Breastfeeding the most normal method of feeing young infants. Breast milk has all the nutrients the infants need for growth and development. Almost all mothers can breastfeed their babies provided they have all the information they need and with their family support, the health care system and the entire society (WHO).

Breastfeeding is recommended for infants from birth to 6 months of age. Breastfeeding is thought to be the ideal source of nutrition for infants from birth to 1 year according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) (Forinash).

Reasons for low milk secretion

Though breastfeeding is the best food for an infant due to several reasons sometimes a mother may realize that the production of milk is not sufficient to fulfill her babies needs. She may then turn to infant formula to supplement breastfeeding.

Here are some of the reasons for low milk supply (Mayo)

  1. Not starting breastfeeding immediately
  2. Less frequency of feeding
  3. Starting to use infant formula
  4. Using certain medicines
  5. Mother being obese
  6. Premature birth

There are several herbal and pharmaceutical choices for a woman to try and increase milk production. Non-pharmacological opportunities should be first explored to see if milk secretion can be increased (Forinash).

What are galactagogues?

Some plant sources have galactagogue components, one such plant source is fenugreek. Galactogogues are substances that are used to induce, maintain, and increase milk production (Tabares).

Plant sources with galactagogue components comprise of

  1. Fenugreek
  2. Fennel
  3. Goat’s rue
  4. asparagus
  5. Anise
  6. Milk thistle

Fenugreek

Fenugreek (Trigonellafeonum-graecum L.) is an annual dicotyledon leguminous crop. Fenugreek is one of the oldest medicinal plants known to man (Fatima, Olaiya).

Fenugreek is one of the most commonly used herbal preparations as a galactagogue. One of the mechanisms suggested how fenugreek increases milk secretion is because of the significant levels of phytoestrogens present in fenugreek. Diosgenin is a type of steroidal sapogenin which is present is fenugreek which probably is responsible for the increase in milk secretion. Another mechanism suggested is stimulation of endogenous hormones secretion that may, in turn, helps in increasing milk production (Tabares).

Fennel

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a member of the family Apiaceae and are 4-10mm long, thin and slightly curved with colors that vary from brown to light green. Fennel has a distinctive bittersweet smell and a slightly minty taste. Fennel is a very commonly used herb which is aromatic and loaded with flavor

Fennel also acts as a galactagogue, stimulating milk production in lactating mothers (Anubhuti). Fennel has been used as a galactagogue in humans from a long time and there are no adverse side effects reported as of now (Tabares). 

Do not worry about milk secretion

Most women are worried whether they are secreting enough milk for their babies. The more the baby breastfeeds the more is the stimulation to secrete milk. Very rarely mother does not produce sufficient milk for the baby. Do not resort to feeding infant formula before talking to your doctor and trying all the methods possible to increase milk secretion.

There is an increased interest about galactagogues among the population in general in the past decade. Herbal galactagogues are available widely (Bazzano). Because of all the advantages breastfeeding provides infants people are looking for substances which increase milk secretion.