In the first months after your baby is born, especially if it’s your first, life changes in a big way. You’re different – and you have a brand new person to take care of. You want to do the very best for your baby and you’d like it to be as natural as possible. For centuries, women have been harnessing the power of herbs to improve life both for themselves and their babies.
Herbal infusions can aid the flow of breast milk and herbs can be beneficial in the treatment of both colic and nappy rash, two of the most common problems babies suffer from.
Everyone agrees, breast is undoubtedly best both for baby and mum. If you are able to breastfeed, even if it’s only for a short period, your baby will get the very finest start in life. It’s even suggested that long-term breastfeeding will have further health advantages e.g. it’s said to decrease the risk of breast and ovarian cancer later in life.
For breastfeeding mums there are plenty of herbs that can aid milk production. Called galactagogues they work in different ways, either affecting the hormones that stimulate milk production or the breast itself. Still others have a relaxing effect helping the milk to flow more easily.
- Fenugreek works directly on the glands in the breast to stimulate milk. Make an infusion by simmering 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds in a mugful of water for 15 minutes. Strain and drink daily.
- Fennel is another herb the seeds of which can be used to make an infusion to aid milk production. Take about 2 teaspoons and crush slightly. Place in a cup and pour over boiling water. Leave to stand for 15 minutes and then strain before drinking.
- Verbena (or vervain) is a relaxing herb. Use 1 teaspoon to a cup of boiling water.
But avoid sage, until you’re ready to wean your baby, because it is likely to reduce your milk supply.
Chasteberry has, for thousands of years, been used to treat various gynaecological conditions, breast tenderness and premenstrual syndrome, it’s also been suggested as an aid to milk production. While research has shown that it is possibly useful for PMS, it is no longer recommended as a milk stimulant.
Babies with Colic
There are two ways in which herbs can be utilised to help babies suffering from colic: as an infusion; and as massage oil.
To relieve the intestinal cramps commonly seen in babies with colic, a herbal tea infusion can be given in a bottle. But before you try any herbal remedy on your baby, you should consult your health visitor or doctor, and seek the advice of a homeopathic professional.
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll know that if you eat a curry, it may lead to an upset tummy for baby; in the same way, if you drink a herbal tea, its benefits will be passed through the milk to baby. So drinking an infusion of fennel or caraway seeds may indirectly help relieve your baby’s colic. Drinking chamomile tea will help you relax, and that in turn could lead to a more peaceful baby.
While you enjoy your soothing chamomile tea, gently massage baby’s tummy using light hand movements to rub in chamomile oil*. The combination of the comfort of touch and the aromatic benefits of the herb may help to relax the muscles that are so cramped and painful.
*When using essential oil, mix it first with a base oil such as olive or almond, as full strength essential oil is too strong for delicate skin.
Babies with Nappy Rash
The first, best and cheapest remedy for nappy rash is no nappy! Allow your baby to be free of his(her) nappy for as long as you can to let healing take place naturally.
Wash the skin carefully and gently in plain warm water and pat dry thoroughly. If you’ve ever experienced sunburn you’ll know how tender inflamed skin can be, so be very gentle. When baby’s bottom is completely dry and it’s time for a nappy to go on, apply some protective and healing ointment. Try mixing 1 tablespoon olive oil with a few drops of water. Whisk well and then apply a thin coating. Alternatively break open a cod liver oil capsule and rub the oil into the affected area.
Another solution is to brew a cup of chamomile tea – yes, chamomile again! – and let it stand until it’s good and strong. Then remove the teabag and use the tea to soak a piece of muslin. Wring it out so that it’s just damp and then place it on baby’s bottom between the sore skin and the nappy and leave overnight. You may have to repeat this treatment but it’s reportedly an excellent cure for nappy rash.
Remember Consult your health visitor or doctor before beginning any herbal treatment.