Use of Galactagogues to Increase Milk Production Among Breastfeeding Mothers in the United States: A Descriptive Study

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2023 Sep;123(9):1329-1339. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2023.05.019. Epub 2023 May 24.

Abstract

Background: Perceived insufficient milk is a primary reason for early breastfeeding cessation. Some breastfeeding mothers may use galactagogues (ie, foods, beverages, herbal supplements, and pharmaceuticals) to try to increase milk supply. However, milk production requires frequent and effective milk removal, and there is limited evidence on the safety and efficacy of galactagogues. Additional research on the use of galactagogues is needed to inform breastfeeding support.

Objective: Describe the prevalence of use and perceived effects of galactagogues and compare galactagogue use by maternal characteristics.

Design: Cross-sectional online survey.

Participants/setting: A convenience sample of 1,294 adult women breastfeeding a singleton child and living in the United States were recruited using paid Facebook advertisements between December 2020 and February 2021.

Main outcome measures: Self-reported current or previous use of galactagogues and their perceived effects on milk production.

Statistical analyses performed: Frequencies and percentages described the use and perceived effects of galactagogues. The χ2 test of independence and independent t tests compared galactagogue use by select maternal characteristics.

Results: More than half of participants (57.5%) reported using any galactagogues, 55.4% reported consuming foods or beverages, and 27.7% reported using herbal supplements. Few participants (1.4%) reported using pharmaceuticals. Participants reported varying effects of specific galactagogues on milk production. Reported galactagogue use was higher among participants who reported first-time breastfeeding (yes: 66.7% vs no: 49.3%; P < 0.001), breastfeeding pumped milk (yes: 63.1% vs no: 50.4%; P < 0.001), formula supplementation (yes: 66.8% vs no: 50.4%; P < 0.001), and perceived insufficient milk (yes: 78.8% vs no: 53.8%; P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Breastfeeding mothers in the United States commonly reported using galactagogues to increase milk production, highlighting the need for research on the safety and efficacy of galactagogues and enhanced breastfeeding support.

Keywords: Breastfeeding; Galactagogues; Herbal supplements; Milk supply; Perceived insufficient milk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Galactogogues* / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Milk, Human
  • Mothers
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • United States

Substances

  • Galactogogues
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations