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How To Increase and Decrease Breastmilk Production With Herbs

How To Increase and Decrease Breastmilk Production With Herbs | Growing Up Herbal | Need to increase or decrease your breastmilk supply? Here are herbs to help.

It never fails… as soon as my babies hit the 12 month mark, I start longing for a newborn in the house again.

Oh the joys of a newborn baby!

So small and soft, with quiet grunts and cries, totally helpless and in need of their mamas. I love it!

Not that it doesn’t have its obstacles of course. Pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the first 2-3 weeks of breastfeeding are seriously intense, but after all of that, there’s this sweet, tiny gift that needs you for everything in order to survive.

The Newest Visser

One of my sisters-in-law recently had a baby. A boy. His name is Lincoln, and he’s so handsome. So far all of us Visser ladies have had boys first… must be something in the water here in northeast Tennessee.

Anyway, he’s almost a month old now, and when my sister-in-law gave birth to him, he swallowed a bit too much amniotic fluid and had to be taken away from mama and daddy to be kept in the newborn nursery all night so his O2 sat could be monitored. They kept him there until the pediatrician made his rounds in the morning then brought him back to his eagerly awaiting parents… 11 hours after his birth. I won’t even share my thoughts on that… it’s not my place.

Getting Started Breastfeeding

No matter, my sister-in-law had a difficult time getting started with breastfeeding… as most first time mothers do. I know I did! And seeing as how there was a delay in nursing him, the hospital staff had her pump in order to get her breast milk supply established.

Now, if you’ve had babies you know that the first milk your body produces is colostrum which is a super-nutritious, high calorie milk (more like cream), and you know there is very little of it. You probably also know that this is enough to keep baby satisfied when fed every 2 hours or so until the breast milk actually comes in because a brand new baby’s stomach is so small.

First time mamas can struggle with this. I know I didn’t understand it. I couldn’t believe that my baby was getting anything! I was so eager for my milk to come in so my kid could actually eat! I suppose my sister-in-law had similar feelings and she wanted to get some more help getting her milk to come in. Another sister-in-law suggested some mama’s milk tea, and called to ask if I’d bring her some.

Seeing as how I too am still nursing 9 month old Ezrah, I have my own mama’s milk tea that I blend and drink for myself. Unfortunately, I was out of fillable tea bags (BHS link), and I knew I needed something that was simple and easy for her to use… she’s not really into natural things so simple is good. I didn’t want to overwhelm her, right?

I decided to stop at the local Earthfare to get her some Earth Mama Angel Baby: Mama’s Milk tea, but they were out of that too. Thankfully they had Motherlove products in stock! I ended up getting her the More Milk Tincture (super easy to take), Nipple Balm, Diaper Rash & Thrush cream, and some EMAB Mama’s Bottom Spray… all great things to have for after delivery… especially if you’re not into making your own homemade products!

She used the More Milk tincture as directed and voila! Her milk came in. Now… most times you don’t need mama’s milk tea/tincture in order for your milk to come in. God designed your body to do that on its own; however, these herbal formulas can help to increase your milk supply and make it more nutritional which is what I want to talk about today.

Herbs That Increase Breastmilk Production

Herbs that increase breast milk production are called galactagogues, and they have been used for hundreds (if not thousands) of years by nursing mothers and midwives to increase breast milk production.

You can use these herbs as simples (single herb) or use them in combination with nutritive herbs which will not only increase milk supply but make mother’s milk more nutritional for baby as well.

These herbs commonly don’t have any side effects and if they do, they are mild. (See #4 in this post on herbal safety for more info about side effects from herbs.) The biggest concern is using too large of a dose which can lead to unwanted effects as is the case with anything. However, this is most common when women take these herbs in capsule form rather than as teas or tinctures since it’s more difficult to judge how much herb is actually being taken by capsules. Your best bet is to have a recommended dosage in mind when taking these herbs. Start slow with low doses and work your way up until you get the results you’re looking for and stay there. If you experience side effects, slowly decrease the dose and/or switch to a different herb.

Another common concern is wondering whether these herbs actually work or not. Seeing as how there aren’t many research studies done on these herbs (they’re mostly done on prescription galactagogues) there is minimal evidence that proves these herbs work. In studies that have been done, an increase in milk production has been seen, but there always seems to be something wrong with the study that negates its results. Go figure. So until more studies are done on these herbs, correctly I might add, we’ll just have to take our ancestors at their word and try it out to see if we get the same results.

Below are 10 herbs that help increase breast milk production. I should say that there are a lot of herbs recommended to aid in increasing breastmilk production. The ones included below are not the common nutritional herbs like alfalfared raspberry, and nettle which can also stimulate breastmilk production.

Herbs That Decrease Breastmilk Production

On the other side of the coin are herbs called antigalactagogues, and these herbs are known to decrease milk production. The two most well-known herbs to use when a mama wants to decrease her milk supply to the point of drying it up completely are sage and parsley; however, herbs in the mint family or those high in volatile oil content have been known to decrease milk production in some mamas. I’m not sure that these minty herbs like peppermint, rosemary, and thyme will dry breastmilk up completely, but it is a good thing to keep this in mind.

