Low and/or decreased milk supply is one of the biggest concerns of breastfeeding mothers. At the most recent SDCBC general meeting, lactation consultant Rose deVigne-Jackiewicz (RN, MPH, IBCLC) talked about techniques and foods that help increase milk supply.
Signs and symptoms of low milk supply
There are three factors that can affect milk supply: Maternal factors such as hormones, insufficient glandular tissue, bariatric surgery, breast surgery, and emotional issues; infant factors such as gestational age, illness, prematurity, genetically challenged, and/or cardiac problems; feeding issues such as poor latch, insufficient breastfeeding and restricted breastfeeding, and mother-baby separation.
The mother probably has low milk supply if the baby shows one or more signs below:
- Less than three wet diapers per 24 hours by the time baby is three days old, or baby has less than 5 heavy wet diapers per 24 hours after he or she turns five days old.
- Concentrated urine.
- No change to normal bowel movement and/or stalls by the third to fourth day after birth and scant stools thereafter.
- Less than 20 grams weight gain or even further weight loss after day three.
Techniques that increase milk supply
There are several techniques that help increase milk supply without use of medication or herbs. The easiest and most efficient way is increase number of feedings by waking up baby more often, using comfort nursing instead of a pacifier, and decreasing non-medically prescribed or unnecessary formula use. Skin to skin contact and additional breast compressions during feedings also helps.
When additional help is needed, some foods and herbs may be helpful.
Herbs that help increase milk supply
The usage of herbs to increase milk supply is nothing new; it has thousands of years of history. Although there is no efficient lactogenic study that approves the efficacy of using herbs to increase supply, experience suggest it’s safe and helpful.
Below are some of the herbs that most commonly used to help enhance breast milk production, which mothers can use by adding to food, taking capsules or sipping teas.
Alfalfa: When taken in moderation, it is safe to consume alfalfa for it does not enter the breast milk and is safe for babies.
Blessed thistle: When using tincture, take 1-2 ml per day. When using tea, use 1 heaping teaspoon of freshly chopped herb, steep 20 minutes in five oz of boiling water, and then enjoy.
Fenugreek: Fenugreek is a spice from India that has been used to flavor imitation maple syrup. When using tincture, take 2-4ml per day.
Fennel: Fennel is clinically indicated to be helpful for gastro-intestinal upsets. Use the seeds, not the essential oil.
Goats Rue: Goats Rue is a safe and effective lactagogue, know by many to be the most powerful of all herbal galactagogue.
Moringa: Mooring is from the Philippines and has been referred to as a super food. It can increase prolactin levels in 48 hours.
Shatavari: Shatavari is clinical indicated to be a hormonal stimulation for low milk supply.
Borage, brewers yeast and red clover have also been used to help increase milk supply.
Foods and Drinks that help increase milk supply
Some drinks and foods, such as oatmeal and barley cereals, also help enhance milk production. Granola bars, nuts and seeds including almonds, cashews, sunflower, flax, and hemp seeds have also been popular milk-increasing food among breastfeeding mothers. Beer, which has significant amounts of lactogenic ingredients, has been using to increase milk for more than 3,000 years. When using, moderate is the key.
While there are herbs that increase milk production, there are also herbs that decrease milk production. Nursing moms should avoid sage and peppermint.
This is an original post to San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang.