Are there really herbs that help mothers make more milk?

This is one of the most common things women discuss about breastfeeding: what herbs and supplements they are taking to boost their milk powers. The herbal remedy policy at Oasis Lactation Services is:

1. Follow evidence-based guidelines
2. Choose interventions of non-maleficence (things that can’t hurt)
3. Do not prescribe

Currently, OLS has no research to support the use of herbal remedies in human lactation. The studies available for many of the herbs that are commonly suggested in mother-to-mother settings do not show improved lactation outcomes. There is a single study on the herb moringa in the pre-term infant population. These studies do not confirm that these herbs are lactogenic across the population.

Currently, the most evidence-based guideline for managing milk production is to assist the mother-baby dyad in proper latch. Proper breast pump use is recommended if direct nursing is not available.

Some herbal remedies are contraindicated with breastfeeding and/or pregnancy. Fenugreek is commonly recommended in mother-to-mother settings. This herb is deemed unsafe for pregnancy by herbalists and other health care professionals. Just because something is “natural” does not mean it is safe. Because there are risks involved in venturing outside the scope of evidence, it is our policy not to recommend herbs.

Diet studies have shown that mothers globally make very similar milk regardless of maternal diet. Only in situations of famine, extreme diet restriction, and severe maternal malnutrition are there notable differences in the milk. Taking a certain herb will not enrich the milk or change its components.

In short, if a mother needs to increase her milk production, follow the law of supply and demand. Make certain the baby is latching well and use a properly fitting breast pump if the baby is not available.

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