Article by Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT. Lauren is a Nutrition Counselor and a member of the Juna Expert Advisory Board.
Increasing your milk supply is one of the most popular search terms for new moms. This is because low milk supply can be super-stressful for a breastfeeding Mama.
Knowing that your body isn’t keeping up with the demands of your baby’s nutritional needs can cause some major distress.
Many women turn to lactation cookies or old-wives-tales like beer to boost their milk supply, but what solutions are truly backed by the literature?
What is a low milk supply?
First things first – you want to make sure you truly have a low milk supply. Here are some signs that you have a low supply:
- Your baby is not growing adequately after the initial expected weight loss
- Your baby is not having an acceptable amount of soiled diapers (approximately 8 wet diapers a day).
You are not basing this assumption that you have a low milk supply on factors like having a fussy baby or having a baby who wants to breastfeed frequently, as these are not indications of a low milk supply.
All Natural Remedies To Increase Your Milk Supply
Below are some evidence-based tips that you can follow to support your milk supply, keeping in mind that every body is different and has different needs:
1. Allow your baby to suck on your breasts, even when she is not feeding.
Breastmilk is produced on demand, and the sucking stimulates your body thinking there is more demand for milk. The more baby sucks, the more milk will be produced.
2. If you are pumping your breastmilk, make a point to pump in between feeds.
This will also trigger the supply-and-demand cycle in your body and tell your body to produce more milk. Also, you can pump after your baby is finished with a nursing session to completely empty your breast and keep your breasts stimulated.
3. Snuggle your baby, preferably practicing skin-to-skin.
This will release a hormone called prolactin. Prolactin stimulates oxytocin (the feel-good hormone). Both prolactin and oxytocin can help stimulate breast milk production.
4. Manage stress when possible.
Outsource tasks if they are becoming too overwhelming. Listen to relaxing music during your nursing sessions. Exercise to relieve stress by using the workouts found on the Juna app! Nurse in the bath with candles lit if you have to! Since stress does not support milk production, managing it will only help you throughout your breastfeeding journey.
5. Make sure you are completely emptying your breasts during feeds.
6. Consider fenugreek tea.
Fenugreek is one of the few herbs that has data to support its use as a galactagogue (substance that helps increase milk supply). Just make sure to talk to your doctor before starting this or any herb. If fenugreek isn’t your thing, milk thistle is a good option too.
7. Eat oatmeal for breakfast.
Oats contain a high concentration of saponins, an immune-stimulating compound that may help increase levels of prolactin. Again, prolactin is a key hormone that plays a role in milk production. Saponin intake has been related to increased milk production in cows according to data. Need some ideas of how to incorporate oats? Check out some of the recipes including oats we have.
8. Make sure you are getting in an additional 500 calories a day (give or take) if you are nursing a single baby.
Additional calories are needed if you are feeding multiples!
9. Hand-massage your breast.
Sometimes massaging your breast while your baby is feeding may stimulate your breasts enough to stimulate an increased supply of breast milk.
Herbal remedies to increase milk supply
Some herbs commonly recommended as galactagogues such as goat’s rue, dandelion, millet, seaweed, anise, basil, blessed thistle, fennel seeds, marshmallow, moringa leaf, shatavari, and torbangun among others have little or no scientific evidence to support their use according to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. This academy does include oats in the list of foods that do not have strong evidence to support its use as a galactagogue.
Interestingly, the same academy published data from a study in 2018 evaluating the effects of fenugreek, ginger, and turmeric supplementation for four weeks vs. placebo.
Breastfeeding mothers receiving herbal supplementation had a 49% increase in milk volume at week 2 and a 103% increase at week 4. These increases were greater than mothers in the placebo group.
Are there any herbs I can take to increase milk supply?
The evidence surrounding supplements and increasing milk supply is unfortunately very limited. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine notes that the only two herbs that have enough evidence to support their use as a galactagogue are fenugreek and milk thistle.
FENUGREEK: Per the data, fenugreek can be taken as a herbal tea (200 ml 3 times per day) for 1-3 weeks with positive results. Side effects while using fenugreek may include diarrhea, unusual body odor (like maple syrup), and a cross-allergy with certain allergens. Even though fenugreek is natural, it should be discussed with your doctor before you start it to make sure it is safe for your personal needs.
MILK THISTLE: Data also suggests that milk thistle, 420 mg, orally, per day, may help stimulate low milk supply. Strained tea (simmer 1 tsp of crushed seeds in 8 oz of water for 10 minutes), 2–3 cups per day is also supported in the literature. Women should be aware of potential side effects while using milk thistle as well: mild gastrointestinal discomfort and a cross-allergy with certain plants.
Again, talk to your doctor before you start taking milk thistle even though it is considered natural.
These simple steps may help support your low milk supply if this is what you are experiencing. Keep in mind that many first-time moms are convinced that they are not producing enough milk even though their baby is growing and thriving.
Many of these tips have little or no side effects, and could possibly help support you on your journey. Just keep in mind that if you are finding a lactation miracle on the internet loaded with herbs and powders, it is probably too good to be true and you should skip the purchase and save your money.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Decreased Milk Supply. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Decreased-Milk-Supply.aspx. Accessed January 19, 2020.
Anderson PO. Herbal use during breastfeeding. Breastfeed Med 2017;12:507–509.
Tiran D. The use of fenugreek for breast feeding women. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery 2003;9:155–156.
Di Pierro F, Callegari A, Carotenuto D, Tapia MM. Clinical efficacy, safety and tolerability of BIO-C (micronized Si- lymarin) as a galactagogue. Acta Biomed 2008;79:205–210.
Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. ABM Clinical Protocol #9: Use of Galactogogues in Initiating or Augmenting Maternal Milk Production, Second Revision 2018. https://abm.memberclicks.net/assets/DOCUMENTS/PROTOCOLS/9-galactogogues-protocol-english.pdf. Accessed January 19, 2020
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