Lactation Tea: Does It Really Work?

    Published 03 December 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Tanya Tantry, MD, Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Medical Consultant at Flo
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    Parents always want the best for their babies. Breastfeeding moms want to make sure the baby has enough nutrients and calories for healthy and normal growth. If your milk supply is low, you can drink tea that helps increase your milk production. 

    Women’s bodies go through hormonal changes during and after the first six months after delivery. This, along with several other factors, can lessen the milk supply and make it hard to meet the baby’s demands. Some of those factors include:

    • Going back to work
    • Changing the feeding schedule
    • The baby’s six-month growth spurt
    • Stress

    A simple and effective way to increase your milk supply is a lactation tea. These herbal teas can be bought at the store, or you can make them yourself. The herbs in the tea offer lactation support and help your body produce more milk, so you can go back to work, change schedules, and manage stress with ease. 

    How do you know if you need tea for nursing mothers? What are the signs of a low milk supply? What exactly is in lactation tea? Read on to find answers to these questions, as well as ways to make your own tea.

    Signs and causes of low milk supply

    Breast milk is made by supply and demand. The more the baby nurses, the more milk the mother’s body makes to replace what the baby has taken. 

    If your milk supply seems low, you use a pump, and you’re not pumping as much as you used to, it may be because your baby doesn’t need as much as they used to. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, check your baby for signs that they’re not getting enough milk. Those signs are:

    • Insufficient wet or dirty diapers: You may notice dark urine in their diapers and that your baby suddenly has fewer dirty diapers than normal. This could mean they are not consuming the same amount of breast milk they used to and aren’t digesting enough of it.
    • Reluctance to nurse: Sometimes babies go on nursing strikes. Other times it means there’s not enough milk for the baby, and they become fussy and reluctant to nurse.
    • Long-term inadequate weight gain: If your baby doesn’t show normal weight gain, it may indicate that they are not receiving enough nutrients or calories from breast milk. Also, the child’s cheeks may look sucked in during breastfeeding. Remember that all babies are unique, though, and will not grow exactly the same. Take note of your baby’s growth, and if you have concerns, tell your doctor so they can check on your baby’s progress.
    • Dehydration: When your baby is dehydrated, it will not always look like excessive thirst. Dark-colored urine is an indication of dehydration. Jaundice and lethargy are two other signs that your baby is not getting enough nutrients.

    If you are seeing signs that your baby needs more milk, then you may need to increase your milk supply.

    Do lactation teas really work?

    Herbs used for lactation support have been used for centuries by mothers all over the world. Usually, the herbs are made into tea for nursing mothers. 

    Herbs contain components that affect our bodies when we digest them. It is believed that eating mint calms down an upset stomach and ginger fights bacteria and increases blood circulation. Herbs that provide lactation support are known as botanical galactagogues. 

    In a study that compared a lactation tea to a placebo, mothers in the galactagogue tea group started producing more breast milk three days after they started the tea. The infants in the lactation tea group had a lower maximum weight loss compared to the other infants in the study. They also regained their birth weight faster than the others. 

    When to start drinking lactation tea

    Because some herbs used in tea for nursing mothers have other effects on the body, the best time to start taking the tea is after the birth of the baby.

    Usually, a mother’s milk supply is enough to provide for the baby. Because milk volume is created based on supply and demand, a quick and easy solution to low milk supply is to increase feeding. If you notice your baby is showing signs that they’re not getting enough milk and increasing your feeding times is not helping, then you can start trying lactation support in the form of herbal teas. 

    What’s in lactation teas?

    The herbs you find in packaged lactation tea are common galactagogues. Other herbs may be included to help with taste, such as hibiscus, rooibos, and mint. 

