The very best and most efficient way of ramping up your milk supply is to feed, feed and feed some more. It really is a supply and demand cycle. The more you feed or nurse the more milk your breasts will produce. However, there may be times you just need a little more help, such a times of illness or feeling extra tired when your baby is going through a growth spurt. Your baby is better than any other method of helping your body make more milk. The stimulation of the nerves with breastfeeding, as well as the removal of milk give a signal to your body to ramp up production.
Galactagogues are a natural food product or herb that can help increase milk supply. Here is my top list of foods that give your boobs a natural milk boost. But like any medication natural remedies can interact with medicines and there are cautions and warnings with each of these. We look at herbs as being natural and whilst they are, they are also medicines. I’ve put a link under each food to WebMD so you can read more if you’d like to.
Alfalfa is an oestrogen inducing food and impacts the pituitary gland to make more milk. You can add it to salads or sprinkle on sandwiches or take in capsule form. Caution though for those mums who have lupus, SLE and autoimmune disease as eating the seeds can trigger a disease flare. There are two case reports of SLE patients experiencing disease flare after taking alfalfa seed products long-term.
Brewers Yeast and Lactation Cookies
There is lots of anecdotal information about the positive effects of taking brewers yeast in lactation cookies to increase milk supply. Brewer’s yeast contains phytoestrogens – which may be the root of its success as a galactagogue. Caution and probably avoid however with Crohn’s disease and sensitivity to yeast and recurrent candida or thrush infections.
Used as a skin toner, blood tonic, and digestive tonic. Chinese as well as Native American medicine used dandelion to promote postpartum recovery and help build milk supply. You can use the leaves in a salad with other greens or make dandelion tea. Caution however for those mums taking diuretics, do not use. Also, some people are sensitive or allergic to the ragweed group of plants so test a small amount first or avoid altogether if you have lots of food allergies or sensitivities.
Taken as a vegetable or the seeds, fennel has a phyto-oestrogen effect on increasing milk supply. Fennel is often used as a tonic and calms the stomach. Taken by the mum it can also decrease colic in her baby when breastfeeding. Caution however in taking over the recommended dose as it can have the opposite effect and decrease milk supply.
People who are allergic to plants such as celery, carrot and mugwort are more likely to also be allergic to fennel. Fennel can also make skin extra sensitive to sunlight and make it easier to get a sunburn. Wear sunblock if you are light-skinned. Fennel might slow blood clotting. Taking fennel might increase the risk of bleeding or bruising in people with bleeding disorders. Caution and maybe avoid with hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids. Birth control pills, tamoxifen and ciproflaxin also interact with fennel so avoid taking fennel if you’re on any of these medications.
Mums who are breastfeeding sometimes use fenugreek to promote milk flow. Fenugreek is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth to increase breast milk flow in the short term. Some research shows that taking 1725 mg of fenugreek three times daily for 21 days does not cause any side effects in infants. Caution and probably avoid with medications for diabetes, warfarin and blood clotting disorders.
Garlic is used in many culinary dishes all over the world to improve flavour. It’s a recognised antibacterial and antimicrobial and may increase lactation. One study found that babies nursed more often and took more milk when mothers took a garlic supplement before nursing. So, the increased breast stimulation helped to increase milk supply. There are a lot of medications that interact with garlic including HIV drugs, birth control pills, anaesthetic drugs and all drugs that are broken down in the liver. See this link for all interactions.
Nuts, particularly almonds contain serotonin, the neurotransmitter for promoting lactation. Nuts are high in protein, essential fatty acids and should form part of a mums diet. They can be eaten raw, chopped up and sautéed with garlic and olive oil over greens and in salads. Eating them when breastfeeding can help build up immunity against allergies for the baby.
Porridge oats have long been considered a lactation aid to make more milk. Some consider this an old wives tale but like most old wives tales there is truth in there. Porridge oats are low glycemic index and give energy to get you through your day. They are also high in tryptophan which helps increase serotonin the mood neurotransmitter and melatonin which helps with sleep. A lot of mums eat lactation cookies to boost their supply and I’ve heard lots of anecdotal evidence say that they work.
Sesame seeds are high in calcium and are one of the best seeds for increasing milk supply. Look for large black sesame seeds or husked, light-coloured seeds. Eating the seeds crushed is important. Seeds still in their husk simply pass through the digestive tract undigested. Try tahini which is a sesame seed paste– in hummus or salad dressing, or as a spread on wholegrain crackers or spread on raw cucumber, capsicum, carrot and celery etc.
All over the world mums take tea to increase lactation. Some of the teas may include one or many of the following ingredients: anise seed (thought to ‘bring down the milk’ in ancient Greece), black tea, fenugreek, alfalfa, blessed thistle, red raspberry leaf, marshmallow root, goat’s rue, and more.
Weleda does a really good breastfeeding tea and Herbs of Gold have a galactagogue Blessed Thistle and Nurture Parenting will be stocking these in their online store very soon.
Herbs of Gold breastfeed support contains blessed thistle. I’ve heard amazing things about it and increasing supply. The only caution is avoid using if you’re pregnant as it can cause miscarriage and avoid if you have Crohn’s disease and intestinal irritation. It can cause nausea, vomiting and an upset tummy in some people.
Also, caution with an allergy to ragweed and related plants: Blessed thistle may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many others. If you have allergies, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking blessed thistle.
And it’s always a good idea to have lactation consultant and naturopath input or ABA (Australian Breastfeeding Association). Nurture Parenting has both lactation counsellors and naturopaths that can help you with your lactation needs.
Some further reading and tips on breastfeeding below