Lactation Supplements and How They Work
Galactagogues are products that suggest taking them may help increase your breast milk supply or improve your milk flow. Common lactation supplements include herbs, teas, medications, and even cookies. How do these galactagogues work and what's especially important to know?
Lactation Supplements and Breast Milk Production
The term “galactagogue” describes a group of products that suggest taking them may help increase your breast milk supply or improve your milk flow. Herbs, lactation teas, medications, and even cookies are available in most grocery stores and online, and are often used by moms hoping to increase their breast milk supply. As with any herb, medication, or supplement, we recommend always letting your healthcare provider know that you’re considering taking it ahead of time. That way, if for some reason the galactagogue or a specific ingredient isn’t recommended for you, your healthcare provider can recommend other options before you start taking it – saving you time, money, and possible health complications.
First, try working with a board-certified lactation consultant or your healthcare provider to determine if your milk supply has decreased and what the root cause behind this drop may be. You may find that once the root cause is resolved - and with more daily, consistent nursing and pumping sessions - your milk supply naturally increases again, without the need for any extra lactation supplements. Though current research is mixed on whether galactagogues are effective, here are common lactation supplements to try if you are still experiencing supply challenges - Just be sure to note that dosages of these supplements differ based on manufacturers, as these are not regulated by the FDA!
- Fenugreek: Known as the most popular herbal galactagogue used in the U.S., many moms swear by its effectiveness. Though there is little in the way of actual lactation research that prove its effectiveness, fenugreek is considered a popular lactation supplements and is highly recommended mostly through word of mouth. Capsules containing the ground fenugreek seed are reported to increase its effectiveness, though this supplement may work best when taken in combination with blessed thistle. Note that when taking fenugreek, breast milk and sweat may have a maple syrup-like scent.
Caution – Fenugreek should not be taken during pregnancy!
- Alfalfa, Milk Thistle, Fennel, Black Seed, and Shatavari Root: Though few studies have been done to prove the effectiveness of these herbs as galactagogues, they have all been traditionally used to increase breast milk supply.
- Lactation Teas: There are many teas marketed specifically as galactagogues, though results tend to be mixed. With any of the teas you may try, be sure to know what the ingredients are and chat with your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant if you have any questions.
- Metoclopramide (Reglan): This medication may be prescribed by your healthcare provider to help you increase your breast milk supply. It works by increasing your prolactin levels, though one of the side effects is depression. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider if you have a history – or a family history – of depression to find out if this medication is right for you.
- Domperidone (Motilium): While this prescription medication is often used successfully in Canada and other countries, the FDA currently does not allow it to be used in the U.S. for increasing breast milk supply.
- Lactation Cookies: Recipes for this food galactagogue are very popular lactation supplements and shared frequently across different social media platforms, with varying success - some moms swear that eating lactation cookies has increased their breast milk supply, while others don't report any noticeable changes. Though recipes may vary slightly, common ingredients include whole oats, flaxseed meal, and brewer's yeast - all of which are good, healthy foods for nursing moms. While there are no studies that indicate lactation cookies are effective, you can try this recipe and let us know if it helped!
Remember, most mothers don’t need lactation enhancers to initiate, build, and maintain their breast milk supplies. Be sure to nurse and/or pump frequently – usually about 8 – 12 times in each 24-hour period – and effectively, as adequate milk removal is essential. Check often to ensure that your baby is gaining weight appropriately and maintain frequent communication with your healthcare provider and your little one’s pediatrician, so any questions can be addressed as quickly as possible. Though a dip in breast milk supply can be disheartening, this is a common challenge among breast milk feeding mamas. Knowing ahead of time what you may anticipate along your breastfeeding journey and staying strong, confident, and committed to providing your little one with your liquid gold can help you overcome these occasional hiccups along the way – You’ve got this!
1. Hale, T. (2017). Medications and Mothers’ Milk 2017 (17th Ed.). Amarillo, TX: Hale Publishing.
2. Mortel M1, Mehta SD. (2013). Systematic review of the efficacy of herbal galactagogues J Hum Lact. 2013 May;29(2):154-Hand Expression