Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation

Herbs for Increasing Milk Supply

The following describes the use of some herbal treatments for breastfeeding mothers who are having various problems.

Approaches to Increase Milk Supply

It is quite possible that herbal remedies help increase milk supply. There are several drugs that obviously do increase milk supply, and of course it is reasonable to assume that some plants and herbs might contain similar pharmacological agents. Almost every culture has some sort of herb or plant or potion to increase milk supply. Some may work as placebos, which is fine; some may not work at all; some may have one or more active ingredients. Some will have active ingredients that will not increase the milk supply but have other effects, not necessarily desirable. Note that even herbs can have side effects, even serious ones. Natural source drugs are still drugs, and there is no such thing as a 100% safe drug. Luckily, as with most drugs, the baby will get only a tiny percentage of the mother’s dose. The baby is thus extremely unlikely to have any side effects at all from the herbs. Two herbal treatments that seem to increase the milk supply are fenugreek and blessed thistle, in the following dosages:

Fenugreek:3 capsules 3 times a day
Blessed Thistle:3 capsules 3 times a day, or 20 drops of the tincture 3 times a day

The tincture container states that blessed thistle should not be taken by nursing mothers, presumably because of the tiny amount of alcohol the mother would get. There are some preparations of both herbs that are labelled “not for use by nursing mothers”. Don’t worry about this; these herbs are safe for the mother to take because so little gets into the milk. Teas also seem to work, but to take enough to make a difference, you will be drinking tea all day and night, since the amount of the herbs you get is much less.

Other Herbal Treatments that have been used to increase milk supply are:

Some Lactation Teas may be effective for some mothers. Again, with no standardization and little empirical evidence it is hard to know. We do hear from many mothers that have helped to increase their milk supply. These include: mother’s milk teas, nursing teas, lactation teas. Certainly, it cannot hurt to try.

Food that may help:

are all thought to help milk supply. Again, it cannot hurt to eat oatmeal or take garlic or ginger.

Many cultures have their own “remedies” that they have found to be helpful. And why not? Fish and Papaya Soup, hot curry dishes, etc—they may help and they certainly cannot hurt.

Homeopathy is another approach that may work and consulting with a good Naturopath or Homeopath may prove helpful.

None of these herbal or food treatments, including blessed thistle and fenugreek, has been proved effective scientifically

Remember! Herbal treatments are only part of the solution to “not enough milk” (see Protocol to Manage Breastmilk Intake and look for videos on how to latch a baby on, how to know the baby is getting milk, how to use information sheet Breast Compression, how to use a lactation aid, as well as other information sheets on breastfeeding.

Written and revised (under other names) by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC, 1995-2005
Revised by Jack Newman MD, FRCPC, IBCLC and Edith Kernerman, IBCLC, 2008, 2009