Increase Milk Supply With These 9 Herbs

You may notice certain times when your breast milk supply decreases.

Mastering your breastfeeding technique, and breastfeeding more often are two important actions necessary to maintain a healthy supply of breast milk.

As long as your baby is latching well to your breast, boosting your milk supply should be as simple as breastfeeding more frequently.

When you nurse more often, you’re telling your body that it needs to produce more breast milk.

But if these techniques don’t seem to work, you may be experiencing low breast milk volume for another reason.

Your Breastmilk Volume Could Decrease for Many Reasons

One of the great joy of nursing is the absence of your period. You may be without your period for months after your pregnancy ends.

When it does return, however, you may experience a temporary decrease in your milk supply. This post, 10 Things You Need to Know about Breastfeeding and Menstruation will help you understand some of the obstacles and how to handle them when your period returns. 

Illness can also be a factor in causing your milk supply to dip.  

Stress is another culprit. Especially after childbirth, moms can be under a great deal of stress due to pain, fear, exhaustion and uncertainty.

If you’ve chosen to start a birth control protocol, you may notice a decrease in milk production. 

Other factors could play a part in your milk supply dropping off a bit, as well.

But There’s Good News!

The good news is, you don’t have to stop nursing just because you notice a change.

There are many herbs easily accessible to increase milk supply that will help you get your supply back up.

Some of these are easily available in over the counter teas and supplements while others may be right there, sitting in your spice cabinet!

For the best results, breastfeed more often or and pump between feedings  (this is the exact pump I have used with six out of seven of my kiddos! It’s 14 years old and still works like a charm!) while you’re taking any herbs. The extra stimulation will aid in boosting your breast milk supply.

First Some Guidelines

Here are some general guidelines which pertain to all herbal supplements.  

First things first:

Please be sure to inform your doctor or midwife of any herbs that you decide to take. Some herbs have side-effects that are best watched by your health care provider. Some of the herbs mentioned below can alter the effects of medications you may be taking.  While others are not recommended to take during pregnancy. A few of these herbs can lower your blood sugar or interfere with anti-coagulation drugs. Please talk with your doctor or midwife if you have any medical concerns.

And a Few Precautions

Each herb can be found in the these forms:

  • Bulk
  • Tea – which can be steeped for 3-10 min. You many enjoy up to three servings of most teas. (Follow the directions on the package.) If you notice any negative side effects from the tea, reduce the amount you drink per day. 
  • Supplement powder
  • Capsule/Caplet
  • Essential Oil

Observe how your body reacts to the different herbs. Additionally, you will need to pay attention if you decide to consume the herb in the form of nursing tea blend.

Since the blends will have a few different herbs in them, it may be a bit more challenging to isolate which herb is the problem.

Allergic reactions can occur with some herbs.

For example, Goat’s Rue is a member of the pea family which also includes peanuts, soybean, alfalfa, and fenugreek.

If you have an allergy to any of these foods or plants, please be extra cautious when consuming any herbs.

Now that we have the basics down, let’s look at the herbs one by one:

Herb Number One:

  • Fenugreek: is the most well-known herb to help increase milk supply. It’s in most teas specially made for boosting production. The flavor is slightly bitter, yet it has a maple syrup smell that can often transfer to both your baby’s and your own urine. Fenugreek tastes good in teas combined with ginger and fennel. It comes in supplement form as well, if that’s what you prefer. While it is the most widely used herb to help breastfeeding mothers increase their supply of breast milk, fenugreek is also believed to promote a healthy liver, loosen chest congestion, help with digestion and even lower cholesterol. You should not use fenugreek if you are pregnant, as it has been used to induce labor. It can cause contractions leading to premature labor and miscarriage. Fenugreek can cause diarrhea, and, since it does pass into breast milk, your baby may also have diarrhea. Start with a small dose and work your way up.

Related: Six Things You Need to Know About Breastfeeding and Exercise

Related: Have You Heard of the Breastfeeding Bracelet? It’s Amazing!

Herb Number Two:

  • Fennel: is another easily accessible herb that can increase milk supply possibly due to plant estrogens. Fennel teas are widely available. Another way to use fennel is in it’s vegetable form. You can chop it up and put it in soups or eat it raw. The bulb, stalk, and leaves of the fennel plant are edible. Add some to salads for a kick of flavor. You can also benefit from fennel by using the spice version to flavor soups, fish or potatoes. While fennel comes in supplement form, use during pregnancy is to be avoided. The fennel in foods is fine, but the supplement is too strong to use if you are pregnant. You may notice that your child gets more sleepy than normal after nursing if you are supplementing with fennel. It does transfer through the breast milk, but is considered safe to use while nursing. You may notice that taking too much fennel actually does the opposite of what you were hoping, so don’t use it excessively. Fennel is also available as an essential oil but please do not use it during pregnancy. It’s dangerous for pregnant women. You should also be aware that you should not put it on it on small children. A very serious skin reaction can occur.

Herb Number Three:

  • Blessed Thistle: Ever since the Middle Ages, Blessed Thistle has been used in herbal medicine. It is commonly used as a diuretic, a treatment for loss of appetite, and a stimulant to increase the production of breast milk. As with the other herbs we have looked at so far, blessed thistle can be steeped into a tea. Blessed Thistle Capsules are available as a supplement. A typical dose is up to three capsules, three times a day.

