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    Benefits of Alfalfa for Breastfeeding Mothers

    alfalfa

    Alfalfa is one of the oldest crops grown and is referenced in writings as far back as 1300 B.C. It has been used as food for both people and animals because of its exceptional health benefits. It’s origin seems to be from Turkey and Iran, but it traveled with people and is now found all over the world. Many cultures have used it traditionally as medicine for a variety of health concerns.

    Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) is a flowering perennial herb. It typically has small purple flowers. It has a deep root system able to reach at least 6 feet down into the soil to access water during drought conditions. Because it is so tolerant, is probably how it became a popular crop able to be grown in so many places around the globe.

    Alfalfa is a phytoestrogen meaning it can mimic estrogen and attach to receptor sites in our body. It is considered a superfood because alfalfa has a high vitamin and mineral content which supports fertility, lactation and detoxification in the body. 

    Vitamins in 1 cup of alfalfa sprouts provides you:(1)

    • Vitamin K 13%
    • Vitamin C 5%
    • Folate 3%
    • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) 2%
    • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 2%
    • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1%
    • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) 2%vitamin B6 2%

    Minerals in 1 cup of alfalfa sprouts provides you:(1)

    • Iron 2%
    • Magnesium 2%
    • Zinc 2%
    • Copper 3%
    • Manganese 3%
    • Potassium 1%
    • Phosphorus 2%
    • Calcium 1%

    Taken during pregnancy, it helps prepare the body for birth. High vitamin K, it helps reduce risks of bleeding during and after birth preventing postpartum hemorrhage.(6)  It has been shown to promote menses, but is still considered safe to take during pregnancy. 

    It helps breast tissue develop and the milk duct system to proliferate. If you experienced low milk supply previously, it can be helpful to take alfalfa during pregnancy encouraging the growth of more breast tissue. Using alfalfa while breast/chestfeeding can increase milk supply and increase the fat content of your milk.(2)

    The pituitary gland is where lactation hormones like prolactin are made and stored.(4) Prolactin is a hormone responsible for making milk. Estrogen signals the pituitary gland to make and secrete prolactin. Because alfalfa is a phytoestrogen, it supports this process.

    If you take alfalfa during your pregnancy to boost nutrition, but do not experience issues of low milk supply, you may need to reduce the amount of alfalfa you take after you have your baby. Too much alfalfa can lead to oversupply. If you begin to notice symptoms of engorgement, decrease how much you are consuming or supplementing.

    Alfalfa has traditionally been used to relieve many conditions. It can act as a diuretic helping with edema and water retention after birth. It is known to lower blood pressure, help regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol.(3) Because it is high in chlorophyll, it helps nourish and cleanse the body supporting the liver and pituitary gland function. 

    Alfalfa can be taken in several ways. It is fun to grow alfalfa sprouts and add them into salads and other dishes. The leaves can be used to make tea, but some people find it slightly bitter unless combined with other ingredients. It can also be taken as a supplement. Cash Cow and Liquid Gold both contain alfalfa as well as other herbs that work together to boost milk supply and support lactation. 

    Cautions:

    • Because Alfalfa is part of the legume family, it should be avoided by people with lupus and autoimmune disorders.
    • People on certain blood thinning medications should avoid alfalfa due to it’s high Vitamin K content
    • Diarrhea or loose stools can be experienced by the parent or the baby. Reduce your dose of alfalfa if this happens
    • Always check with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements

    Footnotes:

    1. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2302/2
    2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022030204732087
    3. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-alfalfa#1
    4. https://www.yourhormones.info/glands/pituitary-gland/
    5. https://midwiferytoday.com/mt-articles/three-keys-avoiding-postpartum-hemorrhage/

    Resources:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501830/

    https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/alfalfa#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3

    https://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1165&context=ky_alfalfa&httpsredir=1&referer=#:~:text=The%20earliest%20clear%20reference%20to,valuable%20crop%20by%20early%20man.

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20969516/

    http://www.mobimotherhood.org/lactogenic-foods-and-herbs-mother-natures-milk-boosters.html

    https://breastfeeding-problems.com/alfalfa-and-breastfeeding/




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