Low Milk Supply and Herbal Galactagogues
What is a Galactagogue?
A galactagogue is any type of herb or medication that increases milk supply. There are a variety of reasons women use galactagogues, but the main reason is to treat low milk supply. Before you start taking a galactagogue there are 3 questions you can ask to determine if you really need it. If you think you do, it is best to work with a lactation consultant to ensure you are using the galactagogue correctly.
Reasons to initiate a galactagogue
Couples who are adopting or who desire to co-nurse, when both parents, including same-sex female couples or any LGBTQ couple, share in feeding the baby, use galactagogues to induce a milk supply. This is different than using a galactagogue to treat low milk supply of a biological parent.
Low Milk Supply
Low milk supply is rare. It accounts for around 15% of breastfeeding women. There are a several reasons parents think they have a low milk supply, but in reality, the signs they are seeing are normal and not an indication of low milk supply.
As long as baby is gaining weight and has sufficient urine output, the signs listed below are not an indication of low milk supply.
Fussy baby (this is common aside from getting enough milk)
Baby wants to nurse often (every 1.5 to 2 hours is pretty common for breastfed babies, sometimes 4-7 time in 1 hour is normal)
Breasts don’t leak any milk or they suddenly stop leaking (doesn’t have to do with milk supply)
Breasts feel softer than they used to (this is pretty natural once mature milk supply comes in)
You get very little when pumping after a feeding (babies are more efficient at extracting milk than a pump, and your leftover milk amount isn’t a good indication of milk supply)
Your baby suddenly increases his/her frequency of nursing (likely will line up with a growth spurt!)
Risk Factors for Low Milk Supply
Taking an oral contraceptive
Having fewer than normal milk ducts (ex. from surgeries or cancer)
Incorrect positioning during feeding
Tongue or lip tie in baby
Supplementation (giving formula or bottled breast milk after baby feeds at breast)
Using pacifiers or nipple shields (wait 4 weeks before introducing to protect long-term milk supply)
Mom’s health issues (postpartum reproductive issues such as retained placenta; others such as anemiai, thyroid disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome, insulin resistance, hormonal disorders, mammary hypoplasia and surgery. )
Mom’s medications (antihistamines, etc.)
Cutting feedings short (instead of letting baby decide when he/she’s done)
Scheduling feedings rather than feeding on demand
aby sleeps too much/through the night (lessens frequency of feeding – wake baby up more often to feed)
How to Increase Milk Supply without Herbs or Medications
Avoid alcohol and smoking
Practice hand expressing/breast massage
Practice power pumping (pumping in between feeding sessions or continuing to pump after the last drops of milk have been expressed)
Promote skin-to-skin with baby
Breastfeed on demand (or more if the baby is not very demanding)
Offer both breasts for each feeding
Switch multiple times from breast to breast if baby is tired/falls asleep too quickly
Make sure the frequency of nursing is enough (8-12 times every 24 hours, at least every 3 hours at night)
As the mom, get plenty of rest, try to eat a balanced diet, and drink plenty of water
3 questions to help determine if you need to increase your milk supply:
1. Why do you think you have a low milk supply?
Is it a fussy baby? Change in feeding frequency or length?
You should be concerned about these signs being an indication of low milk supply if your baby is losing weight or has an inadequate output (i.e less than 6-8 wet diapers/day and less than 1-4 dirty diapers/day). Most times a low supply can rebound easily when you let your baby eat as often as he/she wants (it's all about that supply and demand!). Check in with a lactation consultant if you are concerned about weight loss or insufficient urine and stool output.
2. Are you exclusively pumping?
If you are exclusively pumping it can be challenging to maintain a milk supply. It naturally starts to decline. Are you seeing a change in how much you can pump? Is your baby taking more than you are pumping?
3. Is your baby's urine dark amber (aka looks dehydrated?)
If your baby has adequate urine output, but the color of his/her urine looks dehydrated, check in with a lactation consultant to see if low milk supply could be a cause.
Fenugreek Capsules (To increase milk production)
Possible side effects: Discontinue use if adverse side effects appear. Fenugreek may cause upset stomach or excessive gas in mother or baby, may lower blood sugar, may cause break through menstrual bleeding, may lower the thyroid hormone T3 and should be avoided by women with hypothyroidism.
Suggested use: Take 2-3 capsules (580-610 mg per capsule) 3- 4 times per day, and it may be discontinued once milk supply has increased to the desired level. Many women have reported results within 24-72 hours.
More Milk (To increase milk production)Does not contain fenugreek for those who may be sensitive to its potential side effect of gastric upset.
Ingredients: blessed thistle herb, nettle herb, fennel seed, grain alcohol, deionized water, vegetable glycerin
Suggested use: Take 1 ml, 4 times per day. Women over 175 lbs take 1/2 tsp (2 ml) 3 times per day. May be taken with 1-2 oz. of liquid. Avoid additional liquids 15 minutes before and after each use.
More Milk Plus Capsules (To increase milk production)
Ingredients: fenugreek seed, blessed thistle herb, nettle herb, fennel seed, grain alcohol, deionized water, vegetable glycerin
Suggested use: Take 1 ml, 4 times per day. Women over 175 lbs take 2 ml, 3 times per day. May be taken with 1-2 oz. of liquid. Avoid additional liquids 15 minutes before and after each use.
More Milk Special Blend Capsules (to increase the amount of milk producing tissue)
Ingredients: goat’s rue herb, fenugreek seed, blessed thistle herb, nettle herb, fennel seed, non-GMO soy lecithin, vegetable cellulose, coconut oil
Suggested use: Take 1 capsule 4 times per day. Women over 175 lbs take 2 capsules 3 times per day. May be taken with 1-2 oz. of liquid. Avoid additional liquids 15 minutes before and after each use.