Galactagogues are foods, herbs or medications that may help to increase breastmilk supply. The use of a galactagogue requires consultation with a lactation consultant and/or medical adviser.
Most mothers are able to produce more than enough milk for their baby(ies), especially when accurate support and information is obtained. The majority of mothers who think that they have a low milk supply problem actually don’t.
By far, the most important way to establish and then maintain a good milk supply is for breastmilk to be removed often and well. This is commonly referred to as the supply and demand basis of breastfeeding - meaning the more milk removed from your breasts (and the more often), the more milk they'll make and vice versa.
Galactagogues only work when breastmilk is being removed frequently and effectively from a mother’s breasts. When all factors contributing to a low supply have been identified and addressed, then galactagogues may help to speed up the process.
There are soo many products out there that claim to help them make more breastmilk, but there is no or limited scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness.
This article provides the current best available information on a two common galactagogues used in NZ.
- Domperidone (MotiliumTM)
Domperidone is a prescription drug used for decades for gastrointestinal disorders. The most recent systematic review of five randomised control trials of women expressing for premature babies demonstrated a moderate increase in daily breastmilk volume of 88.3mL/day with the use of domperidone compared with placebo. These studies suggest that domperidone has few side effects. However, there have been recommendations that domperidone not be used in women with a history of cardiac arrhythmias.
Fenugreek is enjoyed in many parts of the world as a culinary herb/spice. It has historically been used as a galactagogue for both human mothers and dairy animals throughout the world for many years. There is limited formal scientific evidence on the effectiveness of fenugreek as a galactagogue or about its safety. There have been reports of maternal allergic reactions to fenugreek.
A galactagogue works best when a mother has low prolactin levels (ie when there is a genuine, not a perceived, low milk supply issue), and after a mother has received support and education to improve her breastfeeding or expressing technique. It will only work in conjunction with improved management of regular and efficient milk removal.
Information obtained from ABA.