Situations can sometimes be ironic. While some situations may bring about the need for what teas decrease milk supply, the same situation may warrant looking for what to drink to increase breast milk supply.
Milk supply may not have to do with breast size but rather other factors such as delivery condition, diet, inadequate rest or stress, lifestyle, health status, and more.
Nonetheless, this article focuses on what to drink to increase breast milk, including herbal teas, fruits, and beverages, and also what remedies can help increase breast milk naturally at home, fast, and instantly in one day.
This article is research-based, with highlights from medical journals, clinical studies, and reports. This in-depth article highlights reported information from different studies and surveys, including dosages, purported efficacy, and side effects.
Understanding Your Breast and Milk Supply
The breast serves as the sole kitchen for your newborn, and the milk supplied is sufficient to meet your baby’s needs for the next six months, as recommended during exclusive breastfeeding (2,3).
After birth, your body’s progesterone and estrogen levels decrease significantly and give way to prolactin and oxytocin, the hormones responsible for milk production and supply.
Feeding your baby frequently is recommended to increase breast milk supply. The best practice is to breastfeed your newborn in the first hours, days, and weeks after birth. This helps produce more prolactin, which then stimulates more milk to serve your baby.
What to expect in your milk supply
Milk supply increases as the day goes by after birth. Between 2 – 4 days, breast milk volume increases than the first 2 – 3 days when colostrum was supplied (1):
- On the third day, your baby will consume about 300 – 400 ml
- On the fifth day, your baby would consume about 500 – 800 ml
- By the 7th to 14th day, the milk supplied is called transitional
- After two weeks, the milk supplied is called mature milk
- Within the first six months of the recommended exclusive breastfeeding period, milk consumption will average 800 ml daily.
Factors that may be responsible for low milk supply
Before delving into how to increase your supply naturally, it is necessary to understand what underlining factors could be accountable for low milk supply in the first place before trying to drink anything.
- Delivery condition: Circumstances surrounding childbirth like cesarean or c section, preterm birth, or stress during delivery can delay the onset of milk production and supply as the day goes by.
- Diet: Eating healthily and balanced nutritional requirements help augment milk production and supply. Brewer’s yeast, for example, helps increase vitamin B and chromium which ‘may’ help improve milk supply (15). Some herbal teas also decrease milk supply and should be avoided.
- Inadequate rest or stress: It cannot be overemphasized how stress can contribute to hormonal imbalance leading to low levels of prolactin and oxytocin in your system. Getting good rest and avoiding stress can help improve milk supply.
- Lifestyle: Smoking and taking alcohol have proven effects on breast milk supply (5). Alcohol is known to block the release of oxytocin, reducing the circulating hormone and subsequently disrupting milk letdown reflex (5).
- Health status: Other underlying health conditions could also contribute to low milk supply. Some other factors, like taking hormonal birth control like estrogen and even progestin, could reduce milk supply.
Dealing with the abovementioned factors can greatly help improve your breast milk supply, and you can begin to see an increase.
However, suppose none on this list affects you. In that case, the following are recommendations on what to drink to increase breast milk supply, including natural remedies at home that can help increase breast milk in one day, fast and instantly.
What To Drink to Increase Breast Milk
Anything or substances that can help induce or boost, maintain, and increase breast milk production are called galactagogues (4).
What to drink to increase breast milk supply can be classified into herbal teas, fruits, and beverages that can positively affect your milk production.
Some of them, based on the limited available study and reports, include:
- Fenugreek tea (the most popular choice)
- Blessed thistle herb
- Fennel seed
- Goat’s rue herb
- Nettle/stinging nettle
- Blackthorn berry
- Shatavari tea
However, before taking any galactagogues, you should first talk to your physician or a medical practitioner and seek professional advice.
In general, herbal teas or galactagogues lack enough research-based evidence and information to support their clinical use and safety in breastfeeding mothers.
1. Fenugreek tea
In a survey conducted in Western Australia (6) among breastfeeding women (304 respondents) who believed fenugreek tea, among other herbs, helped increase breastmilk production or supply, some also believed it helped boost the immune system during a cold.
Of the 56 respondents who drank fenugreek tea (it had 18.4% popularity among the used herbs) for the reasons of increasing breast milk supply (98.2%) and boosting the immune system (1.8%), 44 women (78.6%) believed the herb tea helped.
