Is herbal tea to increase breast milk safe? In order to determine the answer to this question, it is first necessary to look at the common ingredients in this type of herbal tea.
Common Ingredients in Herbal Teas to Increase Breast Milk
There are several common ingredients in teas that have been shown to increase breast milk. These common ingredients include:
- Fenugreek is an herb that smells like a cross between maple syrup and licorice. It is used as both an herb (the leaves) and a spice (the seeds). The claims about fenugreek are that it causes uterine contraction, which can stimulate letdown. Because it promotes uterine contractions, fenugreek should not be used by pregnant women. Fenugreek may also be contraindicated in women with asthma, as some reports link it to increased asthma symptoms. It may also be contraindicated for those with a peanut allergy. Check with your doctor.
- Milk thistle (also known as blessed thistle) is believed to have slight estrogenic effects that may increase milk supply. Because milk thistle has been shown to slow down the activity of enzymes in the liver, it is contraindicated for use with a number of medications. If you are allergic to plants in the daisy family, you should not take milk thistle. Check with your doctor.
- Alfalfa is the same grass that cows eat. It may stimulate production of breast milk, especially when taken in combination with fenugreek and milk thistle. Alfalfa is contraindicated for women with lupus. Check with your doctor.
- Fennel is both an herb (root) and a spice (seeds). It has a characteristic licorice flavor. There are not any known contraindications from fennel.
- Raspberry leaf is exactly what it sounds like. It may cause uterine contractions, and is therefore contraindicated during pregnancy. It may have allergenic properties, so check with your doctor before taking it.
- Brewer's yeast is used in the production of beer. Yeast intake is contraindicated in those who have candida issues such as thrush and yeast infection.
Is Herbal Tea to Increase Breast Milk Safe?
It is important to note that herbs, although natural, are not necessarily without side effects. It is always best to check with your physician and/or your baby's pediatrician before using any remedy - whether pharmaceutical or herbal. The amount of herbal remedies that actually find their way into tea is quite nominal. In order to achieve the benefits - or side effects - from herbal teas, you would need to drink the tea almost constantly every day. While this can give you a sense of comfort as to the safety of the products, it should raise questions about its efficacy. Your best bet would be working with your doctor to find ways to increase your milk supply, or use one of the natural methods in the next section.
Other Ways to Increase Breast Milk Supply
If you continue to ask yourself, is herbal tea to increase breast milk safe, then you may wish to try alternative, non-herbal methods of milk stimulation. These include:
- Relax, relieve stress, and nurse in a quiet, stress-free environment. While this may often be difficult as a new mother, relaxing can help promote letdown. Nursing in a quiet, relaxing, non-distracting environment also encourages the baby to nurse until full, which, in turn, will stimulate the production of more breast milk.
- Massage your breasts several times throughout the day. Taking a warm bath or shower and massaging your breasts while in the shower or bath will encourage letdown. This causes the body to believe that nursing is taking place and encourages more milk production.
- Drink plenty of fluids. In order to produce a lot of fluid, you need to take in a lot of fluid.
- Eat nutritious foods. Breast milk is rich in nutrients. In order to keep your nutrient-rich supply of breast milk, you need to provide it with adequate nutrition to encourage production of breast milk.
- Let the baby nurse on demand rather than on a set schedule. Nursing on demand teaches your body about your baby's needs, and your body responds appropriately with the proper amount of breast milk.
The Bottom Line
While it is likely that the amount of herbs in breast milk teas are small enough that they will not cause side effects or find their way into the milk supply, it is always best to check with your physician before undergoing any course of treatment. Consultation with a lactation specialist can help you to find strategies, like those listed above, that can increase your milk supply without the necessity of teas or herbs.