If you’re breastfeeding, then you are probably wondering about your milk supply. At some point, you’ve probably struggled with the idea that your supply is too low and wondering how to increase it.
There is information all over the internet about galactagogues and breastfeeding supplements to take, but figuring out which ones will actually help you and which ones are just a waste is the real trick.
I’m here to shine some light on what galactogogues are and how they can actually help you. As well as talk about which breastfeeding supplements can actually help to increase your milk supply rather than just a waste of money.
(This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy something through one of my links I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I will never suggest a product or service that I don’t use and love myself because that’s just wrong. If you like reading legal mumbo-jumbo then you can check out my disclosure policy HERE.)
What are Galactagogues?
According to American Pregnancy, galactogogues are herbs and medications that increase your milk supply.
While there are many types of galactagogues out there, they are not all created equal. Some galactagogues don’t work for all women. And with the rising number of supplements on the market promising to increase your breast milk supply, it can be hard to figure out which ones are actually going to work and which ones are just a huge waste of money.
When Can Galactogogues be Used?
There are many different types of galactogogues out there. Foods and herbs used to increase milk supply can be added to your every day diet to help give your breast milk production a boost.
Breastfeeding supplements can be used at any point during your breastfeeding journey, but it is important to remember that no supplement will be as effective at increasing your milk supply as nursing or pumping will.
Using Supplements to Increase Milk Supply
While using certain supplements and taking galactogogues can increase your milk supply, it is important not to rely on the supplements too heavily. I see women all the time that will begin taking supplements very early in their breastfeeding journey because they are afraid they have a supply issue. Once they try dropping the supplements later on though, they run into the issue of their milk supply dropping as well.
Your body will only continue producing milk if you are actively taking it out. It is all about supply and demand. You must demand the milk and remove all of it more often for your body to realize that it needs to supply more milk.
Supplements can definitely help give your body a jump start, but if you are taking supplements too early (before 12 weeks) and you’ve dropped pumping or nursing sessions as well, then you could run into an issue later on.
The increased supply from the supplements isn’t accurate. Your body isn’t making that milk on its own. It is using the supplements to boost production. It is your job to help your body continue that boosted production by still emptying your breasts often enough. That is still the absolute BEST way to increase your milk supply.
Supplements to Increase Milk Supply
There are many, MANY different types of supplements out there promising to increase your breast milk supply. It is important to remember that not all supplements work for all women. You may have to try a few out before you find one that works.
The milk supply supplement that you will probably hear the most about is fenugreek. Fenugreek is an herb that has been used for thousands of years in Chinese and alternative medicine to treat everything from skin conditions to diabetes to erectile dysfunction.
I personally haven’t done much research into its other uses, but if you find something cool, let me know.
Fenugreek has really taken off as a supplement to increase breast milk supply. It can be taken as a capsule, administered as a liquid with a dropper, or drunk as a tea. Fenugreek is a really potent supplement for breast milk production. The caveat is that it doesn’t work for everyone.
There are a few women where it will actually have the opposite effect and actually decrease their supply. So just be on the look out for that.
The good thing about fenugreek though, is that it works really quickly. If it is going to work for you, then you will see the increase within 24-48 hours. If your milk supply hasn’t gone up by then, then stop taking it. There’s no sense taking something that isn’t going to work, and if it doesn’t work then you don’t want to risk it dropping your supply.
Just as a heads up, if you begin taking fenugreek, don’t be surprised if you start to smell like maple syrup. It’s totally normal and a sign that you’re taking enough of it. I just didn’t want you to be caught off guard and wondering where the pancakes are.
Moringa is another one of those plants that can be used for a wide variety of medicinal uses. A big one though, is to increase milk production.
Though a little lesser known than fenugreek, I actually had the best results using moringa along with some extra pumping. My lactation consultant was the one to suggest it to me. I was told to take 4 of the moringa capsules a day until I didn’t need them anymore and then to slowly wean off of it. I was told that dropping the moringa too quickly could cause my supply to suffer a little bit.
I started out by taking the tablets spaced out throughout the day, and then ended up switching to 2 in the morning and 2 at night. It was just easier for me to remember that way. The other alternative is to take all of the tablets first thing in the morning.
