Herbs for Lactation

Many women commonly reach for the Mother’s Milk tea from various tea makers. How many of us truly understand what herbs are best to help us when we are breastfeeding and which we should avoid?

The class of herbs that help stimulate milk flow are known as galactagogues.  A Woman can use them to help bring her milk in just after her baby is born, she can help later when the milk flow isn’t as full as she would like, and most surprising of all to many, a woman who is hoping to breastfeed an adopted baby can use them to stimulate her hormones to produce milk even without giving birth.

There are many, many herbs that have galactagogue properties.  Traditionally, the herbs that are used are red raspberry, fennel, fenugreek, hops, milk thistle and blessed thistle.  Less well known is goat’s rue or Galega officinalis.  This last herb is especially indicated for those women with a very low output, women who did not develop very much glandular mass during pregnancy or women who are attempting to lactate for an adopted baby.  Goat’s Rue has been known to increase milk output by 50% in some cases and is actually indicated in stimulating the growth of glandular tissue in the breast.   Plus it’s other name is Horny Goat Weed…. who wouldn’t love to say they’re taking that!!

The main herb to avoid if you’re breastfeeding is sage.  Sage is used in nursing mothers who develop infections and need to stop the flow of their milk.  It’s also used in traditional societies as part of the weaning process.  I have also seen Parsley mentioned as one to avoid, but haven’t found any good sources to back it up yet.

In many other countries, hops are the foremost nursing herb.  Even though it has been proven to be safe even during pregnancy, the fastest way to garner frowns from other restaurant patrons is to drink a beer with a baby at your breast.  If you choose hops to stimulate your milk, choose either a hops tea or a specialty microbrew that is very hoppy.  I drink a hoppy beer that is $18 per case- you’re not looking to drink the beer for it’s effect, you’re looking for a strong herbal beer.  Hops aren’t for everyone as they can taste very bitter, but I have found that the hops in combination with brewer’s yeast is my personal ticket to better milk production.  Most importantly, keep an open mind if you are looking to use the galactagogues.  We are all different and our bodies each respond to different herbs.  What works best for me might not work best for you.  In any event, be sure to eat your oatmeal…. and if you decide to try a hoppy beer, I suggest you try it in the privacy of your own home – and one a day is plenty!

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About Dawn Combs @ Mockingbird Meadows

I am a stay at home mom, homesteader and practicing herbalist who owns and operates an herbal health farm. I raise bees and medicinal herbs and am passionate about teaching others how to use herbs for health in their everyday lives.
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