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Health Condition

Breast-Feeding Support

  • Calcium

    Continuing to take prenatal vitamins will help ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs for breast-feeding. Especially important is continued calcium intake.

    Dose:

    1,000 mg daily
    Calcium
    ×
     

    A woman should continue to take prenatal vitamins in order to meet the nutrient requirements of breast-feeding. Especially important is continued intake of calcium and calcium-rich foods.

  • Cod Liver Oil

    Studies have shown that higher breast milk concentrations of DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid present in fish oil) are associated with better visual acuity in infants.

    Dose:

    Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner
    Cod Liver Oil
    ×

    Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid present in cod liver oil and other fish oils, is important for normal development of the brain and eyes. Studies have shown that higher concentrations of DHA in mothers’ milk are associated with better visual acuity in the infants.54 Other studies have suggested that DHA improves the development of infants, although not all research agrees.55 Because DHA in the mother’s diet passes into the breast milk,56 some doctors advise nursing mothers to supplement their diet with cod liver oil or another fish-oil supplement. Women wishing to use this or any supplement while breast-feeding should consult their doctors and use only under the supervision of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

  • DHA

    Studies have shown that higher breast milk concentrations of DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid present in cod liver oil) are associated with better visual acuity in infants.

    Dose:

    Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner
    DHA
    ×
     

    Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid present in cod liver oil and other fish oils, is important for normal development of the brain and eyes. Studies have shown that higher concentrations of DHA in mothers’ milk are associated with better visual acuity in the infants.57 Other studies have suggested that DHA improves the development of infants, although not all research agrees.58 Because DHA in the mother’s diet passes into the breast milk,59 some doctors advise nursing mothers to supplement their diet with cod liver oil or another fish-oil supplement. Women wishing to use this or any supplement while breast-feeding should consult their doctors and use only under the supervision of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

  • Garlic

    Infants have been shown in some studies to nurse longer when their mothers ate garlic. However, some infants may develop colic from garlic in breast milk.

    Dose:

    Follow label instructions
    Garlic
    ×
     

    Numerous herbs are used traditionally around the world to promote production of breast milk.60 Herbs that promote milk production and flow are known as galactagogues. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) enriches and increases the flow of breast milk and restores the mother’s energy following childbirth.61Vitex (Vitex agnus castus) is one of the best-recognized herbs in Europe for promoting lactation. An older German clinical trial found that 15 drops of a vitex tincture three times per day could increase the amount of milk produced by mothers with or without pregnancy complications compared with mothers given vitamin B1 or nothing. Vitex should not be taken during pregnancy.62 Goat’s rue (Galega officinalis) also has a history of use in Europe for supporting breast-feeding. Taking 1 teaspoon of goat’s rue tincture three times per day is considered by European practitioners to be helpful in increasing milk volume.63 Studies are as yet lacking to support the use of goat’s rue as a galactagogue. In two preliminary trials, infants have been shown to nurse longer when their mothers ate garlic than when their mothers took placebos.64,65 However, some infants may develop colic if they consume garlic in breast milk.

  • Multivitamin

    Continuing to take prenatal vitamins will help ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs for breast-feeding.

    Dose:

    Follow label instructions
    Multivitamin
    ×
      

    A woman should continue to take prenatal vitamins in order to meet the nutrient requirements of breast-feeding. Especially important is continued intake of calcium and calcium-rich foods.

  • Anise

    Anise has traditionally been used in some cultures to support breast-feeding, although no research has confirmed its effectiveness.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Anise
    ×
     

    The safety of using anise during pregnancy and breast-feeding is unknown, though it is very likely safe and has traditionally been used to support breast-feeding in some cultures.66

  • Chickweed Topical

    Chickweed is a soothing herb that can relieve sore nipples. Experts recommend moistening the herb with boiling water, wrapping it in gauze, and applying to the breasts.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Chickweed Topical
    ×
     

    For sore nipples, some healthcare practitioners may recommend a warm, moist poultice of herbs with demulcent (soothing) properties. Demulcents are traditionally used to aid healing and soothe any irritated tissue. Examples of herbs traditionally used as demulcents to relieve sore nipples are marigold (Calendula officinalis), comfrey (Symphytum officinalis), and chickweed (Stellaria media). To prepare a poultice, the dried herbs are moistened with boiling water and wrapped within two layers of gauze. The poultice is then applied to the breasts. Application of a hot water bottle over the poultice will keep the poultice warm longer. Any residue should be washed from the breast before the baby breast-feeds. Individuals wishing to use herbs during breast-feeding should do so only under the supervision of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

