Breast milk is advocated1 by medical professionals around the world as the best food for your little one, especially in the first six months of their life. New mums are encouraged to nurse their newborns immediately after birth and continue exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months. After solid foods are introduced, the expert advice2 is that complementary breastfeeding should ideally continue for as long as possible.
Most women can make enough breast milk for their babies without the use of additional herbs or medications by simply feeding their babies on demand. Some might think they’re not producing enough milk, when in reality, they actually are, such as in the following instances3:
- Baby feeds very often: You may think that your little one is nursing frequently because you’re not providing enough milk. But younger babies in general, feed very often (eight to 12 times in 24 hours), and in those early days, frequent nursing is necessary to establish a good milk supply.
- Baby only nurses for a short time: This doesn’t necessarily mean that your little one is not getting enough milk. Some babies are quite efficient at feeding especially as they grow older. As long as your baby is putting on the required amount of weight and meeting other milestones, you shouldn’t need to worry.
- Your breasts are soft: Eventually, your breasts adjust the amount of milk they make to your baby’s needs, once they understand the nursing pattern. Because of this, your breasts might not feel as “full” and hard as they might have been in those early days of nursing.
- Baby has suddenly increased breastfeeding: Babies go through growth spurts during certain months, and will increase their frequency of feeding during those periods.
The rule of thumb is that if your baby’s weight gain is steady and normal, they have the recommended wet and dirty diaper output4, are happy and content after a feed and are meeting developmental milestones, then there is most probably no issue with your milk production.
For those mums who for various reasons are struggling to make enough breast milk, it may be helpful to try some other options. Before we present some of these options, let’s take a look at some common reasons for why you might not be producing enough breast milk.
Common reasons for low milk supply
- Your baby is not latching on to your breast properly. This could also cause nipple pain and ineffective removal of milk from your breasts. You will know your baby has latched on properly if your whole areola is covered by your baby’s mouth, and you can clearly see your little one swallowing. There should be no pain.
- You have started using formula milk along with breastfeeding. Remember that your breasts produce milk on a “supply and demand” basis. If your baby is not feeding frequently because they are also on formula milk, then your milk supply might drop.
- You are on a birth control pill that contains oestrogen. It is thought that this hormone can reduce breast milk supply.5
- You smoke cigarettes.6
- Some medications like cold and flu tablets7 might decrease milk supply.
In addition to these reasons (for which a medical professional can provide you with solutions), if you think you are not producing enough milk for your baby, the first thing to do would be to check the basics: Rest, hydration, a balanced diet, and emptying the breasts well at least eight times a day. But if you are doing all of that and still feel like you are not making enough breast milk, then you may benefit from supplemental foods or herbs.
Foods and herbs that could help boost your breast milk supply
Anything that you consume to help increase your breast milk supply is known as a galactagogue.8
Some popular foods and drinks that are commonly consumed by Singaporean mums (who share this information on various online forums, like Facebook groups or parenting apps) to help with a healthy breast milk supply include: oatmeal, durian, almonds, dark leafy greens, tofu, coconut oil, coconut milk, flaxseed, papaya fish soup, and black fungus. However, it’s always best to discuss with your doctor if you have any concerns about any of these foods and drinks.
Drinking plenty of water through the day will also help. Do keep in mind that what works for one mum may not work for another. There are many herbs too that are thought to function as galactagogues.
- Fenugreek: One of the most used galactagogues9 especially in Asia, Fenugreek is often found in the form of tea, tincture (a medicine made by dissolving a drug in alcohol), capsules and powders. The most common side effect of fenugreek is a maple syrup smell noted in your sweat and urine. Some mums complain of gastric upset which goes away when they cut back on the amount taken. Fenugreek is not recommended if you have diabetes, hypothyroidism, asthma or are allergic to peanuts.
- Blessed thistle: Often found in capsule, tincture and tea form, blessed thistle10 is thought to compliment fenugreek in increasing the flow of breast milk.11 It could possibly counter the gassy side effect some mothers experience with fenugreek and may help to balance mum’s hormones.
- Nettle: Considered to be high in iron and other nutrients,12 consuming nettle may help with anemia after childbirth and support healthy breast milk production. It is commonly used in a blend of herbs to help lactation.
