Rafed English

Herbs and breastfeeding

Many women take herbal teas and herbal medications to increase their breast milk amounts and these preparations are available in health food shops and herbal dispensaries in New Zealand.

These herbal remedies are collectively known as galactagogues. They often contain ingredients such as fenugreek, milk thistle, fennel, red raspberry leaf and aniseed.

There is little evidence that these herbal medications can increase breast-milk supply. Galactagogues may produce different responses in women which is why evaluation of effectiveness has produced mixed results.

An exception is fenugreek, which has limited evidence to support its use.

Consuming herbal remedies designed to increase breast milk amounts is unlikely to harm either mothers or babies (who are exposed via breast milk) and herbs used as a galactogogue may positively affect the milk supply of some mothers.

If you are taking any herbal preparations when breastfeeding it is recommended that you let your lead maternity carer know.


This is a herb also used in cooking and for digestive purposes. When taking fenugreek to increase milk supply the recommended dosage is three capsules three times a day.

Blessed thistle or milk thistle

Blessed thistle is another herb used for lactation and it looks very like the common thistle. Recommended dosage is three capsules three time a day or 20 drops of blessed-thistle tincture three times a day.

Dr Jack Newman, a paediatrician and breastfeeding clinician, suggests that using blessed thistle and fenugreek together may work well. Blessed thistle and fenugreek are usually components of herbal milk teas along with other herbs such as raspberry leaf.

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