Breastfeeding has been shown to have many benefits for the health and development of babies.
Breast milk is uniquely ideal for the nutritional needs of infants and can strengthen the baby's immune system, protecting against some diseases. (1)
However, some mothers who choose to breastfeed may struggle to produce enough breast milk.
And while there are prescription drugs that can increase breast milk supply, many would rather turn to natural methods.
A galactagogue is any food, drink, medicine, or herb that helps to increase breast milk supply.
There are several herbs that have been used for many years as galactagogues by herbalists and natural health practitioners.
Most of these herbs are considered safe with few side effects, but you should still consult with your health care provider or a lactation consultant before starting a new herbal regimen.
Herbal Tea to Increase Breast Milk Supply
Often herbs, including galactagogues, work better in combination with other herbs to achieve the desired outcome.
For increasing breast milk supply, you may find it best to use a blend of some of the herbs mentioned in this post.
For a pre-made blend specifically formulated for both increasing and enriching breast milk supply, try this Milky Mama herbal tea.
It contains several different herbal galactagogues and has a pleasant taste.
Fenugreek is one of the most commonly used herbs to increase breast milk supply.
It has a maple, burnt-sugar taste and is also used to flavor imitation maple syrup products.
The seeds are the part of the plant used most often for medicinal purposes. They can be used to make a tea or as part of an herbal formula for nursing.
Fenugreek is a very safe herb but can cause gas in the mother or baby when used as a supplement.
Blessed thistle is another common herbal galactagogue.
It can help to increase breast milk supply and is often used in conjunction with fenugreek for increased effectiveness. (2)
Blessed thistle is also full of bitter compounds that support digestive and liver health.
It has been used for many years to increase lactation and can be taken as a tea, extract, or in capsule form.
Fennel seed is another herbal galactagogue that has many centuries of use in herbal medicine.
It can help to improve breast milk supply for nursing mothers, which may be because of the phytoestrogens present in fennel. (3)
Phytoestrogens serve as a precursor to estrogen and can help with hormone imbalances that may be causing low milk supply.
Fennel can also help to relieve gas and upset stomach, which makes it a good herb to use in combination with fenugreek.
Alfalfa leaf is full of many important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other important nutrients.
This makes it a great herb to help replenish the body after pregnancy as well as to increase breast milk supply.
Alfalfa can be added to your diet in sprout form or the dried herb taken as a supplement.
Alfalfa is a key component of this herbal tea for increasing breastmilk.
Like alfalfa, stinging nettle is rich in nutrients, especially iron.
Traditionally this herb has been used after giving birth both to treat anemia and as a galactagogue. (4)
The high nutrient content of nettle also means that it can help to enrich breast milk as well as increasing supply.
A close relative of blessed thistle, milk thistle has also been used for centuries to increase breast milk supply.
Milk thistle contains a compound called silymarin. Silymarin was the subject of a small study and was found to significantly increase breast milk as compared to the placebo. (5)
Milk thistle also helps to detox and support the liver.
It can be used as an extract, in a tea, or taken in capsules.
Goat's rue, also known as French lilac, is a plant native to the Middle East and Europe. It belongs to the same plant family as fenugreek.
This herb can help to increase breast milk production and to build up breast tissue. (6)
At the same time as being a powerful herb for breastfeeding, goat's rue can also lower blood sugar when taken in large amounts. Diabetics should use with caution.
Goat's rue should only be used dried and can be taken in capsules or made into a tea.
Red Raspberry Leaf
Red raspberry leaf is full of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
It is an incredibly beneficial herb for women through all life stages, including breastfeeding.
The iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and manganese found in red raspberry leaf are all important nutrients needed by the body while nursing.
Used as a tea, red raspberry can help the body to recover after pregnancy as well as increase breast milk supply.
It's featured in many herbal teas for pregnancy and nursing, including this Milky Mama tea blend.
Shatavari is an herb frequently used in Ayurvedic medicine to support the female reproductive system and to increase breast milk supply.
Its traditional use as a galactagogue so far seems to be supported by research. (7)
It can be used in powder form, taken in capsules, or as a liquid extract.
Shatavari may also help to balance hormones after pregnancy.
Using Herbs to Increase Breast Milk Supply
Before adding in herbal galactagogues to your daily regimen, talk with your midwife or a lactation consultant to address your concerns about low milk supply.
While most of these herbs are safe when taken in the correct doses, some may interact with medications.
Many galactagogues also affect hormones, especially estrogen.
They should be taken with caution or avoided altogether for those with estrogen-sensitive cancers or those who are already taking some kind of hormone treatment.
Most galactagogues should not be used during pregnancy.
Getting the Most Out of These Herbs
Herbs used to increase breast milk supply often work better in conjunction with one another.
One of the easiest ways to try out herbal galactagogues to see if they will benefit you is in tea form.
An herbal blend can be used to make a tea that can be consumed throughout the day.
Milky Mama Tea is one of these blends that's formulated with several of the herbs from this post: red raspberry leaf, alfalfa leaf, and fennel seed.
Another easy way to incorporate these herbs into your diet is by taking capsules for increasing milk supply.
Both of these ways of using herbs are easy and effective.
If you are concerned about low milk supply, give one of these herbal remedies a try!