10 Herbs to Help Boost a Low Milk Supply

Breastfeeding mothers sometimes turn to herbs to help increase their breast milk supply. There are a number of plants that are believed to promote breastfeeding and boost milk production. So, if you feel you need to or want to make more breast milk, here's a list of ten breastfeeding herbs that may help.

When Herbs May Help

You are more likely to notice a decline in your breast milk supply when: 

During these times, or if you just feel that your milk supply is low, talk to your doctor or a lactation professional to see if adding an herbal treatment is right for you. Since different herbs have different actions, it's important to get professional advice.

Your doctor or a lactation consultant can help you determine which herbs may work the best for your situation. They can also advise you on how much of each herb you should take.

How to Get the Best Results From a Breastfeeding Herb

Herbs and other galactagogues do not often work on their own. To increase your supply of breast milk, you have to increase the stimulation to your breasts while you're taking the herb. You can accomplish this by breastfeeding more frequently, nursing for a longer duration of time at each feeding, or pumping after and in-between each feeding.

1

Fenugreek

Close-Up Of Fenugreek Seeds In Bowl On Table
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Fenugreek is the herb used most often to increase breast milk supply and is the primary ingredient in many lactation teas. Native to the Mediterranean and Asia, this herb is known for it's maple syrup smell and bitter, burnt sugar taste.

Although not considered harmful when used in moderation, fenugreek can cause your breast milk, urine, and sweat to smell like maple syrup. It can also cause your baby’s urine and sweat to smell like maple syrup. Note that the latter should not be confused with maple syrup urine disease.

2

Blessed Thistle

Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus)
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Blessed thistle is often combined with Fenugreek to increase a low breast milk supply. It is a typical ingredient found in commercially-available supplements and nursing teas for breastfeeding mothers. Blessed thistle is believed to be safe as long as you take it at the recommended doses.

3

Fennel

Fennel corm on chopping board, kitchen knife
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Fennel is a sweet, licorice-flavored herb considered indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. This aromatic herb has both culinary and medicinal uses. Fennel has been used to treat a variety of health conditions, including digestive problems and menstrual issues. It is also believed to help increase milk production in breastfeeding mothers. 

4

Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle dried herb in bowl
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Stinging nettle is a nutritious, dark, leafy green plant. It is high in iron and packed with vitamins and minerals. When taken after childbirth, stinging nettle is believed to treat anemia, fight fatigue, and increase the supply of breast milk. 

5

Alfalfa

Alfalfa sprouts
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Alfalfa is one of the oldest and most cultivated crops in history. It is highly nutritious and full of vitamins and minerals. Alfalfa is rich in antioxidants, low in saturated fat, and high in protein and fiber. This plant is one of the main sources of food for dairy animals because it is believed to increase milk production. You can safely add alfalfa to your breastfeeding diet, as long as you don't overdo it.

6

Goat's Rue

Close up of galega officinalis var. lady wilson (goasts rue), july, brugge
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Goat's rue is a member of the same plant family as fenugreek. In its dried form, Goat's rue is believed to be a safe supplement. The properties of this breastfeeding herb may help a mother to build up breast tissue and make more breast milk. However, the fresh Goat's rue plant is dangerous and should never be used.

7

Milk Thistle

The milk thistle.
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Milk thistle, or Mary thistle, has been associated with breastfeeding for centuries. Many believe that the white veins of the milk thistle plant represent breast milk. So, legend has it that if you consume milk thistle, your milk production will increase, though there are no human studies supporting this claim.

8

Brewer's Yeast

Brewer's yeast
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Brewer's yeast is a healthy, nutritional supplement that can help to increase energy levels and fight off the baby blues. It's also believed to help increase the supply of breast milk.

9

Ginger

Close up of ginger root and slices
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Ginger is a traditional herb that adds flavor to food and treats a variety of health issues. It's often taken for motion sickness or digestive problems, but in certain parts of the world, ginger is believed to help mothers increase their breast milk supply.

Fresh ginger root is a healthy addition to your diet and it's not known to be harmful to moms or babies when it's used in moderation.

10

Garlic

Garlic bulbs on wood
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Garlic is a favorite ingredient used in recipes around the world. Throughout history, garlic has had many uses including a flavoring for food, a dietary supplement, and medication. Garlic has many health benefits, and it is considered a safe and healthy addition to your breastfeeding diet. It is believed to help increase milk supply, but it can also change the flavor of your breast milk. Some babies seem to like the taste of garlic, but others may not tolerate garlic well. 

Warnings About Breastfeeding Herbs

Always talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant before taking any herbal treatments. For many centuries, herbal remedies have been used as medications. This does not mean that lactation herbs are without danger, so you should always use caution.

Important Precautions:

  • Just like prescription drugs, herbs and plants can have side effects. Depending on the preparation, some herbs can even be toxic.
  • It's important to let your baby’s doctor know if you're taking any herbal supplements while you're breastfeeding.
  • Be extra careful if you are pregnant. Some herbs can be dangerous and lead to preterm labor or miscarriage.

After discussing the use of breastfeeding herbs with your health care provider, purchase them from a reputable company. Since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate herbs, be sure to use caution. Most tea preparations are not harmful, and the commercial brands that you see in the supermarket are generally safe.

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Article Sources

  1. Turkyılmaz C, Onal E, Hirfanoglu IM, et al. The effect of galactagogue herbal tea on breast milk production and short-term catch-up of birth weight in the first week of life. J Altern Complement Med. 2011;17(2):139-142. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0090

  2. Blessed Thistle. In: Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2018.

  3. Rather MA, Dar BA, Sofi SN, Bhat BA, Qurishi MA. Foeniculum vulgare: A comprehensive review of its traditional use, phytochemistry, pharmacology, and safety. Arabian Journal of Chemistry. 2016;9:S1574-S1583. doi:10.1016/j.arabjc.2012.04.011

  4. Nice FJ. Selection and Use of Galactogogues. ICAN: Infant, Child, & Adolescent Nutrition. 2015;7(4):192-194. doi:10.1177/1941406415579718

  5. Salatino S, Giacomelli L, Carnevali I, Giacomelli E. The role of natural galactagogues during breast feeding: focus on a Galega officinalis based food supplement. Minerva Pediatr. 2017;69(6):531-537. doi:10.23736/S0026-4946.16.04797-6

  6. Paritakul P, Ruangrongmorakot K, Laosooksathit W, Suksamarnwong M, Puapornpong P. The Effect of Ginger on Breast Milk Volume in the Early Postpartum Period: A Randomized, Double-Blind Controlled Trial. Breastfeed Med. 2016;11:361-365. doi:10.1089/bfm.2016.0073

Additional Reading

  • Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee. ABM clinical protocol# 9: use of galactogogues in initiating or augmenting the rate of maternal milk secretion (First revision January 2011). Breastfeeding Medicine. 2011 Feb 1;6(1):41-9.

  • Briggs, Gerald G., Roger K. Freeman, and Sumner J. Yaffe. Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation: A Reference Guide to Fetal and Neonatal Risk. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2012.
  • Hale, Thomas W., and Rowe, Hilary E. Medications and Mothers' Milk: A Manual of Lactational Pharmacology Sixteenth Edition. Hale Publishing. 2014.
  • Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD.  Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.
  • Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.