  • Comfrey Topical

    Comfrey is a soothing herb that can relieve sore nipples. Experts recommend moistening the herb with boiling water, wrapping it in gauze, and applying to the breasts.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Comfrey Topical
    ×
     

    For sore nipples, some healthcare practitioners may recommend a warm, moist poultice of herbs with demulcent (soothing) properties. Demulcents are traditionally used to aid healing and soothe any irritated tissue. Examples of herbs traditionally used as demulcents to relieve sore nipples are marigold (Calendula officinalis), comfrey (Symphytum officinalis), and chickweed (Stellaria media). To prepare a poultice, the dried herbs are moistened with boiling water and wrapped within two layers of gauze. The poultice is then applied to the breasts. Application of a hot water bottle over the poultice will keep the poultice warm longer. Any residue should be washed from the breast before the baby breast-feeds. Individuals wishing to use herbs during breast-feeding should do so only under the supervision of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

  • Goat's Rue

    Goat’s rue has a history of use in Europe for supporting breast-feeding, it is reported to help increase milk volume.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Goat's Rue
    ×
     

    Numerous herbs are used traditionally around the world to promote production of breast milk.67 Herbs that promote milk production and flow are known as galactagogues. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) enriches and increases the flow of breast milk and restores the mother’s energy following childbirth.68Vitex (Vitex agnus castus) is one of the best-recognized herbs in Europe for promoting lactation. An older German clinical trial found that 15 drops of a vitex tincture three times per day could increase the amount of milk produced by mothers with or without pregnancy complications compared with mothers given vitamin B1 or nothing. Vitex should not be taken during pregnancy.69 Goat’s rue (Galega officinalis) also has a history of use in Europe for supporting breast-feeding. Taking 1 teaspoon of goat’s rue tincture three times per day is considered by European practitioners to be helpful in increasing milk volume.70 Studies are as yet lacking to support the use of goat’s rue as a galactagogue. In two preliminary trials, infants have been shown to nurse longer when their mothers ate garlic than when their mothers took placebos.71,72 However, some infants may develop colic if they consume garlic in breast milk.

  • Marigold Topical

    Marigold is a soothing herb that can relieve sore nipples. Experts recommend moistening the herb with boiling water, wrapping it in gauze, and applying to the breasts.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Marigold Topical
    ×
     

    For sore nipples, some healthcare practitioners may recommend a warm, moist poultice of herbs with demulcent (soothing) properties. Demulcents are traditionally used to aid healing and soothe any irritated tissue. Examples of herbs traditionally used as demulcents to relieve sore nipples are marigold (Calendula officinalis), comfrey (Symphytum officinalis), and chickweed (Stellaria media). To prepare a poultice, the dried herbs are moistened with boiling water and wrapped within two layers of gauze. The poultice is then applied to the breasts. Application of a hot water bottle over the poultice will keep the poultice warm longer. Any residue should be washed from the breast before the baby breast-feeds. Individuals wishing to use herbs during breast-feeding should do so only under the supervision of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

  • Stinging Nettle Topical

    Stinging nettle enriches and increases the flow of breast milk and restores the mother’s energy following childbirth.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Stinging Nettle Topical
    ×
     

    Numerous herbs are used traditionally around the world to promote production of breast milk.73 Herbs that promote milk production and flow are known as galactagogues. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) enriches and increases the flow of breast milk and restores the mother’s energy following childbirth.74Vitex (Vitex agnus castus) is one of the best-recognized herbs in Europe for promoting lactation. An older German clinical trial found that 15 drops of a vitex tincture three times per day could increase the amount of milk produced by mothers with or without pregnancy complications compared with mothers given vitamin B1 or nothing. Vitex should not be taken during pregnancy.75 Goat’s rue (Galega officinalis) also has a history of use in Europe for supporting breast-feeding. Taking 1 teaspoon of goat’s rue tincture three times per day is considered by European practitioners to be helpful in increasing milk volume.76 Studies are as yet lacking to support the use of goat’s rue as a galactagogue. In two preliminary trials, infants have been shown to nurse longer when their mothers ate garlic than when their mothers took placebos.77,78 However, some infants may develop colic if they consume garlic in breast milk.

