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Herbal Supplements to Help Nursing Mothers

by Carissa Lawrence

Many women, who recognize the benefits of feeding breast milk to their children, choose to breastfeed exclusively. Along with supplying babies with essential nutrients, hormones and antibodies, breastfeeding provides opportunities for mothers to bond with their babies. Some mothers have no problems producing breast milk, while others can find it harder to maintain an adequate supply. For nursing mothers seeking to increase milk production, herbal supplements can help.

Fenugreek

Fenugreek is a spice that has been used for years to stimulate milk flow in regions of Africa and the Middle East. Most health food stores sell fenugreek capsules that contain ground seeds. The recommended dose is one to three capsules three times a day, though the dosage needed can vary from mother to mother. Fenugreek is also found in mother's milk tea, which can be effective through drinking several cups a day. Nursing mothers can get results from taking fenugreek supplements as soon as 24 hours after taking the herb. Mothers with diabetes or hypoglycemia should take fenugreek with care because it can significantly affect blood sugar levels.

Blessed Thistle

Blessed thistle is an herb that is also used as a galactagogue -- something that can stimulate or increase production of milk. This herb can be found in capsule and tincture form. While some manufacturers of blessed thistle tincture warn nursing mothers against use because the tincture is made using alcohol, the amount of alcohol that manifests in breast milk from tincture consumption is not large enough to have an effect on babies. The recommended dosage for blessed thistle is up to three capsules three times a day or 20 drops of tincture three times a day. Many certified breastfeeding educators suggest taking blessed thistle in combination with fenugreek.

Fennel

Fennel is helpful in stimulating the let-down reflex -- the nerve stimulation that causes breast milk to move from the glands into the milk ducts. Many mothers who have returned to work and are having trouble have found help by taking fennel. Like blessed thistle, fennel can be found in both capsule and tincture form. Fennel is best used as a tincture when 2 to 4 milliliters are taken up to three times a day. Taken regularly, this herb can act as an appetite suppressant, so nursing mothers should carefully monitor their eating habits and caloric intake while using fennel.

Alfalfa

Alfalfa is a milder herb that can be used to stimulate or increase milk production. Nursing mothers who are only having a little trouble producing milk should consider using alfalfa before trying a stronger galactagogue. This herb can be purchased in capsule or tablet form at health food and vitamin stores. The recommended dose for alfalfa is 1 to 4 capsules or tablets three times a day.

About the Author

Based in Gainesville, Carissa Lawrence is an experienced teacher who has been writing education related articles since 2013. Lawrence holds a master's degree in early childhood education from the University of Florida.

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