a single-blind randomized controlled crossover study. BioPsychoSocial medicine, 10, 11. doi:10.1186/s13030-016-0063-7
- Studies on normal infant sleep • KellyMom.com. (2018, January 03). Retrieved from https://kellymom.com/parenting/nighttime/sleepstudies/