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  • Writer's pictureChardá Bell, IBCLC, CBE, CD

Galactagogues : Herbs, Foods and Substances that promote lactation


Many lactation consultants don't really love the idea of discussing galactagogues. This is mostly because they believe that frequent and effective milk removal is most efficient way to increasing supply. I agree. However, I'm also an IBCLC that is like "hey if it works for you and/or makes you feel better about things and doesn't cause any harm then why not."


Sometimes mood can be everything with breastfeeding, so let's pump these mamas up (pun intended hehe) if it makes them happy it makes me happy. As I say to my clients "if you like it I love it and I'm here for it"


What is a galactagogue?

Foods, herbs, and even prescription medications that promote lactation.


Fun fact:


The Greek origin of the word galacta means milk


Mid 17th century: from Latin lactatio(n- ), from lactare ‘suckle’, from lac, lact- ‘milk’.


Per Wikipedia:

The myth of the milk of Hera (Ancient Greek: Ἥρας γάλα, romanizedHḗras gala) is an ancient Greek mythand explanation of the origin of the Milky Way within the context of creation myths. The standard telling goes that the mythical hero Heracles, as an infant, breastfed from an unsuspecting Hera, the goddess of marriage and Zeus's wife, who threw him away, causing a little bit of her milk to splash and create the galaxy with all its stars.


At my support groups and on my TikTok, the most frequently asked question is "how do I make more milk?"

Folks not trained in the science of lactation are quick to offer up answers that may be incorrect, have no evidence and might even be harmful to you.

Always speak with a lactation consultant to find out what might be best for you as an individual.


I can't stress it enough that galactagogues don't work on their own to boost your milk supply. You must also be nursing or pumping regularly.


There’s no medical evidence that any galactagogues, aside from a small number of pharmaceutical options, are truly effective at increasing milk.


Some people will fight you until the death that certain foods made a world of difference for them. Looking at you Body Armor queens 😂


I posted a video on TikTok on how body armor drink doesn't boost supply by itself. It received well over 1/2 a million views and 20.5k likes with over 300 comments. They will fight you on what they believe to be true.


Before you jump to the quick fix, if you are truly concerned about your milk supply, the first step is to contact an IBCLC lactation consultant.


You may not need to worry about increasing supply. If your supply is truly on the low side, a lactation consultant will be able to make recommendations for improving production.


These might include:


  • Skin to skin or babywearing to release prolactin and stimulate oxytocin.


  • Breast compressions. Gently squeezing the breast as you nurse to encourage milk glands to let down.


  • Positioning changes



  • They may also suggest avoiding things that inhibit your milk supply like : underwire or tight bras, tops, or slings or binding.



  • Certain allergy medications, such as Benadryl or Zyrtec.



  • Limit or avoid smoking.



Let's get into milk production promoting herbs and foods better known as galactagogues.


You do not need a special diet for feeding your baby.


Just try to include:


Fresh fruits and veggies

A variety of whole grains

Protein sources from animals or plants

High quality fats


Lactogenic fruits and veggies:


🎼Can I get to the yamz, sweet yamz🎶 IYKYK 🤪


Yams, beets, and carrots


Beta carotene in red and orange vegetables is important to the production of breast milk. Yams, beets and carrots also have helpful iron and minerals.


Dark, leafy greens

Dark leafy green vegetables are a great source of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Kale, arugula, spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens. Phytoestrogen is a compound in these vegetables that might support lactation.


Green papaya


Green papaya is from Asia and known for vitamins, enzymes and vitamins and minerals. Its also great for vitamins A & C. Green papaya is unripe and must be cooked/simmered until it’s soft enough to eat.


A small papaya contains about 100miligeans of vitamin C. For lactating women the daily recommended amount of vitamin C is 115 to 120 mg each day.


Fennel and fennel seed

Fennel is a vegetable, that can be eaten raw or cooked.


Grains, nuts and legumes may be helpful for breast milk production.


These are antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties.


Oats are good because they are easy, affordable and heart healthy. Not recommended if you have celiacs disease or gluten allergy. When eaten warm, it may be comforting and release oxytocin, a hormone involved in the production of milk.


Other grains include millet, brown rice, barley.


Chickpeas and lentils

Legumes, such chickpeas and lentils.


Brewer’s yeast

It is known as nutritional yeast, brewers yeast is a good source of protein and iron. It also contains phytoestrogens, which may help with breast tissue health and promote lactation.


Nuts

Raw nuts like cashews, walnuts and macadamia nuts.


Sesame seeds

Another galactagogue found in Asia is a vegan source of calcium. Black or light-colored sesame seeds will work, as will tahini, a creamed version of the seed. You may have eaten tahini in middle Eastern or Mediterranean food.


Flax Seeds

Flaxseed used by the nursing mother as a laxative or topical poultice are not expected to adversely affect the breastfed infant. Flaxseed oil can be used during lactation, but is not effective in counteracting a low maternal DHA intake, as in vegetarian or vegan diets. Flaxseed is a good source of thiamine, Vitamin B6, folate, niacin, Vitamin B5, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, and selenium.


Lactation cookies

These usually contain some combination of flax seeds, brewer’s yeast, oats, and other reported milk-boosting ingredients. Check the label for things you may be allergic to and consider making them yourself. I have a recipe for some here.



Herbal galactagogues

Some of the most well-known and anecdotally effective galactagogues are herbal.


Moringa, Goats rue, marshmallow root, Alfalfa, blessed thistle, shatavari, garlic, milk thistle, nettles, ginger, hops.


Fenugreek is one of the most well-known galactagogues, is a Middle Eastern spice. It is not compatible for everyone. Avoid if you have insulin issues or diabetes. It conflicts with many other conditions and medications as well so use with caution. Moringa is a safer option.


Speak with an herbalist about appropriate dosages.


Remember:

Breastfeeding often is the best way to increase your milk supply.


No foods or herbs have been reliably shown to increase milk production.


However, most of the foods listed above are nutritious and safe to add to your daily diet.


Before adding specific galactagogues to your diet, be sure to discuss them with your doctor as some may cause harm to you if it conflicts with any preexisting conditions or allergies.

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