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Herbs and Medications for Increasing Breast Milk Supply

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Updated April 09, 2014

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Fenugreek is an herb used for increasing breast milk supply.

Fenugreek is an herb used for increasing breast milk supply.

Image © Cheryl Morrissette

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 vising the doctor 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.

Although none of these herbs has been shown to increase breast milk by the FDA, many moms have had good results from using them. However, it should be noted that there are no good quality controls on herbs and supplements; unlike an FDA-approved drug, you can never really be sure what you are getting.

Are My Supplements Safe?

  • 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. Diabetics should also avoid fenugreek; it may lower blood sugar. Other side effects include aggravated symptoms in mothers with asthma and sweat and urine that smell like maple syrup.
  • 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 doctor 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.

  • 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 doctor'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 doctor's prescription, but has side effects that make it an unattractive choice for some moms. Moms with a history of depression should not take metoclopramide, as it may increase symptoms of depression.

Sources:

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." Accessed November 12, 2010 from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/fenugreek/index.htm

National Institutes of Health. "Blessed Thistle" Medline Plus. Accessed November 15, 2010 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/94.html

Newman, J. "Domperidone" January 2005. Accessed November 15, 2010 from http://www.breastfeedingonline.com/domperidone.shtml

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