To begin with, I struggled severely with the low breastmilk supply for my son. He had no problems with latching or tongue tie, the problem was with me. I had two previous elective breast surgeries involving breast tissue removal. Together with implants, I had a full lift.
Incidentally, the first surgery the doctor did not do a very good job. It was sloppy, and botched. Thus I figure that during this surgery, the damage to my breast anatomy was extensive. So then, due to the surgery I had damage to the nerve responsible for let down. I also had tissue removed which involved the milk ducts. To add to the problems with my reconstruction, my nipples were completely removed twice. This removal left me with numb spots and areas of total de-sensitivity.
I knew that having these surgeries could affect my milk supply, but I had no idea how bad it was going to be. For example, the first couple days I was producing about .3ml of colostrum each pumping session. Furthermore when my milk supply came in I would pump for 30 minutes 8 times a day and at my peak I would only get 3-4 ounces total daily. My son was losing weight, and despite my efforts I ended up having to supplement with formula.
Not wanting to give up, I explored all options.
Low breastmilk supply supplements
In the list below you will find some of the herbs and prescription medications that helped me with me low breastmilk supply:
The plant Fenugreek used for culinary purposes, as a dried herb. Fenugreek is one the the most popular over the counter herbal supplements for increasing milk supply. It works to produce milk ( a galactogogue) by stimulating the sweat glands. Breast-milk glands are believed to be a modified form of the gland stimulated by the herb. Its affordable and can be purchased at most drug stores or supplement stores. In addition, It is so common, I have even seen it carried in grocery stores.
The key to success with Fenugreek is the dose. The aim is to get to the point where the dose is saturated that you pretty much smell like maples syrup. As a rule, while pregnant, Fenugreek is not safe for consumption.
I used it in both the tea, capsule, and ground herb form. I also put the herb in a batch of homemade lactation cookies. It has a curry like smell and flavour so therefore I do not recommend using it in cookies! It produced a very off taste! Lessons learned. I found Fenugreek to have a positive effect on my milk production.
Blessed Thistle is another popular herbal supplement. It is derived from a plant usually found in caplet form, sometimes as a combination caplet with Fenugreek. In this case, I could not find any scientific studies to back up the claim that it is an effective galactogouge, however it was recommended by my health nurse and lactation physician.
Together, Blessed Thistle is used in conjunction with fenugreek. I believe it was particularly effective in helping me have an increase in my milk supply alongside the fenugreek.
Fennel is an aromatic plant that is popularly used as a dried herb in cooking. It has a very distinct licorice smell. As an oil in topical form it acts as an aromatic relaxant, helping to de-inhibit let down. As an oral supplement, it has positive phytoestrogenic effects that may help increase supply.
My babies chiropractor recommended fennel oil. She suggested that every time I pumped to put the oil in the area of the letdown nerve. In brief, I am not too sure if there was much of an effect on my let down, however but my husband who loves the smell of licorice. He couldn’t get enough of me wearing it.
Brewers yeast is a strain of yeast used in beer brewing and as a vegan supplement for its nutrients. Particularly, Brewers yeast is high in vitamins especially vitamin B.
I used the brewers yeast powder by adding it to a lactation cookie recipe. I am unsure if it made a difference for my low breastmilk supply. Other reviewers had great success adding this supplement into their recipes.
Mothers milk tea
Mothers milk tea is a tea with the ingredients from a mix of herbs that promote lactation.
Mother Milk tea is very comforting. My routine was my husband would brew a cup of tea for me as I pumped. I am not too sure of the effectiveness of the tea for myself. It is worth trying if you are seeking to increase low breastmilk supply. It gets great reviews online.
Goats Rue (Tea, tincture, liquid capsules) is a plant also known as galega (from the word “gala” meaning milk, and “ago” meaning to bring on)
This is a particularly special supplement to me. Herbalists claim that Goats Rue herb has the ability to increase new breast tissue formation. My breast tissue is low because of it removed during my previous breast surgeries. Since I had no major sustaining differences in my supply after supplementation, I figure thereby its an anatomical problem. And so building more tissue may be the only way to get my supply up.
Women with insufficient mammary tissue as in conditions like tubular breasts may find Goats Rue helpful.
Other side effects of taking Goats Rue includes blood glucose lowering effects and decrease in appetite.
For more on growing breast tissue, visit my blog: https://ttctwin.com/2019/04/15/growing-breast-tissue-for-breastfeeding-with-the-herb-goats-rue/
My lactation physician recommended the herb Goats Rue. I am currently taking Goats Rue in tea form daily in hopes that I will have growth in mammary tissue. The goal now is to help increase my supply for the next pregnancy.
Other supplements for low breastmilk supply
Other supplements and treatments recommended but seemed to have little impact on my low breastmilk supply:
- “warm foods”
- Visualization of the let down
- Not watching myself pump (sheet over myself)
- Acupressure points
- Warm compresses on chest
My lactation physician prescribed two different medications to help with low breastmilk supply. Both are off label use, and may vary by name and availability in each country.
Oxytocin is a peptide hormone synthesized in a laboratory. It is used by nasal spray and helps with milk production, bonding with the baby, and milk ejection let down reflex.
My experience with Oxytocin Nasal Spray:
Oxytocin Nasal Spray is use together with nursing and pumping. Consequently for me, it did not affect my let down. Purchasing the Oxytocin was a bit of an ordeal. It is only made by a compound pharmacist and that may be hard to find if you live in a rural area. As soon as created, the Oxytocin is temperature sensitive. Furthermore, storage in a fridge is compulsory for shelf life. After around two weeks, it degrades and begins to lose effectiveness. It was also quite expensive, 50 dollars for a 1.5 week supply. However, was however covered by my insurance.
Even though I did not have success with it, compared to other ladies in my lactation support group, they swore by it.
Domperidone (brand name Motilium) is a prescription medication with an off-label use to increase milk supply. Its labelled use is to increase movement of food through the digestive system. For breastmilk production, it works by increasing the hormone prolactin. Prolactin is responsible for lactation.
My experience with Domperidone:
Lastly, Domperidone worked wonders at helping me increase my low breastmilk supply. I took the medication at the maximum recommended dose. I used it every day from 6 days old until 2 months, when my supply stopped. As a result, it helped get my supply from .5oz to 4 oz a day.