It never fails… as soon as my babies hit the 12 month mark, I start longing for a newborn in the house again.
Oh the joys of a newborn baby!
So small and soft, with quiet grunts and cries, totally helpless and in need of their mamas. I love it!
Not that it doesn’t have its obstacles of course. Pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the first 2-3 weeks of breastfeeding are seriously intense, but after all of that, there’s this sweet, tiny gift that needs you for everything in order to survive.
The Newest Visser
One of my sisters-in-law recently had a baby. A boy. His name is Lincoln, and he’s so handsome. So far all of us Visser ladies have had boys first… must be something in the water here in northeast Tennessee.
Anyway, he’s almost a month old now, and when my sister-in-law gave birth to him, he swallowed a bit too much amniotic fluid and had to be taken away from mama and daddy to be kept in the newborn nursery all night so his O2 sat could be monitored. They kept him there until the pediatrician made his rounds in the morning then brought him back to his eagerly awaiting parents… 11 hours after his birth. I won’t even share my thoughts on that… it’s not my place.
Getting Started Breastfeeding
No matter, my sister-in-law had a difficult time getting started with breastfeeding… as most first time mothers do. I know I did! And seeing as how there was a delay in nursing him, the hospital staff had her pump in order to get her breast milk supply established.
Now, if you’ve had babies you know that the first milk your body produces is colostrum which is a super-nutritious, high calorie milk (more like cream), and you know there is very little of it. You probably also know that this is enough to keep baby satisfied when fed every 2 hours or so until the breast milk actually comes in because a brand new baby’s stomach is so small.
First time mamas can struggle with this. I know I didn’t understand it. I couldn’t believe that my baby was getting anything! I was so eager for my milk to come in so my kid could actually eat! I suppose my sister-in-law had similar feelings and she wanted to get some more help getting her milk to come in. Another sister-in-law suggested some mama’s milk tea, and called to ask if I’d bring her some.
Seeing as how I too am still nursing 9 month old Ezrah, I have my own mama’s milk tea that I blend and drink for myself. Unfortunately, I was out of fillable tea bags (BHS link), and I knew I needed something that was simple and easy for her to use… she’s not really into natural things so simple is good. I didn’t want to overwhelm her, right?
I decided to stop at the local Earthfare to get her some Earth Mama Angel Baby: Mama’s Milk tea, but they were out of that too. Thankfully they had Motherlove products in stock! I ended up getting her the More Milk Tincture (super easy to take), Nipple Balm, Diaper Rash & Thrush cream, and some EMAB Mama’s Bottom Spray… all great things to have for after delivery… especially if you’re not into making your own homemade products!
She used the More Milk tincture as directed and voila! Her milk came in. Now… most times you don’t need mama’s milk tea/tincture in order for your milk to come in. God designed your body to do that on its own; however, these herbal formulas can help to increase your milk supply and make it more nutritional which is what I want to talk about today.
Herbs That Increase Breastmilk Production
Herbs that increase breast milk production are called galactagogues, and they have been used for hundreds (if not thousands) of years by nursing mothers and midwives to increase breast milk production.
You can use these herbs as simples (single herb) or use them in combination with nutritive herbs which will not only increase milk supply but make mother’s milk more nutritional for baby as well.
These herbs commonly don’t have any side effects and if they do, they are mild. (See #4 in this post on herbal safety for more info about side effects from herbs.) The biggest concern is using too large of a dose which can lead to unwanted effects as is the case with anything. However, this is most common when women take these herbs in capsule form rather than as teas or tinctures since it’s more difficult to judge how much herb is actually being taken by capsules. Your best bet is to have a recommended dosage in mind when taking these herbs. Start slow with low doses and work your way up until you get the results you’re looking for and stay there. If you experience side effects, slowly decrease the dose and/or switch to a different herb.
Another common concern is wondering whether these herbs actually work or not. Seeing as how there aren’t many research studies done on these herbs (they’re mostly done on prescription galactagogues) there is minimal evidence that proves these herbs work. In studies that have been done, an increase in milk production has been seen, but there always seems to be something wrong with the study that negates its results. Go figure. So until more studies are done on these herbs, correctly I might add, we’ll just have to take our ancestors at their word and try it out to see if we get the same results.
Below are 10 herbs that help increase breast milk production. I should say that there are a lot of herbs recommended to aid in increasing breastmilk production. The ones included below are not the common nutritional herbs like alfalfa, red raspberry, and nettle which can also stimulate breastmilk production.
- shatavari (wild asparagus)
- goat’s rue
- anise seed
- milk thistle
- blessed thistle
- red clover
- vitex (chaste berry)
- blue vervain
Herbs That Decrease Breastmilk Production
On the other side of the coin are herbs called antilactagogues, and these herbs are known to decrease milk production. The two most well-known herbs to use when a mama wants to decrease her milk supply to the point of drying it up completely are sage and parsley; however, herbs in the mint family or those high in volatile oil content have been know to decrease milk production in some mamas. I’m not sure that these minty herbs like peppermint, rosemary, and thyme will dry breastmilk up completely, but it is a good thing to keep this in mind.
To read more about using herbs when nursing, click here to view Earth Mama Angel Baby’s free “Herbs & Breastfeeding” ebook.
My Personal Mama’s Milk Blend
Like I said earlier, I’m still nursing Ezrah, who is 9 months old now, and I make my own mama’s milk blend using common herbs that I keep on hand. I formulated this blend when I was nursing my third child after trying some other milk blends in tea form and not caring for the taste all that much.
You see, I really don’t like the taste of fennel. There’s something about it that I just can’t handle. It has a bit of a licorice flavor, and although I don’t mind the flavor of licorice root or anise seed (licorice/vanilla-like), I just can’t stand the taste of fennel. I don’t know what it is about it! Anyway, the majority of mama’s milk blends are high in fennel because it’s an excellent galactagogue, but seeing as how I don’t like the taste, I knew I needed to find a way to use it while masking its flavor more.
I decided to make my own blend, and today I’d like to share that recipe with you.
This recipe does contain fennel (seeing as how it’s great at boosting milk production), but I’ve added some warming spices to the mix to mask its flavor a bit and because they act as catalysts to the other herbs, helping the body use their properties better. I almost always make this as a tincture, but it tastes great as a tea too! You can also substitute in the other herbs listed above if you’d like. Enjoy!
- 4 parts fennel
- 2 parts milk thistle
- 2 parts anise seed
- 2 parts nettle
- 1 part alfalfa
- 1 part red raspberry
- 1/2 part cinnamon
- 1/2 part clove
- Combine herbs and store in a glass jar.
- To use for tea, boil 8 oz. of pure water and pour over 1 TBSP. of mama’s milk herb blend. Let steep 15 minutes. Strain herbs and sweeten as desired. Drink 2-3 cups a day.
- To use as tincture (1:4 ratio / 40% alcohol), start with 20 drops 4 times a day. If production hasn’t increased after 3-4 days, increase dose in 10 drop increments every 2 days. Dosages exceeding 60 drops isn’t recommended.
Now it’s your turn! Have you used herbs to increase or decrease your breastmilk supply? How’d it go? What did you take, how much, how often, and how’d it work for you? Tell me in the comments below. I love hearing your stories!