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6 Natural Supplements for Breastfeeding That Work 

Wondering about what supplements for breastfeeding you should take? Read on to learn about six natural milk boosters for you and your baby.

Mother breastfeeds infant while smiling and looking lovingly at her child.

Breastfeeding isn’t always as easy as it looks when portrayed in mainstream media representations of motherhood. According to World Bank data, only 40.6% of infants in Malaysia are exclusively breastfed for six months. 

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.   

Angelica sinensis

Slices of dang gui or Angelica sinensis on a plaited mat.
Dang gui is a popular TCM herb for postpartum recovery.

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.  


A close-up of Astragalus root laid on a ceramic plate.
Astragalus helps restore stamina and improve immune function.

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. 

Bird’s nest

Edible bird’s nest soup in a white bowl, with uncooked edible bird’s nest pieces next to the bowl on a white marble surface.
Research using animal models suggests that consuming edible bird’s nest during lactation and breastfeeding can potentially improve your baby’s intelligence. 

Edible bird’s nest (yan wo, 燕窝) is a well-known herb in TCM for overall health improvement and maintenance, specifically in improving immune response. Made by male swiftlets using their saliva, the sialic acid in bird’s nest is believed to be the active ingredient.   

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. 


A spoonful of fenugreek seeds is placed beside the plant.
Fenugreek seeds are abundant in dietary fibre.

You’d have come across fenugreek (hu lu ba, 葫芦巴) if you’ve ever had Indian or Mediterranean food. But did you know that this bitter and fragrant spice has also been used extensively to support breastfeeding?  

The International Journal of Pediatrics reported that fenugreek significantly increased milk production and improved infant weight gain within the first week after birth. In the same year, a mechanistic study suggested that fenugreek extends the duration of milk synthesis by modulating the effects of insulin and oxytocin. Oxytocin activity in mammary glands pushes milk to the milk ducts.


Fennel seeds in a clear glass jar and a wooden spoon on a white surface.
Fennel is a common spice in your kitchen cabinet that is also a widely used galactagogue or breast milk booster.

Often used together with fenugreek, fennel (xiao hui xiang, 小茴香) is also well-known as a natural milk booster. Like fenugreek, it is also a common spice found in Malaysian kitchens.

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.   

Blessed thistle

Dried blessed thistle flower and seeds on a wooden tabletop
Blessed thistles have red and yellow flowers.

The herb Blessed thistle (shui fei ji, 水飞蓟) has been used extensively in European herbalism and Ayurvedic medicine. The herb is known for its antimicrobial, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. A bitter tonic when brewed as a tea, it’s also used for wound healing and increasing bile secretion to help with digestive issues.

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.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2022. Breastfeeding. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/facts.html> [Accessed 24 November 2022]
  2. 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]
  3. 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]
  4. 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]
  5. 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]
  6. 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]
  7. 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]
  8. 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]
  9. 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]
  10. 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]
  11. 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]
  12. 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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