Can Herbs help make more milk?

By Carey Haupt RD(SA) SACLC
Created: 17 June, 2019

As a lactation consultant, one of the most common questions that I get asked is “how do I make more milk?” Mothers want to know that they are providing enough milk for their baby to grow and to grow well. When faced with images from Facebook about how much milk other mother can express it can feel a bit daunting when comparing the images to yourself.

Increase Milk supply: First steps

My first suggestions are:

Moms often want to include a super food in their diets to increase their milk production or use jungle juice. This can be problematic as there is not clinical data that shows that jungle juice has any effect on your milk production. Jungle juice has so many different recipes that it is impossible to know which one is the original and why the ingredients have changed so much. Importantly most recipes are high in sugar which ads to your calorie intake. Eating massive amount of a single food (or superfood) for me also is not idea as it decreases the variety that you have in your diet which can affect your micronutrient and macronutrient intake, or it will increase your total calorie intake. The higher the calorie intake the harder it will be to lose weight after pregnancy.

What effects your milk production?

The most basic answer is your hormones are responsible for increasing or decreasing your milk production. The two hormones that increase your milk production is Prolactin and Oxytocin. Prolactin helps your body to make more milk while the oxytocin helps to move the milk through your milk duct towards your nipple. When your breasts are constantly full and not being emptied you have hormones that inhibit your milk production. This is so that you don’t become to uncomfortable or full. Therefore, demand feeding, a good latch (transfer of milk), expressing and improving your let down all help to increase your milk supply.

What are herbal galactagogues?

What if you are a “just enougher”?

Is there any thing else you can do to improve your milk supply if you have tried all the suggestions above? Well yes there is, Galactagogues. They are herbs that have been used traditionally to help mothers with their milk supply. They are a complementary medicine and you need to be careful to use them appropriately if you do choice to use them. Before you take a galactagogues you need to find out what they are used for and why the contraindications are.

Why would I say be careful if they have been used for years and are considered natural?

  1. Firstly, you need to know what each plant or herb helps can hinder you with. For example Alfalfa is related to legume and the peanut family and thus should not be consumed by some one that has those allergies. Fenugreek is not considered safe in Diabetics.
  2. Look for a reputable company that has done research on their product and has good quality control measure to ensure that you are consuming what is on the label.

List of herbal galactagogues

Here is a list of herbs that can be used to help improve your milk supply

Herb Possible action Possible complication When to use
Alfalfa Increase milk supply
Stimulate mammary gland growth
Increase milk fat content
Improve water retention for moms with postpartum edema.
Avoid using it if you have lupus or another autoimmune disorder. Related to the legume and peanut families Can be taken both during pregnancy and after birth
Anise Improve the flow of milk Soothe colic or gassiness in babies Do not use if you are allergic to anethole or plants in the Apiaceae/Carrot family.  Not safe for use in pregnancy.
Use after birth
Black Seed Rich source of fatty acids and protein
Has insulin- sensitizing and anti-inflammatory properties.
It can lower blood sugar – if you’re diabetic or hypoglycemic, consult your doctor. Not safe for use in pregnancy
Use after birth
Fenel Milk production
It may have anoxytocic effect (may assist with milk let- downs)
Do not use if you are allergicto anethole or plants of the Apiaceae/Carrot family.  Not safe for use in pregnancy Use after birth
Goat’s rue Increase milk production 
Stimulate mammary gland growth
  Can lower blood sugar – if you’re diabetic or hypoglycemic, consult your doctor.
Ixbut Milk production    Use after birth
Milk Thistle Milk production Don’t use it if you are allergic to daisies, artichokes, kiwi or ragweed Use after birth
Moringa Increase milk production It can lower blood sugar – if you’re diabetic or hypoglycemic, consult your doctor. Use after birth
Shatavari Stimulate mammary gland growth Increase milk production   Not for use during pregnancy
Use after birth
Torbangun Stimulate lactation It can lower blood sugar – if you’re diabetic or hypoglycemic, consult your doctor. Not for use during pregnancy After birth

 

The information on herbs and their uses and contraindications can be found on the Legendairy milk page.

If you are very concerned about your milk supply, please monitor your baby’s weight and see a lactation consultant. Weight monitoring can show you if your baby is growing well or if you need extra support with your breast feeding. Knowing that you baby is growing well will help you to trust in your body. However if your baby is not growing well you can get the necessary assistance that you need by seeking help with a qualified lactation consultant who will be bale to assist you with making sure that your infant gets enough milk to grow well.