Breastfeeding mothers or expectant moms that intend to breastfeed often have questions about building and maintaining their milk supply. Their questions often stem from fears of not being able to produce enough breastmilk for their baby. While searching for answers to your questions, it is probable you will come across information on galactagogues which are natural substances that increase the production of milk. Here are some practical considerations to keep in mind before introducing galactagogues into your diet.
Icing on the Cake
According to The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, “…galactagogues are the frosting on the milk removal cake. They never substitute for milk removal itself.” While these milk supply increasing ingredients can be great to add to your diet, it is important to remember that they are not the first resort. They should be considered a supplement to assist your milk production rather than a solution to any supply issues you may be experiencing. It should be noted that ingestion of galactagogues will not improve your supply if you are not breastfeeding or pumping to remove the milk you produce. For that reason, it is advisable to make a strong effort to incorporate skin to skin contact, frequent feeds, breast compression, and pumping before adding any milk boosting supplements to your diet. You may find that those simple acts may be enough to get your supply to a comfortable level.
How They Work
While there are no studies that definitively prove how galactagogues increase your milk supply, it is believed that the addition of these substances to your diet increases prolactin levels in your body. Prolactin is a hormone that is best known for being responsible for milk production in mammals, and the generation of prolactin is stimulated by interaction of the supplements with your body’s dopamine system. Therefore, having enough prolactin in your system is a necessity for the production of breastmilk. If the normal methods described above are not adequate for maintaining the needed for adequate milk production, the introduction of galactagogues may provide an acceptable substitute to stimulate prolactin levels.
There are a number of herbs and foods that have been considered to be in the category of milk supply boosting substances. Many of these supplements have been in use for thousands of years but can have different impacts on the body, so it is advisable to discuss with your doctor before adding any of the herbs below to your diet. It’s important to note that some supplements may make your baby fussy or gassy- if you notice an increase in fussiness or gassiness, you may want to discontinue the use of the supplement.
- Goat’s Rue
- Flax Seed
- Brewers Yeast
- Wild Asparagus
- Alfalfa Leaf
- Blessed Thistle
- Milk Thistle
If you find yourself needing additional support or breastfeeding education, Hush Hush Little Baby is happy to match you with one of our Certified Lactation Counselors. If you are looking for more information on breastfeeding or the use of galactagogues, check out the links below.