Reviewed by Dr Nurul Aishah Jamaludin, Physician Ho Li Ying and Physician Wong Si Xuan
6 Natural Supplements for Breastfeeding That Work
Published | 4 min read
Wondering about what supplements for breastfeeding you should take? Read on to learn about six natural milk boosters for you and your baby.
Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 60% of new mothers don’t breastfeed their babies for as long as they intend to. One of the reasons is insufficient breast milk production.
Two hormones are involved in breastfeeding, namely prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin tells your body to make breast milk for as long as you breastfeed. Meanwhile, oxytocin stimulates the mammary glands to get the milk to your baby’s suckling mouth.
The complex and intricate way in which hormones work, on top of the strain and stress of childrearing, can disrupt milk production and flow. Fortunately, natural supplements for breastfeeding have been shown to work.
6 Supplements for Breastfeeding to Add to Your Post-partum Diet
There are ancient traditional records and observations of effective herbal medicines. In more recent times, Western-informed scientific studies have started to catch up and formally prove the efficacy of these herbs as well as investigate possible mechanisms.
These 6 natural supplements have a demonstrated ability to improve breastfeeding.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), qi (vital life force) and blood are considered to be the material basis for breast milk. Blood qi sufficiency and smooth blood qi circulation are the two main conditions necessary to ensure a healthy milk supply, says TCM physician Ho Li Ying.
Angelica sinensis or dang gui (当归) is often included in formulations to improve breast milk production. Recent studies indicate that its active compounds positively affect the vasodilation of blood vessels. This matches its TCM action of invigorating and enriching the blood. It’s a widely used herb in TCM, especially for improving women’s health, such as regulating the menstrual cycle and treating other gynaecological conditions.
Also known as huang qi (黄芪), astragalus is another TCM herb prescribed to help with milk supply. It tonifies qi and nourishes blood, supplementing blood and supporting milk synthesis.
Studies on the pharmacological effects of astragalus suggest that it can prime the body’s immune response. This is through its impact on blood flow and wound healing and can help explain its positive effect on breast milk production.
A 2018 study published in Neural Plasticity found that the offspring of female mice fed with bird’s nest performed better than the control group in spatial learning. The study attributed this effect to increased sialic acid in the mice’s breast milk.
You’d have come across
The International Journal of Pediatrics reported that fenugreek significantly increased milk production and improved infant
Often used together with fenugreek,
Recent studies on its benefits point to its positive effect on the hormone prolactin involved in milk synthesis. In a 2019 study by researchers in Indonesia, fennel leaf tea was found to stimulate the mammary glands of lactating mice and increase milk production.
This herb is well-known across many cultures in Europe and the Near East as a galactagogue as it increases flow and enriches breast milk.
Pregnancy and childbirth can tax a woman’s body, potentially weakening breast milk production. These supplements can potentially rejuvenate and invigorate the body to support breastfeeding. As always, speak to a licensed TCM physician before starting the consumption of any supplement.
Physician Ho reminds new mothers that a balanced diet, plenty of rest and managing stress are equally crucial to postpartum health and care.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2022. Breastfeeding. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/facts.html> [Accessed 24 November 2022]
- Multi-Disciplinary Publishing Institute (MDPI) – Genes. 2020. Fenugreek Stimulates the Expression of Genes Involved in Milk Synthesis and Milk Flow through Modulation of Insulin/GH/IGF-1 Axis and Oxytocin Secretion. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7602737/?report=classic> [Accessed 24 November 2022]
- International Journal of Pediatrics. 2020. Effect of Fenugreek on Breastfeeding Adequacy in Breastfeeding Mothers: A Review Study. [online] Available at: <https://ijp.mums.ac.ir/article_15472.html> [Accessed 24 November 2022]
- Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal. 2015. The Effect of Herbal Tea Containing Fenugreek Seed on the Signs of Breast Milk Sufficiency in Iranian Girl Infants. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4585338/> [Accessed 24 November 2022]
- Nusantara Bioscience. 2019. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) leaf infusion effect on mammary gland activity and kidney function of lactating rats. [online] Available at: <https://smujo.id/nb/article/view/3853/3184> [Accessed 24 November 2022]
- Pharmaceutical Biology. 2020. The potential medicinal value of plants from Asteraceae family with antioxidant defence enzymes as biological targets. [online] Available at: <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/13880209.2014.942788> [Accessed 24 November 2022]
- The Pharmaceutical and Chemical Journal. 2016. The Constituents and Pharmacology of Cnicus Benedictus-A Review. [online] Available at: <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313744455_The_Constituents_and_Pharmacology_of_Cnicus_Benedictus-A_Review> [Accessed 24 November 2022]
- Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2021. Ethnobotanical Survey of Natural Galactagogues Prescribed in Traditional Chinese Medicine Pharmacies in Taiwan. [online] Available at: <https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2020.625869/full> [Accessed 24 November 2022]
- European Medicines Agency. 2013. Assessment report on Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels, radix. [online] Available at: <https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/herbal-report/final-assessment-report-angelica-sinensis-oliv-diels-radix-first-version_en.pdf> [Accessed 24 November 2022]
- Chinese Medicine. 2011. Pharmacological effects of Radix Angelica Sinensis (Danggui) on cerebral infarction. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3174116/> [Accessed 24 November 2022]
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2016. Characterization of the Physiological Response following In Vivo Administration of Astragalus membranaceus. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4844899/> [Accessed 24 November 2022]
- Neural Plasticity. 2018. Effect of Maternal Administration of Edible Bird’s Nest on the Learning and Memory Abilities of Suckling Offspring in Mice. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5885349/> [Accessed 24 November 2022]
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