Lactation Supplements: What are they and how do they work? - Legendairy Milk

Lactation Supplements: What are they and how do they work?

By: Sabrina Granniss, IBCLC

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5 min

Throughout history, different foods and herbs have been given to new mothers for nourishment and to support lactation. Other women in the family often prepare foods, including soups and stews, with ingredients that provide vitamins for milk production and nourish the mother so she is able to rest, recover, and bond with her new baby. In some cultures, a traditional period of lying in for the first few weeks to several months is thought to be protective of good health for the mother and baby later in life. 


Galactagogue comes from the Greek word “galacta”, meaning leading milk. (1) Galactagogues can be synthetic, meaning man-made, or natural, like the many different herbs and other plant-based foods that promote lactation. For some people, a diet that includes nutritious foods that provide lots of vitamins and minerals to the body is enough, but for others, using lactation supplements helps increase their milk supply during their breastfeeding journey.

What can lactation supplements help with?

  • Boost milk supply
  • Encourage milk flow
  • Milk enrichment
  • Soothe colic and gassiness
  • Reduce stress
  • Mammary growth
  • Balance hormones
  • Boost nutrition

How do galactagogues work?

Herbs do not all work in the same way. They each have different properties. Knowing how they differ and their effect on the body can help you choose a lactation supplement that is a good fit for you. They are not one size fits all. Some herbs and foods are known as anti-galactagogues, which can decrease milk supply. 


Herbs like Moringa, nettles, and alfalfa are highly nutritious and packed with vitamins and minerals that can support fertility, quality of milk, the mother’s energy levels, and help detoxify the body. Supporting the liver helps get rid of extra fluid after delivery that can cause swelling and engorgement, restricting milk flow. 


These herbs have been shown to boost prolactin levels. The pituitary gland is sometimes referred to as the master gland. It is where many hormones are made. Different glands in the body communicate with each other through hormones. (2) 


Herbs like alfalfanettles, and moringa are phytoestrogens. Estrogen tells the pituitary gland to make prolactin, the milk-making hormone. When your baby nurses, it triggers the release of prolactin, and its level in the blood supply increases, telling the breasts to make more milk. 


Prolactin is released about 30 minutes after your baby begins to nurse. (3) That means the milk your baby is drinking now signals your body to make milk for the next time they are going to eat. Feeding your baby more often triggers the release of prolactin and helps sustain and even increase your milk supply. Prolactin is naturally highest during the middle of the night, which is why those middle-of-the-night feeds are essential. When your baby nurses in the middle of the night, they build a milk supply for the next day.


Legendairy Milk Lactation supplements for you:


Digestive herbs like fennel, black seed, and anise can help with many stomach discomforts and improve gut health. Colic in babies is often improved when their mother takes lactation supplements with these herbs. 


Low milk supply is sometimes the result of hormonal imbalances and compromised gut health. Digestive herbs can help restore balance and boost supply. PCOS and insulin resistance have been shown to improve by taking black seed


During lactation, milk-making glands become insulin sensitive, and the insulin receptors send out more signals, which is important when milk is shifting from colostrum to a milk supply with greater volume, protein, fats, and carbs. (4) If someone is insulin resistant, it can take longer for their milk to come in, and their supply may be lower. (5) 


Legendairy Milk Lactation supplements for you:


If you have a history of low milk supply, didn’t experience an increase in breast size, have insufficient glandular tissue (IGT), or have insulin resistance, Goat’s rue is an herb that may help stimulate mammary gland growth and regulate blood sugar. Goat’s rue influenced the making of metformin, a drug used to lower high blood sugar. Goat’s rue can be taken in the last trimester if there is a history and concern for low milk supply.


Legendairy Milk Lactation supplements for you:


Did you know?

An herb that has traditionally been used as a galactagogue but has been found to actually reduce milk supply for some people is fenugreek. For many people, it can cause an upset stomach or uncomfortable gas and make your baby more irritable. Some breastfeeding supplements support your milk production and do not contain fenugreek. 


All Legendairy Milk products to increase milk supply are fenugreek free.


If you have a thyroid condition, fenugreek should be avoided. It lowers T3 and may lower prolactin, which means your supply can actually decrease when taking fenugreek. (6) 


Fenugreek can inhibit the let down reflex, but herbs like Shatavari increase oxytocin, the hormone that signals milk to release and flow.


Herbs that balance thyroid hormones:

  • Moringa
  • Alfalfa
  • Fennel
  • Shatavari
  • Nettle

Seeing results with Lactation Supplements

  • Some people see results in 24-72 hours, but it may take up to 2 weeks
  • Not everyone needs to take galactagogues. Making “just enough” milk for your baby is normal. We do not need an oversupply. 
  • Weight gain, wet and dirty diaper output, your baby waking themselves to feed every 2-3 hours day and night, feeling breast fullness before a feed and comfortable after a feed, your baby is happy - all these are good measures of if breastfeeding is on track.
  • Continue to take your prenatal vitamin during your whole nursing or pumping journey.
  • Lactation supplements are not a replacement for frequent milk removal.
  • Is your baby able to feed efficiently? Rule out other possibilities, like oral restrictions, if you are experiencing low supply. 
  • Flange size needs to be optimal for pumping to be most effective. The fit should be comfortable and get more than one let down.

Everyone is different! What works great for one person may not do much for another person. It can take some experimenting to find the best lactation supplement for you. It is a good idea to check in with your IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) or healthcare provider before beginning any supplement since they know your complete health history. Legendairy Milk offers lactation supplements to support the unique needs of a mom based on the herbs it contains. Because herbs each have their own unique profile, they can help with different situations, including increasing milk production, flow, and quality. Some people find it helpful to try a few galactagogues to determine the best fit for them.

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