Herbs are a natural, gentle way to support and nourish a breastfeeding mom and baby. Certain herbs, called galactagogues, actually help to encourage and increase breast milk. Many of these plants also provide essential vitamins and minerals to help keep mom healthy and relaxed through the stresses of breastfeeding and infant care.
The following herbs are well-loved galactagogues that can be used regularly for plentiful milk:
Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus)
This herb, also called mother’s milk thistle, is known for its ability to increase milk supply and improve the vitality of a nursing mother. It is also helpful for easing depression. Herbalist, Susun Weed, recommends a dose of up to 20 drops of tincture, 2-4 times daily.
Borage (Borago officinalis)
The leaves of this plant can be made into a tea to help increase milk flow. Weed states,”Half a cupful of Borage infusion at each nursing insures an abundant supply of milk, acts as a mild laxative, and soothes jangled nerves.”
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
The seeds of this plant are especially nourishing. They can be made into a tea that helps to promote milk production.
Hops (Humulus Lupulus)
Hops increases production and enriches milk. It also helps promote sleep and relaxation.
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
This nourishing herb is an important source of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, which is important for lactation. It increases richness and amount of breast milk produced.
Raspberry leaf (Rubus)
This herb contains calcium in its most absorbable form. It has high amounts of vitamins and minerals that nourish mom and help to ensure plentiful milk production.
Aromatic seeds such as, anise, cumin, fennel, caraway, coriander, and dill, also increase milk production and additionally, tone the digestive system. Their benefits are passed along through the milk and can help to reduce colic and indigestion for baby.
Herbal teas are a great way to benefit from herbs while simultaneously increasing fluid intake. It is essential that breastfeeding moms drink plenty of water, around 12 cups daily. Drinking daily teas of vitamin & mineral rich herbs like raspberry leaf, nettle, alfalfa, and red clover will help to encourage an abundant supply of breast milk and provide important nutrients for mom and baby.
Herbalist, Susan Weed, recommends the following tea blend for breastfeeding mothers. This recipe is excerpted from her book, Herbs for the Childbearing Year.
Susun Weed’s Nursing Formula
•1 ounce dried Blessed Thistle or Borage leaves
•1 ounce dried Raspberry or Nettle leaves
•1 teaspoon of any one of these seeds: Anise, Cumin, Fennel, Caraway, Coriander, Dill
Place leaves in a half-gallon jar and fill to the top with boiling water. Cap tightly and let steep overnight. Strain out herbs and refrigerate liquid until needed. As you get ready to nurse, pour off one cupful of the brew and heat it nearly to the boil. Pour it over a teaspoonful of any of the aromatic seeds. Let it brew and cool for five more minutes before drinking.
This brew can be drunk freely, up to two quarts a day if you desire.
In her book, Herbal Healing for Women,
Herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, recommends regularly drinking one of the following tea blends to promote breastfeeding.
Rosemary Gladstar’s Mother’s Milk Tea
3 parts fennel seed
1 / 2 part fenugreek seed
1 / 2 part blessed thistle leaf
1 / 4 part hops
Blessed Thistle Tea
1 part blessed thistle
4 parts fennel seeds
2 parts nettle
2 parts raspberry leaf
To Make: Use four to six tablespoons of herb mixture per quart of water. Add herbs to cold water and bring to a slow boil over low heat. Remove from heat and infuse for twenty minutes. Strain. Drink three to four cups daily.
Herbalist, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, also recommends eating plenty of green herbs in salad to help produce milk, especially wild garlic leaves, spring onions, milk thistle hearts, comfrey leaves, chicory, mallows, dill, coriander, dandelion leaves, watercress, and alfalfa. She mentions that borage flowers and all the clovers are also beneficial.
Herbs are a great way to naturally increase milk production while breastfeeding. Many galactagogues are also nutritious and have other important benefits, such as soothing the nervous and digestive systems. If your a nursing mom, try adding a few milk boosting teas to your daily routine. Your body and your baby will thank you!
Fallon, Sally & Thomas S. Cowan, MD. The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care.
Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Healing for Women.
Kloster, Jethro. Back to Eden.
Levy, Juliette de Bairacli Levy. Nature’s Children.
Weed, Susan. Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year.