Herbs and Medications That Increase Breast Milk Production

Fenugreek and Reglan Increase Breast Milk Production

Mother breastfeeding baby in living room

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Worries about increasing breast milk supply are common in moms of premature babies. Many preemies are born too small to breastfeed, so moms must establish and maintain a milk supply using a breast pump. If you're having trouble pumping, you may be interested in herbs and medications used for increasing your milk supply.

Herbs Used for Increasing Breast Milk Supply

Before visiting your physician to ask about prescription medications, you may consider using herbs to increase your breast milk supply. There are many herbal remedies commonly used as galactagogues, which is the technical term for substances that boost milk supply.

While none of these herbs have been shown to increase breast milk by the FDA, many moms have reported good results from using them.

Most of the evidence that herbal remedies and supplements can increase milk supply are anecdotal, based on people sharing their own stories and not on good scientific, controlled studies, so unlike, an FDA-approved drug, you can never really be sure if they are safe and effective.

Are My Supplements Safe?

Here are some herbal remedies that could boost your breast milk production:

  • Fenugreek: Fenugreek is an herb that has been used for generations for increasing breast milk supply. Fenugreek has been used to induce childbirth, so pregnant women should not use this herb. Other adverse effects of this herb include aggravated symptoms in mothers with asthma and sweat and urine that smells like maple syrup. People with diabetes should avoid fenugreek; while it has been touted as a way of managing diabetes, research shows that it may not be effective.
  • Blessed Thistle: Blessed thistle is an herb that has been used medicinally since the middle ages. Although there is limited scientific information on how safe or effective blessed thistle is for increasing breast milk supply, many mothers use it for this purpose alone or combined with fenugreek.
  • Herbal Teas: Many herbal teas advertise increased milk supply in breastfeeding mothers. Although these teas are generally considered safe, they may be less effective than other herbal supplements.

Medications Used for Increasing Breast Milk Supply

If you're concerned about your milk supply and herbs alone haven't helped, you can talk to your physician about medications to increase your supply. Medications that increase milk supply work by causing the body to make more of the hormone prolactin, which helps the body to make breast milk.

Here are two medications used to increase breast milk production.

  • Domperidone: Generally used for gastrointestinal problems, domperidone is a medication that increases breast milk supply as a side effect. Many mothers who are pumping breast milk for premature babies have seen a marked increase in their milk supply after taking domperidone. Unfortunately, domperidone is not approved by the FDA and is not easily available in the United States. American moms with a physician's prescription can get domperidone from pharmacies in Canada, Mexico, or New Zealand, or from a compounding pharmacy in America.
  • Metoclopramide: Metoclopramide, or Reglan, is another medication for gastrointestinal problems that can help to increase breast milk supply. Metoclopramide is easily available in the United States with a physician's prescription but has some adverse effects that make it an unattractive choice for some moms. Mothers with a history of depression should not take metoclopramide, as it may increase symptoms of depression.
4 Sources
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  1. Sim T, Hattingh H, Sherriff J, Tee L. The Use, Perceived Effectiveness and Safety of Herbal Galactagogues During Breastfeeding: A Qualitative Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015;12(9):11050-71. doi:10.3390%2Fijerph120911050

  2. Schaffir J, Czapla C. Survey of lactation instructors on folk traditions in breastfeeding. Breastfeed Med. 2012;7:230-3. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2011.0054

  3. Majumdar J, Chakraborty P, Mitra A, Sarkar NK, Sarkar S. Fenugreek, A Potent Hypoglycaemic Herb Can Cause Central Hypothyroidism Via Leptin - A Threat To Diabetes Phytotherapy. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2017;125(7):441-448. doi:10.1055/s-0043-103458

  4. Fife S, Gill P, Hopkins M, Angello C, Boswell S, Nelson K. Metoclopramide to augment lactation, does it work? A randomized trial. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2011;24(11):1317-20. doi:10.3109/14767058.2010.549255

Additional Reading
  • Mohrbacher, N and Stock, J. The Breastfeeding Answer Book, 3rd Revised Edition. January, 2003; La Leche League International, Schaumburg, IL.
  • National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. "Fenugreek." 
  • National Institutes of Health. "Blessed Thistle" Medline Plus
  • Newman, J. "Domperidone" January 2005. 

By Cheryl Bird, RN, BSN
Cheryl Bird, RN, BSN, is a registered nurse in a tertiary level neonatal intensive care unit at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia.