Every breastfeeding mother feels at one time or another during her breastfeeding journey, that she is experiencing low milk supply. Most of the time it truly isn’t low milk supply, but rather the perception of feeling as if your milk supply as dropped. See the post Low milk supply common concerns and questions for further information. Galactogogues are herbs and other substances that support breast milk production and increase milk supply. Most of these herbs are available to you over-the-counter, but it is strongly recommended that you seek the advice and care from an IBCLC licensed Lactation Consultant to help you choose the galactogogue that is best for you and your specific situation. For example, years ago the most commonly used herb for increasing supply was Fenugreek. I STRONGLY CAUTION NOT TO USE THIS HERB!!
(Fenugreek (Trigonella faenumgraecum) – A member of the legume family works by affecting the smooth muscle contractions in the breasts which helps stimulate the milk ejection reflex. ) Mammary glands are similar to our sweat glands in our body. Fenugreek stimulates sweat production, thus also working to stimulate the mammary gland.)
However, newer studies have confirmed that fenugreek can actually lower your milk supply because of the effect in can have on blood sugar levels as well as insulin production. If you have any thyroid condition such as Hoshimotos, Thyroiditis, hypo or hyper thyroidism, or other endocrine conditions such as PCOS (poly-cystic-ovarian-syndrome) or diabetes, you DO NOT WANT TO TAKE ANY FENUGREEK PRODUCTS!! It can result in the opposite reaction and cause your supply to dry up!
Most mothers discover thyroid conditions or auto-immune disorders while breastfeeding since the change in hormones after birth can trigger these diseases. It is because of this risk that I personally NEVER recommend any fenugreek product, including More Milk Plus and Fenugreek tea. It also is NOT recommended to take fenugreek if you are allergic to peanuts or chickpeas. Smart to just say no!
Other Herbs That Can Increase Supply:
Blessed Thistle (cnicus benedictus) – This herb, native to Europe and Asia, has a calming effect on women that helps reduce anxiety, increasing a new mother’s comfort level during what can sometimes be a frustrating and exhausting situation. This works by stimulating blood flow to the mammary glands thus helping to produce more milk.
Nettle (Urtica dioica) – This herb helps breastfeeding mothers by providing additional nutritional support that is sometimes lacking in the woman’s diet. It has been documented to be a rich source of iron, calcium and folic acid. This is however a diuretic and should be used carefully as it can result in frequent loose stools.
Goats Rue – Aids in developing additional mammary tissue for women who have PCOS, are adopting and inducing lactation, or women who have had breast reduction surgery.It may also have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity, and is thought to be the precursor for the popular diabetes drug metformin.
Fennel (Doeniculum vulgare) – This herb has been known to stimulate feeding cues in the baby and can aid in the infants digestion relieving colic and excess gas.
Ixbut : used by the indigenous populations of Central America to stimulate milk production in humans and cattle for centuries. It’s traditionally served as an herbal tea due to its light, nutty flavor.
Moringa:a nutritional powerhouse native to Asia that has been shown to increase milk production within just a few days of taking it. It’s believed to work by boosting prolactin levels (the major milk-making hormone)
Shatavari: One of my favorites, has its origins in India and is popular as a restorative tonic for various female health issues. It has been known to stimulate mammary gland growth and increase milk production. It has been compared to Reglan for treating gastric problems and it appears to cause a similar increase in prolactin without the awful depressive and neurological side effects that Reglan can provide. A wonderful option is Shatavari/Cardamom tea by traditional medicines. Make sure you buy the Shatavari blend with the “Green Flowers” on the package. Available at Sprouts, Amazon, Whole Foods.
Torbangun: used as a traditional food to stimulate lactation for the month or so following childbirth. The plant is high in iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium.17
Alfalfa: A highly nutritious plant that is said to boost milk supply, stimulate mammary gland growth and increase milk fat content.12 It can also promote vitality and improve water retention for mamas with postpartum edema. It can be taken both during pregnancy and after birth. CAUTION: Do not use alfalfa if you have a peanut allergy or auto-immune disorder such as Lupus as extra inflammation can occur
Anise: An aromatic seed traditionally used in Europe to help improve the flow of milk and soothe colic or gassiness in babies.
Black Seed: a rich source of fatty acids, protein and minerals such as calcium and iron. It’s known to stimulate the release of prolactin (the major milk-making hormone), promote mammary gland growth and increase milk production.
Choosing the right combination of herbs to use, can be tricky. It truly is a case by case judgment, which is why you should consult with a breastfeeding specialist. Most Lactation Consultants will evaluate the situation and then decide what level of treatment to begin with. Often times it may be a combination of herbs.
www.legendairymilk.com has the best and safest selection of herbal blends. This is what I personally recommend to my patients.
For further information, or to find the herb that is best for you and your baby, contact a Lactation Consultant for recommended dosage and procedures. Best of luck!
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