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All of these herbs are or have been used as foods and they all stimulate milk production or quality. Quality-especially the antibodies, vitamins, minerals and fats in your breast milk are vitally important to a baby’s development of his immune system.
Lactation and breastfeeding are some of the most important choices a new mother has.  When my eldest son was born, 27 years ago, there was no one around to help me breastfeed him. The nursing staff was….well, just not very helpful. I found LaLeche League and by the time my second son was born, I knew a bit more. Thank goodness times have changed!  All sorts of help is available now—there are lactation counselors and the medical community is much more supportive. But, when I was nursing, I didn’t know about galactogogues—herbs that can help with the production of milk, the milk let-down and even allow a nursing mom to treat colic in her baby! Looking back, there were definitely times when I could have used that information.

There are a number of useful galactagogues that can be used right after a baby is born.  These galactagogues are substances that can help with the milk supply and aid lactation.  I’ve chosen the ones listed because, for the most part, they are foods.  One of the things to remember is that the constituents of the herbs and foods can pass into the breast milk just like drugs can. 

The point is to choose these constituents to help both mom and baby and to minimize any chance of harm.  It always pays for a nursing mom to remember that part of whatever she eats or drinks can pass into her breastmilk and therefore into her baby.  If you don’t want your baby to have it, don’t ingest it yourself!  If your baby seems to not be enjoying her/his milk, or if he/she seems irritable or acting differently after nursing, it may pay off to look at your diet to see if something YOU are eating is bothering baby.

Herbs that stimulate milk production or quality

All of these herbs are or have been used as foods and they all stimulate milk production or quality.  Quality—especially the antibodies, vitamins, minerals and fats in your breast milk are vitally important to a baby’s development of his/her immune system, nervous system, brain, skeleton and muscles.       

  • Anethum graveolens (dill weed).  You can use dill weed on just about any food from meats to vegetables to adding dill to a salad.  Use about ½ a teaspoon.
  • Fagopyrum Esculentum (Buckwheat).  Buckwheat contains rutin, useful for decreasing blood pressure. Buckwheat also limits the spikes in blood sugar.
  • Lepidium sativum (garden cress).  This can be added to salads and vegetable stir frys. Nasturtium, often seen in gardens is a member of this family—the leaves can also be used in salads.
  • Foeniculum vulgare (fennel).  Fennel can be used to stimulate milk production as well as treat infant colic. Fennel seeds or the root can be eaten to achieve this effect.
  • Cnicus benedictus (Blessed thistle) has a long history of use as a galactagogue. It can also help with uterine postpartum bleeding. It is best used fresh in salads.
  • Cenothera biennis—evening primrose oil—is high in those wonderful omega-3 fatty acids that are SO important for everyone—but especially for newborn babies. These are the fatty acids that are SO important in your baby’s brain and nervous system development.
  • Galega officinalis (Goat’s rue) has been used as a galactogogue in the dairy industry for many years—the herb is added to feed.  It is also used to make cheese. Goat’s rue is best added to a salad.
Continue reading after recommendations

  • McGuffin, M (ed) Botanical Safety Handbook, American Herbal Prod. Assoc., Silver Spring, MD, USA, 1997
  • Herbs and Breastfeeding. Ruth A. Laurence, M. D. Professor of Pediatrics, Obstetrics & Gynecology University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry
  • Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal: A sensible guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies (4th edition). Haworth Press, Inc., New York, 1999
  • Reader's Digest. Magic and Medicine of Plants. The Readers Digest Association Inc., 1996.
  • Photo courtesy of Aaron Stidwell by Flickr :