Anti-Galactagogue Foods & Herbs

By: Sabrina Granniss, IBCLC


5 min

What is an anti-galactagogue?

In many cultures around the world, the first weeks to months postpartum are a time for the mother to be cared for by other family or community members while she focuses on caring for her baby and recovering from giving birth. Most often, the focus is on lactogenic foods, meaning foods and herbs that contribute to making more milk, boosting the overall milk supply, and increasing the nutrition of breast milk. Lactogenic ingredients are made into tonics, soups, stews, gruels, and broths for the new parent to eat and drink often as their primary source of nutrition.

Did you know some foods and herbs do the opposite? Anti-lactogenic foods are foods that lower milk supply. An anti-galactagogue prevents or decreases the production of milk in a nursing mother. There may be times when eating or drinking an anti-galactagogue is helpful or desired, but if you are concerned about your milk production or notice an unwanted dip in your milk supply, avoiding foods and drinks known to be anti-lactogenic can make a big difference.

Anti-galactagogue foods & herbs

  • Sage - Drinking sage tea or using sage tincture is very effective for drying up milk supply. Some babies are more agitated when their mom consumes sage, while others do not seem bothered by it at all. (1)
  • Peppermint & spearmint - the amount of menthol is much greater in peppermint than spearmint, and each may have a different effect on milk supply. Menthol has been shown to help reduce the pain of cracked nipples when it is applied topically (2). Diffusing peppermint oil should be avoided with young babies and children because it can irritate the lungs.
  • Lemon balm - This relaxing herb is part of the peppermint family. It is excellent at calming and relaxing but may reduce milk supply. 
  • Parsley & cilantro -These bright green herbs are packed with vitamins and minerals and can be eaten in small amounts for a nutritional boost if you do not notice a dip in your supply. Drinking parsley juice can dramatically and quickly reduce your milk supply, so avoid adding it to your green drinks in large amounts. 
  • Fenugreek - although it is considered to increase milk, it dramatically decreases the milk supply for some people. It can cause mom and baby to have an upset stomach and diarrhea. 

All Legendairy Milk products are Fenugreek-free.

  • Rosemary - Like some of the other herbs, rosemary is considered safe for breastfeeding with very low risk, but some people are sensitive to it. It may not be a problem for you if you eat a dish seasoned with rosemary at dinner, but if you have it for days at a time, you may notice it starts to have a negative effect on your supply and need to eliminate it for now. (4)
  • Jasmine - Using the oil massaged on the chest/breasts is used to decrease milk supply. Jasmine flowers have been shown to reduce prolactin levels. (3)
  • Astringent foods - sour foods that make you pucker up your lips when you eat them or contain a lot of Vitamin C, which has citric acid, can lower milk supply. Astringent foods can constrict tissue and reduce blood circulation to the breast, lowering the milk supply. 
  • Cruciferous veggies - Eating lots of fresh vegetables gives us many essential vitamins and minerals. Cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, and collard greens are cruciferous veggies. For some people, eating too many cruciferous veggies lowers their milk supply.
  • Certain adaptogens - some herbs are adaptogenic, which can help your body adjust based on individual needs. It may raise or lower a hormone to bring the body back to balance. Vitex or Chasteberry is one example of an adaptogen that has been shown to be a beneficial herb to increase milk supply in small doses, but in larger doses, it reduces milk supply because of its influence on prolactin levels.
  • Alcohol - drinking alcohol inhibits the milk ejection reflex or milk let-down. When less milk can be removed, it can reduce the milk supply. 
  • Sugar - too much sugar can cause an increase in insulin. When insulin is constantly being released from you eating sugar or too many carbs, which turn into sugar in the body, it can increase the risk of becoming insulin resistant. Your cells do not respond by opening to let the glucose in, and the excess sugar remains in your bloodstream, increasing your blood glucose. High blood sugar levels or the rollercoaster of high and low blood sugars can cause low milk supply and lead to more serious thyroid issues and type 2 diabetes. (6)
  • Caffeine - coffee, black tea, green tea, and chocolate- can make your baby more fussy and cry more often. Caffeine is a stimulant that can lead to you feeling more stress. Instead of using caffeine for an afternoon energy boost, try breathing exercises to get more oxygen flowing and feel refreshed.
  • Carbonated drinks - drinking carbonated fizzy drinks sometimes makes you feel less hungry, and reducing calories as a nursing mom can affect your milk supply. Another possible explanation as to why carbonated drinks may impact supply is that carbonation is acidic.

When anti-galactagogues are helpful

  • Engorgement -  this can be uncomfortable and lead to plugged ducts and mastitis. Sometimes, engorgement is caused by excess fluids given during labor and delivery. Cabbage leaves can help provide relief. Effective milk removal and a deep latch by your baby are important to establish and maintain your milk supply.
  • Oversupply - Too much milk can cause excessive or low weight gain. (5) Oversupply can cause your baby to be fussy while nursing. Compromised gut health can be a cause of oversupply. 
  • Sudden weaning - there are certain circumstances when a parent needs to wean quickly. Anti-galactagogues can make the process more manageable and comfortable.

Many factors influence milk supply. We are complex beings and must consider the whole body, including our gut health, hormone balance, and how they affect our ability to make enough milk for our babies. The composition of a food or herb and how it interacts with our body helps us determine if it will help boost or reduce supply. Herbs, including those listed above, have many vitamins and minerals and can benefit your health and milk supply in small amounts.

Everyone is different, and what reduces the milk supply for one person may not have the same effect on someone else. For most people, having a small amount of an anti-galactagogue herb or food will not disrupt their milk supply. If you struggle with low supply, you may find you are more sensitive to anti-galactagogues and need to avoid them altogether. 

If your milk supply took an unwanted dip, nutrient-dense foods have vitamins and minerals to support lactation and can increase your milk supply. Natural lactation supplements from Legendairy Milk contain the best lactation herbs to help you boost your milk supply.

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