Many mums experience breast milk supply issues after having a baby. Breast feeding looks like the easiest thing to do but is actually one of the most challenging for a new mum.
What are the things that may lead a new mum to think she may have supply issues?
- Baby not settling easily
- Baby cat napping
- Nappies are not as wet as they should be
- Urates present in the nappy (red brick urine colour)
- Baby crying a lot
- Baby waking a lot at night
- Baby not latching well on the breast
- Baby fussing and coming on and off the breast a lot
- Not hearing baby swallowing milk at the breast
- Poor weight gain in baby - not following percentile chart
- Baby lethargic and or jaundiced
As you can see from this list there are many things that can indicate that you have a supply issue. The big one is weight gain. A newborn baby should be back to birthweight by 3 weeks and should subsequently be gaining 150-200g most weeks until 3 months old. If you find the weight is static for a few weeks and you notice some of the above signs it may be time to seek midwifery, lactation, naturopathic and or medical advice.
I know that not many mums feel comfortable with taking prescription drugs to increase supply. There are many herbal and naturopathic preparations that are really great galactagogues.
Which herbs are known to help increase breast milk supply?
Many herbals and foods are commonly used for their galactogogue properties. The list is quite extensive and includes:
alfalfa, almonds, anise, asparagus, barley, basil, beets, borage, caraway, carrots, chaste tree fruit, cherries, chicken broth/soup/stock, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), coconut, coriander seeds, cumin, dandelion, dill, fennel, fenugreek, flax seeds, garlic, ginger, goat’s rue, green beans, hibiscus, hops, lemon balm, lentils, lettuce, malunggay (moringa), marshmallow root, millet, molasses (black strap), mung, mushrooms, nettle, oat straw (oats), papaya, peas, pumpkin, quinoa seeds, red clover, red raspberry, rice, sage, seaweed soup, sesame seeds, spinach, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, thistles, turmeric, and vervain.
Anise is narcotic in large doses so use with caution. Anise seeds contain anethole, a plant hormone similar to human estrogen, that promotes menstruation, and lactation in nursing mothers. Anise should not be used while pregnant and in young babies. The essential oil is for topical use only. Anise can be a great colic remedy for babies when take in tea by the mum and bases through to breastmilk.
Blessed Thistle - caution in reflux babies and babies with a sensitive gut as may cause upset tummy and digestive changes. However I've heard very positive feedback about it's galactagogue effects. Mums have reported that it was this preparation alone that turned things around for them.
Brewers Yeast can be an effective nutritional supplement for breastfeeding mothers. Brewer's yeast Brewer's yeast is a great source of B vitamins, including niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, folic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, and biotin. Brewer's yeast also contains trace minerals such as selenium and chromium, which are essential for the health for nursing mothers. Very sensitive babies may experience increased gas when their mothers take brewer's yeast. Also caution if taking the medication Demerol as brewers yeast may concentrate its' side effects.
Caraway is one of the best herbs for treating and preventing abdominal gas and digestive disorders. However it must be used with caution in mums and babies with kidney disorders.
Fennel is another great digestive aid and helps with gas, bloating and abdominal cramps. However the oil should be avoided in pregnant and nursing mothers. Also fennel seed and marshmallow root infusion has been used as an immersion to help breast inflammation. Fennel oil has been used topically to the breast to increase lactation, (15 drops in 1 tablespoon coconut oil) applied to breast tissue only, NOT the nipple area.
Fenugreek is enjoyed in many parts of the world as a culinary herb/spice. It has historically been used as a galactagogue for both human mothers and dairy animals throughout the world for many years. There is limited formal scientific evidence on fenugreek as a galactagogue. Further well designed human trials are required before its potential efficacy as a galactagogue can be established. So far it appears promising, although the current scientific evidence is only based on an animal study and a small preliminary study on humans.
Hops contain the most potent of all the plant estrogens, prenylnaringenin. Use with caution if the mum has recurrent thrush or candida infections.
Vervain or Lemon Verbena can be enjoyed in tea form and helps soothe a sensitive gut as well as increase supply.
These are the recommended daily doses of each ingredient needed to be considered a galactagogue.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa): Up to 60 g daily (1-2 capsules 4 times a day)
Anise (Anisi fructus): 3.5 to 7 g as tincture or tea, 5 to 6 times a day
Barley (Hordeum vulgare): 15 g of barley extract, 1 cup to 2 cups of tea daily; 1 bottle of beer daily
Blessed Thistle (Cnici benedicti herba): Up to 2 g, in capsule form, daily
Caraway (Carvi fructus): 1.5 to 6 g daily as tincture, tea, or essential oil
Chaste Tree Fruit, Chasteberry, Vitex (Agni casti fructus): 30 to 40 mg daily as an alcoholic extract (50% to 70% alcohol)
Coriander, Cilantro (Coriander fructus): 3 g daily as tea
Dandelion (Taraxaci herba): 5 g, in capsule form or as tincture or tea, 3 times a day
Dill (Anethi fructus): 3 g daily as tincture or tea
Fennel (Foeniculi fructus): 0.1 to 0.6 mL of oil (equal to 100-600 mg) daily
Fenugreek (Foenugraeci semen): 6 g, in capsule form, daily
Garlic (Allii sativa bulbus): 4 to 9 g, in capsule form, daily
Goat’s Rue (Galegae officinalis herba): 1 to 2 mL of tincture, 2 to 3 times a day
Hops (Lupuli strobulus): 500 mg of dry extract daily, 1 cup to 2 cups of tea daily, 1 bottle of stout beer daily
Malunggay, Moringa (Moringa oleifara): 250 mg, in capsule form or as tea, 2 times a day
Marshmallow Root (Althaeae radix): Two 500 mg capsules 3 times a day or 60 g daily as tincture or tea
Milk Thistle (Cardui mariae herba): 12 to 15 g daily as infusion (equal to 200-400 mg of silibinin
Oat Straw, Oats (Avenae stramentum): 100 g daily
Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa): 45 g daily
Red Raspberry (Rubi idaei folium): 2.7 g as three 300 mg capsules 3 times a day or daily as tincture or tea
Red Clover (Trifolium pretense): 40 to 80 mg daily as tincture or tea
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica and Urtica urens): 1.8 g as one 600 mg capsule 3 times a day, 1 cup of tea 2 to 3 times a day, 2.5 to 5 mL of tincture 3 times a day
Vervain (Verbena officinalis): 30 to 50 g daily as tea
So what are your options if you're looking at a herbal galactogue?
- Mother nurture lactation cookies - coming very soon from Nurture Parenting - Karen is extremely excited about these :-))))
- Weleda breast feeding tea - Each teabag has Fenugreek Seed 500mg, Anise Seed 400mg, Fennel Seed 400mg, Caraway Seed 400mg, Lemon Verbena Leaves 400mg
- Herbs of Gold - Blessed Thistle - Each tablet has Fenugreek 1.5g, Blessed Thistle 500mg - dairy, gluten, soy, egg, nut-free and vegan
- Malunggay Moringa 250 mg, in capsule form or as tea, 2 times a day - take exactly 12 hours apart for maximum results.
Karen, the author of this blogpost, is a registered midwife but not a naturopath (yet...but it's on her must-do list), and she has sourced expert knowledge and is working with a well-known Sydney naturopath to help mums with lactation issues.