To read more about using herbs when nursing, click here to view Earth Mama Angel Baby’s “Herbs & Breastfeeding” article.

My Personal Mama’s Milk Blend

Like I said earlier, I’m still nursing Ezrah, who is 9 months old now, and I make my own mama’s milk blend using common herbs that I keep on hand. I formulated this blend when I was nursing my third child after trying some other milk blends in tea form and not caring for the taste all that much.

You see, I really don’t like the taste of fennel. There’s something about it that I just can’t handle. It has a bit of a licorice flavor, and although I don’t mind the flavor of licorice root or anise seed (licorice/vanilla-like), I just can’t stand the taste of fennel. I don’t know what it is about it! Anyway, the majority of mama’s milk blends are high in fennel because it’s an excellent galactagogue, but seeing as how I don’t like the taste, I knew I needed to find a way to use it while masking its flavor more.

I decided to make my own blend, and today I’d like to share that recipe with you.

This recipe does contain fennel (seeing as how it’s great at boosting milk production), but I’ve added some warming spices to the mix to mask its flavor a bit and because they act as catalysts to the other herbs, helping the body use their properties better. I almost always make this as a tincture, but it tastes great as a tea too! You can also substitute in the other herbs listed above if you’d like. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Directions: 

  1. Combine herbs and store in a glass jar.
  2. To use for tea, boil 8 oz. of pure water and pour over 1 TBSP. of mama’s milk herb blend. Let steep 15 minutes. Strain herbs and sweeten as desired. Drink 2-3 cups a day.
  3. To use as a tincture (1:4 ratio / 40% alcohol), start with 20 drops 4 times a day. If production hasn’t increased after 3-4 days, increase dose in 10 drop increments every 2 days. Dosages exceeding 60 drops isn’t recommended.
Now it’s your turn! Have you used herbs to increase or decrease your breastmilk supply? How’d it go? What did you take, how much, how often, and how’d it work for you? Tell me in the comments below. I love hearing your stories!

REFERENCES:

The Use of Botanicals During Pregnancy and Lactation by Tieraona Low Dog, MD

The Naturally Healthy Pregnancy by Shonda Parker

The Green Pharmacy by James A. Duke, Ph.D.

29 thoughts on “How To Increase and Decrease Breastmilk Production With Herbs”

  1. Gaia Herbs lactation support tea and capsules literally brought my milk back when my 9 month old took a brief break from nursing. I’ve had no negative side-effects, just the much needed boost for milk supply. Another tip: according to Le Leche leage, your body’s production of milk is strongest at night, making nighttime feelings ideal. The herbs plus nursing at night did the trick for me.

    1. Interesting Kate! I didn’t know that about night time nursing. Thanks for sharing. And I second Gaia Herbs. They have great products and seem like a great company!

  2. I have just stopped nursing my two year old, because I wanted to cleanse my liver and gain better health. I am so sad though, this is a hard thing to do. We’ll anyway I happen to know that a cabbage leaf in my bra will help lesson the pain of engorgement, I have used it with newborns. But it is not helping me now! Imagine being engorged with a two-year old! Crazy. I think I’ll be getting into some parsley and sage!

    1. Yes Anne! Definitely use the herbs, and it’s always helped me to wean by cutting out feedings one at a time. Good luck mama!

  3. This is so informative! I’ve been buying pre-made nursing teas but I go through a whole box in just a few days with only a slight boost in production and they are quite expensive! When making the tincture, how long do you have to wait until it’s ready for use?

    1. Tinctures take a minimum of 2 weeks to make Kari, but you can leave them for 4-6 weeks as well. This tincture works just fine with a 2 week maceration period. And yes, it will definitely save you money because you can make a large batch of tincture at one time, and tinctures are more concentrated than teas so you’ll get faster results. I’ll have a post on how to make tinctures soon so stay tuned for that, but you can find lots of how to’s on Google as well.

  4. Thank you for sharing this info, Meagan! It’s just what I needed to hear. I’ve been dealing with low milk supply since October…. we have breastfeeding issues, so I’m exclusively pumping for my 7 month old.

    I’ve been taking fenugreek capsules to try and get production up, but have been supplementing with donor breastmilk (and little one doesn’t like solid food yet). I’m a little sad to say that I’m already looking forward to weaning because of how hard it’s been with pumping/low supply. I’m going to make the herbs into a tea/tincture. 🙂 xoxo

    1. Good luck Kristen. Hopefully this will help. A lot of times if one herb doesn’t give you good results it’s a good idea to switch to another one that has similar actions (like the ones in this blend) which may work better for you and your body. Plus, using combinations of herbs are usually better than one single herb as they have a synergistic affect with each other. One last thought… being distracted or frustrated or stressed (among other things) can inhibit a mama’s let-down reflex and cause a low milk supply too. If that’s the case you can always add in some relaxant herbs in too such as chamomile or lavender. Hope those tips help, and keep at it. You’re doing a great job for your little one, and even if you have to end up weaning before you really wanted to, you’ve done a great thing for baby already!

