How to Increase Breast Milk Supply With Galactagogues

Breast pump shield with plastic bottles containing breast milk and a baby in the background

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A galactagogue or galactogogue (pronounced gah-lak´tah-gog) is something that can help abreastfeeding parent increase their breast milk supply. The word itself is a combination of the Greek terms "galact-" meaning milk, and "-ogogue" meaning leading to or promoting.

Herbs are commonly used to boost low milk supply, but certain actions, foods, and medications can help you make more breast milk as well.

Do You Need a Galactagogue?

Although many people worry about making enough breast milk, most do not need to use a galactagogue and are actually making sufficient amounts of breast milk. If your newborn has a good latch and you're breastfeeding on demand at least every 2 to 3 hours, you should make enough breast milk for your baby.

However, there are some situations when a galactagogue may be helpful to stimulate the production of breast milk, including the following: 

  • The return of your period has caused a dip in your supply of breast milk
  • You are breastfeeding after breast surgery
  • You are exclusively pumping for your baby
  • You are not sure why your milk supply is low
  • You are pumping for a preemie or a sick child in the hospital
  • You stopped breastfeeding and would like to start again
  • You want to breastfeed an adopted baby
  • Your breast milk supply has declined after starting hormonal birth control

Increasing Breast Milk Production

Your body makes breast milk in response to the stimulation of your breasts by your baby as they nurse, or by a breast pump as you pump your breast milk. There are several effective techniques you can try to increase your supply of breast milk naturally.

Check Your Baby's Latch

Make sure that your baby is latching on correctly. A proper breastfeeding latch allows your child to remove the breast milk from your breast efficiently. If you are not sure if your baby is latching on well, get help from a lactation expert. A doctor, nurse, lactation consultant, or member of a local breastfeeding group can check your breastfeeding technique. 

Stimulate Your Breasts More Often

The more you breastfeed or pump, the more breast milk you're telling your body to make. You can stimulate your breasts more often by breastfeeding your baby at least every 2 to 3 hours around the clock. You can also use a high-quality electric breast pump to pump your breast milk after or in between breastfeeding sessions. If you are exclusively pumping, be sure to pump at least every 2 to 3 hours until your supply of breast milk builds up. 

Types of Galactagogues

Galactagogues include foods, herbs, or medications. While using foods to boost breast milk production is generally considered safe, talk with a healthcare provider before using herbs or medicines while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Foods

All around the world, different cultures have particular foods that they give to breastfeeding parents after childbirth. Foods that increase breast milk and promote lactation are sometimes called lactogenic foods. They include:

When added to a healthy well-balanced breastfeeding diet, these milk-making foods are believed to increase breast milk and promote a healthy flow of milk to the baby. 

Herbs

Many plants and spices are also used as galactagogues, although scientific evidence of their usefulness is lacking. These breastfeeding herbs include:

Whether steeped together into a soothing herbal tea or added to everyday recipes, herbs have been used throughout history to support lactation. 

Medications

When necessary, a doctor can also prescribe medications to create or build up a breast milk supply. Medications are often the last resort after other options have failed. Prescriptions are most helpful if you'd like to nurse an adopted child, or if you want to start breastfeeding again after you have stopped for a while. They are also useful when you're pumping for a premature or hospitalized infant and you have a low breast milk supply.

Reglan (metoclopramide) and Motilium (domperidone) are two common prescription medications that may help increase milk production for lactation induction, relactation, and a true low milk supply. Other drugs such as oxytocin nasal spray, sulpiride, thorazine, TRH, and human growth hormone may also have a positive effect on breast milk supply, but they are not as commonly used for this purpose.

Effectiveness of Galactagogues

Galactagogues do not necessarily work on their own. A galactagogue can help to improve the amount and the flow of the breast milk from your breasts, but if you are not also removing that milk, your body is unlikely to respond in the way you hope. To see real results from a galactagogue, you must use it along with frequent breastfeeding or pumping. 

Galactagogue Safety

The safest ways to increase your milk supply are to make sure your baby has a good latch, breastfeed or pump often, and add some lactogenic foods to your daily diet. Commercially prepared herbal teas and lactation supplements may contain safe doses of effective herbs when they are taken as directed, but note that they often lack scientific evidence of their safety and efficacy in people who are breastfeeding.

Additionally, it's important to keep in mind that more is not always better. Herbs are similar to medications. In high doses, they can be dangerous and have side effects for both you and your child.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you have tried the actions and foods listed above, but you are not able to increase the amount of breast milk that you're making, talk to a healthcare provider. If you have a true low milk supply, they can work with you to find out the cause and try to correct it. Also, to be sure that your baby is getting enough breast milk, take your child to a pediatrician for regular examinations and weight checks.

It's also important to talk to a doctor or a lactation consultant before trying any medications or herbs. Not only can your health provider advise you on the proper dose of herbs, but they can help you determine which herb or combination of herbs will work the best for your situation. Then, if necessary, they can move on to the correct prescription.

When Galactagogues Don't Work

Galactagogues do not always work. It is possible that after trying the actions, foods, herbs, and even prescription medications listed above, you will not be able to increase your milk supply to the level you would like. Sometimes, medical issues such as underdeveloped breasts or previous breast cancer treatments, prevent the production of a healthy breast milk supply, and the body is just not able to respond to galactagogues.

You can still try to increase your milk supply, and you can certainly still breastfeed for comfort and bonding. You may just have to supplement your child with additional nutrition, and that is perfectly OK.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. ABM Clinical Protocol #9: Use of galactogogues in initiating or augmenting the rate of maternal milk secretion (First Revision January 2011). Breastfeed Med. 2011;6(1):41-9. doi:10.1089/bfm.2011.9998

  2. McGuire TM. Drugs affecting milk supply during lactationAust Prescr. 2018;41(1):7–9. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2018.002

  3. Mannion C, Mansell D. Breastfeeding self-efficacy and the use of prescription medication: A pilot studyObstet Gynecol Int. 2012;2012:562704. doi:10.1155/2012/562704

  4. Sim TF, Hattingh HL, Sherriff J, Tee LB. The use, perceived effectiveness and safety of herbal galactagogues during breastfeeding: A qualitative studyInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2015;12(9):11050-11071. doi:10.3390/ijerph120911050

  5. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Using dietary supplements wisely.

Additional Reading
  • Hale TW, Rowe HE. Medications and Mothers' Milk: A Manual of Lactational Pharmacology Sixteenth Edition. Hale Publishing.

  • Lawrence RA, Lawrence RM. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences.

  • Riordan J, Wambach K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning.

  • Sachs HC, Committee on Drugs, Frattarelli DAC, et al. The transfer of drugs and therapeutics into human breast milk: an update on selected topics. Pediatrics. 2013;132(3):e796-e809.

    doi:10.1542/peds.2013-1985

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.