Becoming a new mum isn’t easy (at all!) and one of the biggest decisions you’ll make is how to feed your baby. More than 73% of mothers in the UK start breastfeeding, so let’s take a look at the herbs that could help support you and your baby.
The benefits of breastfeeding
The current advice is that babies should have nothing but breastmilk for their first six months – and there are huge benefits for both baby and you. It reduces your baby’s risk of infection, obesity and cardiovascular conditions in adulthood, and dials down your own risk of several diseases such as breast cancer and obesity.1
Many new mums struggle with breastfeeding, but did you know that milk thistle and fenugreek have traditionally been used to boost milk supply?2 There is now medical research to support this theory – discover the evidence behind the herbs that can increase breast milk.
Could fenugreek boost breast milk?
When you start breastfeeding, you may worry you’re not producing enough milk.3 Fenugreek, an aromatic Mediterranean herb, has been used for centuries to aid lactation and is still the most commonly taken herb to help boost breast milk today.4
In 2011, a small study by Gazi University in Turkey found new mothers who drank herbal tea containing fenugreek produced significantly more breast milk on the third day after giving birth compared with mothers who took a placebo or nothing at all.5
Another small study by Iranian researchers in 2015 followed breastfeeding mothers who drank either tea containing fenugreek seed or black tea three times a day, over four weeks.6 At the end of the study, the babies whose mothers drank fenugreek tea showed more significant growth than those whose mothers drank black tea, suggesting that fenugreek has an effect on breast milk sufficiency.
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The power of milk thistle
Milk thistle is more commonly known for supporting the liver and easing digestion, but research indicates it may also have a positive effect on breast milk supply.
In 2008, Italian researchers found that lactating women who took 420mg silymarin – the active compound in milk thistle – every day showed an 86% increase in breast milk production after 63 days, compared with just a 32% increase in those taking a placebo.7
If you are interested in using herbs to increase breast milk production, consult your doctor before taking any supplements during pregnancy or when breastfeeding.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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1. NHS Choices. The benefits of breastfeeding. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/benefits-breastfeeding.aspx
2. Examine.com. Milk Thistle. Available from: https://examine.com/supplements/milk-thistle/#ref30
3. NHS Choices. Breastfeeding: is my baby getting enough milk? Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/breastfeeding-is-baby-getting-enough-milk.aspx
4. Budzynska K, et al. Systematic Review of Breastfeeding and Herbs. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3523241/
5. Turkyılmaz C, et al. The effect of galactagogue herbal tea on breast milk production and short-term catch-up of birth weight in the first week of life. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21261516
6. Ghasemi V, Kheirkhah M, Vahedi M. The Effect of Herbal Tea Containing Fenugreek Seed on the Signs of Breast Milk Sufficiency in Iranian Girl Infants. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4585338/
7. Di Peirro F, et al. Clinical efficacy, safety and tolerability of BIO-C (micronized Silymarin) as a galactagogue. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19260380