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Galactagogues (substances claimed to increase supply)

A galactagogue (pronounced ga-lac-ta-gog) is a food, herb or medication that may help to increase breastmilk supply. They often work by increasing the level of prolactin in the body. Prolactin is one of the many hormones involved in milk production. You should seek help from a lactation consultant and/or medical adviser before using a galactagogue.

There are many substances that are claimed to help mothers to make more milk. These substances may be natural (such as herbs) or man-made (such as medications). Many cultures also have special foods that are thought to enhance milk production. These foods may contain one or more galactagogues, but most have not been formally studied. Even though some galactagogues have been used for centuries, there is limited scientific evidence to prove that they work. A large 2020 review of the available research concluded that it is uncertain if galactagogues increase the volume of milk produced, or if they have any effect on the duration of breastfeeding.1

Most mothers are able to produce more than enough milk for their baby (or babies!), especially with the right information and support. Many mothers who think that they have a low milk supply actually don’t. If you feel you aren’t making enough milk for your baby you may find it helpful to read our article on increasing your supply. You can also call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268 to speak to one of our trained breastfeeding counsellors.

By far, the most important way to establish and then maintain a good milk supply is for milk to be removed from the breasts often and well. The more milk is removed from your breasts (and the more often), the more milk they will make, and vice versa. This is known as the supply and demand basis of breastfeeding. Galactagogues will not help if breastmilk is not being removed often and well from a mother’s breasts. Many factors can contribute to a low milk supply, including some medical conditions, a poor latch, sleepy baby, or spacing feeds too far apart. When all factors have been looked at and addressed to improve a mother’s breastfeeding and/or expressing technique, then galactagogues may help to speed up the process.

For further information

·         Fact sheets:

o   Domperidone for improving breast milk supply (Queensland Children’s Hospital)

o   Domperidone for increasing breast milk (Royal Women’s Hospital)

·         Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Clinical Protocol:Galactagogues (2018)

·         Information about drugs and prescription medications while breastfeeding:

o   NPS Medicines Line

o   Medicines Information Centres

o   LactMed free online database

·         Making More Milk, The Breastfeeding Guide to Increasing Your Milk Production (2nd Ed., 2019) by Lisa Marasco (IBCLC) is a valuable book that includes a thorough section on galactagogues.

·         ABA’s Breastfeeding Information and Research team ABA’s Breastfeeding Information and Research team has more detailed and fully referenced articles on galactagogues. These articles can be obtained by ABA professional members or on a fee-for-service basis. For further details, contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

 References

1. Foong, S. C., Tan, M. L., Foong, W. C., Marasco, L. A., Ho, J. J., & Ong, J. H. (2020). Oral galactagogues (natural therapies or drugs) for increasing breast milk production in mothers of non-hospitalised term infants. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews5(5), CD011505. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD011505.pub2

The information on this website does not replace the advice of your health care provider.

 

© Australian Breastfeeding Association February 2022

Last reviewed: 
Apr 2022