What is a Galactagogue?Breastfeeding
After baby arrives you’ll be getting lots of advice about what to eat and drink to build your supply for nursing. While everyone has their own opinions, there is a group of foods that are believed to increase supply, these are called galactagogues. While you may have heard the old wives tale of drinking an ice cold Guinness to bring in your milk, it’s important to know what your issue may be and what you’re hoping to achieve.
As with most breastfeeding challenges there are multiple factors that can cause low milk production which should be discussed with your healthcare provider. Many mothers can increase the amount of breastmilk by simply increasing their infant’s feeding pattern; breastmilk amount responds to supply and demand based on your baby’s nursing schedule.
However, for those still experiencing low milk supply, many will respond well to an assortment of galactagogues. These are common foods, drinks, medications, or herbs and should only be used under the guidance of a lactation consultant, master herbalist, or naturopathic doctor for proper dosage instructions.
Some of the most common you will hear about are: Alfalfa, Blessed Thistle, Fenugreek, Goat’s Rue and Oats. Combinations of these are readily available in herbal infusions (teas), creams, snacks, smoothies, supplements, and even lactation cookies!
Always remember that increasing breastfeeding frequency and ensuring proper milk removal is the most effective way to stimulate breastmilk production. Galactagogues may work in some situations, but will not in others. Never take a tea, tincture, or supplement without proper dosage instruction from a qualified practitioner, even if you think it may be harmless. Each breastfeeding mother must be aware that all herbal galactagogues have potential side effects, drug interactions, and contradictions. Just because it’s ‘natural’ doesn’t mean its safe. Remember, few mothers truly have insufficient milk production. Be careful not to confuse your ability to produce adequate quantities of breastmilk with the lack of opportunity to produce breastmilk.
We encourage you to learn more about our "What in the World" series. Please see our A to Z index for a whole host of pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting information and terminology.
Loree Siermachesky works as a multi-certified labour and postpartum doula, certified Lamaze childbirth educator, certified breastfeeding counselor, certified placenta encapsulation specialist and a certified car seat technician in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. She has had the honour of attending over 1400 births in the last 20 years. She is well-known and greatly respected by the medical providers in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Brooks, Taber, and Calgary. She cares deeply for this profession and even more for her clientele, honoring them in whatever method of birth they choose, or helping them transition to new parenthood as they wish.