Top Herbs to Increase Lactation & a Low Breast Milk Supply

Updated on October 23rd, 2020
Supplements for Lactation

Will it boost my milk supply? Will it hurt my milk supply? Is it safe to take while pumping or breastfeeding?

These are the postpartum concerns that rule your every move when breastfeeding. And given that several babies are born each year, year over year, you’d think we’d have all the answers by now. Turns out, far from it.

Prescribed and OTC (over-the-counter) medicines require medical oversight. Your medical consultant will be able to inform you of the benefits and risks of taking an Rx based on labeling guidelines from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) [1].

But when it comes to tinctures, teas, herbs, and supplements, that’s another story. Your GYN-OB will, frankly, possibly have no idea. And they are not to be blamed. Here are the best Supplements for Lactation.

The Best Herbal Supplements for Lactation and Breast Feeding

1. Fennel

Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel) is a licorice-flavored herb native to the Mediterranean and is renowned for treating colic. Some anecdotal evidence suggests an increase in milk supply.

There is no consensus on the formulation, frequency of consumption, or amount. Fennel is also high in potassium, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, copper, and folate. It is also a great source of fiber, and in moderation, it is a nutritious food to support a lactating mother [2]. 

Bottom Line: Fennel is approved as safe (GRAS) by the FDA, and given the other health benefits of taking it, this is an excellent option to try. 

[Also Read: Wondrous Benefits of Fennel Seeds]

2. Palm Dates

Palm dates are one of the earliest known galactagogues. Dates are rich in sugars and low in fat and protein. It is approximated that 100g of dates can offer upwards of 300 kcal and contain over ten different essential minerals such as zinc, selenium, copper, magnesium, and potassium.

They contain vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, and are rich in fiber. Palm dates are known to have antioxidant properties. One research looked at 25 women who consumed the flesh of 10 grade A palm dates three times a day and were believed to have  increased breast milk supply.

This was most noticeable in the initial two weeks postpartum. Breast milk volume almost doubled in the data-consuming group as compared to the control group. Palm dates supplements do not have the GRAS rating by the FDA. 

3. Garlic

Throughout history, garlic has been extensively used as a medication, flavoring in cooking, and a dietary supplement. It can also be safely incorporated into your breastfeeding diet. It is believed to help increase milk production, but it can also alter your breast milk flavor.

Though few babies seem to like the taste of garlic, others may not bear garlic well.

[Also Read: Health Benefits of Garlic]

4. Milk Thistle

Mary thistle, or Milk thistle, has been linked with breastfeeding for hundreds of years. Most believe that the white veins of the milk thistle plant represent breast milk. So, legend has it that if you drink milk thistle, your milk supply will increase, though no human studies are backing this claim.

5. Moringa

It’s been used in breastfeeding around the globe for many years, but it started receiving more attention in North America in the recent past. 

The Moringa Oleifera plant has been researched in animals, and it’s touted for its rich nutrient content and its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, according to a review in 2017. Though more research on humans is required, one small research on lactating mothers found no negative side effects.

You can find moringa in capsule form, tea, or in powder form, which can easily be added to a morning smoothie. It’s also referred to as malunggay (by its Filipino name) [3].

[Also Read: Health Benefits of Moringa Seeds]

6. Fenugreek

Trigonella foenum-graecum L. (Fenugreek) is a member of the pea family sometimes used in the maple’s artificial flavoring. Fenugreek has been used for several years to increase milk supply, promote wellness, and help with urethral inflammation (urethritis) and joint inflammation (arthritis).

It has been used extensively for several years in Chinese and Indian cooking. A meta-analysis (which is a research that looks at all of the reviews together to conclude) noted that it was superior to placebos and can help increase a woman’s milk production[4]. 

There are several different forms: capsules, teas, seeds, liquid, and powders. The recommended dose of fenugreek is two to three capsules (580-610 mg per capsule) three to four times per day, and it may be stopped once the milk supply has increased to the desired level.

Most women have reported results within 24-72 hours. It is unclear exactly how fenugreek functions, but some have proposed that it increases sweating, and the breast is essentially a large sweat gland. Others have indicated that it increases certain naturally occurring hormones that stimulate milk supply.

[Also Read: Amazing Fenugreek Benefits]

How to Get the Best Results

Galactagogues and other herbs do not often function on their own. To increase your breast milk production, you still have to stimulate your breasts while you are using the herb. You can accomplish this by breastfeeding more regularly, pumping after and in-between each feeding, or nursing for a prolonged period of time at each feeding.

Side Effects and Warnings 

Always talk to a lactation consultant or your doctor before taking any herbal treatments. Herbal remedies have been used as medications for hundreds of years, but this does not mean that lactation herbs are without side effects, so you should always use alertness.

Just like prescription drugs, plants, and herbs, it can have adverse effects. Depending on the preparation, few herbs can even be poisonous. It’s essential to let your baby’s physician know if you’re taking any herbal supplements while you’re lactating.

Bottom Line

Be extra watchful if you are pregnant; some herbs can be deadly and lead to miscarriage or preterm labor. After discussing the use of lactating herbs with your medical practitioner, purchase them from a reputable brand. 

Be sure to be extra vigilant because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate herbs. Most tea preparations are not dangerous, and the commercial brands that you see in the retail market are usually safe.

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