What is a galactagogue? Do I need one?

August 4, 2011. Posted in: Herbs/natural treatments,Supply worries

Is this Medication Safe?

By Kelly Bonyata, IBCLC

A substance that increases milk supply is called a galactagogue. Some of the most commonly used herbal galactagogues are fenugreek, blessed thistle, and alfalfa. There are also several prescription medications that can increase milk supply.

Before you decide on any type of galactagogue, consider your reasons for doing so.

  • Do you think that your milk supply is low? Why? Many moms think that they have a low milk supply even though their supply is just fine. Take a look at this information page on Increasing Low Milk Supply for more information on whether your supply is really low, and ways to increase your milk supply without herbs or medications.
  • If you feel that your milk supply is truly low, then it will be very helpful to get in touch with a breastfeeding counselor and/or a board certified lactation consultant for one-on-one help for your particular situation.

The average mother does not need galactagogues to increase or maintain supply. Following are examples of situations when galactagogue use may be useful:

  • Some working mothers use herbs to increase their pumping output, even though their supply is fine when baby nurses.
  • Some mothers with a genuinely low milk supply use galactagogues in combination with increased nursing/pumping to increase supply.
  • Adoptive moms may use galactagogues to increase the amount of milk they are able to provide for their babies.

The usual, non-herbal, non-medication methods for increasing milk supply are sufficient for most mothers.

If the usual methods have not proven sufficient and you feel that a galactagogue is needed, keep these things in mind:

  • Remember that any galactagogue will be most effective in increasing milk supply when combined with increased breastfeeding frequency and milk removal.
  • Some types of galactagogues work better in particular situations and not in others. You should be working with someone who is knowledgable in their use.
  • All of these galactagogues, whether herbal or prescription medication, have potential side effects and drug interactions that must be considered for each individual mother. You should talk to your health care provider and/or a knowledgable herbalist about whether a particular galactagogue is safe for you.

Here’s a bit of trivia: a number of the herbs and prescription medicines used for increasing milk supply also have uses related to digestive problems, for example, fenugreek, blessed thistle, fennel, alfalfa, metoclopramide and domperidone.

Fenugreek Seed for Increasing Milk Supply

Oatmeal for increasing milk supply

Why you won’t hear me suggest galactagogues by the Boob Geek, CLC