A time-honored and natural way to nourish your newborn, breastfeeding supplies your baby with all the food and nutrition they need during the first few month of life.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that about 75 percent of new mothers who breastfeed their babies stop partially or completely within the first few months.1
Poor breast milk production is the most common cause of breastfeeding failure.2
Across different cultures, the ancient wisdom of using herbal remedies for postpartum support and breastfeeding has been handed down from generation to generation.
Hippocrates, who is popularly known as the Father of Modern Medicine, once suggested “If the milk should dry up … give her to drink the fruit and roots of fennel.”3
Galactagogues are herbs or medications that help increase breast milk production. Here are three herbs that serve as galactagogues.
1. Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
A common ingredient in Indian dishes, it is a popular cooking spice in India and the Middle East. Fenugreek is included in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) list of herbs that are generally regarded as safe.4
A 14-day study in 77 new mothers found that drinking herbal tea that had fenugreek seeds added increased breast milk production and helped the babies gain more weight.5
In another study, 66 mothers were split into three groups.
One group received fenugreek tea, the second got a placebo (a substance that seems to be a “real” medical treatment, but isn’t) and the third received nothing.
The study found that the volume of breast milk increased from 34ml (1.15 ounces) in the control and placebo groups to 73ml (2.47 ounces) in the fenugreek group.6
How to take it: Orally, 6 grams, in capsule form, daily. You may also brew it as a tea by putting a teaspoon full of fenugreek in a cup of hot water. Sleep for 10 mins and drink.
2. Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
Shatavari contains steroidal saponins (mainly shatavarins) that assists in increasing milk production. According to a study published in Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research in 2011:7
Mothers taking the Shatavari capsules had increased mean prolactin hormone levels in comparison with the mothers who got the placebo during the study. Prolactin is a hormone that is responsible for increasing the production of breast milk in lactating mothers.
The babies and the mother showed a substantial increase in weight after taking the herb after the study.
The bonding and overall satisfaction of both mother and child improved once the mother was able to lactate well and carry on with the breastfeeding.
How to take it: Take a 250 mg capsule or tablet of Shatavari once daily at night after dinner.
3. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Fennel seeds have been used for ages as a galactagogue.8 It has estrogen-like properties that could help increase the production of breast milk.
How to take it: You may use fennel seed powder as a spice in gravies. You may also add it to milk and tea.
- CDC Breastfeeding Report Card –– United States, 2010 https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/breastfeedingreportcard2010.pdf (Accessed on 02 August 2019)
- Zuppa AA, Sindico P, Orchi C, Carducci C, Cardiello V, Romagnoli C. Safety and efficacy of galactogogues: substances that induce, maintain and increase breast milk production. J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2010;13(2):162-74. Review. PubMed PMID: 20816003.
- Whitely K. Hippocrates’ Diseases of Women Book 1: Greek Text with English Translation and Footnotes [dissertation] Pretoria: University of South Africa; 2009
- Spices and other natural seasonings and flavorings. 21 CFR §182.10 (2011)
- Abeer El Sakka, Mostafa Salama, Kareem Salama The Effect of Fenugreek Herbal Tea and Palm Dates on Breast Milk Production and Infant Weight. Journal Of Pediatric Sciences DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17334/jps.30658
- Turkyılmaz C, Onal E, Hirfanoglu IM, Turan O, Koç E, Ergenekon E, Atalay Y. The effect of galactagogue herbal tea on breast milk production and short-term catch-up of birth weight in the first week of life. J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Feb;17(2):139-42. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0090. Epub 2011 Jan 24. PubMed PMID: 21261516.
- Gupta, M., & Shaw, B. (2011). A Double-Blind Randomized Clinical Trial for Evaluation of Galactogogue Activity of Asparagus racemosus Willd. Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research: IJPR, 10(1), 167.
- Bazzano AN, Cenac L, Brandt AJ, Barnett J, Thibeau S, Theall KP. Maternal experiences with and sources of information on galactagogues to support lactation: a cross-sectional study. Int J Womens Health. 2017;9:105–113. Published 2017 Feb 27. doi:10.2147/IJWH.S128517