    Here are some common galactagogues:

    • Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) may stimulate milk production through dopamine-receptor antagonism.
    • Blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus) may stimulate the flow of blood to the mammary glands.
    • Torbangun leaves (Coleus amboinicus Lour) may stimulate proliferation of secretory mammary cells.
    • Barley (Hordeum vulgare) contains polysaccharides that stimulate prolactin.
    • Goat’s rue (Galega officinalis) contains a precursor to metformin called galegin. It is thought to stimulate mammary growth.
    • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) reputedly stimulates mammary growth. It may also increase breast milk production and assist with the letdown reflex.
    • Malunggay or drumstick (Moringa oleifera) increases prolactin.
    • Anise (Pimpinella anisum) contains anethole, which is considered weakly estrogenic. The aromatic compound in anise may act as a dopamine-receptor antagonist.

    Many of these herbs have other health benefits and should only be taken in safe doses after pregnancy. Fenugreek can also cause an upset stomach, loose stools, lightheadedness, and a maple smell in the urine and sweat. These symptoms are typically caused by a mild allergic reaction.

    Be sure you know the proper dosage of your tea, and follow the instructions on the package. If you get your tea from a certified herbalist or medical professional, then follow their dosage instructions.

    Educating yourself about the hormones involved in lactation can help you understand the different effects of the herbs in lactation teas.

    Oxytocin stimulates milk letdown/ejection.

    Prolactin stimulates milk production.

    Progesterone has an inhibitory effect on the production of milk.

    Are there contraindications to lactation teas?

    Herbs are powerful and have many different uses. Taking too much of any herbs can cause problems. 

    In a double-blind study, lactation tea was given to fully breastfeeding mothers. One group of women received tea for nursing mothers; the second group of women received a lemon verbena tea (placebo), with no side effects or benefits to milk supply. 

    The women kept journals tracking maternal and infant effects, tea consumed, and perceived infant satisfaction. The study tracked the health effects of mother and baby for 12 months. The research found that there were no adverse symptoms in either group, nor any differences between the lactation tea group and placebo group in reported quality of life or infant satisfaction. The lactation support tea showed no contraindications to mother or baby during the first year of the baby’s life.

    If you want to take a tea for nursing mothers, you can be assured that there are no dangers if the tea is taken correctly. Make sure to talk to your doctor, though, if you’re concerned about low milk supply.  

    Can you make a lactation tea yourself?

    There are many brands that sell lactation teas. Each brand may have a slightly different blend of herbs in it, so you can try a few.

    You can also go to a certified herbalist, herbal shop, or your doctor and ask for a tea blend from them. These professionals know the dosage amounts and proper blending needed to make a safe tea for you.

    You can buy galactagogue herbs yourself and mix your own lactation tea if you want more control over the taste. The safest thing to do is mix only one or two galactagogue herbs into your tea. Start with this simple recipe:

    • Mix equal parts of red raspberry leaf and fenugreek.
    • Store in an airtight jar.
    • Use half a teaspoon of your blend for every four cups of water.
    • Steep for five minutes and dispose of the herbs.
    • Drink throughout the day.
    • Dispose of any leftover tea each night.

    You can switch out the galactagogues for other lactation support herbs. To keep it simple and safe, just blend two together and add non-galactagogue herbs to taste, such as stevia leaf for sweetness. Do not hesitate to contact your doctor about your lactation concerns or if you’re not feeling good while taking galactagogue herbs.

    Be careful when blending your own tea, and only take the proper dosage. If you are still concerned about your milk flow, talk to your doctor instead of increasing the dosage of your tea.

    The takeaway

    Lactation teas can be helpful if you find your milk supply is low. When taken properly and used in conjunction with increased feeding times, you may find that your milk supply is back where it’s needed for your baby. 

    You can purchase a favorite blend or make your own to give you the added support for optimal milk supply. Many mothers are worried that they won’t be able to produce enough milk for their baby, but often they produce just the right amount. Follow the signs your baby gives, and if you find that you need more milk, adding a lactation tea to your diet a few times a day may do the trick.

    History of updates

    Current version (03 December 2019)

    Reviewed by Tanya Tantry, MD, Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Medical Consultant at Flo

    Published (03 December 2019)

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