Moringa acts by helping to boost your body’s own prolactin levels to increase milk supply, so taking it in the morning when your prolactin levels are at their highest can boost your production even more.
Goat’s rue is a plant commonly found in Europe and the Middle East. People have been using the dried leaves of the plant to help boost breast milk production for thousands of years.
Not only does goat’s rue help to stimulate milk production, but it can also help to increase breast tissue as well. This is especially helpful for adoptive mothers that are looking to breastfeed their babies, or for women that have had breast surgery.
I started using goat’s rue tablets later in my pumping journey and actually had some great success. I was already using moringa and seeing results, but when I combined that with the goat’s rue, my daily average shot up.
This was also after I had suffered from a severe drop in supply after my second round of mastitis. I really struggled with keeping my supply up after that, but the moringa and goat’s rue mixture seemed to actually work. I was able to go from 24 ounces per day to 32 ounces per day.
It may not seem like much, but I had already been really struggling to get my milk supply back up after the mastitis for months with minimal luck. It wasn’t the 38 ounces I was making before the mastitis, but it was good enough for me.
Blessed thistle is a plant originally from the Mediterranean that has been shown to increase breast milk production as well. Blessed thistle seems to work best when combined with fenugreek. It can also be combined with things like fennel, alfalfa, and goat’s rue as well.
Foods that Increase Milk Supply
In addition to taking breastfeeding supplements to increase your milk supply. Certain foods are also considered galactogogues and can help boost milk production.
Oatmeal is one of the best things you can eat to boost your milk supply. Not only is it packed with more fiber to satisfy your hunger cravings, but oats have been used for centuries to increase milk production.
Oatmeal is nutrient dense and contains plant estrogens. Foods containing plant estrogens have been associated with the stimulation of the milk glands which results in an increased milk supply. If you are not a fan of oatmeal it self, you can include oats into your daily diet in other ways.
- Oat muffins
- Granola bars (my personal choice)
- Baked into breads
- Oatmeal cookies (add chocolate chips. YUM)
Brewer’s yeast is a highly nutritious supplement. It contains great things like protien, iron, and B vitamins.
It comes from the fungus called saccharomyces cerevisiae and is primarily used for baking, brewing beer, and making wine. You’ll hear women all the time say that drinking beer will increase their milk supply. It isn’t the beer itself, it’s the brewer’s yeast.
Brewer’s yeast is a very versatile galactogogue. You can take it as a tablet, or you can use the powder in your food. The powder does have a pretty potent taste, so I liked to mix it with my granola bars or oatmeal cookies. Both options helped to cover up some of the flavor as well as give me an extra boost since I was using oats as well. Win-win!
There are so many other foods and herbs that can be eaten to help give your milk supply a little boost besides the ones listed above.
- Green Leafy Vegetables
- Fennel (including the seeds)
- Brown Rice
- Milk Thistle
Consider adding some of these into your daily diet and see how your milk supply responds.
It is important to remember that not all breastfeeding supplements and galactogogues will work for everyone. You may have to try out a few before figuring out what works for you.
It’s also to remember that herbs, just like medication, can be taken to excess and more is not necessarily better. Follow the serving directions for the product. If you are concerned, then it is always better to reach out to an experienced lactation consultant rather than Google.
Supplements for breastfeeding should also not be taken while you are pregnant. Many of the herbs are not safe in the increase quantity while you are pregnant. Wait until after your baby is born to begin worrying about your milk supply. Besides, you may end up with a bit of an oversupply and have absolutely nothing to worry about.
Galactogogues and supplements are not the end-all-be-all of a great milk supply. The best way to increase your milk supply is to actually use the milk. If you are emptying fully and frequently, then your supply should not only maintain, but should continue to increase.
If you begin to worry about having a low milk supply because your baby is not gaining weight appropriately or is showing signs of dehydration, then contact your doctor. There are medications that your doctor can prescribe to help if you have an actual low supply.
Are you having trouble with your milk supply? How are you handling it? Leave me a comment below or join the conversation in our Facebook group.
Until next time!