During pregnancy, your breasts get ready to make milk for your baby. Your breasts start to increase in size as your breast’s ductal system rapidly grows and multiples. Alfalfa is a phytoestrogen and can help in signaling the pituitary gland to release prolactin. Prolactin is the hormone that tells the breast to make more milk by collecting nutrients from the bloodstream making milk to be stored for the next time your baby feeds.
Alfalfa is very nutritious, high in minerals, fiber and protein. It boosts the quality of your milk and can increase the milk fat content.(1) Alfalfa is Legendairy Milk’s Cash Cow which is a blend that can be taken in the last weeks of pregnancy. It can help get milk production off to a good start if you experienced low milk supply previously.
Digestive herbs, like Anise have long been used to encourage an abundant milk supply for new mothers. Traditional seed cakes made with Anise are popular in some cultures while in others Anise is added to soups and stews that are prepared for new mothers.
Anise is high in iron aiding in recovery from birth, reducing symptoms of fatigue and weakness. It helps the mother feel a little more energy which is needed since feeding the new baby is an around the clock job. It can help reduce the incidence of baby blues and postpartum depression.(2)
When you take Anise during breastfeeding, it can help reduce symptoms of colic in your baby as it calms their digestion as well as yours. It boosts milk supply and has been shown to help babies have better weight gain.(3)
Insulin plays a role in milk production and although the glands that make milk in the breast become insulin sensitive during breastfeeding, people who have thyroid imbalances and insulin resistance experience higher rates of low milk supply. These conditions can cause a delay of milk coming in. Black seed can help folks with PCOS, hypothyroid and high blood sugar. It helps balance hormones and can reduce blood sugar levels.(4)
Black seed increases prolactin levels which supports lactation and can help increase milk production. When milk is removed when prolactin levels are higher, it can help make more milk, boost supply and your baby have better weight gain.(5)
Considered a digestive herb, fennel has many benefits to breastfeeding parents and babies. Fennel is a dopamine receptor antagonist. Dopamine is a hormone produced in the hypothalamus that regulates the production of prolactin in the pituitary gland. The more dopamine there is, the less prolactin that is produced and released.(6) Fennel reduces dopamine and increases prolactin levels aiding in increasing milk production.
Fennel is shown to help with milk let down. It has an oxytocic effect that stimulates the constriction of alveoli in the mammary glands which squeezes milk from the cells into the ducts when your baby nurses or during pumping.(7) More let downs equal more milk removed signaling more milk to be made for your baby.
Because fennel is a digestive herb, it can help improve mom’s gut health as well as her baby’s. Babies whose mother takes fennel, experience less colic and crying. Better gut health supports breast health and milk supply as well as overall health.
The name Goat’s rue means “to bring milk”. It is a top pick for people who have a history of low supply as well as re-establishing milk supply. It contains a compound called genistein which is shown to increase breast tissue and milk storage capacity. For those who may not have experienced breast growth during pregnancy or have Insufficient Glandular Tissue (IGT), being able to increase milk storage helps increase overall supply as the baby nurses and milk can refill.
PCOS and insulin resistance often go hand in hand. Milk making glands are very sensitive to insulin. Insulin resistance can delay the onset of milk production. Goat’s rue can increase insulin sensitivity, help lower blood sugar and increase milk supply. Goat’s rue can help nursing moms and their babies continue their breastfeeding journey for a longer period of time.(8)
Families who choose to lactate for their adopted baby, re-lactate after stopping breastfeeding or have a baby born prematurely will find Goat’s rue to be a beneficial herb as part of their protocol for making milk and increasing milk supply and storage.(9) It can take 2-3 weeks to notice the benefits from Goat’s rue. If you had low milk supply previously, Goat’s rue should be considered and taken in the last weeks of pregnancy.
Have you heard of this herb? It may not be as recognizable as some of the other galactogogues, but it is highly beneficial, passed from generation to generation in Guatemala. New mothers are given tea made with Ixbut, pronounced “ish-boot”, to increase their milk flow and milk production.
Ixbut tea acts quickly and an increase of milk can be noticed in as little as 48 hours of drinking it. Some people notice they begin to leak milk as their supply increases from drinking Ixbut tea. Birth interventions can delay or stunt milk production. Studies show Ixbut tea after having a cesarean birth can help encourage milk production.(12)
Ixbut is enjoyable to drink. It has a soft, light, nutty flavor.
Your liver’s best friend, this herb helps cleanse, detox and balance hormones. Your liver is like a filter that removes toxins from everything your body is exposed to from foods you eat to environmental toxins including toxins in products you use in your home and on your body. Our skin is our largest organ and absorbs what we come into contact with in our environment.
Our liver produces some hormones and regulates other hormones including keeping estrogen in check for healthy supply and encouraging prolactin synthesis. When there is too much estrogen, it can cause a thyroid imbalance and lower milk supply. Thyroid hormones play a role in mammary development and milk production. Prolactin signals milk to be made by signaling for nutrients to be pulled from the bloodstream into the cells that make and store milk until your baby nurses.
A randomized controlled trial of 50 lactating women found that they produced 85% more milk while taking silymarin (milk thistle) than another group taking a placebo after 63 days.(13)
Moringa is known as the “miracle tree” and grows easily. It is one of the most nutrient dense herbs, high in vitamins, iron and potassium. It is a great herb for recovery after giving birth and supporting milk supply and the quality of your milk.
Moringa is high in protein, iron and B vitamins, all which will support your energy and help you feel less exhausted. It’s high vitamin C content aids the body in iron absorption, important after blood loss after giving birth.(10)
Moringa can help improve thyroid hormone balance and regulate blood pressure. It works quickly, boosting prolactin levels within days of taking it and increasing milk production. In one study, moringa helped increase milk supply by 152%-176%.(11)
The queen of herbs, known for its benefits for the female reproductive system, the name Shatavari means “she who has a hundred husbands”. It is an herb used in the ayurvedic system of medicine that focuses on balancing the body, mind and spirit.
Shatavari is adaptogenic. It can help balance hormones by increasing or decreasing their levels based on the body's needs. It increases prolactin and corticoid levels helping to boost milk supply and mammary gland growth. In studies, shatavari has been shown to increase prolactin levels by 33% and better weight gain in babies whose mothers were taking shatavari.(14)
It can be supportive for women who had a lot of fluids during their birth. It has natural diuretic effects and can reduce retention of fluids which contribute to engorgement and difficulty with feeding after birth. Engorgement makes it hard for milk to pass through the milk ducts. Shatavari can help alleviate postpartum edema.
Soup and stew with Torbangun leaves are a traditional food prepared for new mothers after they have given birth to help support recovery and promote lactation. Torbangun means to “wake up."
It can help reduce postpartum fatigue and nurture the establishment of milk supply. In Bataknese culture, consuming torbangun after delivery of the baby is thought to help with postpartum bleeding, acts as a uterine cleansing agent, and is warming to the body.(15)
Establishing milk supply early on can have an impact on longer breastfeeding duration. In one study, mothers taking Torbangun had a 65% increase in milk supply after 2 weeks and were more able to maintain an adequate supply.(16)
The ten herbs highlighted above each have different benefits and properties. Because we each have our own unique body chemistry, we can more accurately choose herbs to match our needs when supporting our postpartum experience and lactation journey. Sometimes taking more than one herb has the most benefits. While some of Legendairy Milk’s lactation supplements contain similar ingredients, they each have a different main ingredient. Taking herbs for 7-10 days is appropriate for discovering which one or which blend is the right fit and gives you the best results.