Archive for June, 2015

Using herbal supplements to enhance milk supply and breastfeeding

June 2nd, 2015

Written by Clare Boyle, Midwife & Breastfeeding Consultant. (

[All the herbs mentioned in this post are available to buy from]

The vast majority of breastfeeding mothers have no problem with their milk volume and supply; breastfeeding is simply a matter of responding to the baby’s feeding cues and allowing the baby to feed when he or she wants to and for as long as he or she wants and when they have had their fill they will either fall asleep or come off the breast. When breastfeeding is proceeding normally baby will gain weight appropriately and breastfeeding is very rewarding for both mum and baby.

Sometimes however this isn’t the situation, and despite mum putting baby to the breast and allowing baby to feed frequently and for as long as the baby wants to the baby either doesn’t appear satisfied, and or does not gain weight appropriately for his or her age. In this situation it is possible that mum isn’t producing enough milk but this may not be the whole story and we should not automatically assume that the mother just simply can’t produce enough milk because it is quite possible that there is something going on with the baby and breastfeeding that results in low supply.

It is very important to understand that in the vast majority of cases the amount of milk a woman makes comes directly from how frequently and how effectively the baby is feeding and although there are some women who won’t make enough milk they are a very small percentage of the population (around 2%). Making milk is essential to human survival and it is therefore biologically imperative that it is successful most of time. The element that most people don’t realise is that how the baby breastfeeds is the key to a good supply. I like to say that the baby is the foreman of the milk making factory and every time baby feeds he is putting in an order to make more milk! A good example would be a mum who is breastfeeding twins; her body is getting twice the order so will produce twice as much milk. We know that most women will on average be able to easily produce enough milk for up to two babies. During the first three days and up to the first six weeks of breastfeeding it is imperative that baby is feeding frequently (at least 8 to 10 feeds in 24 hours) but just as importantly is also feeding effectively so as to ensure good milk transfer as this is a time of calibration for the body – it is trying to figure out how much milk this baby needs and respond accordingly. However, if baba has a problem and isn’t breastfeeding well then mums body doesn’t receive the order to make more milk and this can result in low supply.

The two most common causes a baby may not be able to stimulate an effective milk volume is that baby is sleepy and or the baby has a tongue tie, essentially the baby isn’t putting in his or her order to the milk making factory properly. Sleepy baby often occurs in the first week after the birth and baby is not breastfeeding the normal 8 to 10 feeds every 24 hours and not feeding for at least 10 to 20 minutes per feed – for more information about sleepy baby please read   Tongue tie can have a profound impact on the baby’s ability to breastfeed effectively and is a very common cause of low milk supply and for more information about this please read .

Both of these issues can take time to diagnose and rectify and often by the time the problems are being sorted out the milk supply has decreased and is not as plentiful as it needs to be. Using herbal supplements are one of tools I use to help mothers re-establish their supply to full production. The advantage of the herbal supplements are that they are easy to use and they are a really effective method for increasing the supply promptly while the underlying issue or cause of the low supply is being addressed. When I am working with mums with low supply I usually recommend that they take two herbal remedies at the same time because I have found that this has the most beneficial and quickest response. I use GoLacta and Goats Rue, both have an excellent track record for increasing milk supply and the mothers I work with often report an increase in milk supply within four to five days. GoLacta capsules are made up of the Malunggay plant that as well as increasing your milk supply also has many other health benefits. Galega officinalis is the latin plant name for Goats Rue and it has been used to increase milk supply for years

I usually recommend that mum start taking both at the recommended amounts and then we evaluate her milk supply in about 5 – 7 days. Usually by this time mum will have noticed that her breasts feel more full in the morning and that baby is glugging more during a feed and is also coming off the breast satisfied and she may notice that she has more milk leaking from her breasts. We also check in weekly with the weight gains and once we are happy that the supply is on the increase we will start to decrease any supplementing that was put in place. I will also recommend that mum do some pumping during this time as well in order to stimulate more milk production but the frequency and length of pumping times that I recommend varies depending on a mothers individual issues.

Low milk supply is actually quite a complex lactation problem and using herbal supplements is generally just one aspect of a treatment plan so it is a good idea to work with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in order to ensure that breastfeeding is maintained. Dealing with low milk supply issues can be very stressful for a breastfeeding mum and an IBCLC will be able to provide a tailor made plan for her specific situation and provide on-going support and guidance so that the mother can reach her breastfeeding goals. In Ireland most hospitals have breastfeeding clinics run by IBCLC’s and there are also IBCLC’s who work in private practice throughout the country . Having the right support can make all the difference.

Ask the Experts, Breastfeeding Info, Increase Milk Supply