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Increase Milk Supply with Galactagogues

By Kristi Patrice Carter

If you have been researching breastfeeding, and specifically the issue surrounding milk production, you have probably come across the word Galactagogue.

What are Galactagogues

Galactogogues are a common term to lactation consultants and professionals and are defined as any prescription drug, herb, or food that increases a mother’s breast milk supply. Often used when a nursing mother is not able to supply an adequate level of breast milk and wishes to increase milk production, Galactagogues (of both the herbal and prescriptive kind) are frequently used in North America to induce lactation. There are many nursing mothers who drink ‘mother’s milk tea’ on a regular basis, which is a mixture of herbs that is said to increase milk production. Herbal Galactagogues are very popular around the world and have thousands of years of historical use documented.

Only a medical doctor can evaluate and prescribe any type of prescription Galactagogues. There are a limited number of prescription medications on the market that chemically increase a breastfeeding mothers’ milk production. One of the most reputable is Metoclopramide (Reglan). Results vary from woman to woman; with some mothers reporting double increase in milk supply within a few days and other mothers who reported little or no change in milk supply. One of the downsides of taking Metoclopramide is that when you stop taking it, the milk supply usually declines to previous levels.

Herbal Galactagogues, like prescriptions, may also produce side effects. Certain herbs can be extremely potent and should be taken with caution. An herbal Galactagogue may work for one woman but not for another. Additionally, although several hundred plants have been described as Galactagogues, only a few have been fully investigated. The most common herbal remedies for milk production include fenugreek and milk thistle.

Galactagogues, herbal or prescribed, are not cure-alls. They should not be used as the first step to correcting problems with insufficient milk supply. The truth is that most mothers do not need Galactagogues to increase milk production. Other natural methods should be tried and discarded before moving onto taking any type of Galactagogue. These other methods include correcting latch-on, positioning, and sucking problems, increasing the frequency of breastfeeding or pumping, using switch nursing, using breast compression, and expressing milk after breastfeeding.

Who Takes Galactagogues

Generally speaking, any mother who is having trouble with milk supply may consider taking Galactagogues to increase breast milk production. However, typically, most users fall into one of three categories:

  • Most commonly, nursing mothers with a shortage of milk supply use Galactagogues to increase milk production and to avoid cessation of breastfeeding.
  • Some working women use herbal remedies to increase pumping output so that an ample supply of breast milk is available for the caregiver. This can be true even when the mother is having no trouble supplying adequate levels of milk to the child during nursing sessions.
  • Adoptive mothers might consider using Galactagogues to increase milk supply so they are able to care for their infants.