Objective: To review data regarding the efficacy of galactogogues available in the US to increase breast milk production in postpartum mothers.
Data sources: Literature was sought using PubMed (1966-June 2012) and EMBASE (1973-June 2012). Search terms included breastfeeding, breast milk, lactation, galactogogue, metoclopramide, oxytocin, fenugreek, milk thistle, silymarin, growth hormone, thyroid releasing hormone, medroxyprogesterone, domperidone, goat's rue, beer, Asparagus racemosus, shatavari, Medicago sativa, alfalfa, Onicus benedictus, blessed thistle, Galega officinalis, brewer's yeast, and herbals.
Study selection and data extraction: All studies including humans and published in English with data assessing the efficacy of galactogogues for increasing breast milk production were evaluated.
Data synthesis: Breast milk is considered the optimal food source for newborns through 1 year of age. Many factors influence overall maternal production, including maternal pain, illness, balance of time when returning to work, anxiety, or emotional stress. Although a variety of herbal and pharmaceutical options have anecdotal evidence of their ability to improve breast milk production, peer-reviewed studies proving their efficacy are lacking. Metoclopramide, oxytocin, fenugreek, and milk thistle have shown mixed results in improving milk production; however, the trials were small and had a variety of limitations.
Conclusions: Nonpharmacologic recommendations should be exhausted before adding therapy. Although anecdotal evidence encourages the use of metoclopramide, fenugreek, asparagus, and milk thistle for their galactogogue properties, efficacy and safety data in the literature are lacking. Oxytocin and domperidone are potentially available for compounding purposes, but safety data are limited. More studies are needed to evaluate the effects of available galactogogues on breast milk production.