Galactagogues- What are they and who needs them?
By Jenna Forster, IBCLC, RN
Galactagogues are foods and herbs that are known for their milk increasing properties. Many of these come from traditional diets of many different cultures around the world. There are also several prescription medications that are known galactagogues, but neither are currently approved by the FDA for that purpose.
Here is a list of a few common ones that you have likely heard of, and a few you may not!
Who needs galactagogues?
Low milk supply, whether perceived or actual, is the most likely cause that will contribute to parents seeking out galactagogues. Thanks to the internet, you can find tons and tons of info on various things that help increase milk supply. So how do you know what works and what doesn’t?
The first thing to consider if you feel as though you have low milk supply, would be an evaluation by a skilled International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, or IBCLC. An experienced IBCLC has the ability to gather a full health history, and perform a full assessment on both you and your baby to determine if there is, in fact, low supply and what factors may be contributing or causing the low supply.
The second thing to consider is how milk is made. Milk production works on supply and demand. Increasing the demand, is one of the biggest factors in increasing supply. Often galactagogues can be used in conjunction with increased breast stimulation, such as more frequent feeding, or pumping.
There are many different causes for low milk supply, and different galactagogues have different actions and purposes. For example, someone who has had a breast reduction would consider (under the guidance of their physician or midwife) to take goat’s rue to increase their milk making tissue. It’s important to have a full assessment of the problem, before starting any herbal supplement. While many herbal galactagogues can be found over the counter, this certainly doesn’t mean they are without risk. Fenugreek, for example, should not be taken by breastfeeding or chestfeeding parents with a history of thyroid disorder, yet fenugreek is in many lactation boosting products.
Breastfeeding is so much more than milk; it’s a relationship, and many parents can have a beautiful breastfeeding relationship, regardless of how much milk their breasts make. If you are struggling with low milk supply, reach out for an evaluation by an IBCLC, and work together with your IBCLC and physician/midwife team to decide what route would be the most effective in helping you reach your breastfeeding/chestfeeding goals! Happy nursing!
Jenna Forester has been an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for 5 years, and a Registered Nurse with a focus on Women’s Health for 10 years. She started my career as a Labor and Delivery Nurse, and then worked in an OB/GYN office for several years before moving her focus to lactation after having her older daughter and realizing how much support breastfeeding/chestfeeding families really need! She was fortunate to have a friend who was very supportive in my breastfeeding journey and that sparked her desire to go through the training to become an IBCLC. She loves helping families reach their breastfeeding/chestfeeding goals and She loves talking and educating on breastfeeding/chestfeeding. Low milk supply is one of the many challenges that faces breastfeeding/chestfeeding families and one of the most common questions she gets is ‘What can I do to increase my milk supply?!?!?’