Do Galactogogues Help Breastfeeding Mothers?
Breast milk is considered the optimal food source for infants through the first year of age. As per WHO (World Health Organization), exclusive breast feeding should be the exclusive method of infant feeding for atleast the first 6 months of life. Many factors influence overall maternal production including hormonal action, maternal anxiety, tiredness,emotional stress, infant or maternal illness and separation because of work or school. Just as a pre-natal nutrition program is essential for the health of the mother and fetus, a child nutritionist who is also a lactation expert can help the new mother understand about the different foods, and / or herbs called galactogogues that help promote lactation.
So, what are galactogogues?
Galactogogues are substances that promote lactation. And how do they do that? They help increase the prolactin levels to help initiate the letdown reflex and sometimes also help in breast milk ejection. There are many prescription galactogogues but besides these many herbs and / or foods are also used for the galactogogue properties that they have to offer.
New moms are often worried about providing sufficient breast milk to the baby for his/ her growing needs. Of course the best indicator to know if the baby is getting sufficient milk is through the growth curve. In India, traditional foods and herb have been used from centuries in postpartum women to help regain their strength and also help increase the milk secretion. So, here are some natural galactogogues that have been used in India.
Fenugreek (methi)seeds especially have been used the world over for increased milk production. There may be no strong scientific research to back the claim to this ancient belief but methi seed laddoos and leafy methi vegetable are included in the diet of the new moms for as long as they are breast feeding. In addition, the leafy methi vegetable is also rich in vitamin A, iron and calcium.
Shatavari is a popular galactogogue used in India. Theexact mechanism of action is unknown but it is thought to stimulate milk production by increasing prolactin.It is commonly consumed with milk to help in the milk secretion.
Another traditional remedy for increasing the milk secretion is the use of fennel seeds (saunf). It has a reputation as a galactagogue but has no supporting scientific evidence regarding it. Fennel tea is commonly given to new moms for this purpose. In addition, fennel seeds also help in preventing gas and colic in the babies so moms are encouraged to have them in the diet.
Leafy greens like methi, palak, bathua, etc. are also believed to aid in lactation. Although there may not be any scientific backing to it, it is wise to include them daily once or twice in a new mother’s diet as they have many health benefits to offer.
Garden cress seeds also called as Halim or Aliv are known to consist of estrogen chemicals that stimulate milk production in nursing moms. They are often given with milk as a kheer or as laddoos to the nursing mothers after delivery. Additionally they are the richest sources of non heme iron and has significant calcium.
Poppy seeds or khuskhus not only help the new moms calm down and relax but are also believed to enhance milk production. They are often added to the gondhladdoos or the methiladdoos of nursing mothers.
The gondhladdoo made with edible gum (gondh), ghee, nuts, dried coconut, dates, different seeds and jaggery is known to increase the milk production. It is a traditional remedy for lactating mothers.
8. Moringa Leaves (drumstick leaves):
In many Indian communities moringa leaves are used to increase milk supply. A few studies have in fact have shown an increase in breast milk supply of the mothers who consumed moringa. Not only the milk but they are also rich in calcium, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, iron and other micronutrients. They can be used as a part of herbal teas, in a smoothie or can be sprinkled as a powder in soups, salads and dips.
Breast feeding offers numerous benefits to the infant. And so, it is recommended exclusively for every infant for the first six months. If the supply of breast milkis insufficient for any reason a child nutritionist with a sound knowledge of lactation can help the new mother make good use of these galactogogues safely. Also, consider discussing with your physician if you want to include these galactogogues in the lactation meal plan.