However, some side effects and allergic reactions have been reported in LactMed® (11.a) and PediatricsinReview (11.b) when taking fenugreek, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and reactions with chickpeas, peanuts, and other legumes.
Also, a decrease in cholesterol and blood sugar levels when dosages as high as 25 grams consumed daily has been reported.
Similarly, high dosages should not be taken by a diabetic woman or one taking warfarin.
A recommended dose of fenugreek that typically increases milk supply is 1-6g daily.
2. Blessed thistle herb
In the same survey report as above (6), 18 breastfeeding women who drank blessed thistle tea (it had 5.9% popularity among the used herbs) for the reason of increasing breastmilk supply (100%), 15 of them (83.3%) believed the herbal tea helped.
In a report by LactMed® (8) from a survey conducted on breastfeeding mothers in Australia (9) taking blessed thistle, some of them reported the tea to be “slightly effective” to “moderately effective.” A minority also reported experiencing adverse side effects like nausea, tiredness, abdominal pain, and mouth dryness.
3. Fennel seed
In the report once again (6), 15 women drank fennel tea (4.9% popularity among the used herbs), believing it would help increase their breast milk supply. Ten out of them (66.7%) believed the fennel tea helped.
A comprehensive report by LactMed® (12) of several studies where fennel was either a part of the herbal mixture of galactagogues given to women in the study or the sole herb taken showed positive outcomes in breast milk increase.
However, the same report (12) recommends that using fennel should be limited to two weeks. Excessive use of an herbal tea containing fennel may cause toxicity in a breastfed baby. Also, avoiding excessive sunlight or exposure to ultraviolet light when drinking herbal fennel would be best.
4. Goat’s rue herb
Of the herbs used in the earlier report (6), Goat’s rue was among those indicated as a galactagogue by breastfeeding women. 7 out of the 304 women took Goat’s rue tea. All of these seven women believed the herbal tea helped.
This 100% report on Goat’s rue effect may be corroborated by another unrelated report (13) where Goat’s rue extract in different study reports showed a significant increase in breast milk supply.
5. Nettle/stinging nettle
Five women out of the 304 who participated in the survey (6) drank nettle/stinging nettle tea. 4 of these five women believed the herbal tea helped increase their milk supply.
However, when used topically, stinging nettle should not be applied to the breast when breastfeeding as it may cause allergic skin rash in a baby (14).
6. Blackthorn berry
Another five women out of the 304 took blackthorn berries. Four of these five women believed the herbal tea helped.
7. Shatavari tea
Of the last galactagogue in this report (6), four women took shatavari tea, and all four believed the herb helped increase their breast milk supply.
From this survey, the conveners tried to determine who may have recommended these teas to the participants.
A majority, approximately two-thirds, reported that themselves, their family members, friends, or medical specialists, including general practitioners, gynecologists, and obstetricians, recommended using these herbs. However, the medical specialists were the least among them, representing 2.2% (54 of all the users based on recommendations).
It is seen that medically, approval or recommendations are few for using these galactagogues. As such, you should bear in mind that there is no medical backup to these drinks that may increase breast milk supply.
In another report (7), a systemic review was conducted on several published literature to determine the efficacy of some herbs, including fenugreek, thistle, and Shatavari, among others. The review found an increase in breast milk production.
Recommended Doses of These Teas to Drink to Increase Breast Milk
The following are recommended doses of traditionally used herbs as found on the School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s website (16):
- Fenugreek: 1-2g up to 3 times daily. It can also be taken as a tea of ¼tsp seeds steeped in 8oz of water for ten minutes, taken three times daily. It is often taken with other herbs, such as Blessed Thistle.
- Blessed thistle herb: 20 drops of tincture 2-4 times daily or three capsules three times daily. For use as a tea, pour one cup of boiling water over 1.5-2g of crushed leaves and steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink 1 cup 2-3 times daily.
- Fennel seeds and Barley water: Prepare barley water by soaking half a cup of pearled (regular) barley in three cups of cold water overnight or by boiling for 20 min. Then strain the barley and discard or add to soup. Heat only what you need at a time and store the rest in your fridge. Then, pour one cup of barley water over one teaspoon of fennel seeds and steep for 30 mins. This also helps ease afterbirth pains.
