The miracle of birth is a blessed occasion for all concerned. It is a fact not lost on the proud mother, who wants to give her baby every benefit she possibly can. Below is a comprehensive introduction to some teas that have been scientifically proven to boost milk supply.
- Lactation teas are teas containing herbs especially selected for their ability to increase either the volume or quality of breast milk, or both.
- These herbs are known as galactagogues (pronounced gah-lak´tah-gogz) because they promote lactation.
- A point to note is that most women do produce enough breast milk for their babies so there is no need to worry. However, things like stress, fatigue and other physical factors may reduce breast milk production. It’s at these times when galactagogues are especially important.
And Mother Nature has ensured there is a galactagogue that is perfect for you. Take a look at 7 of the most effective lactation teas available and see which one appeals to you most.
Red raspberry leaf tea
Red raspberry leaf tea seems to have been especially created for women, which is probably why it is often referred to as “the woman’s herb”.
However, while some literature recommends it for use during the whole pregnancy to minimise the occurrence and severity of morning sickness, other information warns against taking this particular tea until the second or third trimester due to the possibility of it initiating a miscarriage.
Red raspberry leaf is of great benefit after giving birth because it helps the uterus return to its pre-birth size, and it increases the amount of breast milk produced.
- Since this herbal tea is a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, it also increases the quality of breast milk.
Red raspberry leaf tea boosts the quantity of breast milk by stimulating the release of prolactin. Prolactin is produced by the pituitary gland and its main job is to cause breasts to develop and grow, and to produce milk following the birth of a baby.
Just a warning – if you intend to begin drinking herbal teas, or to continue drinking them, while pregnant or breastfeeding, consult a medical professional. Some herbal teas such as sage, peppermint and jasmine can dry up breast milk.
Other herbal teas are not recommended due to the lack of information on their effect on newborn babies.
And a final note – don’t expect this tea to taste sweet and fruity like raspberries. This tea is made from the leaves, not the berries.
Red raspberry leaf tea is a galactagogue. It stimulates the release of prolactin, which increases the quality of breast milk after birth. It's not recommended that you take this herbal tea during the first trimester, and please consult your doctor if you want to start or continue drinking any herbal teas while pregnant and breastfeeding.
Fenugreek is herb whose seeds have traditionally been an ingredient in Indian cooking and medicine for hundreds of years.
It is one of the best-known herbs for increasing breast milk. Although it is extremely beneficial for boosting breast milk production, it is definitely not recommended for use during the actual pregnancy.
- However, so effective as a galactagogue is it that it can even help mothers of adopted infants commence producing milk.
In 2012, at a meeting of lactation specialists, attendees were asked, via a survey, about which traditional methods of boosting lactation they would recommend. Fenugreek was chosen as the most common method.
Furthermore, in a 2018 review of available research into the effect of fenugreek on the production of breast milk, researchers found that it made a significant difference.
It is thought that fenugreek works by either stimulating the release of more prolactin from the pituitary gland, or by blocking dopamine receptors which can inhibit the release of prolactin.
Fenugreek tea has a delicious taste, reminiscent of maple syrup, slightly sweet with hints of nuttiness.
Fenugreek is one of the most commonly used galactagogues. It also has a lot of scientific evidence to support its use as a breast milk booster. It works either by stimulating the release of prolactin, responsible for producing breast milk, or by blocking prolactin inhibitors. It tastes rather like maple syrup.
Another herb with a scientifically proven ability to increase the production of breast milk is moringa, a drought resistant tree that is native to India.
- Moringa is nutritionally rich, containing many powerful vitamins and minerals, such as folate, which is incredibly important for the formation of the baby in utero.
- Moringa is classed as a superfood and is possibly the world’s most nutrient-dense plant. It contains over 92 nutrients as well as 46 types of antioxidants.
With moringa leaf tea there is no question about its benefits to either our health, or its ability to increase breast milk and the volume of nutrients in breast milk. There has been countless research conducted which supports these facts, along with word-of-mouth claims from thousands of mothers who have experienced it for themselves.
