(This post was originally written for my sister blog - www.breastfeedingu.com)
As holiday prep begins, peppermint mochas and candy canes become just as synonymous with the season as Christmas shopping and going home for the holidays.
There’s no question about it.
The smell of peppermint is in the air!
Which is usually not such a bad thing.
Am I right?
But as Starbucks releases their Holiday Drink Lineup, so many of the already caffeine-deprived moms I work with begin to ask questions regarding the safety of a cup - or any other treat - full of peppermint deliciousness while they’re nursing.
So, the question is — is is safe to consume peppermint while breastfeeding?
Is it Safe to Use Peppermint While Breastfeeding?
I fully subscribe to the idea that as long as a breastfeeding mama attempts to eat a whole foods, nutrient-dense diet at least most of the time - which will not only nourish mom and baby, but will also aid in postpartum recovery - then there really isn’t much that she needs to avoid while breastfeeding.
Now, the same can’t always be said for herbs.
In fact, there are several herbs that should be avoided while breastfeeding either because they can be harmful to mom and/or baby OR because they can decrease milk supply.
So what about peppermint?
Can Peppermint Decrease a Mother’s Milk Supply?
The short answer is, yes.
Peppermint (and spearmint) can potentially decrease milk supply…but not necessarily.
Traditionally, peppermint oil (in addition to several other herbs) has been used in order to help decrease milk supply.
Shown to be beneficial at certain therapeutic levels - in calming the mind, relieving joint and muscle pain, alleviating headaches, and relieving symptoms of IBS among others - peppermint oil is typically used in higher concentrations than in amounts normally used in cooking or found in foods/beverages.
For this reason, occasional peppermint flavored goodies are unlikely to be too much of a concern.
Peppermint mainly poses a problem when used therapeutically or in larger amounts.
HOWEVER, one important point to note is that some breastfeeding moms have reported a noticeable decrease in their milk supply even after only ingesting small amounts of the herb such as that found in peppermint teas, strong peppermint candies or menthol cough drops.
In general though, a nursing mama would have to eat/drink large quantities of, for example, peppermint tea in order to have any sort of effect on milk supply.
Regardless, since all moms have their own unique biochemistry, my best advice is to be cautious if you choose to indulge in the peppermint flavors of the holiday season…especially if you already have a history of low milk supply or if baby isn’t nursing well.
This really is just to be on the safe side, but for whatever reason, some moms have been found to be extremely sensitive to even the smallest amount of peppermint while lactating.
If you recently enjoyed a peppermint treat or used the oil therapeutically and noticed a decrease in supply, keep calm and breastfeed on!
In most cases, mothers who did experience a dip in supply were able to normalize it within a few days once they stopped using peppermint and nursed, nursed, nursed, nursed (or pumped)!
It’s alright. You’ve got this, mama!