Today I wanted to take a few moments to have a chat about galactagogues. The admin team of the Breastfeeders in Australia Facebook group has noticed a strengthening trend in the recommendation and reliance on galactagogues – both perceived and proven – over the past couple of years. So I thought I would take a little time to look at the trend.
A galactagogue is a food or drug which increases mother’s milk.
There are synthetic pharmaceutical galactagogues such as domperidone and metoclopramide which increase the production of prolactin. These are generally used as a last resort when every other option has been tried and failed with the mother still experiencing chronic low supply. As with any synthetic drug the decision to use them is a serious one as the risks (dependence, cost and side effects) and benefits need to be weighed by each individual in their particular circumstance with their medical professional.
There are also herbal galactagogues such as fenugreek, blessed thistle, torbangun, chasteberry moringa and goat’s rue. As with many natural alternatives research is limited and preparation, purity and dosage may compromise their effectiveness. Just because herbs are natural doesn’t automatically mean they are safe. While they may have a lactogenic effect they may also have negative side effects and contradictions. Please consult an experienced herbalist before choosing to use any herbal remedies. Also remember to tell your doctor, especially if you are using any prescription medication. It is also important to note that depending on the claims made, or not, herbal supplements, vitamins, minerals, aromatherapy and homoeopathic product do not necessarily need to be register with the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) and may contain fillers or ingredients not listed on the packaging.
Then there are the perceived but unproven galactagogues. These are generally passed by word of mouth because one woman has experienced effect she may attribute to one particular food. Some of these we have seen purported recently are –
Leafy green vegetables
While consuming these foods in the quantity suggested can result in an increase in breast milk supply it is more likely that it is a result of extra calories than any lactogenic effect.
The best thing a breastfeeding mother can do to ensure a good supply, barring any diagnosed medical issues, is make sure she is drinking enough water and eating enough food. While there is no recommended daily water intake a good tip to remember is to drink a glass of water each time you feed as well as enough to quench your thirst through the day. A breastfeeding mother usually needs around 500 extra calories per day than usual to maintain her health. A balanced and varied diet packed with plenty of vitamin and mineral rich foods is essential for a healthy mum and baby. For specific guidelines the best course of action is to see a dietician to set out your personal macronutrient ratios.
When considering consuming galactagogues ask yourself first –
Am I experiencing low supply? (is baby having enough wet and dirty nappies, gaining weight etc)
Why do I feel like I need to increase my supply?
Can I improve my water intake and diet?
Please consult your medical professional if you have any concerns about your or your baby’s health. Genuine low supply is a serious issue and should not be ignored.