- Fennel: This herb is commonly used as a milk booster,13 especially in Asian countries, and as a diuretic.
- Malunggay or moringa: The leaves of the mallunggay/ moringa tree (commonly found in Southeast Asia), are often used as a galactagogue,14 especially when mums have been sick or are not eating well.
Milkflow Fenugreek Supplements
Milkflow Fenugreek + Blessed Thistle Capsules (100 count)
Milkflow Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle capsules support breast milk production with a proprietary blend of herbs: fenugreek, blessed thistle, and anise. These capsules bring you the milk-boosting benefits of these herbs without the unpleasant taste of fenugreek tea.
This concentrated formula delivers the equivalent of 1,800 mg of Fenugreek in each serving, meaning, you only need to take between one to three capsules a day to help support healthy breast milk production. What’s more, all the herbs that make up this blend are naturally sourced and non-GMO, and the capsules contain no added fillers. This supplement is also dairy- and soy-free.
Milkflow Blessed Thistle Capsules (100 count)
The Milkflow Blessed Thistle capsules contain concentrated levels of Blessed Thistle – 1,000 mg per capsule to be exact. The capsules also contain a proprietary botanical blend to help digestive health for both mum and baby. All herbs that go into these capsules are naturally sourced and non-GMO. This supplement is suitable for vegetarians, gluten-free, and has no added fillers.
You only need to take between one to three capsules daily to support healthy breast milk production.
Whichever supplement you decide to take, please keep in mind that you may see a difference within the first week of taking them (but please keep in mind that this time may vary from person to person, as metabolisms are different).
Select the type of breast milk boosting supplement that works best for you by clicking here.
Mums, it’s always good to consult your doctor or a certified lactation consultant if you think you have breast milk supply issues. They can help you find which supplement will work best for you and help you determine if you indeed need any supplements at all.
Content contribution by:
Linda Hill RN, IBCLC UpSpring Lactation Consultant
- Breast Milk Is Best. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved on June 6, 2021 from Breast Milk Is Best | Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Appropriate complementary feeding. WHO. Retrieved on June 6, 2021 from WHO | Appropriate complementary feeding
- Low milk supply. The Royal Women’s Hospital, Victoria, Australia. Retrieved on June 6, 2021 from Low milk supply | The Royal Women's Hospital (thewomens.org.au)
- Breastfeeding your newborn — what to expect in the early weeks. Kelly Bonyata. Updated on January 13, 2018. Retrieved on June 6, 2021 from Breastfeeding your newborn — what to expect in the early weeks • KellyMom.com
- Which Forms of Birth Control Are Safe to Use While Breastfeeding? Healthline. Updated on December 19, 2019. Retrieved on 6 June, 2021 from Birth Control While Breastfeeding: 7 Options (healthline.com)
- Smoking While Breastfeeding: What Are the Risks? MGH Centre for Women’s Mental Health. Published on January 22, 2008. Retrieved on June 6, 2021 from Smoking While Breastfeeding: What Are the Risks? (womensmentalhealth.org)
- Medicines in Breastfeeding. The Royal Women’s Hospital, Victoria, Australia. Published in June 2018. Retrieved on June 6, 2021 from Medicines in breastfeeding (worldssl.net)
- Galactagogues (substances claimed to increase supply). Australian Breastfeeding Association. Last reviewed in January 2019. Retrieved on June 10, 2021 from https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/galactagogues-substances-claimed-increase-supply.
- Effectiveness of fenugreek as a galactagogue: A network meta-analysis. Phytotherapy Research. Published in March 2018. Retrieved on June 9 , 2021 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29193352/
- A Review of Herbal and Pharmaceutical Galactagogues for Breast-Feeding. The Ochsner Journal. 2016. Retrieved on June 9, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5158159/
- Herbs for Increasing Milk Supply. Jack Newman. Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation. Revised in 2009. Retrieved on June 9 2021 from https://www.canadianbreastfeedingfoundation.org/induced/herbs.shtml
- Comparison of nutritional properties of Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) flour with wheat and barley flours. Food Science & Nutrition. Published in January 2016. Retrieved on June 9, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4708629/
- Effect of a galactagogue herbal tea on breast milk production and prolactin secretion by mothers of preterm babies. Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice. Published in January, 2021. Retrieved on June 9, 2021 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29411721/