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Do I need a galactagogue?

Do I need a galactagogue?

by Wendy Wright

A year ago


Lactation cookies, more milk tea, smoothies to increase supply … everyone has something you need to try to help you make more milk But what’s with these foods? Do you need them if you’re a breastfeeding mom?

Galactagogues are substances that are thought to increase milk supply. They may be prescription medications, herbs or even foods. Many cultures around the work have traditional foods moms are told to eat or to avoid. Advice for making more milk can even be found in texts from ancient Greece!

Before you decide to add every known galactagogue to your diet, ask yourself if you actually have low milk supply. You will know your baby is getting enough (and thus you are making enough) if he nurses often (about every 2 hours or so) and he has enough wet and dirty diapers. Breastfed babies should have 6-8 wet diapers and at least 3 yellow bowel movements per day. Fewer dirty diapers is normal as your baby gets older. He should be gaining weight, be alert and active, and be meeting developmental milestones.

If you’re worried that your supply is low, you can try some basic interventions first before adding galactagogues to your routine. Increase the number of times per day baby is eating, and be sure he is actually transferring milk well. If you’re not sure, visit a lactation consultant. Use breast compressions during feedings, and add pumping to your routine. The more milk that you remove from the breast (with feeding or pumping), the more milk you will make.

Adding lactogenic foods to your daily diet is one of the easiest ways to augment your efforts at increasing you milk supply. These foods have been used traditionally in cultures across the world and across time. The great thing about foods is that they have few side effects, if any.

Consider adding the following lactogenic foods to your diet:

  • Oats: Whether from the nutritional properties of whole oats or from the relaxation induced by this comfort food, many women swear by oats to help improve supply.
  • Apricots: Add some dried apricots to your trail mix, and enjoy the prolactin boosting benefits of this tryptophan-rich food. Figs and dates are a great lactogenic addition, too.
  • Brown rice: This unprocessed complex carbohydrate may help with hormone balance.
  • Hops: Have you heard of drinking a beer to help with breastfeeding? There may be a little truth to that old wives’ tale. Hops flower tea, however, is a better choice.
  • Almonds: Snacking on almonds is a common postpartum prescription in India and the Middle East. Whether eating raw almonds or drinking almond milk, this is the most lactogenic of the nuts.
  • Papaya: Used traditionally in Asian cultures, green papaya soup is thought to relax moms and aid with let-down.
  • Sesame seeds: Consider enjoying some hummus made with legumes, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and tahini. Not only is it a complete protein, but it’s made with three lactogenic foods (legumes, garlic and sesame seeds).

While this isn’t a complete list, it will get you started. Do your research to see what the best lactogenic foods are for your particular situation.

The one problem with lactogenic foods is that there’s no known ‘dose’ you should take. Trial and error are typically necessary when choosing which foods and how much you need before a difference in supply is noted.

No galactagogue will help you make more milk if you’re not nursing frequently or if your baby isn’t transferring milk. Additionally, it’s best to work with an herbalist or naturopath to be sure you’re choosing the right galactagogues for your needs. And working with a lactation consultant and your baby’s healthcare provider can ensure your baby is getting enough and growing well.

Reference:

Jacobson, H. (2004) Mother Food: Food and Herbs That Promote Milk Production and a Mother’s Health. Rosalind Press.

1 comment


  • Fascinating! To think you could list 13 food groups that prtoome lactation. The Asian culture is I believe certainly much more in tune’ with their food and bodies; and the interaction between the two. I’m impressed with your research highlighting such benefits and how it particularly applies to you at this stage of life. We could all learn from it!!In reading through your list, and thinking back to my own breastfeeding days I recall that the only things mentioned were a balanced diet’ and increased water consumption in an aid to promoting breastfeeding.It’s possibly only been in the last 10-20 years that we’ve known about (and prtoomed) the benefits of eg: increased fish in our diet when our Asian neighbours have known this for many generations or at least have lived longer and healthier lives presumably because of the increased fish in their diet.Imagine what your milk supply might have been with your toddler during his early (hospital) days had you been on the zuo yuezi diet after he was born?It must be different comparing their weight gains now when you do have a healthy, large bub feeding at the breast, as compared to pumping and visiting a few times a day as you did with no. 1. That was always going to be difficult; yet you faced that challenge with great enthusiasm and dedication at the time, to his benefit.And these days too pregnant women are avoiding all sorts of food cheeses, pate, seafood because of published ill effects on their unborn. In my day (gosh, don’t I sound old’ now) we just ate what we wanted A recent paper published in the International Journal of Pediatrics which got a bit of publicity here last month talked about the link between the protective value of breastfeeding and development of nut allergies in children later in life.Interesting none of my children have nut allergies, with a combined 6+ years of breastfeeding between them, and all exclusively fed for first 4-6 months.Thanks again for sharing .

    Honorine on

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