Aromatherapy massage helps breastfeeding mothers to produce more milk.
How can that be?
Let's explore the science.
In part one of this series, we discussed the importance of the vagus nerve and how it stimulates the release of oxytocin.
The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in our autonomic nervous system - it regulates heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, digestion; it's responsible for our gut-brain connection; and it tells our body to relax by sending instructions to release oxytocin.
When we feel loved and cared for our body responds in miraculous ways.⭐⭐
Massaging with lavender triggers the vagus nerve relaxation reflex, which releases oxytocin, and supports mamas to feel good, heal, and produce more milk.
Oxytocin is key to wellbeing for both mama and baby. It has an anti-stress effect, decreases sensitivity to pain, decreases inflammation and stimulates processes related to growth and healing. Oxytocin is crucial for lactation because it is responsible for the milk ejection reflex.
So, what do the studies say?
Two studies have explored the impact of massage on milk supply, and they concluded that regular massage does improve milk production.
In 2016 a small, short intervention study was conducted on 40 new mothers. 20 mothers received a 10-minute massage 3 times a day for 3 days, and the control group did not.
They found a significant difference in baby's weight between the massage group and the control group, and that the babies in the massage group slept more easily.🙌
In this study they documented their massage protocol. Now you can experiment with oxytocin back massage too.
How do you do an oxytocin back massage?
Oxytocin back massages are so much easier than you'd think. This study sets out a very simple back massage protocol:
Mama should be in a sitting position.
Back exposed from the neck to the loin.
Massage mama with gentle pressure with both thumbs on the back, at the lateral sides of the spine, in circulatory motion. Massage "to-and-fro" from neck to loin for 10 minutes.
Have other studies tried this?
A larger study was conducted from December 2018 to February 2019, with 100 mothers. 50 mothers received 15-minute massages 4 times a day for three days. The first massage occurred within 2 hours of delivery. The massage method was the same, moving "to and fro" from neck to buttocks. The researchers concluded that back massage is effective in improving lactation among postnatal mothers.
What about adding essential oils to the massage?
At the same time, scientists were exploring whether combining lavender essential oil and massage could have a positive impact on milk supply.
2017 study looked at the effect of oxytocin massage using lavender essential oil on breast milk production after a caesarean delivery. They noted that low milk production can make it difficult to breastfeed exclusively, and they wanted to find out whether lavender oxytocin massage could improve milk production.
The team found that the massage had a significant effect on the increase of milk supply and recommended it as an alternative treatment for postpartum carers.
Lavender essential oil was chosen for this study because, "it is one of the most popular essential oils and is widely used in the field of clinical health."⭐⭐
In this study, thirty-two mothers were divided into two groups. The massage group received a 15-minute massage twice daily, and the control groups received breast care twice daily. They found that the massage group had increased milk volumes and baby weight, more frequent toileting, and baby's sleep increased.
The impact on baby's sleep was incredible!👏👏
Tell me more about the boost to baby's sleep ...
It increased baby's sleep by 3.31 hours per day in the massage group, but only increased by 1.94 hours per day in the control group.
The researchers concluded that lavender oxytocin massage did increase milk supply and could be an alternative treatment for health professionals to assist mothers.
The impact of lavender massage on milk supply was also confirmed in a 2018 study that found oxytocin massage using lavender essential oil influenced the smooth production of breast milk.
Can just inhaling lavender essential oil improve milk supply?
We haven't located a study that solely examined the effect of inhaling lavender essential oil on milk supply, however there was a study that explored the impact of scent on mental wellbeing postpartum. And wellbeing and milk supply are all connected.
In 2016, researchers undertook a clinical trial of 140 women, to explore the effects of inhaling lavender on stress, anxiety, and depression after birth. In this study 140 mothers were randomly divided into aromatherapy and non-aromatherapy groups after giving birth. In the aromatherapy group the mothers inhaled 3 drops of lavender every 8 hours for 4 weeks. The mothers were assessed after 2 weeks, 1 and 3 months after delivery.
The researchers found that the stress, anxiety, and depression scores were significantly lower in the aromatherapy group. And concluded, "Inhaling the scent of lavender for 4 weeks can prevent stress, anxiety, and depression after childbirth."
Have other studies found inhaling lavender helps stress and anxiety?
In a 2017 study, mothers who had just birthed were given lavender to inhale on a cotton wool ball. They inhaled for 10-15 minutes and after one hour they were evaluated for pain, fatigue, and mood. This was repeated 6 hours later and then at bedtime.
The researchers found that inhaling lavender was effective in reducing pain, fatigue, and distress.
And that's got to be good for you. 🙌🙌 We recommend making the most of both the power of touch and the luscious scent of lavender.
Does massage have other benefits for postpartum mothers?
Yes, it does.
A 2020 study looked at the effect back massage had on the height of the uterine fundus postpartum. Eighty mothers were divided into two groups. The experimental group received a 15-minute back massage two times a day, and the control group had no intervention.
The researchers concluded, "Our results confirmed that back massage can help increase the amount of the hormone oxytocin, which will have an impact on accelerating the decrease in the height of uterine fundus."
When we relax, our body responds. It knows what to do, we just need to rest and let it do its job.🤗
How long should you massage for?
Studies have experimented with 10–15-minute massages, two, three, or even four times a day. We recommend two or three times, but more is more when it comes to massage!
The purpose of the massage is to relax mama, so it must be gentle and feel pleasurable. The room should be warm, and mama should feel comfortable.
This helpful little massage video shows how to do an oxytocin back massage for breastfeeding mothers. Once you've seen how it's done, you'll know how simple and easy it is.👌
When you combine massage with the scent of lavender you're maximising the relaxation effect - it's a wonderful way to support mamas through this challenging time.
Everyday care rituals are bliss for body and mind, and baby will love it too.xx
Here at Everkind, we think you shouldn’t have to choose between your wellbeing and what works. We’ve carefully made our range of all-natural bodycare to work as well as – if not better than – their synthetic counterparts, without compromising on using quality certified organic ingredients. To find out more, shop the Everkind range, or get in touch with the team.
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