      1. Meagan, thank you! Chamomile is a lovely herb, I will add that in, too. Thank you for the helpful info. Yes, life has been really stressful lately with work/moving, etc. but good things are happening and I believe life will settle down soon. Thank you for the encouragement! 🙂

    2. I totally understand how you’re feeling! My daughter was tongue-tied and I didn’t find out until she was almost 7 weeks old. By then my supply was getting low and she was so frustrated with nursing that despite my efforts, I finally had to resort to pumping exclusively. By pumping frequently and taking fenugreek and blessed thistle, I was able to get my supply up, but it’s starting to decrease slightly now. I can’t pump any less than 6 times a day or it decreases drastically. My husband complains that I am always pumping more than I do, but it really does feel like it sucks a ton of time. Keep at it. We just do the best we can to give our babies the best nutrition possible. 🙂

      1. Thanks, Melissa! I’m sorry that’s it been a challenging time for you, too. Keep it going, it sounds like you’re doing great! Pumping does take up a lot of time, but I try and do computer work or read a book to pass the time. I’m hopeful that these new herbs will help my supply. You’re doing good work, mama!

  5. i know you’ll laugh, but I’m trying to dry up a milk goat so I can go to my daughter’s wedding out of state. I did not breed her last fall so this wouldn’t be a problem but she came into milk in the spring anyway! I have tons of sage in my garden, so I’ve been feeding her some daily. She loves the stuff and her milk is slowly drying up as I go longer and longer between Milkings. Thanks for the idea!

    1. LOL! You are so welcome! My MIL had the same issue with her goats. She quit breeding them, but they WOULD NOT dry up! Anyway, I’m glad the sage is working for you in that department. Most times, herbs are no respecter of persons… humans or animals! I hope you enjoy your daughters wedding! God’s blessings to her and her husband!

  6. Herbs are the best for any problem. I have also used an herbal tea formula to boost my breast milk production which worked great. This was healthy nursing tea, a wonderful natural herbal lactation tea.

  7. I see you have goat’s rue on the herb list but not in your mix. If I wanted to add it to my herbal tea mix, how much would you recommend adding?

    1. Hi, Paige. I don’t know much about goat’s rue personally as I’ve never used it, but it is one of the best galactagogue herbs available. I found that 1 teaspoon should be taken as a tea 2-3 times a day (source here and here) so you could add 3-4 parts goat’s rue to this blend and you’d still be under the 1 teaspoon per cup dosage, but I think that would be fine seeing as how it’s combined with other herbs that can potentially increase your production. If the tea doesn’t work, I’d suggest adding fenugreek to it or to drink the tea as is and take the goat’s rue in tincture form as it would be a bit stronger. Hope that helps!

  8. Any ideas on how much of the herbs to begin taking to decrease milk supply? I just purchased parsley tablets and sage tea. My daughter is just a year and I don’t want to rush her however I’ve had a generous supply and therefore in order to avoid plugged ducts I have to try to use herbs in tandem with dropping one feeding at a time. Any thoughts?? Or just trial and error? Also just developed a milk blister today. Any tips or topical applications for getting rid of these?? I am doing moist heat and hand expression/pumping if needed.

    1. Herbalist Shonda Parker recommends 2 tablets of parsley and sage every 4 hours in her book The Naturally Healthy Pregnancy, but it didn’t give any specific dosages for each herb. Most herbalists recommend 1-2 teaspoons of dried sage in an 8-ounce cup of tea daily. You could start there and increase it to 2 cups a day if you’re not getting the results you want after a week or so. Hope that helps a bit!

  9. Drink 4 cups of parsley tea for 3-5 days. Drink warm,room temp, or cold. I just boil 5 cups of water, turn off the heat, submerge a bundle of parsley in it and drink that batch in 4 segments throughout the day. Dries up your milk with no pain and no leaking.

  10. PREETHY ANN PAUL

    hi Meagan , hope you are doing well.nice to meet you. I like so much your mama’s milk herb blend. I am from India, mother of a 7 month old boy. I am also a registered nurse but fond of herbs and natural living. I do not use allopathic medicines and vaccines. I believe in the naturopathic treatment.

  11. Did you use any of these as powder forms, or were they all the flower/leaf portion of the herbs? My health food store has several powdered forms of some of the herbs listed and I’m not sure if the recipe is changed if I use the powders vs leaf/flowers?

    1. These were all used in leaf form, not powdered, but you could use them in powdered form if that’s what you have available. You can make teas/infusions from powdered herbs and strain them well through a cotton cloth or you can make electuaries out of the powders. Either way will work. The recipe would remain the same whether you’re using powdered or whole form herbs. Simply choose what you want your part to be (tablespoon, cup, scoop, etc.) and follow the recipe. Hope that answers your questions, and thanks for the comment!

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