THE LOW DOWN ON LACTATION GALACTAGOGUES ( GALACTA-WHAT?)
Being a new mum can be overwhelming enough without the strange words and information overload. ‘A
galacta-what?’ you say. ‘Do I need them, and… what exactly are they?’
A galactagogue (pronounced gah-lak´tah-gog) put simply, is a material or action that stimulates
breast milk production. The word itself is a combination of the Greek ‘galacta’ – meaning; milk and
‘ogogue’ – meaning; leading to, promoting or stimulating.
The knowledge of using certain herbs and foods (called lactogenic foods) to stimulate breast milk
production has been handed down for centuries across all cultures, by mothers who have turned to
these natural remedies as a way to increase milk supply.
Although there is limited scientific research available on their efficacy, all studies seem to point to one
common factor – the sense of confidence, positivity and self-empowerment women feel when using
herbal galactagogues. Breastfeeding can be fraught with emotions and stress, so a positive mindset
and a sense of well-being and control is paramount when creating the safest and most effective blends
for our mums.
Struggling with feeding issues can be extremely frustrating and upsetting for any new mother with one
of the most common reasons given for discontinuing breastfeeding, being due to perceived or actual
low milk supply. Whilst concern is very common, it can be difficult to identify if the problem is a drop in
supply or if there may be other contributing factors, so we always recommend speaking to a trained
Lactation Consultant to troubleshoot ideas on improving flow and quantity of milk as the first port of call.
Here are a few reasons for why there may be a disruption to your milk supply:
Your period has returned
You have begun to take hormonal birth control
You are supplementing some feeds with formula
Your baby is having a growth spurt
You have additional stresses in your life
You stopped breastfeeding for a time and would like to restart
Your feeding schedule has changed
You are pregnant
The Australian Breastfeeding Association states(1):
‘Galactagogues only work when breastmilk is being removed frequently and effectively from a mother’s
breasts. When all factors contributing to a low supply have been identified and addressed to improve a
mother's breastfeeding and/or expressing technique, then galactagogues may help to speed up the process.’
What we do know is that a good herbal galactagogue formula not only supports breast milk production
but can have other benefits, like relaxing the nervous system, soothing digestion, aiding in the
strengthening and support of the body and in providing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
When formulated into a delicious tasting, warming tea this also adds a calming/relaxing element which
in turn, promotes the let-down reflex – altogether becoming a nourishing ‘tonic’ for an often, sleep
Here are the galactagogues we use in our teas and how they help:
Nettle - With nutritional uses dating back to ancient Greece, nettle provides all the essential
nutrients that support lactation. Containing high levels of vitamins and minerals - including iron,
potassium, folic acid, B vitamins, vitamin K and essential amino acids, as well as some of the
highest levels of calcium of all herbs - it is an excellent and nutritious ‘tonic’ for breastfeeding
Goats Rue - Native to Europe and the Middle East, the dried leaves of the goat’s rue plant were
originally found to be successful in boosting the milk production of cows and goats! Considered
a potent galactagogue - which studies have shown to increase milk output by up to 50% in
some cases(2) - it is also used to stimulate the growth of breast tissue and may be helpful for
women who have had recent breast surgery or for those who wish to breastfeed an adopted
Blessed Thistle - Used since the Middle Ages for its potent healing (anti-bacterial, anti-fungal,
anti-inflammatory and antioxidant) properties and most commonly used as a powerful tincture to
promote lactation - improving milk supply and digestive health.
Nettle - With a long history of use as a ‘tonic’ for strengthening and support, nettle has all the
good stuff to promote lactation (as stated above).
Fennel - Known for its anti-inflammatory polyphenol antioxidants, its galactagogue properties
are suggested to be due to the presence of phytoestrogens which promote breast tissue
growth(3). Small studies(4,5) also suggest fennel to aide in the production of prolactin - known as
the hormone of lactation.
Along with our teas, we have recently added a deluxe range of delicious and nourishing lactation
cookies to our menu. Created with all the beneficial galactagogue ingredients to support our mums and
complement our teas (who doesn’t reach for a cookie with their cup of tea right!), they contain:
Brewer’s yeast - Containing B vitamins, iron, protein, and a variety of minerals, Brewer’s yeast
is known for increasing energy levels and breast milk supply.
Flax seeds – Full of estrogenic properties that help make more milk phytoestrogens,
influencing breast milk production. Flax seeds also contain healthy fats which are good for
baby’s brain development.
Oats – Also containing plant estrogens, which have been known to stimulate the milk-making
hormones produced by the pituitary gland. Oats are also antibiotic and anti-inflammatory,
supporting the immune system.
In short, whilst galactagogues do not necessarily work on their own, if breast milk is being consistently
removed from the breast either by feeding or pumping, they can definitely help improve the amount and
flow of breast milk, whilst being nourishing, soothing and supporting to the mother who consumes them.
2. Hoffman, The New Holistic Herbal
3. Rather MA, Dar BA, Sofi SN, Bhat BA, Qurishi MA. Foeniculum vulgare: A comprehensive review of its traditional use, phytochemistry,
pharmacology, and safety . Arabian Journal of Chemistry. 2016;9:S1574-S1583. doi:10.1016/j.arabjc.2012.04.011
4. Ghasemi V, Kheirkhah M, Neisani Samani L, Vahedi M. The Effect of Herbal Tea Containing Fennel Seed on Breast Milk Sufficiency
Signs and Growth Parameters of Iranian Infants, Shiraz E-Med J. 2014 ; 15(4):e22262. doi: 10.17795/semj122262.
5. Mahboubi M. Foeniculum vulgare as valuable plant in management of women's health . J Menopausal Med. 2019;25(1):1-14.
Written by Donna Rishton