Herb Number Four:

  • Milk Thistle: Even though their names are similar, Blessed Thistle and Milk Thistle are not the same thing. Milk thistle has been a trusted herb for many years. While studies do not prove the effects on increasing breastmilk supply, it has been used consistently by nursing moms. It’s considered safe to use while breastfeeding, but there are some precautions to keep in mind: Milk thistle can interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills. Additionally, it can also cause reactions if you’re taking antipsychotic drugs, anti-anxiety drugs, certain cancer medications, or blood thinners. It is imperative that you talk to your health care provider about any medications that you’re taking before you use Milk Thistle. Among other things, Milk Thistle has been used to cleanse the liver and detoxify the body. However, toxins from inside your body are released into your bloodstream during this process. These toxins can enter your breast milk and pass on to your baby. Because of this, if you have toxins stored in your liver from heavy smoking, alcohol consumption, you should not use milk thistle while you’re nursing your child.

Herb Number Five:

  • Alfalfa: Alfalfa is highly nutritious. It contains many vitamins and minerals, and it’s rich in antioxidants. It’s low in saturated fat and cholesterol and is also a good source of protein and fiber. Because it’s always best to get nutrients from real food, you could add alfalfa sprouts to your salads, sandwiches, and wraps for most effective results. Steep dried alfalfa leaves as a tea to increase milk supply. Many nursing teas available in stores include alfalfa. If you prefer, it also comes in the form of a supplement. As opposed to some of the other herbs we’ve looked at, the side effects of alfalfa tend to be more mild. You or your child may experience diarrhea if you begin taking a high dose of alfalfa too quickly. Start with a small amount and work your way up to a higher dose. Alfalfa contains vitamin K which can interfere with anticoagulant medications. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you’re taking a blood thinning medication.

Herb Number Six:

  • Stinging Nettle: Stinging Nettle, also known as Common Nettle, is a dark, leafy green plant that is very nutritious and high in iron. Because it’s high in iron, women have used this herb after childbirth to treat anemia. It’s safe to start supplementing with Stinging Nettle soon after giving birth, and it can be continued during the entire course of breastfeeding. Stinging Nettle can cause stomach upset and diarrhea. When taken right after childbirth, there may be a risk of developing an overabundant supply of breast milk and breast engorgement, so be aware of how much supplement you are taking and reduce the amount if you notice any of these symptoms. Although this herb is safe to use after the birth of your baby, do not use Stinging Nettle while pregnant. Miscarriage due to uterine contractions is possible. Nettle is very much like spinach and other dark green, leafy vegetables. It’s tasty in soups, and pasta dishes as a replacement for those other vegetables. As with the others, you’ll find Nettle as an ingredient in many nursing teas. You can drink up to six servings a day. You can find Stinging Nettle in supplement form, but slowly increase the dose over time to prevent the symptoms we discussed earlier.

Herb Number Seven:

  • Goat’s Rue: Goat’s Rue is another common herb that has been used for generations for increasing milk supply but also aids in many other health issues. It has been useful in treating tuberculosis and can be used to lower blood sugar levels. It’s often taken as a diuretic to remove excess water from the body. Goat’s Rue is known to have antibacterial properties, as well. You should never use the fresh Goat’s Rue plant because it’s considered toxic, even to animals. However, it’s generally considered safe to take this herb in capsule form or to use Goat’s Rue Tea.

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Herb Number Eight:

  • Brewer’s Yeast: Brewer’s Yeast is a nutritional powerhouse. It contains protein, iron, B vitamins and many other vitamins and minerals. It’s well known to increase milk supply in nursing mothers. Not only does it help with breastmilk production, it also increases energy and elevates your mood. The B vitamins and iron are especially helpful after childbirth. Taking Brewer’s Yeast as a dietary supplement while you’re breastfeeding, may help to combat fatigue and fight off the baby blues. The B vitamins and Chromium can improve the symptoms of depression as well, which may have a positive impact on your mood. Brewer’s Yeast is considered safe to use as a nutritional supplement for nursing women. While it does pass through your breast milk, it is generally easy on most moms and babies. If you or your child experiences diarrhea or other stomach upset, you should reduce the amount of Brewer’s Yeast that you take.

Herb Number Nine:

  • Garlic: Garlic has had a great reputation for having abundant health benefits for thousands of years. If you can tolerate garlic, it can be beneficial; increasing your milk supply while eating tasty food! The best way to increase garlic in your diet is by eating it! Include garlic in your cooking as much as will be tolerated by your baby. The garlic smell and taste does permeate your breast milk, but it also seems to keep the child nursing longer. This helps in milk production because the child is stimulating the breast for longer periods. It’s not recommended to take garlic supplements or doses meant for medical support. One or two cloves of garlic per day in your diet can make a big difference.

Which Option Will You Choose?

Even though your breastmilk supply may fluctuate, by staying in tune with your child, and keeping these tips and herbs in mind, you can successfully increase your milk supply if the need arises.

In Case You Just Want the List

  1. Fenugreek
  2. Fennel
  3. Blessed Thistle
  4. Milk Thistle
  5. Alfalfa
  6. Stinging Nettle
  7. Goat’s Rue 
  8. Brewer’s Yeast
  9. Garlic

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Try These Top 9 Herbs to Increase Milk Supply


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