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Galactagogues and Their Benefits During Lactation

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Galactagogues are known to boost breast milk secretion. This article delivers the knowledge one must possess about the use of galactagogues.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Rajdeep Haribhai Rathod

Published At November 10, 2022
Reviewed AtJanuary 2, 2024

Introduction:

The word galactagogues are derived from the Greek word "galact" meaning milk, and "ogogue" meaning leading to or promoting. Therefore, galactagogues include any food items, herbs, and even prescription medications.

Breastfeeding is widely accepted for promoting health benefits for both the mother and infant. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Association, exclusive breastfeeding should be encouraged for up to six months of age for all mothers, with ongoing breastfeeding for two years or until the mother and infant desire.

Breast milk is considered the best source of nutrition for newborns. There is no known substitute for breast milk despite various research in making formula milk. Breastfeeding is crucial for the growth and development of infants. It fulfills the growing nutritional needs of the infant and creates an emotional dependency of the newborn on the mother. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to develop a smooth bond between the mother and the newborn for establishing prolonged breastfeeding. Maintaining a close association with the newborn can help to promote breastfeeding. Research indicates that lactation insufficiency which is also referred to as low breast milk supply is the most common reason for early cessation of breastfeeding.

What Are the Factors Responsible for Low Milk Supply?

Many factors are responsible for lactation insufficiency and could affect the mother's ability to produce milk production. Some commonly known elements are:

  • Irregular hormone levels.

  • Insufficient mammary tissue.

  • Improper milk removal from the breast.

  • Delayed childbearing.

  • High rates of cesarean section.

  • Stressful labor.

  • Obesity.

  • Smoking.

  • Lactation mastitis.

  • Certain medications, like oral contraceptives containing estrogen, cause a decrease in milk supply.

Some other causes are previous breast history surgery, premature birth, and pregnancy-induced blood pressure, which are known to affect breast milk formation. These factors are considered physiological barriers to the development of lactation.

How Do Herbal Galactagogues Help Breastfeeding?

Many breastfeeding mothers worry about secreting enough breast milk that fulfill the growing needs of the infant. Some non-pharmacological methods are commonly known to improve breast milk secretion, including improving a baby's latch, fully emptying the breast, and breast massage is enough to help promote a breast milk supply. However, if a mother needs more help, she can use galactagogues, teas, supplements, and any other food items that are known to support breast milk production. Many herbs and foods like fenugreek, blessed thistle, fennel, alfalfa, stinging nettle, goat's rue, milk thistle, and moringa have been used traditionally to increase breast milk secretion. The most popular items that are known for milk-making properties include:

  1. Fenugreek: It is one of the most commonly used galactagogues. The recommended daily dose for a lactating mother is 3.5 to 6 grams. However, it is important to take fenugreek seeds only after consultation with your lactation specialist. Some mothers reported allergic reactions to fenugreek seeds.

  2. Blessed Thistle: This plant has been known for its medicinal benefits for hundreds of years as it is known to promote breast milk supply. Blessed thistle in combination with fenugreek seeds has tremendous benefits. It is supplied in a capsule or tea form and is recommended three times per day.

  3. Alfalfa: It is a type of tea that has a mild effect on promoting breast milk supply which is often used in combination with fenugreek. It is supplied in pill, tea, or other food form. Alfalfa sprouts have a nutty flavor and are known to have numerous health benefits. Alfalfa leaves can be consumed in the form of a tablet or as a tea.

  4. Goat’s Rue: It is a popular galactagogue that is often taken in combination with fenugreek seeds or some other herbs. It is considered toxic and should not be taken as a fresh format. It is consumed as dry leaves for tea or as capsules.

  5. Brewers Yeast: It is a galactagogue that has few side effects. However, it should not be taken if a mother has a recurrent yeast problem. It is rich in vitamin B, minerals, iron, and amino acids. The recommended dose is three to five capsules per day.

  6. Fennel Seeds: They can also be consumed in small amounts to promote breast milk supply in a lactating mother.

  7. Red raspberry leaf.

  8. Flax seeds.

  9. Nettle leaf or capsules.

  10. Milk tea.

All these herbs are good for promoting lactation. In addition, these herbal medicines can be taken as a supplement while breastfeeding. Still, you need to consult your doctor or lactation consultant before taking any supplements to increase the breast milk supply, especially when you are allergic or undertaking other prescription medications.

What Are Galactagogue Foods With Lactogenic Properties?

Some foods are known to have lactogenic properties.

These include:

  • Garlic: Studies have shown that if a mother eats a lot of garlic, it gives a nice taste to the breast milk which stimulates the baby's attachment to the mother’s breast which ultimately promotes breast milk supply.

  • Ginger: It should not be taken along with any other medicines.

  • Carrot seeds.

  • Oats.

  • Green papaya.

  • Raw nuts.

  • Flaxseed and sesame oils.

What Is Pharmaceutical Galactogues?

Pharmaceutical Galactagogues are medications that stimulate milk production in mothers. Commonly used Galactogues are Domperidone and Metoclopramide. Usage of pharmaceuticals Galactogues must be under the guidance of the physician.

Which Are the Most Preferred Galactagogues?

The choice between pharmaceutical and herbal galactagogues depends on individual preferences, health conditions, and discussions with a healthcare provider. Pharmaceuticals may have more extensive research backing their efficacy, but some prefer herbal options due to perceived naturalness. Always consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

What Is the American Pregnancy Association Recommendation?

