A galactagogue (pronounced ga-lac-ta-gog) is a food, herb or medication that may help to increase breastmilk supply. They 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 or your doctor before using a galactagogue.
There are many substances that are claimed to help mothers make more milk. These substances may be natural (such as herbs) or man-made (such as medications). Many cultures also have special foods that people think can increase 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 isn’t much scientific evidence that they work.
You may also have heard of lactation cookies. There is no evidence that these increase milk supply either even though they may taste good!
There are some medicines that can work but only if you keep on emptying your breasts well and often, at least 8 times in 24 hours. They won’t work for all mums. You will need to have a visit with a lactation consultant or your doctor before using these.
What’s the best way to increase my supply?
Most mums are able to produce more than enough milk for their baby or babies, especially with the right information and support. Most mums who think that they have a low milk supply may not.
The most effective way to get a good milk supply going and then keep it up is to breastfeed often. The more milk that is removed from your breasts (and the more often), the more milk you will make. The less milk that is removed, the less milk you will make. This is known as the supply and demand basis of breastfeeding.
If you have a low supply, then the first thing to do is to get help to find out why. Then take steps to improve how you are breastfeeding and/or expressing. Adding a galactagogue may then help to speed up the process.
If you are concerned about your milk supply, you may find it helpful to speak to one of our trained breastfeeding counsellors on the Breastfeeding Helpline.