  • Vitex Topical

    Vitex agnus castus is one of the best-recognized herbs in Europe for promoting lactation. It should not be used during pregnancy.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Vitex Topical
    ×
     

    Numerous herbs are used traditionally around the world to promote production of breast milk.79 Herbs that promote milk production and flow are known as galactagogues. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) enriches and increases the flow of breast milk and restores the mother’s energy following childbirth.80Vitex (Vitex agnus castus) is one of the best-recognized herbs in Europe for promoting lactation. An older German clinical trial found that 15 drops of a vitex tincture three times per day could increase the amount of milk produced by mothers with or without pregnancy complications compared with mothers given vitamin B1 or nothing. Vitex should not be taken during pregnancy.81 Goat’s rue (Galega officinalis) also has a history of use in Europe for supporting breast-feeding. Taking 1 teaspoon of goat’s rue tincture three times per day is considered by European practitioners to be helpful in increasing milk volume.82 Studies are as yet lacking to support the use of goat’s rue as a galactagogue. In two preliminary trials, infants have been shown to nurse longer when their mothers ate garlic than when their mothers took placebos.83,84 However, some infants may develop colic if they consume garlic in breast milk.

What Are Star Ratings
×
Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

References

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64. Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. Maternal diet alters the sensory qualities of human milk and the nursling's behavior. Pediatrics 1991;88:737-44.

65. Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling's behavior. Pediatr Res 1993;34:805-8.

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71. Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. Maternal diet alters the sensory qualities of human milk and the nursling's behavior. Pediatrics 1991;88:737-44.

72. Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling's behavior. Pediatr Res 1993;34:805-8.

73. Bingel AS, Farnsworth NR. Higher plants as potential sources of galactagogues. Econ Med Plant Res 1994;6:1-54 [review].

74. Gladstar R. Herbal Healing for Women. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1993, 177.

75. Mohr H. [Clinical investigations of means to increase lactation.] Dtsch Med Wschr 1954;79:1513-6 [in German].

76. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd., 1988, 318.

77. Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. Maternal diet alters the sensory qualities of human milk and the nursling's behavior. Pediatrics 1991;88:737-44.

78. Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling's behavior. Pediatr Res 1993;34:805-8.

79. Bingel AS, Farnsworth NR. Higher plants as potential sources of galactagogues. Econ Med Plant Res 1994;6:1-54 [review].

80. Gladstar R. Herbal Healing for Women. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1993, 177.

81. Mohr H. [Clinical investigations of means to increase lactation.] Dtsch Med Wschr 1954;79:1513-6 [in German].

82. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd., 1988, 318.

83. Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. Maternal diet alters the sensory qualities of human milk and the nursling's behavior. Pediatrics 1991;88:737-44.

84. Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling's behavior. Pediatr Res 1993;34:805-8.

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88. Duerbeck N. Breast-feeding: What you should know so you can talk to your patients. Comp Ther 1998;24:310-8.

89. Worthington-Roberts BS, Williams SR. Nutrition in Pregnancy and Lactation, 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Times Mirror/Mosby, 1989, 47-140 [review].

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100. Howard CR, Howard FM, Weitzman ML. Infant formula distribution and advertising in pregnancy: a hospital survey. Birth 1994;21:14-9.

101. Frederick IB, Auerback KG. Maternal-infant separation and breast-feeding: the return to work or school. J Reprod Med 1985;30:523-6.

102. Widstrom AM, Wahlberg V, Matthiesen AS, et al. Short-term effects of early suckling and touch of the nipple on maternal behavior. Early Hum Dev 1990;21:153-63.

103. Worthington-Roberts BS, Williams SR. Nutrition in Pregnancy and Lactation, 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Times Mirror/Mosby, 1989, 323-97 [review].

104. Ahn CH, MacLean WC. Growth of the exclusively breast-fed infant. Am J Clin Nutr 1980;33:183-92.

105. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Fetus and Newborn, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Maternal and newborn nutrition. In: Guidelines for Perinatal Care. 4th ed. Washington, DC: ACOG, AAP, 1997.

106. Hurst NM, Valentine CJ, Renfro L, et al. Skin-to-skin holding in the neonatal intensive care unit influences maternal milk volume. J Perinatol 1997;17:213-7.

107. Feher SDK, Berger LR, Johnson JD, Wilde JB. Increasing breast milk production for premature infants with a relaxation/imagery audiotape. Pediatrics 1989;83:57-60.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2019.