- Goat’s rue herb: Usually used as a tea. 1tsp of dried leaves steeped in 8oz of water for 10 min. Take 2-3 times daily.
- Shatavari tea: Simmer 1tsp of dried root in one cup of water for 15 mins, then strain. Drink 1-2 cups daily. As a capsule, take 500 mg 1-2 times daily.
What To Drink to Increase Breast Milk Fast and Instantly
Increasing breast milk supply in a timely manner is relative and may not be as fast as you may desire, but when compared among other substances, some may be faster than others with results as fast as in one day.
The following herbs have some reports on their timeliness and effectiveness in a matter of days compared to weeks:
- Fenugreek: According to this report (11.a), “fenugreek might be more effective in the first few days of postpartum than after two weeks.”
- Nettle/stinging nettle: According to this report (14), “increase of milk production and milk extracted from day 1 to day 7 was more prominent in mothers using herbal tea mixture.”
- Brewer’s yeast
- Fennel seed
- Milk thistle seed (from day 7)
- Blessed thistle herb
What To Drink to Increase Breast Milk After C Section
Cesarean section may be one of the factors that can contribute to insufficient milk supply for a newborn, usually because of the lower likelihood of skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, which naturally improves breastfeeding initiation, maintenance, duration, and milk supply (10).
According to a report by BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (10), studies indicate that women who undergo a c-section experience a significant delay in initiating breastfeeding promptly or are less likely to breastfeed.
A report in this study (9) showed nursing mothers who used the following herbal teas had had c section (621 out of 1876 women; 426 out of the 621 used a galactagogue) and reported the herbal teas between “slightly effective” to “moderately effective” in increasing their breast milk supply for their babies:
- Fenugreek tea
- Blessed thistle herb
- Fennel seed
- Milk thistle seed
- Ginger tea
- Brewer’s yeast
Side note: ginger had the lowest rank of effectiveness between the “slightly effective” to “moderately effective” report, followed by milk thistle, then fenugreek and fennel in a tie, and blessed thistle being the highest in the range.
While there are no scientifically valid and clinically backed shreds of evidence that drinking these herbs or galactagogues may increase breast milk supply, precaution must be taken before consuming any.
It is recommended you talk to your physician or a medical practitioner and seek professional advice first.
Galactagogues should not replace evaluation and counseling on modifiable factors that may affect milk production and supply.
(1) Milk production: The physiological basis of breastfeeding
(2) Exclusive breastfeeding: (2) PubMed – Exclusive breastfeeding practices reported by mothers and the introduction of additional liquids, (3) Importance of Exclusive Breastfeeding and Complementary Feeding among Infants
(4) Galactagogue: Pharmacological overview of galactagogues
(5) Alcohol – LactMed® – Drugs and Lactation Database: Alcohol
(6) Western Australian survey: The use of herbal medicines during breastfeeding: a population-based survey in Western Australia
(7) Galactagogues and teas: Systematic review of the efficacy of herbal galactogogues
(8) Blessed thistle – LactMed® – Drugs and Lactation Database: Blessed thistle
(9) Blessed thistle; C-section: Use and experiences of galactagogues while breastfeeding among Australian women
(10) Report by BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth: The impact of caesarean section on breastfeeding initiation, duration and difficulties in the first four months postpartum, read the resource article here
(11) (11.a) Fenugreek – LactMed® – Drugs and Lactation Database: Fenugreek, (11.b) PediatricsinReview – PubMed: Complementary, Holistic, and Integrative Medicine: Advice for Clinicians on Herbs and Breastfeeding
(12) Fennel – LactMed® – Drugs and Lactation Database: Fennel
(13) Goat’s rue – LactMed® – Drugs and Lactation Database: Goat’s rue
(14) Stinging nettle – LactMed® – Drugs and Lactation Database: Stinging nettle; PubMed – Effect of a galactagogue herbal tea on breast milk production and prolactin secretion by mothers of preterm babies
(15) Brewer’s yeast – LactMed® – Drugs and Lactation Database: Brewer’s yeast
(16) Doses of Traditionally Used Herbs: Supplement Sampler; Natural Galactogogues