Let's talk about milk supply. I often hear from clients that they are eating Lactation cookies or drinking Mother's Milk Tea to increase their milk supply. These are just two examples of items that are touted to increase supply. Some herbs and food can increase supply legitimately for some people in certain circumstances. Evidence based advice from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and your MD is advised when taking additional supplements of any kind.
Lactation cookies will increase your waistline but not your milk supply.
Let's talk about how the milk is made. The process is demand and supply. The more the baby eats, the more milk your body makes. If your baby is nursing effectively 8 to 12 times (sometimes more) every 24hr, you will most likely make a full milk supply. If your baby removes 2 ounces (as an example), your body is triggered to make 2 ounces again. If your baby is not nursing at the breast, you can build this supply with effective pumping. It's recommended you pump 8-10 times every 24hr to make a full milk supply. It is more effective to pump every 15 minutes every 2 1/2 hours than 30 minutes every 4hr. In other words, more frequent is better. It may be recommended to rent a multi-user pump with a stronger motor in the first month after birth.
A common herb called Fenugreek is traditionally been utilized to increase milk supply. It is available in capsules and in tea at the store. This herb is contraindicated (unsafe) for those with Diabetes. It can lower your glucose. It can lower milk supply in those with Hypothyroidism. Many women have undiagnosed Hypothyroidism or become Hypothyroid for the first time in the post partum period. It is from a legume and can cause an allergic reaction for those with legume and nut allergies. This is an example of when an herb is not a one size fits all. The bottom line is that if you want to take an herb or supplement, please consult an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. There are numerous herbs and supplements that can increase supply. They all have cautions and each one must be chosen individually for the mother.
There is an important point to remember when considering herbs, supplements and foods that boost supply:
If you are not adequately removing your milk with the baby nursing well or pumping 8-10X (plus) every 24hr, the herbs or supplements will not work.
Most of the time, a low milk supply is due to inadequate milk removal. It is important to work with an IBCLC to identify the cause and create a plan to increase your supply.
What is the takeaway? Enjoy those cookies if you like them! But consult an IBCLC if you have milk supply issues!