New mothers often use the support of herbs to give a boost to their milk supply. Galactogogues are a type of herb that have the specific quality of increasing lactation. Galactagogues can be taken during pregnancy to prepare for nursing and during postpartum to support a nursing mother’s milk supply, starting immediately following the birth of her baby.
Herbal teas are some of the oldest and simplest forms of natural medicine.
They are easily prepared, and many herbs can be found at the local health food store or ordered online. You may even already have some of these herbal leaves and seeds in your kitchen.
Herbal infusions are prepared by pouring the boiling hot water on top of the plant parts, and letting steep for a period of time, usually 5-30 minutes. For a new mama, it is best to make a quart at a time. This will have a higher dose of the herbs to kickstart lactation. Also, making one quart in the morning and keeping it in a thermos provides enough for the mama to sip throughout her day. As milk production increases (usually within a couple of days), you can reduce the dose or discontinue the tea. Herbs are best used for a few weeks at a time, and then the herbal remedies should be rotated for them to be most effective.
These teas may taste bitter due to the astringent nature of some of the herbs. If needed, you may add small amounts of spearmint, orange peel, lemon peel, lemongrass, chamomile, or other tasty herbs to improve the flavor. Avoid peppermint as it may decrease your milk supply. The teas of course can be sweetened with a little honey or your favorite sweetener. Be sure to add honey only after the tea has cooled, as heated or cooked honey becomes toxic to the body.
Here are 5 herbal beverages that support lactation
1. HERBAL INFUSIONS
The following herbs can be used alone to make single-herb, one quart infusions by using 2 handfuls of leaves or 2-4 tablespoons for seeds per 1 quart of water:
- Goat’s Rue
- Stinging Nettle
- Milk Thistle
2. PRENATAL GALACTAGOGUE TEA
This tea can be taken while pregnant to prepare for a bountiful milk supply.
Mix herbs in a jar:
- 2 parts red raspberry leaf
- 2 parts nettle
- 1 part alfalfa
- 1 part red clover blossom
Store for ease of use.
When ready to drink:
- Place one handful of herb mix in a large thermos or pot.
- Pour one quart of boiled water over dry herbs.
- Steep overnight.
- Strain + enjoy!
3. YSHA OAKES’ SWEETWATER LACTATION TEA
This Ayurvedic lactation tea supports a new mama’s rejuvenation. It gives gentle warmth, reduces acidity, hydrates the tissues and increases milk production. Ayurveda recommends drinking 2 quarts of this tea daily for at least 6 weeks following childbirth.
Mix 2 parts fennel and 1 part fenugreek in a glass jar. Stored in the pantry for easy use.
- Make a fresh batch daily.
- Add 1 tsp of the herb mix to 8 cups of boiled water.
- Let steep for 5 mins.
- Pour into a thermos to keep hot and drink throughout the day and night.
Note: 1 tsp tea to 8 cups of water makes a weak tea. This is intentional as it creates a hydrating effect, instead of imparting dryness.
4. NURSING FORMULA
In Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, Susun Weed shares:
“Blessed Thistle (or Borage) stimulates the milk flow and helps restore vitality to weary mothers. Raspberry and Nettle supply vitamins and minerals, notably calcium, needed for plentiful lactation. The aromatic seeds increase milk production and tone the digestive system; their powers are carried through the breast milk and into the child, curtailing colic and indigestion. This brew can be drunk freely, up to two quarts a day if you desire.”
- 1 oz. blessed thistle or borage leaves
- 1 oz. raspberry or stinging nettle leaf
- Place leaves into a half-gallon jar.
- Fill jar to the top with boiling water.
- Let steep overnight, covered.
- Strain and refrigerate tea.
When ready to drink:
- Heat one cup of the tea to near boiling.
- Pour over 1 tsp any one of the freshly ground, aromatic seeds (fennel, anise, cumin, coriander, caraway, or dill).
- Steep for 5 minutes.
5. BARLEY WATER TEA
The combination of barley water and fennel seeds increases milk supply, eases after-pains, and settles the digestion of both mama and baby.
- ½ cup barley
- 1 tsp fennel seed
- Soak barley in 3 cups cold water overnight OR boil for 25 minutes.
- Strain barley and save for soup.
- Refrigerate barley water.
When ready to drink:
- Heat 1-2 cups of barley water to boiling.
- Pour over fennel seeds and steep for 30 minutes max.
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For ordering herbs online:
References for this article:
- The Nursing Mother’s Herbal – Sheila Humphrey
- Touching Heaven Tonic Postpartum Recipes with Ayurveda – Ysha Oakes
- Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year – Susun Weed
Herbs photographed by Meaghan Thompson-Moore
- Bronze fennel
- Stinging nettle
The information in this guide is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prescribe. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult a medical professional before making changes to your health care routine or diet. Dosages and herbs in this guide may have contraindications depending on your individual health, so always consult your care providers.
Written & compiled by
Ayurdoula, Herbalist, Blog Contributor
Krsna Jivani is a CSWS Alum and new mother. She grew up learning and practicing the ancient teachings of Ayurveda, and has studied herbalism since 2016. After following the Ayurvedic regimen during her own sacred window, she is looking forward to sharing these deeply healing teachings with new mothers through her AyurDoula practice.