The American Association of Pregnancy recommends Fairhaven Health’s products. It is because these breastfeeding supplements were developed in collaboration with obstetrics, gynecologists, and lactation Consultants. Fairhaven Health’s products are natural. It is effective and known to fulfill the optimal nutritional supplementation needs of a breastfeeding woman.

Conclusion:

Usually, all women produce enough milk to meet the nutritional needs of the growing infant. Still, some women suffer from insufficient breast milk secretion. As a result, almost all women experience various problems during their early breastfeeding phase. Proper breastfeeding develops with time and practice. Sometimes the difficulties are resolved with practice; other times, they require lactation consultants' support. Women with insufficient milk production who cannot respond to lactation counseling may use herbal and pharmaceutical galactagogues in consultation with a lactation specialist.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

What Are the Lactation Galactogogues?

Galactogogues are chemicals from plants or manmade materials that are utilized to initiate, sustain, and enhance milk production. They mediate intricate processes, including interactions between physiological and physical elements. Hormones like prolactin (PRL) are among the most crucial elements.
 

2.

What Advantages Do Galactagogues Offer?

Galactagogues are chemicals that encourage lactation; they can be either natural or pharmacological. The advantages of galactagogues include increased milk supply, better milk quality, less stress and anxiety, and greater mother-child attachment. 
 

3.

What Are Some Galactagogues’ Examples?

Dopamine antagonists like Domperidone and Metoclopramide, as well as other medications like Metformin, are examples of synthetic galactagogues. Due to their comparatively high efficacy and safety among breastfeeding women, these three medications are the most often used synthetic galactagogues.
 

4.

Which Foods Contain a Lot of Galactagogues?

Foods with a high content of galactagogues include - 
- Whole grains, particularly oats and barley.
- Foods high in protein, such as tofu, fish, chicken, and pork.
- Legumes or beans, such as lentils and chickpeas.
- Arugula, kale, spinach, and other leafy greens.
- Fennel, including fennel seeds.
- Nuts.
- Shoots of alfalfa.
- Garlic.

5.

What Function Do Galactogogues Serve?

A galactagogue is a drug that encourages breastfeeding in humans and other animals. It is sometimes referred to as a lactation inducer or milk booster. It could be artificial, plant-based, or endogenous. They can be used to treat decreased milk supply and to initiate lactation.
 

6.

What Beverage Is Ideal for Lactation?

The following are some of the best drinks to improve lactation:
- Coconut milk.
- Coconut water.
- Lactation teas or herbal teas.
- Electrolytic drinks.
- Milk.
- Fruit juices.
- Barley water.
- Beetroot juice.
- Carrot juice.
- Green smoothies.

7.

What Galactogogues Raise Prolactin Levels?

The two most often prescribed pharmaceutical galactogogues in use today are Metoclopramide and Domperidone. Both are prolactin secretion-inducing dopamine antagonists.
 

8.

What Fruit Boosts Breast Milk Production?

Prolactin is the hormone that instructs the body to produce milk, and eating apricots and dates might raise prolactin levels. Dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium are just a few of the key components found in apricots. Papayas that are still green or unripe are high in galactagogues and are regarded as one of the greatest fruits for boosting breast milk.

9.

In Ayurveda, What Are Galactagogue Medications?

One of the finest medications in Ayurveda for helping lactation-challenged women produce more breast milk is Shatavari. The galactagogues in this herb aid in promoting the production of prolactin and corticoids, which help to increase the production of breast milk.

10.

Is Fenugreek a Galactagogue?

Yes, it is a galactagogue. It is a kind of seed that could assist women in producing more breast milk. When a woman is nursing, stress, exhaustion, or a number of other reasons might cause her milk production to decline. Fenugreek is a simple, efficient technique to increase output if the supply is running low.

11.

What Naturally Raises Breast Milk?

Some of the steps to increase breast milk naturally are eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water, getting as much rest as one can, reducing stress levels, breastfeeding frequently, consulting a doctor about natural therapies, aiming to reduce caffeine intake, giving the breasts a massage, and utilizing a breast pump.

12.

How Can I Produce More Breast Milk While I’m Lactating?

Some steps to improve breast milk production include -
- Whenever the infant exhibits signs of hunger, such as licking their lips or placing their hands to their mouths, one should feed them.
- If at all possible, try to feed frequently and regularly, perhaps 8 to 12 times each day.
- Alternating between both breasts when nursing.
- After breastfeeding, express any surplus milk.
- Warm up the breasts with compresses, especially before feeding or pumping.
- Pre-, during-, and post-breastfeeding massage of the breasts.

13.

Ajwain: A Galactagogue or Not?

Yes, it is. Ajwain or carom seeds is a natural spice with several therapeutic benefits and pharmacological effects. Boil one spoonful of ajwain in a glass of water before mixing it with ordinary water. Drink this mixture now all day long. 
 

14.

What Exactly Is a Herbal Galactagogue?

Anise, caraway, fennel, hops, lemon balm, milk thistle, and nettle are among the herbs thought to be galactagogues. But like fenugreek, these herbs might be dangerous and their ability to increase milk production has not been scientifically verified.

15.

How Fast Do Breasts Refill?

It normally takes around 20 to 30 minutes after feeding to make sufficient milk to feed the infant, and it takes approximately 60 minutes to replenish completely. The body will create more milk as the little one feeds more frequently and empties the breasts more completely.
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Dr. Rajdeep Haribhai Rathod
Dr. Rajdeep Haribhai Rathod

Pediatrics

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