Boosting Breastmilk With Herbs – Is It Possible?

Boosting Breastmilk With Herbs – Is It Possible?

Galactagogue? Ga-lac-ta-what?

No, a galactagogue is not the latest hero in Star Wars but rather foods, herbs or medicines that claim to increase breast milk supply. Today, we will focus on the common herbal galactagogues, not pharmaceutical galatagogues (such as domperidone and metoclopramide).

You may have heard of some commonly used herbal galactagogues, such as;  fenugreek, milk thistle alfala, shatavari, garlic, ginger and malunggay. So where does the evidence lie when it comes to herbal galactagogues and should you be taking them to help increase your supply?

Supply & Demand Basis of Breastfeeding

First and foremost, without doubt, the most important way to establish and maintain good milk supply is for breast milk to be removed often and well. This is what’s commonly referred to as the supply and demand basis of breastfeeding. Basically, the more milk removed from your breasts, and the more often, the more milk you will make, and vice versa. The reason I want to highlight this point is because no galactagogue will have a significant impact if breast milk is not being removed effectively and frequently from the breastfeeding mother – Australian Breastfeeding Association, 2019. Boring, but true.

The Evidence

A systematic search was done looking at the use of these galactagogues for breastfeeding – Bazzano et al, 2016. Here’s a summary of what was found:

  • In one study, mothers who were treated 3 times a day a fenugreek seed (in a tea) produced significantly more breast milk than mothers in the placebo (control) group. However, in another study, mothers of full-term babies who were treated with 600mg capsules of fenugreek seeds 3 x daily for 1 month did not show a significant difference in milk production compared to the placebo group. All in all, current evidence regarding the efficacy of fenugreek in increasing milk production is insufficient. While there is strong anecdotal (not reliable evidence as based on personal accounts, rather than research) evidence for the use of fenugreek among breastfeeding mothers, this is not supported by strong, research studies
  • 2 studies investigated the effectiveness of malunggay leaves in mothers who delivered babies at term. One study showed that more milk was produced by mothers receiving treatment, compared to those who were not, however the study did not show a significant (or meaningful) difference between groups
  • No significant difference was found between treatment and placebo groups in a study on the efficacy of garlic in increasing breast milk production in healthy mums who were exclusively breastfeeding their babies
  • Potential benefit was seen in one study which looked at using Silymarin (a milk thistle extract) to increase breast milk production, however more evidence was suggested to support this possibility
  • As with any herbal products, including teas, tinctures and capsules – there may be lack of regulation when it comes to safety and adverse effects of herbal galactagogues are not well understood in breastfeeding mothers. Caution must be taken.

The Bottom Line

  • More high-quality evidence is needed to support the recommendation of herbal galactagogues by clinicians and lactation consultants.
  • Limited information is available for both clinicians and patients to make informed decisions on the use of herbal galactagogues.
  • There is lack of information and consistency around dosage form (capsule vs seed), dosage amount (1000mg? 2 capsules? 1 capsule?), when therapies is best started (2 weeks postpartum? 12 weeks postpartum?) and how long the treatment/therapy should last (1 month, 2 months, 5 months?)

So what can you do if you are concerned regarding your milk supply?

  • Make sure you are offering frequent, and effective feeds. If you are unsure, see a lactation consultant – https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/roles/lactation-consultants
  • It is important to follow a healthy, balanced diet whilst breastfeeding. If you are unsure, book in with an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, who specialises in pregnancy and breastfeeding – such as myself! 🙂

Please note that information provided in this article is general advice only. For individual advice, we recommend a consultation. For more information or to book an appointment, you can…

  • Contact our friendly reception team on 9822 4999 (Armadale) or 9486 0512 (East Melbourne)
  • Book online. Select ‘make a booking’ in the top right-hand corner of the screen and follow the prompts
  • Email us on [email protected]
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In 2004, Gen McGlashan and Libby Oldfield founded Fitwise Physiotherapy. They first met in 1994.  Libby was Gen’s physio when she had her first child. Gen then worked for Libby for 10 years in Libby’s previous business, located at the Epworth Freemasons Maternity Unit in East Melbourne. They have been a team working together for a very long time!!

Libby and Gen have always had a passion for empowering women, by helping provide accurate evidence based information and treatment to help women live their best lives. Excellence in all that they do, practising and operating in an innovative way has always been their core. Fitwise was the first multi-practitioner practice providing Women’s Health physiotherapy consultations, exercise classes and clinical pilates in Melbourne.

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In February 2005 Gen and Libby moved their one room practice to Albert St East Melbourne. They had expanded to 2 treatment rooms, an exercise studio and a pilates studio with a small team of physiotherapists and one receptionist. This was exciting as they wanted to be able to help more people and to grow their team – enabling their other passion: teaching and mentoring clinicians who also wanted to work within the Women’s, Men’s and Pelvic Health arena.

5 years later, they expanded their East Melbourne clinic and in 2015 opened their second clinic in Armadale.

Remedial Massage, Myotherapy and Dietetics have been an exciting addition in recent years, with Podiatry and Exercise Physiology being added in 2022.

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The Fitwise team has now grown to include 18 amazing practitioners and 12 wonderful administrative team members and is still growing!

Libby and Gen have always loved providing a holistic service, treating a variety of conditions in consultations and providing exercise appropriate for different life stages. The community of clients that are part of the Fitwise family, (some who have been part of the journey from the very beginning – over 17 years ago), are the biggest reason they do what they do. For Gen and Libby, it is a privilege to be part of these wonderful people’s lives.