What Is A Galactagogue?
Many mothers who are trying to increase their milk supply take a galactagogue. A galactagogue is any medication or herb that increases milk supply. Some popular herbal galactagogues are fenugreek, blessed thistle, goat’s rue, alfalfa, fennel, malunggay (moringa oleifera), and others. There are also pharmaceutical galactagogues such as domperidone (Motilium) and metoclopramide (Reglan) that can be obtained with a doctor’s prescription.
Will A Galactogogue Increase My Milk Supply?
Galactagogues can be very helpful for mothers who want to boost their production of breastmilk, but they do not work on their own. A galactagogue can only help along with frequent and effective breastfeeding and/or pumping.
With any galactagogue, it is important to take enough of it. For example, the small amounts of fenugreek in several cups of Mother’s Milk tea are unlikely to have much of an effect on milk supply. Recommended dosages of several popular herbal galactagogues can be found on lowmilksupply.org. Recommended dosages of domperidone can be found on Dr. Jack Newman’s website.
Whether a galactogogue will help or not depends on the cause of the low milk supply. Mothers who are exclusively pumping for premature babies often experience a drop in supply a month or two after the birth. These mothers often benefit from a prescription galactagogue like domperidone. Domperidone can also be helpful for mothers whose low supply is caused by low prolactin levels.
For mothers with insufficient glandular tissue, goat’s rue may be more helpful to increase supply. For mothers with low iron levels, nettle may be a more effective galactagogue.
Whatever the reason for a mother’s low milk supply, sometimes galactogogues help and sometimes they don’t. Most take at least 72 hours of use to have a very noticeable effect, and if no increase in supply is evident after a week or two of using a galactagogue, it is probably not going to help and can be discontinued, although Dr. Jack Newman has has seen it take up to 4 weeks for domperidone to reach its full effect for some women.
If I Start Taking A Galactagogue Will I Have To Keep Taking It As Long As I Am Breastfeeding?
Many mothers who use a galactagogue find that once their supply has increased to meet the needs of their baby, they can then taper off the herb or medication and as long as they continue with frequent and effective breastfeeding and/or pumping, their supply remains sufficient. Some mothers find that their supply dips every time they reduce the amount of galactagogue they are taking. It isn’t possible to predict which mothers will be able to stop taking a galactagogue and which will need to continue, and most mothers work it out by trial and error.
Are There Some Women Who Shouldn’t Take Galactogogues?
Fenugreek may not be appropriate for women with peanut or chickpea allergy, diabetes, or hypoglycemia. It can sometimes cause stomach upset, nausea or diarrhea. Often a different herb will be a better choice for women who find they are sensitive to fenugreek.
Metoclopramide is not recommended for women with any history of depression because it can sometimes cause depression or anxiety. Domperidone is less likely to have psychological effects, but may not be safe for women with serious heart conditions.
Is Domperidone Safe And Can It Be Obtained Legally In The U.S.?
Domperidone is not FDA approved as a galactagogue, but is widely used throughout the world as an anti-nausea and motility (stomach emptying) drug and has the side effect of increasing milk production in many breastfeeding mothers, and even causing lactation in women who are not breastfeeding. It works similarly to metoclopramide, but does not cross the blood-brain barrier as easily and is much less likely to cause depression.
It can be legally obtained in the U.S. from a compounding pharmacy. For more information about the safety and availability of domperidone, please visit lowmilksupply.org.
* All material in this article (and on this website) is provided for educational purposes only, although every effort is made to provide accurate and up-to-date information. This article and others on this website are not written by doctors or other health care professionals. If you are concerned about your health, or that of your child, consult with your health care provider regarding the advisability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your individual situation.