Naturally with increased volume and quality of breast milk, babies whose mothers drink moringa leaf tea tend to put on weight faster than babies whose mothers don’t.
There are no known side-effects to drinking moringa tea – only health benefits, such as a stronger immune system and more energy for the mother, and higher quality, more nutritious milk for baby.
Moringa leaf tea has a flavour very close to the earthy, herbal taste of green tea, although it is less bitter.
Moringa leaf is such a rich source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that it is classed as a superfood. It has been scientifically proven to increase both the quality and quantity of breast milk, resulting in more rapid growth and development of the baby.
Fennel seed tea
Fennel seeds are actually the fruit of the perennial fennel plant, which is native to the Mediterranean.
- Fennel seed tea has the ability to stimulate the production of prolactin, which in turn stimulates the production of milk.
- It is not recommended that you take fennel seeds in any form while you are pregnant, but it is safe in moderate amounts when breastfeeding.
The increase in quantity and quality of breast milk attributed to fennel seed tea also correlates with an increase in weight gain for the infant, which is faster than those babies of mothers who don’t drink fennel seed tea.
Furthermore, fennel seed tea relieves gas and digestive tract upsets. As the benefits of fennel seed tea are passed on through breast milk to the infant, this is a second benefit. Not only will you have a healthy growing baby, but one who doesn’t have to suffer colic or other digestive upsets.
Three cups a day of this delightfully liquorice-tasting tea is enough to reap all its benefits. It also has a relaxing aroma, and a slightly bitter aftertaste, which you can take care of with a small dollop of organic honey.
Fennel seed tea is another galactagogue that can increase milk production in breastfeeding mothers, especially those suffering from a reduced supply due to stress or fatigue. It also helps protect your baby from a build-up of gas which can lead to colic and a very unhappy baby.
Goat’s rue tea
Goat’s rue is a herb native to the Middle East, but which now grows in Europe and some parts of Asia. It comes from the same plant family as fenugreek, another of our recommended milk boosting herbal teas.
- This particular herbal tea is one that is often recommended by doctors to mothers who aren’t producing enough milk on their own.
- Furthermore, it can stimulate the growth of new breast tissue.
In an uncontrolled Austrian study, 336 women who were producing less than usual levels of breast milk were given goat’s rue. At the conclusion of the study, the women reported increases in milk supply of between 30–60%.
The problem with goat’s rue is that even though there are many anecdotal reports of its effectiveness and studies that support its use as a galactagogue, the studies were small and not conducted under proper scientific conditions.
However, it has been declared as ‘well-tolerated’ except for women on anti-diabetic medication, and there are many reputable sources that recommend it.
In fact, some women claim it works even better than its cousin – fenugreek.
An interesting point is that in days gone by, goat’s rue was given to cows to increase their milk supply. Then one smart person put one and one together and tried it on humans.
It does have a slightly bitter taste and some people prefer to drink it either with a dollop of organic honey, or mixed with a more flavoursome herbal tea.
While there isn’t a lot of credible research done on goat’s rue, it is still an effective and safe herb to use for increasing breast milk supply. Some women report it works better than the scientifically supported tea – fenugreek.
Blessed thistle tea
This thistle is native to the Mediterranean region from Portugal all the way across to Iran, although it has been introduced to many other countries such as Australia and North America.
- While some mothers report that blessed thistle doesn’t work for them, other women have reported increased production of breast milk.
- It works particularly well when combined with fenugreek.
Blessed thistle (malunggay) is thought to work by stimulating the release of prolactin, which increases the production of breast milk, and oxytocin, which enables the release of milk through the nipples. Usually, the action of the baby clamping onto the nipple sets these hormones to work, but in some cases, mothers aren’t able to produce enough milk. A cup of blessed thistle can take care of this problem.
It only takes a few days of regular consumption for results to begin to show.
Blessed thistle tea has a mild flavour that some compare to dandelion tea.
Blessed thistle works by stimulating the release of prolactin and oxytocin, and is even more effective when combined with fenugreek tea. Some report that blessed thistle doesn’t work for them, but it does take a few days of regular consumption for the volume of milk to increase.
