Increasing Lactation with Galactagogues
Some of you may have previously heard of the term “galactagogue” but for those who haven’t, it’s a scientific term for a substance that aids lactation. Or in other words: a galactagogue works to increase your breast milk supply.
New breastfeeding moms can sometimes find that they are not producing enough milk. This can be worrisome as it’s unclear whether your little one is getting the milk that they need for their healthy development.
There are many reasons as to why a mom might have a low milk production. It can be down to stress, an unbalanced supply-demand ratio, an underlying illness or dehydration to name a few. Therefore, it isn’t always necessary to turn to a galactagogue for help, but some moms do anyway, just for peace of mind.
So what exactly are galacatagogues, where do they come from and how are they available to moms?
Galactagogues: A Closer Look
Galactagogues exist in nature; they can be derived from plants and are also found in mammals, including humans, which are used by the body to facilitate lacatation. In the case of the human, it’s primarily in the form of a hormone called prolactin.
In fact, one reason a low breast milk production may occur in a breast feeding mom is that she may have a deficient supply of prolactin in her own body.
Galactagogues are easily available, most commonly in the form of herbal teas but can also be obtained as lactation supplements, fresh or dried herbs and foods that the galactagogues naturally occur in.
Some of these galactagogic herbs, such as fenugreek, have been used for centuries in certain parts of the world to increase lactation. And although many have claimed success when using this method, there is little scientific evidence to prove the exact effectiveness or purity that these plants have.
If you were planning to try for yourself, be very cautious, ensure you are aware of the risks involved if there are any and always consult a certified medical expert such as your paediatrician or lactation specialist.
What Foods Are Galactagogues?
So what foods can you eat to increase your milk production? There are certainly quite a number of options that can be incorporated into your diet and can be used in various recipes.
- Brewers Yeast
- Dark, leafy greens
Thankfully, this is quite a diverse range of ingredients and so you’ll always have the choice of picking something for the recipes you enjoy. For example, the chickpeas are commonly used in curries that also include ginger. Not a curry fan? Try some oatmeal cookies or a brewer’s yeast based smoothie.
What Herbs are Galactagogues?
Herbs can also be incorporated into the food recipes you choose to make, or they can be dried and infused into a tea. It depends on the flavour of the herb and your preferences.
- Milk thistle
- Goat’s rue
- Blessed Thistle
You can also purchase the herb extract as a powder which can then be diluted with water if you wish. This method isn’t the most pleasant way to consume a galactagogue but it is one of the quickest and easiest.
Supplements for increasing milk supply are widely available and very easy to use. They are usually the extracts of the herbs mentioned above, separated into doses and packed into gelatine capsules.
This is also a very easy and good source of galactagogue as the dosage is already prepared for you and no preparation is required, you only have to swallow the pills and see the effects.
You can also purchase the supplements in the form of drops or a tincture, which you simply add to your water. There’s also the option of purchasing an already prepared drink in various flavors to get your regular does of galactagogue.
Herbal Teas for Lactation
Herbal teas are very similar to the supplements, in that the same sets of dried herbs are used. In this case they are brewed, either on their own or in various combinations, to infuse the galactagogic effects in water so that you can enjoy a nice warm drink as your source of galactagogue.
Many prefer the herbal tea option and claim that it’s more effective which may be due to the brewing process extracting the galactagogic compounds from the herb and dissolving it in the water enabling your body to absorb it more efficiently.
There are also certain drugs that act as galactagogues by interacting with the dopamine system in such a way to increase prolactin production in the body.
This option should only be used if recommended by a healthcare professional as many pharmaceutical drugs have known side effects which can cause complications. Usually drugs are used as a last resort after all other lactation support routes have been exhausted.
Metaclopramide is a drug used to treat nausea and GI tract issues which goes by the brand name Regan. It has a proven ability to also help breast feeding mothers increase their milk supply.
Even though it does come with side effects such as restlessness, nausea, anxiety and depression; it is known to be the safest galactogogue drug on the market compared to others available.
Domperidone, also known as its brand name, Motilum, is another drug that’s used for nausea and GI problems and can be used to increase lactation. It’s generally considered safe and an effective lactation aid but the FDA does not agree as there is little evidence proving this.
It also has side effects similar to Metaclopramide but has been found to cause complications for those who suffer from liver disease, tumors and haemorrhaging in the stomach. This drug has been used as a lactation aid for those who have not undergone pregnancy, such as someone who has adopted a child.
Risperidone is used as an antipsychotic medication and is known by the brand name Risperdal. It can also be prescribed for lactation problems, but not as often as the previous two dugs mentioned.
This drug comes with many, quite drastic potential side effects including tremors, insomnia, fatigue, spasms, anxiety, headaches, sun sensitivity and anxiety and so is not a drug to be taken lightly.
Now that you know exactly what a galactagogue is and what forms it can come in you have a good starting point for your research into the options that are available to you.
Taking a glactagogue is not something to be taken lightly, as pharmaceuticals come with known potential side effects and some even have the capability of being passed through the breast milk to your baby.
This doesn’t make the herbal choices any safer, as the truth is, the dosages and potential side effects from particular dosages are not fully known, as little scientific data is available to back up claims made by those who have used them.
What’s vital when it comes to using any galactagogue is to ensure you have talked it through with a certified specialist to rule out all other options, such as breast feeding techniques, schedules and any possible underlying health conditions.
When it comes down to it, whether or not you choose to use a galactagogue is yours to make. With both expert advice and plenty of well researched information, you can make a much better choice for your individual circumstance.
Judith is a housewife, mother of two beautiful boys from and that loves writing and helping fellow moms in her spare time