Say it with me….Galactogogues….Yea, chances are you don’t have a clue how to pronounce it either. Am I right?
I’m pretty sure I gave up after the first try because I also get tongue tied trying to say it. It’s easier for me to say lactation boosting foods and herbs that increase milk supply. But regardless if you can say it or not, what exactly is a galactogogue, who needs to look into taking them, do they really work, and what foods actually work to increase a breastfeeding mother’s supply.
Galactogogues themselves refer specifically to herbs or medicines used to increase a breastfeeding mother’s milk production. However, there are other foods out there that may also help. But…before you jump into the car and head to the store to buy everything on the list, there’s one VERY important question.
Do YOU need to be taking something to boost your milk supply?
Chances are you don’t. Many mothers, unfortunately, fall into “booby traps” where they are lead to believe that they aren’t making enough milk, when they actually are. If your baby has the appropriate amount of wet/dirty diapers, is gaining weight on track according to the WHO chart, and is meeting age appropriate milestones, you don’t NEED anything to boost your supply. Outdated information, bad advice from family, friends, and even pediatricians, a society that condemns public breastfeeding, and a culture that sends mothers back to work before they should, are all problems that may have mothers believe that there is a drop in their supply or see an actual drop in their supply.
So how do you know if you should be taking lactation boosting foods and herbs?
First — Go see a Certified Lactation Consultant. Better yet, go see an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Chances are that you ARE making enough milk and the issue is that you aren’t feeding often enough, emptying your breasts completely, or even using the wrong size flanges on your pump, which can decrease your milk supply because you are telling your body not to make enough. This KellyMom article for increasing supply is also an amazing reference.
What are some cases where you may need to look into lactation boosting foods and herbs?
- Premature delivery
- Illness in the infant where physical breastfeeding isn’t an option often enough
- Adoptive nursing
- Separation of mother/infant for reasons such as returning to work
As you can see, there are very little reasons why you may need to look into this. For me personally, my returning menstrual cycle was the only time that I noticed during our 26+ months of breastfeeding, that I needed a little boost but I also work from home. We know that MANY, many mothers have to return to work quickly and keeping up with the demand can be challenging.
One reason, you should seek out a lactation consultant or IBCLC is because you simply don’t know the reason for believing that you have a low supply and other practices, like more time at the breast, different size flanges for your breast pump, or skin to skin contact with your baby could all be more beneficial in the long term than lactation boosting foods that are masking a true problem. Also – many of these herbs and foods have not be tested for safety when it comes to the breastfeeding mother/infant dyad and as with any natural remedy, there can be side effects. Fenugreek, for example, can result in low blood sugar if the wrong doses are consumed, and should also be discussed with a medical practitioner before using.
All that said, these are the common herbs and foods recommended for boosting your milk supply:
- Blessed Thistle
- Brewer’s Yeast
- Fennel and Fennel Seed
- Goat’s Rue
- Marshmallow Root
- Milk Thistle
- Red Raspberry Leaf
Additionally, these foods may be beneficial:
- Beets, carrots, yams and other vegetables high in beta-carotene
- Dark, leafy green (think spinach, kale, greens) because of their nutrient components offer benefits
This post from Nice Breastfeeding gives dosing recommendations that you can discuss with your medical provider.
It’s very important to consider that even if you do notice an increase in using one or a mixture of these products, that ultimately getting your baby/child to the breast more often will ultimately, in most cases, increase your supply more than anything else.
Have you had success with any of these herbs or food options? Did we miss something? Leave a comment below letting us know what did or did not work for you!
You may be interested in our Lactation Boosting recipes that we currently have: