Galactagogue – Do you need to increase milk production?
Any substance that can potentially increase milk supply is called a galactagogue – it’s a very unusual name, that’s for sure! We know that these galactagogues can be herbal, for instance, fenugreek, blessed thistle, alfalfa. These are all very common herbal galactagogues but you can also get prescription medications as well, which have this impact.
However, before you go racing out to buy these products, know that the majority of you can make all the milk that your babies need, and even more than that if necessary. One of the problems is that mums are looking at the changing patterns of the baby (normal patterns video) and losing confidence in their milk supply. So please look at all the information in the videos that will help you to know that your baby is getting enough milk (reliable signs video) and also, how to boost your supply by many other means FIRST before you think about galactagogues.
So remember that the average breastfeeding mother doesn’t need to use galactagogues. So what are the situations where they might be warranted? Now these are situations where you have a genuine low supply (other caused of low supply video) you’ve tried everything you can to boost that supply with all the available information. You’ve looked at medical factors in yourself that might have contributed to that low supply. It may be that you are an adoptive mum trying to get that milk supply (induced lactation video) in for your adoptive baby, or relactating, getting your milk supply back in again when you had stopped breastfeeding for a time. So all of those are valid potential situations where a galactagogue could be useful.
But let me make it clear that if you are using a galactagogue, it’s really important that you do ALL of the things to boost supply at the same time. That means: double pumping, skin to skin, best possible positioning, breast compressions. All of these things, combined with the galactagogue, will have the best possible result. Without all of those other things, it’s really not going to be useful to take that galactagogue.
It’s important to know that whatever galactagogue you are taking, from a safety point of view, all galactagogues can potentially have side effects, and drug interactions even, (it might be that you’re on some other medication) – so it’s important that you seek out information from your doctor, and from people who are knowledgeable around lactation to check that these are okay for you to take, on an individual basis.
So how do galactagogues work? We know that some will increase the prolactin hormone that helps to make milk.(how breastfeeding works video) Domperidone, which is a prescription medication, (the other name for that is Motilium)- that has been shown by a couple of studies, to be effective. These studies show that Domperidone certainly has few side effects, but recent studies are suggesting that they shouldn’t be used for women who have a history of certain cardiac problems.
An example of a herbal galactagogue is fenugreek, which has been used for many many years across the world and often used in cooking as well. It has been shown, certainly anecdotally, to increase milk supply, although there aren’t any formal scientific studies to back that up.
I’ve only mentioned a couple of galactagogues here, but there are many more, but to conclude, I would really encourage you that if you’re feeling that you don’t have enough milk, that you find all ways of boosting supply, getting that skilled help, and working on all of those things – and using the galactagogue as a last resort. If you DO use a galactagogue, use it alongside ALL of those tried and tested ways to boost supply.
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Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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