Bee Pollen and Breastfeeding - Is Bee Pollen Safe to Take During Breastfeeding
Bee Pollen and Breastfeeding
One of the things that amaze me about being an author and expert on some issues in natural health care is that complete strangers often tell me the most intimate details in their lives. Although I obviously have no personal experience with breastfeeding a baby, women who read my books and who have heard me on the radio have shared enough about their experiences of lactation I feel I can write about them here.
I want to tell you about how bee pollen products provide the "missing link" in some women's breastfeeding experience. But first I want to start with a more general discussion of mastitis.
What is Mastitis?
Mastitis in most animals is a breast infection caused by Group B Streptococcus bacteria, usually by an organism called Streptococcus agalactiae. I'm actually familiar with the treatment of this organism first-hand, but not in humans. I used to live on a farm, and this is the bacterium that causes udder discomfort in cows.
We used to treat it with something called Bag Balm. This is an herbal ointment that has been manufactured in Vermont for over 100 years. It was formulated for cows but it's used by many women, especially in New England. Many women say it's great for breast infections and for chapped, dry hands in winter, but to me it smells terrible. In fact, to most people it smells terrible (although cows like it).
Mastitis in most women is a breast infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus. This is a very common skin bacterium that gets inside the breast either from the baby's mouth or elsewhere on the mother's body. If a milk duct is blocked for a few hours to a few days, the bacterium has a chance to grow.
Nowadays, women actually can get infections with either strain of bacteria. Nobody knows how women started getting a kind of strep infection that used to be found exclusively in cows. On the skin of the breasts, this strain of bacteria can cause swelling, itching, oozing, and yellow discharge.
As long as this bacterium stays on the skin, in humans, that is, it's just a nuisance. If it gets into the lungs or cervix or cardiovascular system, it can be a life-threatening disease. That's only likely, however, in women aged 20 to 45 who have diabetes or who started chemotherapy or steroids shortly after giving birth.
If you have diabetes, or if you are on chemotherapy, and you have an infection of the breasts, you don't need a nutritional supplement. You need medical care. Bee pollen products actually might help, but they are optional and medical care is essential. But if you don't have diabetes and you aren't on chemotherapy, steroids, or some immunosuppressive drug, taking bee pollen may be helpful. Here's why.
Bee Pollen for Breastfeeding
Bee pollen for breastfeeding mothers makes good sense when there is a strong possibility of a staph infection. There probably will be pain just in one breast, not both. Since it's an infection, this breast inflammation usually triggers a fever. There can be a lump, swelling, tenderness, a nipple discharge, and red, streaked skin on the breast.
All of these symptoms are due to the staph infection. And traditional treatments for this kind of staph infection don't do much good.
Anything you would put on the breast to fight infection won't help because the infection is in the breast, not on the breast. Taking an antibiotic won't help because the bacteria that cause this infection are resistant to most antibiotics.
What women can do to speed recovery is to stop the inflammation that causes the pain and swelling. And that's where bee pollen products come in.
Bee Pollen for Breast Inflammation
Bee pollen is a natural anti-inflammatory. Bee pollen supplements can help women fight mastitis from the inside out helping to stop the inflammation that causes the symptoms that interrupt breastfeeding.
The flavonoids in bee pollen complement the immunostimulant action of vitamin C. And the hydroxycinnamic acid in bee pollen helps stop the release of a chemical called NFkappa-B, through which the immune system causes swelling and fever.
Bee pollen works with hydration to keep breasts healthy. Bee pollen helps your body regulate inflammation, and getting the often-recommending eight glasses of water a day, even if it means more trips to the bathroom, helps breasts stay firm. But should breastfeeding women take bee pollen if they don't have mastititis?
I think they should. Here's why.
Once you get a breast infection, you are going to have to interrupt your routine with your baby at least for a few days and maybe for a few weeks. Anything that regulates inflammation stops mastitis. Taking bee pollen on a regular basis when you start breastfeeding, 3 capsules a day taken on an empty stomach, probably won't make a noticeable difference. You just won't know what your healthy habits stopped.
Frequently Asked Questions About Natural Remedies for Breastfeeding Problems
Q. What about herbs for this kind of breast infection?
A. The best is Echinacea purpurea, which is not the same as Echinacea angustifolia. It stimulates macrophages to surround and digest bacteria, and it has laboratory-proven action specifically against Staphylococcus aureus. Because it can interfere with ovulation, women who are trying to get pregnant should not take it, but that is usually not a concern in breastfeeding!
Q. Does tea tree oil work on staph infections of the breast?
A. Yes. The form of tea tree oil you would use is the same kind of tea tree oil cream used to treat acne. However, it's essential to stop breastfeeding if you use tea tree oil. Babies can be sedated by the essential oil. There is no record of serious harm ever occurring to a baby who has been exposed to tea tree oil, but why risk it?
Q. Wait a minute. You seem to be saying that it's possible to continue breastfeeding even when there is an infection.
A. Yes. With a staph infection, it is. The baby's digestive tract will neutralize the bacterium, which already covers all of our bodies. However, the strep infection that sometimes infects women who have diabetes or women who are on drugs that suppress the immune system can cause a very serious infection in infants, so women who have these conditions must not breastfeed if they have infected breasts.
Q. Are there any natural remedies for this kind of breast pain?
A. Warm, moist heat, such as a hot water bottle, can help relieve pain and increase circulation that gets rid of the infection. Don't sleep on your stomach. Avoid tight-fitting clothing and tight brassieres.