What is it about?

Over a third of mothers used herbal medicine during breastfeeding. However, very few herbal medicine users (2.1%, n = 3) used herbal medicine to augment breastfeeding. Instead, dietary changes were the most common method used to increase breast milk supply. Mothers with children more than six months old were more likely to use herbal medicine. Only 11% of breastfeeding women who use herbal medicine tell their conventional medicine health professional

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Why is it important?

Evidence of efficacy and safety for herbal medicines during breastfeeding remains inconclusive, and – as with any medication use in breastfeeding – there is the potential for maternal and infant harm due to inherent toxicity, herb-drug interactions or heavy metal contamination. The practice of medical pluralism by mothers in our study makes the potential for adverse health outcome for both the mother and child to be high. Therefore, it is of public health interest that healthcare providers need to familiarise themselves with current knowledge on the benefits and risk associated with the commonly used herbal products among this group of women and be proactive in initiating dialogue on the rational use of these medicines

Perspectives

This study provides the first empirical evidence of herbal medicine use during breastfeeding in Sierra Leone, and the first detailed insights in Africa. I hope our findings will inform and guide public health policy and interventions geared to improving the health of breastfeeding mothers and their babies. I also hope our research initiates thought-provoking discussions among researcher, policy makers, health providers and will serve a basis for further research in breastfeeding in Sierra Leone, Africa and globally

Dr Peter B James
Southern Cross University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Herbal medicine use during breastfeeding: a cross-sectional study among mothers visiting public health facilities in the Western area of Sierra Leone, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, March 2019, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1186/s12906-019-2479-7.
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