Before going further on galactagogues consider the following questions:
Why do you want to increase your milk supply? Do you think you have a low milk supply? If so please read here first. Most mothers think they have a low milk supply but in most cases this is not the case! If you still feel that your supply is low, get in contact also with a breastfeeding professional for one on one help to rule out issues that can lead to further problems.
The non-herbal and non-medical methods to increase milk supply are normally enough for the majority of breastfeeding mothers, however, if these methods have not proven sufficient and feel the need to use a galactagogue, it is important to keep in mind the following:
- That whatever you use, for it to be truly effective, it needs to be combined with increased feedings and/or increased milk removal.
- Every galactagogue, is better suited for certain situations, so speaking to someone knowledgeable on them is helpful to make sure you are taking the correct one.
- Whether medical or herbal, they all have potential side effects and drug interactions. So before taking them do check with your health care provider and/or a herbalist to check which is best suited for you and if it is safe as well.
- Always start with the mildest galactagogue and work your way up; always start with the lowest dosage possible.
- Keep in mind that galactagogues should be used for boosting supply, not maintaining it. Once your supply has established itself at an adequate level, you should try weaning back off and see if your supply will maintain where needed.
Here under, you will find some information on the three most used herbal supplements one uses to help increase supply.
Fenugreek: It has been used for centuries by women and whilst a few studies have been made on this herb, results are mixed. Mothers usually see an increase in supply from 24-72 hours after starting taking the tablet/seeds, whilst others can take up to two weeks to see a difference. Some will never see a difference at all! Dosage of the herb will make a difference as well and generally if taken in less than 3500mg per day, mothers report no difference in supply. “Most mothers have found that the herb can be discontinued once milk production is stimulated to an appropriate level. Adequate production is usually maintained as long as sufficient breast stimulation and emptying continues” [Huggins]. As per Dr Hale [Hale 2012], “The transfer of fenugreek into milk is unknown, untoward effects have only rarely been reported.” Hale classifies it in Lactation Risk Category L3 (moderately safe).
Fennel: It does not really increase milk supply but help trigger the let down reflex. It is quite useful for working mums who are not responding very well to hand expression or the pump. It is normally taken as a tea but be careful that excessive use of this herb can actually trigger a negative effect on your supply.
Blessed Thistle: The most common ways to take blessed thistle is in tea or capsule form. Normally one can see an increase within 24-72 hours of starting the herb. Many find it more effective when taken in combination with another herb like Fenugreek.