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What Breastfeeding Moms Need to Know About Galactagogues
Postpartum Planning

What Breastfeeding Moms Need to Know About Galactagogues

Galactagogues. If you have never heard this word before, let alone know how to pronounce it, you’re not alone. But it’s vital to learn more because this may be your go-to helper when it comes to milk supply. Let’s read on to find out how Galactagogues work to give breastfeeding moms a boost. Our Mommy’s Bliss 360 expert and CCC-SLP, IBCLC, Courtney Olson can teach us why this tough-to-say word might be worth learning.

Low Milk Supply - First Things First

Are you feeling uncertain about your milk supply, or perhaps worried it's not meeting your baby's needs? It's completely normal to have these concerns, and reaching out to a knowledgeable breastfeeding expert, such as an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), is a fantastic first step. An IBCLC will delve into your medical history, exploring potential reasons for the challenges you're facing and will also assess how frequently and effectively milk is being removed from your breasts.

You might be surprised to discover that one of the most common causes of low milk supply is simply not emptying the breasts frequently or thoroughly enough. But here's the good news: your milk production operates on a supply-and-demand system. This means the more milk you remove from your breasts; your body will respond by producing more milk. Conversely, when milk is left behind, your body will respond by decreasing milk production.

Your IBCLC will work together with you to create a personalized plan to optimize your body's natural ability to produce milk. And if, despite these efforts, you find your milk supply still isn't where you'd like it to be, don't lose heart. This is where galactagogues can come into play.

Galactagogues

Galactagogues are like helpers for your milk supply! They come in the form of foods, herbs, and sometimes even prescription medications, all designed to give your milk production a boost. It's crucial to team up with your healthcare provider when choosing a galactagogue because they can help pick the one that's just right for you and targets the root cause of your low milk supply. When it comes to herbal galactagogues, remember to treat them with care, like you would with any medication. Even though they're natural and can be found easily, they still have powerful effects. It's possible for them to interact with other medications or cause unexpected side effects, so it's best to approach them with caution and guidance from your healthcare team.

Lactogenic Foods

Taking care of yourself postpartum is vital, especially when it comes to nourishment, as you're not just eating for yourself, but also for your baby. Some foods are believed to support or stimulate milk supply, like oatmeal, barley, hops, brewer’s yeast, nuts, seeds, and dark leafy green vegetables. You can read more about essential nutrients while breastfeeding here.

You may have heard of lactation cookies and teas, which often contain ingredients like fenugreek and brewer's yeast. While their effectiveness in boosting milk supply is still being studied, many moms find comfort in incorporating these treats into their diet. If you decide to try lactogenic treats, pay attention to how they make you feel and any changes you notice in your milk production, whether positive or negative.

Herbal galactagogues

Herbs have been used for centuries by different cultures in the postpartum period for healing and to promote lactation. Even though medicinal doses of galactagogue herbs have a long history of use, high quality research is lacking, which means there isn’t strong scientific evidence or data to support their effectiveness and safety. This is why your healthcare team will use their clinical expertise, best available evidence from the literature, what they’ve learned about you, and your perspective to provide the best care and recommendations.

Most breastfeeding professionals understand the evidence supporting the use of herbs for boosting milk supply is of low quality, but your care team can do their own detective work to figure out what may be causing your low milk supply, and your healthcare provider can help you select herbs that are specific to your unique needs to increase the chances of boosting your milk production. Close follow up is important to determine how well you’re tolerating the herbal galactagogue and how effective it is for you.

Some of the most common herbal galactagogues include:

  • Alfalfa
  • Ashwaganda
  • Black seed
  • Blessed thistle
  • Fennel
  • Fenugreek
  • Goat’s rue
  • Milk thistle
  • Moringa
  • Shatavari

It’s important to note there are also herbs that can decrease your milk supply which include:

  • Jasmine
  • Peppermint
  • Sage

Pharmaceutical galactagogues

The medications prescribed to increase milk production were originally developed to treat other health issues but were found to have the side effect of increasing prolactin, thus increasing milk supply. Even though these medications were originally created for a different purpose, healthcare providers may still recommend these medications for “off label use” as they deem fit. Before taking any new medication, your healthcare provider should screen you to make sure there are no underlying risk factors or concerns for interactions with other drugs you are taking. They will also provide education about the risks and benefits and potential adverse side effects. Among the medications commonly prescribed to increase milk production are:

  • Domperidone: treats nausea and vomiting and certain gastrointestinal problems like gastroparesis. Domperidone is considered relatively safe and effective in other countries and is available without a prescription in some places. Domperidone has been banned in the US for rare, but serious, adverse cardiac events.
  • Metoclopramide: treats gastroesophageal reflux.Metoclopramide crosses the blood brain barrier which can cause neurologic side effects and is not recommended for those with a personal or family history of depression.

Final Thoughts

In your breastfeeding journey, knowledge is power! Understanding factors that influence your milk supply and options available to support it empowers you to take the steps you need to achieve your breastfeeding goals. Remember that milk production is correlated with how frequently and effectively milk is removed from your breasts. If after optimizing breastfeeding management, you are continuing to experience low milk supply, it may be time to ask your healthcare provider about introducing a galactagogue. These can be in the form of lactogenic foods, herbal remedies, or pharmaceutical interventions.

Choosing the right galactagogue for you is important and can be helpful in boosting your milk supply alongside more frequent and effective milk removal. Depending on what your provider determines may be most beneficial for you, companies like Mommy’s Bliss have come out with innovative products that contain a combination of ingredients designed to support milk supply you can check out here. Don’t forget your healthcare team is dedicated to providing support and guidance every step of the way on your breastfeeding journey!

This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.

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