Breastfeeding & Acupuncture


Sara | July 13, 2018

Honest Insight from an Acupuncturist {and New Mom}

It’s amazing how much information there is available about pregnancy, birth, and babies. What to expect books filled with week-by-week baby development details, labor and birthing expectations, rounded out by mentions of all the glamorous {ahem} postpartum health prospects. Despite the quantity of books, that’s about the gist of the information. Oddly, with all of the pressures about breastfeeding, it is hardly mentioned throughout the best selling prep books. It seems everyone is only happy to pass opinion, but no one actually discusses the details.

To begin, let’s be clear, breastfeeding is hard. Breastfeeding is really really hard. It is exhausting, frustrating, painful, and at times you can feel the life being sucked {literally}out of you. If you have no experience with babies or breastfeeding, then it can be a very emotional process. Many new moms throw in the towel after a few weeks due to the inconsistent information. Without professional guidance {lactation consultants are the bomb diggity} as a new mom you are constantly getting only opinion based advice.

So ladies, why do we do it? After the labors of childbirth, and the awkward transformation from pregnancy to dairy cow. Many mothers still decidedly take on the responsibility of breastfeeding a little human every 2-4 hours for months to come. As a new mom {who did breastfeed but, eventually had to resort to formula due to a depleting milk supply} I am not going to give any opinion or judgment about breastfeeding versus formula. Instead, as an acupuncturist, I thought it might be fun to explain the theory of breastfeeding benefits from a Chinese Medicine prospective.

Note: Acupuncturist’s believe the body is comprised with a meridian system that runs up and down the flow of the human anatomy. Within this meridian system are profound and powerful special vessels that shape our beings, starting within utero and continue development during early childhood. For the sake of this post I will be discussing one of these special vessels; the Conception Vessel {or Ren Mai}.

Ren Mai
The Conception Vessel {Ren Mai} runs along the front of the body. It is the most Yin aspect of ourselves, thereby also the feminine vessel, and could also been viewed as the Archetype of The Mother. It should be no surprise that the Conception Vessel has a profound relationship when it comes to conception, labor, birth and motherhood. A balanced and healthy Ren Mai houses the lessons that provide us with the ability to not only love others, but to also love ourselves. When we have the capacity to love our higher self, we then have a true sense of belonging. Chinese Medicine suggests that this resource is passed along from mother to baby through breastfeeding. When a newborn is placed on its mothers chest and begins to suckle, there is an immediate direct connection to the mother’s Ren Mai. The newborn is gifted with a strong sense of belonging, which passes along the capacity to love oneself and love others throughout a lifetime. The ability to love and bond with others {all relationships} in a healthy and balanced way has been bestowed. When we truly love ourselves, we can truly love another.

Returning to Yin
Even if everything goes “to plan” the birth experience can be very traumatic for mother and baby. What’s important to understand is the concept of Yin. Yin is the dark aspect of The Tao. Yin is feminine, heaviness, darkness, night, quiet, and fluidity {naming only a few qualities}. The Conception Vessel’s relationship to birth and motherhood {only a couple reasons} makes it the most Yin vessel of the body.
Imagine your newborn living inside your womb. Your womb is dark, warm, filled with amniotic fluid, and everything that your baby needs for survival is provided. During the birthing process your baby emerges from this incredibly Yin place into a bright and loud, Yang environment. Imagine how scary that must be. You no longer have life resources being provided for you, you are gasping to take your first breaths of oxygen {Yang energy}, lights, sounds, and an immediate loss of connection to the only environment you have ever known. Returning your newborn to the Conception Vessel {Ren Mai and Yin} is a return to safety and nourishment. Once placed on the mothers chest {Ren Mai} the newborn returns to the familiar sounds of the mother’s heartbeat and breath, the sense of separation dissipates as mother and baby reconnect in the Yang world.

Spirit {Shen} in the Eyes
According to Chinese Medicine it is believed that our Spirit {known as Shen} can be seen through the eyes. Think of the brightness and clarity of a baby’s stare, that is Shen in it’s purest form. While breastfeeding a mother will gaze into her newborns eyes, and the newborn will instantly be met by Shen {the mother’s Spirit}. The presence of Shen instantly transmits love and a profound connection between mother and baby. When the baby has been truly seen, it affirms existence and a sense of belonging. The baby’s Shen has been seen and acknowledged. Self love and self worth has been established, your newborn baby now feels the right to exist in the world.

Remembering this has been written without any judgement, as I completely understand the sensitivity of this topic. That said, if for any reason you can not, did not, or do not want to breastfeed, don’t fret mama! There are always ways for you to connect to Ren Mai and return to Yin. For instance, going skin to skin with your newborn whenever you can is an excellent way to return your baby to the Yin. Just because your baby isn’t suckling from your Ren Mai doesn’t mean they do not feel the direct connection to it. No matter what the circumstance, mothers and women in general always find a way to do their absolute best. The effort, energy and care given by any new mother is pure love, I am sure your Shen is shining bold and bright for your baby to see…after that second cup of coffee of course!