Stinging nettle leaf tea
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is native to Europe and northern Africa, but is now found around the world.
Stinging nettle is a herb that has been used for centuries to treat all manner of health problems, including post-partum anaemia, and as a galactagogue.
- Stinging nettle does indeed increase the volume of breast milk, and the best thing is you can use it immediately after giving birth.
- It contains rich sources of essential pregnancy nutrients such as iron, calcium, folic acid, and vitamin K.
As with a lot of the other teas, stinging nettle tea works by stimulating the production of prolactin and oxytocin. The tea absorbed by the mother not only stimulates milk production, but also adds its vitamins and minerals to the breast milk.
If you already have a good supply of milk, then it isn’t recommended you take stinging nettle, and it isn’t recommended that you take it while pregnant as it can cause a miscarriage.
And, as with all of the teas described here, if you start to develop mastitis, swollen and sore breasts, or an oversupply of milk, stop taking the herbal tea.
Stinging nettle tea can interfere with some medications so check with your medical professional before drinking it.
Stinging nettle is a galactagogue and a very rich source of iron, which is why it is also used to prevent post-partum anaemia. It contains essential ‘pregnancy’ nutrients, and while it is definitely not recommended that you take it during pregnancy, it can be taken immediately after giving birth.
Do lactation teas really work?
While more research is needed, there is some evidence and tonne of anecdotal evidence to suggest that some teas have properties that can stimulate the release of prolactin, the hormone responsible for breast development and milk production in pregnant women. In a 2016 review of medical studies, the conclusion was that results were mixed, but that more research into the ability of these teas to produce more breast milk were urgently needed.
When should I start drinking lactation teas?
Most of the time, women don’t need to worry about an insufficient supply of breast milk. Nearly all mothers produce the right amount for their baby. However, there are certain situations, such as chronic stress, whereby the breast milk supply can run low and even dry up. It is then that lactation teas should be taken. Otherwise, generally in the third trimester of pregnancy and after the birth until no longer needed. Remember to always check with a medical professional before introducing herbal teas or extracts while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Which lactation tea works the best?
Since everyone is different and the properties in different herbs may interact differently with people’s varying body chemistry, this question is difficult to answer, Having said that, you will find fennel seeds and fenugreek common ingredients in almost every lactation tea. So, it may be an idea to try both teas and see which one you like the most. The ones we have covered in the article are the most commonly known to help produce extra breast milk, so it basically comes down to what works for you and flavour.
How soon do breasts refill after feeding?
Initially, it takes about 2 weeks for milk supply to become established. However, while you are breastfeeding your baby, your breasts are never really empty. The glands in your breast are continuously making milk, and the more baby drinks, the more you produce. It usually takes an infant around 5 to 10 minutes to drink its fill.
What herbal teas do I need to avoid while breastfeeding?
While some herbs have amazing health benefits for a pregnant and breastfeeding mother, it is always our recommendation that you talk to a health professional before starting or continuing to drink herbal teas during pregnancy, especially the first trimester, and when breastfeeding. Then again, there are some teas you should definitely avoid. These include angelica root, buckthorn, coltsfoot, ginseng, kava-kava, parsley, sage, wormwood.
How much of each herbal tea should I drink each day?
While this could depend on the particular herbal tea you are talking about, and on your doctor’s recommendation, the usual recommended amount is between 1 and 3 cups only. If you are buying a blend then check the instructions as blends contain combinations of herbs and fruits, which are all very healthy, but which might require only one cup a day. Or two.
Lactation teas contain herbs that stimulate the production of milk. But more than that, they add their rich nutrients to the milk, and researchers have found that babies drinking this vitamin and mineral rich milk tend to put on weight faster than other babies.
There are a couple of things that need emphasizing, though.
- The majority of new mothers produce enough milk for their babies. Please don’t stress about not being able to produce enough.
- If you do want to boost your milk supply and increase the nutrient content, please stop if you develop mastitis, swollen, sore breasts, or start to produce an over supply of milk.
- As always, check with a medical professional before drinking herbal teas either during your pregnancy, or while breastfeeding. Just to be safe.