How to Improve Milk production with Chinese Medicine: BBQ for Breastfeeding Moms


A great day at work is when I fist-pump to news of my patient’s positive pregnancy tests and later, new baby pictures. Because I’m often ask about natural remedy that can help lactation, I like to share with you one of the best kept secrets from the Chinese tradition.

If you like the deep sweetness of BBQ, then the pig trotter in ginger and vinegar soup isn’t that far off. Requiring a little bit of an adventuresome spirit, most people who try it can’t get enough of its rich and hearty flavor. For mothers who are also breastfeeding, it is well worth it to try this Chinese classic.

Pig trotter is the ultimate traditional Chinese remedy for lactation insufficiency. Insufficient milk production has been identified as the top reason for cessation of breastfeeding across cultures. Its ability to fortify mother’s milk is one of the main reasons why this dish is often brought by visiting families to celebrate the birth of a baby and shared among kins, it’s not just for mothers!

Pig trotters have been used for centuries to improve lactation in China. In Korea, its efficacy was also documented in Donguibogam, a textbook written in 1610 by a royal physician for medical students (Huh 1988). In recent years, Kim and colleagues (2004) studied the effect of pig trotter on lactation in postpartum rats. The researchers orally administered extracts of either pig trotters (treated groups) or normal saline (control group) to 18-week postpartum Sprague Dawley rats once daily for either 4 or 8 days. Histological examination of mammary gland tissue showed that the treated group has significantly enhanced angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels) and a higher density in the epithelium of the alveoli when compared to the control group. The treated group also had significantly elevated β -casein m-RNA levels and whey acidic protein (WAP) m-RNA levels. Thus, it follows that enhanced expression of β-casein and WAP increases breast milk production in rats. Both β -casein and whey protein are proteins present in human milk as well.

A major nutritional value of the dish is to replenish loss of calcium in pregnancy. In traditional Chinese medicine, the pairing of ginger and vinegar is heralded for its ‘blood-building’,‘re-building’, and ‘warming’ properties suitable for women post childbirth, when the body is at its weakest.

I recommend this dish to women looking for natural ways to aid recovery or boost milk production; however, enjoy trotters in moderation because it can be taxing to the body’s Spleen energy, which is responsible for the formation of Qi and Blood.

There are various home recipes online and my exclusive recipe uses authentic ingredients in optimal quantities supported by research and literature in Chinese medicine, if you’re interested in knowing more please contact me at

Tradition and history give this dish a cultural significance that extends greatly beyond mere nourishment. Enjoy this Asian twist to BBQ with your family!

Huh, J. 1988. Donguibogam. Seoul: Namsandang Press.
Kim, S. B., J. H. Cho, J. B. Jang, and K. S. Lee. 2004. Effect of Jeoje (pig feet) and Tongyu-tang except Cheonsangap (Manitis squama) on lactation in postpartum rat. The Journal of Oriental Obstetrics & Gynecology 17:27–40.

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