Today’s post is part two of a two-part series on making more milk. Be sure to read the first half on “Supply and Demand.”
The World of Galactagogues: Food, Herbs & More
In combination with the methods of working with the supply and demand system, you can also try a wide range of galactagogues, or milk-inducing foods, herbs and medications that may help increase your milk supply.
Though every woman is different, some women have found great results in particular lactogenic, or milk-increasing, foods. The one you hear about often in North America is oatmeal (try eating one or more bowls of steel-cut oats and/or granola a day, or making lactation cookies, yum!). A very useful book about lactogenic diets — including suggestions gathered from cultures across the globe — is Mother Food, by Hillary Jacobson. Some (but not all) of the lactogenic foods mentioned in the book are:
- “green drinks” and juices, containing spirolina and wheatgrass
- food and drinks containing barley, alfalfa
- fennel, fennel seed, fenugreek seed
- most “ancient” whole grains or legumes, particularly if they are slow cooked
- malt powder or syrup, blackstrap molasses
- almonds and almond milk or almond butter
- sesame seeds and tahini, flaxseed, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
- coconut and coconut milk
- stone fruits, figs, dates, green papaya, dried apricots
- most veggies, peas & beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, leafy greens
- healthy fats: omegas, cold pressed olive & sesame oil
- chicken, turkey, crab, squid
- seaweed, nutritional yeast
- dill, caraway, anise, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, basil, thyme
You can also try many herbal galactagogues in various forms to increase milk supply, including capsules, tinctures and teas (the book Mother Food has a whole section on these herbs as well, some of which are listed here). The standby that works for many nursing mothers is fenugreek — you can get this in pill or tincture forms at natural food or herb stores, or you can try soaking and eating fenugreek seeds, a much cheaper option! Fenugreek is sometimes suggested in combination with blessed thistle (to help with increased rate of milk flow as well as milk supply) or various other herbs; combinations can work better than just one herb, and different combinations work for different women. For me, a commercially available tincture including goats rue noticeably helped. As with any medication, do your homework with herbal supplements and look into seeing a naturopath, acupuncturist, or herbalist to help work out a treatment plan specifically catered to your needs.
Finally, there is also the choice of pharmaceutical medications, which can have the side effect of increasing milk supply for some nursing mothers. Boy, can this be a controversial topic – I know! There are two medications I know of: Metoclopramide (brand name Reglan) and Domperidone (brand name Motilium). Do your research — there are pros and cons to both medications and they are, of course, best taken under the care of a medical professional, ideally one up-to-date on maternal breastfeeding issues and current lactation research. I did in fact try both, and credit Domperidone for helping me to continue nursing during those early months when my girls likely would have weaned due to the amount of supplementing I had to do. Meds are not for everyone and are rarely that “silver bullet” cure-all, but know that they are out there and can help in some (albeit rare) instances. For those like me with PCOS, Metformin is a medication that can help as well, taken during pregnancy and/or postpartum, while breastfeeding.
Dealing with low milk supply is hard! But having low supply, either temporarily or long-term, does not mean an inevitable end to breastfeeding. It is often possible to work with your baby and body to solve breastfeeding problems and increase your supply.
Many of us can supplement with care and still continue on with a very successful nursing relationship! My milk supply issues were significant, but with support, a lot of patience and a bit of luck I was able to get through them, and in the long run, those challenging days (and months) were surpassed by the years of happy nursing my daughters and I have experienced.1
For more info on and support for low milk supply, check out these resources:
- Protocol to Manage Breastmilk Intake from International Breastfeeding Center (Dr. Jack Newman)
- Mother’s Milk, How to Increase Your Supply by Dr. Jay Gordon
- Increasing Your Milk at AskDrSears.com
- Increasing Low Milk Supply at Kellymom.com
- MOBI Motherhood (Mothers Overcoming Breastfeeding Issues)
- How Can I Increase My Supply by La Leche League International
- Low Milk Supply: Information and Support for Breastfeeding Mothers
- The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk (book) by Dana West and Lisa Marasco
- Mother Food: A Breastfeeding Diet Guide with Lactogenic Food and Herbs (book) by Hillary Jacobson
Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with your health care provider. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition or are taking any medication, please consult your physician. Nothing you read here should be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis or courses of treatment.
- Any product recommendations in this post are the opinions of the author alone and are included for information only. They are not sponsored, and no advertising or affiliation earnings will be generated from this article in order to comply with the WHO code of marketing of breastmilk substitutes. ↩