Herbs for Breastfeeding 🌿🍃👶
By Kelsey Conger, Herbalist
Herbs for Lactation
Happy National Breastfeeding Month! This post goes out to all the incredible mama’s out there. Whether you’re breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or doing a little of both - we see you and we think you’re doing amazing! In honor of you, we’re going to share some basics on using herbal medicine to naturally boost milk supply.
There’s a number of foods and herbs that have a long history of use to increase milk supply. Herbs that increase milk supply are known as galactagogues. Traditional galactagogue herbs used by various cultures worldwide are still widely used today. These herbs all work in different ways, which recent scientific research has begun to shed light on. While some mechanisms are clearly understood, others are still being explored.
Prolactin + Oxytocin
There are two hormones that are the major players in breast milk production, prolactin, and oxytocin. Prolactin is the hormone known for stimulating milk production. Research on galactagogue herbs has focused on how much milk production has increased, rather than on the means by which it does so. Currently, it is not known whether the increase in milk supply is due to an increase in prolactin or an increase in prolactin receptor sites.
Oxytocin is widely known as ‘the love hormone’ and is produced during bonding between a mother and her infant. This hormone is also responsible for contracting the uterus after birth, as well as the milk ducts so that the mother can effectively feed her baby.
The Powerhouse Herbs
Moringa (Moringa oleifera) is a well-known traditional galactagogue that is thought to increase breast milk supply by increasing prolactin levels. Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum), Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus), and Goat’s Rue (Galega officinalis) are also traditional galactagogues, but these are thought increase milk supply by increasing oxytocin levels.
These tried and true herbs can reliably increase milk production in as little as one day up to a week, depending on the dosage and formula.
Many traditional galactagogues also happen to be digestive supporting herbs known as carminatives. As we learned from my earlier blog post on digestion, carminatives are herbs that increase digestive secretions that improve digestion and assimilation of nutrients in our food. While we don’t understand why many galactagogues are also carminatives, we do know that the milk boosting hormones prolactin and oxytocin also increase digestive secretions. Commonly used herbs in this group include Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), and Hops (Humulus lupulus).
In addition to helping support breastmilk production, these herbs will soothe an upset stomach and have been known to impart these tummy soothing qualities onto colicky babies.
Nourishment + Support
Including plenty of nourishing and soothing herbs is important for improving breast milk production. The process of pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding are all taxing on a mother’s nutrient stores, which makes replenishing them of vital importance. Nutritive herbs include Oats (Avena sativa), Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), and Nettles (Urtica dioica). Marshmallow is a lovely prebiotic herb that helps support milk flow and prevent clogged ducts. Nettles are a rich source of vitamins and minerals that build vitality, while also reducing systemic inflammation.
Oats are special in that they are not only nutritive, but they also are quite soothing and nourishing to the nervous system. Making sure mom feels relaxed and peaceful is the best way to ensure her oxytocin levels are high enough. These nervous system supportive herbs, also known as nervines, are a great way to do just that. Oats (Avena sativa), Hops (Humulus lupulus), and Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) are also calming, relaxing, and soothing herbs that will support mama throughout the day and night.
While these herbs are supremely helpful for breastfeeding mothers, a wholesome diet will go a long way towards increasing milk supply. Drinking plenty of water and eating enough protein, fats, and carbohydrates every day is essential. Foods like oatmeal with ghee, flaxseed, and cinnamon, trail mix made with almonds, cashews, and macadamia nuts, and a good old fashioned bowl of hearty chicken noodle soup are perfect for mom.
In addition to delicious and nourishing foods, it is also vital that new mamas are getting plenty of support from their loved ones. As I mentioned above, stress majorly impacts a new mother’s hormones and her ability to make breast milk. A mother who feels supported and is surrounded by loved ones will more easily produce the hormones needed to produce milk. Sleeping, bonding, resting, cuddling, and spending time with family and friends all help encourage a mother’s oxytocin supply.
What’s In Stock
Here at Remedy, we carry a wonderful line of herbal lactation support products by MotherLove. MotherLove is a zero-waste and women-owned family business that we are proud to carry! You will find their lactation support products are formulated with all of the herbs mentioned in this article. Give us a call or stop by if you need help deciding which product is right for you.
We hope this article leaves you feeling even more supported than before. There’s no reason to stress or worry about getting things just right. If you are concerned about your milk supply, we highly encourage you to reach out to a lactation specialist and/or herbalist for more support. You are an amazing mama and know that if you need any help we are here for you!