Breastfeeding is such a natural thing. You have a baby and instantly your body starts gears in motion to help you feed your little one. Unfortunately, it’s not always flawless. Sometimes breastfeeding is difficult. Sometimes you have to put extra work into it. Sometimes you have to go hunting for herbs that help benefit breastfeeding. Herbs? Yes, herbs that benefit breastfeeding. I’ll explain all about how herbs can help you on your breastfeeding journey in just a bit, but first I want to share a bit of my story…or stories, I should say, seeing as I’ve had multiple babies now.
My breastfeeding journey started with my first baby (as all breastfeeding journeys do). I had my first son and we started breastfeeding, but it was a nightmare. I wasn’t making enough milk for him. I tried pumping and medicine and lay in sessions. Nothing seemed to work. Turns out he was tongue tied, but by the time we figured it out it was just too late for my supply. At one point, the doctor mentioned an herb that “some women use” but the way she talked about it made it sound too crazy for me. Oh if I could go back in time…
On to baby number two! With my second born things went a bit easier. I was able to breastfeed him, but I didn’t make quite enough so we just supplemented with formula. Nothing wrong with that of course, but had I known about the herbs that can increase your milk supply, I could have skipped the supplements! I promise there’s a good part to my breastfeeding journey! It’s coming. Sometimes you have to go through the bad to get to the good.
Then I had my daughter, number 3. I knew that I would have issues with breastfeeding and that if I wanted to exclusively breastfeed, I was really going to have to get my butt into gear. So before she was born, I started devouring information on all things nursing. When she arrived, breastfeeding was difficult. I saw a lactation consultant and immediately started herbs. It was a lot of work but guess what, I successfully exclusively breastfed my daughter!
Babies number four and five, turned out to be rather easy to breastfeed. Part of that is probably due to the fact that supposedly your body just gets better at things as you have more babies, but the other reason I think I had such easy times with my last two babies is because I already was using certain herbs that naturally help milk supply. I was using those herbs already so I didn’t necessarily start them for breastfeeding but it was like a great two for one deal in that while I was using the herbs for one reason, I got the breastfeeding package thrown in as well.
What were these herbs that I used to help my milk supply? Below, I’m going to share some herbs that are great for helping you on your breastfeeding journey. As with all things in the natural remedy world, make sure to read up on these herbs to make sure there are no contradictions for you personally. Most people will be just fine talking them but you never know…for example, fenugreek is apparently a pea plant just like peanuts and chickpeas so people with peanut allergies may want to skip that herb. Another example would be pregnancy, as some herbs are not safe while you are pregnant such as fenugreek and blessed thistle. So if you are pregnant make sure to double check on if the herb you are considering is safe for you.
9 Herbs That Benefit Breastfeeding
This is the big ticket item in the breastfeeding world. If you ask nursing mama’s what to take to increase your milk supply, fenugreek is sure to be a common answer. Incidentally, this is the herb that my doctor told me “some women try” (hindsight is 20/20 as they say). It is the fenugreek seeds that are particularly beneficial for milk supply. You can make a tea from the seeds and drink it a few times each day, but the most common way to take fenugreek is in capsule form which makes things a bit easier and you don’t have to worry about taste.
This is my newest favorite nursing herb. I didn’t know about this herb until baby number 5, but now I always include it in my nursing tea. It can help increase your milk supply and may even help calm a gassy tummy if your little one is suffering from that, although I don’t know how much of the fennel benefits your baby will actually receive via breastmilk.
Here is where you can purchase organic fennel seed to add into a nursing tea.
The name pretty much screams use me for milk supply!!! Okay…maybe not the thistle part, but obviously the milk part of the name makes this an easy herb to remember for breastfeeding. Use milk thistle seeds to make a tea and drink a few cups every day.
Here is where you can purchase organic milk thistle seeds for your nursing tea recipe.
Similar name but different plant. Blessed thistle (or holy thistle) is yet another herb that helps with milk supply. It can also help lessen anxiety which is something many new mamas could benefit from. I did attempt to use this herb for my supply, but I could not get over the taste. I recommend going with capsules if you would like to try blessed thistle. You can read much more right here on Scratch Mommy about blessed (or holy) thistle.
I first heard about Goat’s rue when I was doing all my breastfeeding research for baby number three. Goat’s rue seems to be one of the “big boys” in the nursing world. It can help with increasing milk supply, but it’s also particularly great for developing the mammary glads. So if you didn’t go up a cup size or two when you were pregnant/nursing, goat’s rue might be the herb for you! It’s also supposed to be great for women who had breast surgery or even adoptive mamas. Speaking of, did you know adoptive mamas can nurse?! Crazy (awesome!) stuff!
Here is where you can purchase organic goat’s rue.
This is an herb that you will find in many store bough nursing teas. Anise, in case you’ve never experienced it, tends to taste a bit like licorice. You can use anise seed to make a tea which you would want to drink a few times a day or there are capsules, too. It is important to note that you should only use anise seed (sometimes called aniseed). It is not the same as star anise. Star anise is not safe for breastfeeding.
Red Raspberry Leaf
This is one of my favorite herbs to use not only just for breastfeeding, but for pregnancy and women’s health in general. I started using it while pregnant because it helps with labor, but I continue chugging this herb in tea form every day because it’s great for breastfeeding and the fact that it helps regulate your cycle is a nice perk.
Here is where you can purchase organic red raspberry leaf for tea.
Dandelion leaf is another of my favorite herbs to drink in tea form. Among other nutrients, dandelion leaf is high in iron and vitamin k. While dandelion leaf is not necessarily a galactagogue, it helps support the nursing mother by providing her with lots of nutrients, which in turn helps her to make more milk.
Here is where you can purchase organic dandelion leaf for tea.
Like dandelion leaf, nettle is another nursing mom supportive herb. It also isn’t quite a galactagogue, but it helps provide lots of nutrients to the mother so that there is a good supply of rich milk. Nettle is very similar to dandelion leaf in it’s nutrient profile, with each herb being a little higher or lower in certain nutrients than the other herb. Because of this, I usually only include one or the other in my homemade nursing teas.