Breastfeeding or lactation supplements may help increase a persons milk supply when nursing. Usually, lactation supplements contain plant or herbal ingredients.
There is little research into the effectiveness or safety of lactation supplements. Some studies suggest the benefits are psychological rather than physical.
This article discusses lactation supplements and their potential effectiveness in boosting milk supply. It also lists a few lactation supplements currently available on the market.
Lactation supplements are a type of galactagogue, a substance that may increase or improve milk supply in nursing people.
Galactagogues are available in different forms, including pharmaceutical drugs and herbal or food supplements.
Many lactation supplements use plants or botanical ingredients that have properties believed to increase milk production.
Some typical ingredients in over-the-counter lactation supplements include:
Most lactation supplements are available as tablets or capsules that a person takes orally. Another form is lactation tea. Herbs in lactation tea are usually in lower concentrations than those in supplements.
Learn more about foods and ingredients that may help lactation here.
Lactation supplements theoretically increase milk production in lactating people by interacting with dopamine receptors and boosting prolactin levels.
Dopamine and prolactin are hormones. Higher prolactin levels occur during lactation. Dopamine may inhibit prolactin release, potentially affecting milk supply.
Research conducted in Australia found that 60% of survey respondents who were actively nursing reported using at least one galactagogue, including herbal lactation supplements such as fenugreek, and pharmaceutical galactagogues such as domperidone.
Domperidone is an anti-nausea drug that inhibits dopamine activity. People may use off-label to increase lactation. However, it does not have FDA approval for sale in the United States.
There is debate on whether galactagogues and lactation supplements are safe and effective at increasing milk supply.
A 2017 review found that fenugreek can significantly increase milk supply. The same study notes that C. amboinicus and palm date were more effective than fenugreek at stimulating milk production.
However, lactation supplement safety and measurable benefit is unclear.
One study noted that herbal galactagogues may have psychological benefits because they boost confidence and feelings of self-efficacy in people who are nursing.
As with many herbal supplements, some users claim that lactation supplements work for them, whereas others do not. Some people claim that lactation supplements reduce their milk supply. These are anecdotal claims with no supportive research.
Some users claim that lactation supplements work best with a mixture of herbs. One popular combination is a mixture of fenugreek and blessed thistle.
Overall, studies show little evidence to support the use or safety of lactation supplements. More research is needed to determine the efficacy and risks of using galactagogues to increase milk supply in lactating people.
People hoping to increase their milk supply should speak with their doctors before using an herbal lactation supplement.
Healthcare professionals may advise on safe options for and what to avoid due to medication interactions or existing health concerns.
The FDA does not regulate herbal lactation supplements. This means that the ingredients, dosage, and production of these supplements do not undergo monitoring for quality or consistency. This may cause supplements to have different dosages than advertised.
There is minimal FDA regulation of the supplement industry. Pregnant and nursing people should exercise caution when considering any supplement. Some herbal supplements may interact with medications or other supplements.
People should consider two main factors when choosing an herbal galactagogue: safety and reported efficacy.
People should avoid supplements that may interact with medication or health conditions. For example, pregnant people should avoid fenugreek.
Look for products with third-party lab testing and certifications. This demonstrates that the products undergo quality control assessments.
Third-party testing certifications and resources include:
Consumers may also want to consider the supplements form. Those who prefer not to swallow pills, for example, may want to choose a liquid delivery supplement.
Other considerations include cost. Consumers may want to compare the prices based on the amount of the product they get for a certain price.
People should speak with a doctor to determine whether lactation supplements are right for them and, if so, which ones to consider.
A popular alternative to lactation supplements is lactation cookies. Recipes are available across the internet. Typical ingredients include oats, flaxseed, and brewers yeast.
There are no safety concerns and health risks for lactation cookies. Most recipes use common kitchen ingredients.
There is no existing evidence to support the effectiveness of lactation cookies, though a study is currently in progress.
Learn about what to eat and what to avoid when nursing here.
Before trying lactation supplements, nursing people may want to try increasing how often they nurse. Mammary glands often increase milk production in response to demand from a babys suckling. Using breast pumps as an alternative may also help stimulate milk production.
Learn about the best breast pumps here.
People may wish to consult a lactation consultant or support group for advice and encouragement. Some options include finding a local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or a La Leche League International (LLLI) group. They can offer personalized guidance on nursing concerns such as milk supply.
Prescription medications are another alternative to herbal lactation supplements. One option is metoclopramide, which elevates prolactin levels and can increase milk supply. A doctor can advise on whether lactation medication is a suitable option.
Nursing people should try to get adequate rest, consume a nutritious diet, and drink water regularly. Healthy lifestyle choices may help increase milk supply.
Learn more tips for improving lactation here.
Common questions about lactation supplements include:
Nursing people may benefit from establishing a steady milk supply within the first couple of weeks postpartum. However, no studies indicate when is best for people to start taking lactation supplements.
Some people start taking lactation supplements during pregnancy. However, not all herbal supplements are safe for use during pregnancy.
Pregnant people should speak with a doctor before taking lactation supplements. Some herbal supplements, such as fenugreek, are not safe for people who are pregnant.
There is little research supporting the effectiveness or safety of lactation supplements. Some studies show that ingredients such as fenugreek, C. amboinicus, and palm date may help increase milk supply. However, their safety is unknown.
Reviews indicate that lactation supplements may have a psychological effect, improving peoples feelings about nursing and milk supply without necessarily having a measurable impact.
Herbal lactation supplements may help people increase their milk supply. Popular herbs in these supplements include fenugreek, blessed thistle, milk thistle, anise, and fennel.
There are many herbal lactation supplements currently available on the market. While anecdotal evidence from consumers may purport benefits, actual research into their safety or effectiveness is lacking.
People should speak with a doctor before taking a lactation supplement. A doctor can advise on the safest options for an individual while considering alternatives, such as lactation consultants, lifestyle changes, and medication.
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