So many times on my Instagram page, Facebook page, breastfeeding support groups and on other online breastfeeding mother forums and groups, I see new moms and nursing moms asking the question “what supplements can I take to increase my breastmilk supply?” and oftentimes, other nursing moms suggest breastfeeding supplements. Milk supply pills, quick fixes, lactation cookies, lactation teas and magic bullets are all the rage these days, and it can feel a little overwhelming to figure out what to buy and try, what worked for this friend or that friend, and what combination you should use – not to mention seeing all those $$ signs add up when you got to check out! This is why I want to talk about lactation supplements today. I’ve written a post about milk supply and boosting your breast milk production before, and you might have noticed that I did not mention any breastfeeding or lactation supplements in that specific post. There is a good reason for that!
What are breastfeeding supplements?
First- let’s talk a little bit about breastfeeding supplements/ lactation supplements. In research literature, they are known as galactagogues – meaning a substance that increases milk supply. Some breastfeeding supplements and herbal supplements that I have seen suggested are; fenugreek (or fenugreek seed), fennel (or fennel seed), blessed thistle, nettle, flaxseed, milk thistle, brewers yeast, red raspberry leaf, moringa, B vitamins, turmeric, beer and water (in copious amounts), goats rue, Anise, marshmallow root, Shatavari, and alfalfa. These ingredients and herbs can be found in a variety of supplement forms or tinctures, and mixed with a variety of active ingredients. Supplements can range in form from lactation tea and lactation cookies to other more traditional medicinal forms. I’ve EVEN heard of people recommending Double Stuffed Oreos, gatorade, chocolate chip cookies, herbal tea, maple syrup, licorice or Body Armor Drinks as a way to boost milk production.
For most breastfeeding moms or pumping moms, galactagogues or supplements are not necessary to keep up a normal or necessary milk supply. Don’t get me wrong – it’s okay if you want to try these products! Just keep in mind they shouldn’t be the first line of defense if you truly have a breastmilk supply issue. I base my classes and advice on evidence-based and research-based information, and there is simply not enough research on galactagogues (breastfeeding supplements) for me to give a solid recommendation on which supplement works the best for breastfeeding moms. Everyone is different, and everyone’s body will react differently to lactation supplements.
What does help increase milk supply?
So what are research based ways that are proven to help you make more of that liquid gold? The research-based way I DO suggest to breastfeeding mothers who need or want to increase breast milk supply is to encourage baby to feed frequently and increase frequency of breast stimulation either through feeding more often, pumping, or hand expression. Remember that milk is made by supply and demand, so the more you demand, the more your body will supply.
In most cases galactagogues will not hurt you or give any negative side effects to your breastmilk supply, but make sure to consult with your healthcare provider when introducing any herbs or supplements in conjunction with any medications you are already on.
I know that there are many postpartum women who have had success with galactagogues and other lactation supplements and I think that’s great! But without frequent breast stimulation and milk removal along with the supplements, breastmilk supply will not increase in most cases. So next time you see an advertisement for a pretty mask or milk boosting tea, make sure you are relying on more frequent milk expression and removal first. If you feel like your supply needs a boost or you are experiencing low milk supply and frequent breast stimulation has not helped, you would benefit from a one-on-one consult with a board certified lactation consultant for some one-on-one lactation support. I love helping moms with in-person consults and eConsults. In my video classes I discuss various ways to encourage a healthy supply like hand expression and hands-on pumping, in-depth. What helped encourage a healthy milk supply for you? Share in the comments.
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Thanks for stopping by,
Lindsey Shipley, RN, IBCLC