Herbal Remedies for Milk Supply: Boosting Lactation Naturally

Herbal remedies for milk supply have been used for centuries to help nursing mothers increase their milk production. These remedies can be a natural alternative to prescription medications or other interventions that may have unwanted side effects. While there is limited scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of herbal remedies, many women have reported positive results from using them.

One popular herb for milk supply is shatavari, which is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. Shatavari is believed to have lactogenic properties that can increase milk production. It can be taken in various forms, including powder or capsules. Another herb that has been used for centuries to increase milk supply is fennel. Fennel can be consumed in teas or added to food, and is believed to have a mild estrogenic effect that can help stimulate milk production.

Understanding Milk Supply

Breast milk is produced by the mammary glands in a lactating woman's breasts. Milk supply is regulated by a complex interplay of hormones and feedback mechanisms. The hormone prolactin is primarily responsible for milk production, while the hormone oxytocin triggers the let-down reflex, which releases the milk from the breast.

Low supply of breast milk can be caused by various factors, such as medical conditions, ineffective breastfeeding techniques, stress, or insufficient glandular tissue. It is essential to identify the cause of low supply to address the issue effectively.

Breast milk production is a supply-and-demand process. The more a baby nurses, the more milk is produced. Therefore, frequent breastfeeding or pumping can help increase milk supply. Additionally, proper latch and positioning can ensure effective milk transfer and stimulate milk production.

Herbal remedies can also aid in increasing milk supply. Some herbs, such as fenugreek and blessed thistle, are known to stimulate milk production. Others, such as sage, can decrease milk supply and are recommended only for women who are in the process of weaning.

It is essential to consult with a healthcare provider or lactation consultant before using herbal remedies to ensure their safety and effectiveness. Using herbal remedies without proper guidance can have adverse effects on milk supply and overall health.

Herbal Remedies for Enhancing Milk Supply

Breastfeeding mothers may experience difficulty in producing enough milk for their babies. While there are several reasons for this, one solution is to try herbal remedies. Here are some of the most popular herbs and supplements for enhancing milk supply.

Herbs and Their Effects

  1. Fenugreek: Fenugreek is a popular herb used to enhance milk production. It contains phytoestrogens that can increase milk supply. However, it may not be suitable for everyone, as it can cause gastrointestinal upset and allergic reactions in some people.

  2. Blessed Thistle: Blessed thistle has been used for centuries to stimulate milk production. It is believed to work by increasing blood flow to the mammary glands. It is generally considered safe, although it may interact with certain medications.

  3. Stinging Nettle: Stinging nettle is a nutrient-rich herb that can help increase milk supply. It is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce breast pain and swelling.

  4. Garlic: Garlic is a natural galactagogue, which means it can help increase milk production. It is also believed to have antimicrobial properties, which can help prevent infections.

Teas and Supplements

  1. Lactation Teas: Lactation teas are a popular choice for breastfeeding mothers who want to increase their milk supply. They contain a blend of herbs that are believed to enhance milk production, such as fennel, fenugreek, and blessed thistle.

  2. Milk Thistle: Milk thistle is a herbal supplement that is believed to help increase milk production. It contains silymarin, a compound that has been shown to have a positive effect on liver function.

  3. Fennel Seed: Fennel seed is another popular herb used to enhance milk production. It is believed to work by stimulating the production of prolactin, a hormone that is essential for milk production.

  4. Sage: While sage is often used as a culinary herb, it can also be used to decrease milk production. It is generally safe to use, but should be avoided by women who are trying to increase their milk supply.

Herbal remedies and supplements can be a safe and effective way to enhance milk supply in breastfeeding mothers. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before using any herbal treatments, as some can interact with medications or cause adverse reactions.

While herbal remedies can be a natural and effective way to increase milk supply, it is important to note that they can also have potential risks and side effects. It is always recommended to consult a healthcare provider before taking any herbal supplements, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Some common side effects of herbal remedies for milk supply include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Allergic reactions

It is also important to note that some herbs can cause contractions and should be avoided during pregnancy. Additionally, some herbs can interact with alcohol or prescription medications, so it is important to check with a healthcare provider before taking any herbal supplements.

In summary, while herbal remedies may be a helpful tool for increasing milk supply in breastfeeding mothers, it is important to seek professional guidance and support. A qualified healthcare provider can offer personalized advice on safe and effective herbal remedies, as well as provide support for any other breastfeeding challenges the mother may be experiencing.

Questions? Email Jack Newman at drjacknewman@sympatico.ca, or Edith Kernerman at breastfeeding@sympatico.ca or consult: Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding (called The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers in the USA) or our DVD, Dr. Jack Newman’s Visual Guide to Breastfeeding; or The Latch Book and Other Keys to Breastfeeding Success; or L-eat Latch & Transfer Tool, or the GamePlan for Protecting and Supporting Breastfeeding in the First 24 Hours of Life and Beyond.  See our website at www.drjacknewman.com.  To make an appointment email breastfeeding@ccnm.edu and respond to the auto reply or call 416-498-0002. 

Handout. Herbal Remedies for Milk Supply, May 2008
Written and Revised by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC 1995-2005
Revised by Edith Kernerman, IBCLC, and Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC © 2008

  This handout may be copied and distributed without further permission,
on the condition that  it is not used in any context that violates
the International WHO Code on The Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes


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