Laser therapy for new mothers? New moms have so much put on their plates in those first couple of weeks of having a child. There are logistical difficulties, emotional difficulties, lack of sleep, childcare arrangements, and many more stressors on the body. Then add on the physical side of trying to feed and raise your child while continuing to have your other responsibilities. It can get really complicated, really fast. So, what does this have to do with laser therapy? This post will address how laser therapy can be safely used to help new moms through some of the physical challenges moms face in the early stages of having a baby.
If this is your first introduction to us at LTI, know that we're not talking about laser surgery. We're talking specifically about safe, non-invasive light that is used at the right intensity and the right color to stimulate the body's tissues to naturally improve their performance or healing. Now let's discuss how this can apply to new moms.
New moms go through a lot of challenges
There is always some level of birth trauma. A C-section is pretty traumatic, and, although recovery from that typically goes quite well, sometimes moms are left with significant pain numbness. Occasionally, their bodies are slow to heal. Even with natural birth, healing can be delayed or difficult for a variety of reasons. On top of all that are the challenges of nursing and getting enough milk production. Chapped and sore nipples, difficulty sleeping while nursing, and sleep deprivation for both the mom and baby are all potential challenges, which often lead to neck and back problems, also. One other significant factor is that nursing moms cannot take a lot of different medications to help with any pain levels.
Even with the joy of a new, wonderful baby; being a new mom can be emotionally exhausting and draining. A lot of mothers deal with postpartum depression, too, which is worsened by the physical factors listed above. So, how can laser therapy help? Well, laser has been shown to be useful for depression and anxiety issues. However, for this post, we will be focusing on the physical aspects of laser for new moms.
Improving milk production with light therapy
First, milk production: Milk production can be very difficult, especially for first-time moms. And there's not a whole lot you can do to stimulate better milk production. Getting your diet right, reducing stress, and getting sleep definitely help, but those are already difficult tasks for new mothers to do. There is no drug to take that will fix all that and boost milk production. However, there is evidence that laser therapy can stimulate milk production. We're waiting for some human studies to be published, but we currently have animal studies that record laser therapy being beneficial for improving milk nutritional quality. There is good potential for light therapies to be very useful for stimulating the body's natural milk production. Plus it's completely safe for the mom, for the milk, and for the baby.
Another milk-production complication to be aware of is mastitis. Mastitis is an infection in the milk glands. And it is very painful. It definitely interrupts nursing and sleeping, and it makes the baby less happy as well. Mastitis often has to be treated with antibiotics, but of course it is usually not recommended for moms to be on medications because those medications can be passed along to the baby through the milk. There is an animal study indicating that adding light therapy to an antibiotic regimen of treatment for mastitis can improve recovery rates by 24%.
Laser therapy for chapped nipples
Laser therapy has been studied since the 1960s, and many of the first studies evaluated wound healing. When it comes to chapped, traumatized, and sore nipples for nursing mothers, laser therapy can work quite well. There are at least three human studies that have shown positive results on using light to help nipples heal and become less painful. These studies say that light therapy is an effective tool in accelerating the healing of nipple trauma. Laser therapy was considered effective for treating nipple lesions, providing moms with relief and prolonging exclusive breastfeeding. Again, there are not a lot of medication options, so these laser studies are very encouraging!
What do you do when you have chapped skin? Think about chapped lips. Most of us apply a lip balm to the lips. Well, when you are nursing, you have limited options: You cannot use just any topical to help the skin because that exposes the baby to whatever you are applying to that skin. And even if you find a topical that is safe for the baby, the little one might not like the way it tastes, which could lead to a lack of milk consumption and poor nutritional outcomes for the baby. Being able to receive a few sessions of light therapy for traumatized nipples can help to decrease pain and increase nursing, allowing the baby to eat well again.
Birth trauma and light therapy
Earlier we mentioned C-section recovery. Recovering from a C-section in many cases goes just fine, but in some cases healing can be very slow, or it can lead to lingering pain/numbness. Finding safe ways to help stimulate healing and reduce pain without affecting the mother's milk supply is very difficult. This is where light therapy offers a potential solution. There are several studies on laser and C-section recovery in particular, and a lot of studies that address post-surgical recovery show laser can work very well. These studies specifically say that laser therapy "is an efficient method to reduce pain post C-section patients." They also note that laser therapy "is a good method to reduce post-operative pain due to the fact that it is safe and noninvasive." Laser therapy after C-section "has no serious effects on lactation and it helps to modulate metabolic processes" and promote wound healing post-surgery.
If you are confused as to why lasers are both used for surgery and to help recover from surgery, here is a quick explanation: Therapeutic lasers are not the same as the burning and cutting lasers that are used for surgeries; rather, they are lower-intensity lasers that help to stimulate better healing, better circulation, better oxygen delivery to the cells, and better energy production in those cells. Laser therapy speeds up the metabolism of cells, meaning that they start to work better. So, for things like wound healing, nipple healing, and milk production, it can be a great treatment option.
One last thing: We briefly mentioned how moms might experience neck and back pain as a result of having a newborn, so what about laser therapy for musculoskeletal conditions? Again, nursing mothers are limited on medication options, so instead of using medications to reduce neck and back pain, laser therapy can be a great alternative. In fact, laser typically provides extremely successful results for spinal conditions. There are many studies that demonstrate that, and we have seen it throughout our many years of clinical experiences. Studies published as far back as the 1990s show good results with knee, neck, back, and shoulder pain—just to name a handful. But there's a lot more laser can do. . . there are more than 4,000 studies about light therapy. And we love sharing these studies' results with you!