What are galactagogues and how do they work?
Waking up at wee hours of the day, changing diapers constantly, and breastfeeding—these are just some of what you’re signing up for when you become a mom. As if motherhood isn’t already hard enough as it is, some mothers face difficulties in producing enough breast milk for their babies—and trust me, there’s nothing more heartbreaking for a mother than not being able to give what her child needs.
Experts say that there are numerous factors that could contribute to the low supply of milk during breastfeeding. This includes not being able to start breastfeeding right away, not breastfeeding often enough, and not being able to establish an effective latch. In terms of medicine, certain medications might also affect this scarcity, along with some types of breast surgeries. But the question remains: why is breastfeeding so important that women go out of their way just to increase it?
The importance of breastfeeding
Studies show that infants who haven’t been breastfed enough or at all have a higher chance of early and later-life mortalities. As the optimal source of nutrition, breast milk not only supports the development of infants but it also brings numerous maternal benefits. One of these is that risks of breast and ovarian cancer are reduced when mothers partake in breastfeeding.
Naturally increasing your milk supply
There are a few natural ways to help alleviate your worries regarding the lack of milk supply, with the first being regular latching & pumping sessions. Since milk production works the same way as supply and demand, experts say that it’s important for breastmilk to be removed often and well.
If that doesn’t work, you can exercise skin-to-skin contact which instantly releases prolactin while stimulating oxytocin, both of which can increase milk production. You may also try compressions by gently squeezing the breast while nursing to encourage your glands to make more milk. Comfortable feeding positions for babies are also highly recommended; however, if those methods still don’t work, maybe it’s time for you to try galactagogues.
Before you raise your eyebrows, hear us out. You might be wondering, why are these galacta-things so hard to pronounce and what exactly are they?
Increasing your milk supply using Galactagogues
Galactagogues—coming from the greek word “galacta” that means milk—are substances that aid mothers in increasing their milk supply. They are also sometimes called "Lactogenic" foods. Even though there’s no sufficient medical evidence that proves the effectiveness of galactagogues, many women have attested that these have significantly helped them get through the drought. These substances either mimic hormones that stimulate the production of breastmilk or simply provide nutrients to your body to boost your milk supply.
Types of Galactagogues you can use
Now that you’re open to trying galactagogues, you must know that there are two main kinds, namely: herbal and pharmaceutical.
Taking galactagogues is one of the many ways that mothers do to continuously breastfeed. Yes, some of these substances can increase milk supply and ultimately help nurse infants to health, but these should be consumed with caution under the supervision of a medical expert. While galactagogues are beneficial for mom & babies, studies have associated some of its pharmaceutical variants with severe dizziness, breathing troubles, dry mouth, abdominal cramps and diarrhea that could take a toll on mothers.
Most mothers are hesitant to use galactagogues which is why they choose to give their children formula instead, but that’s only if they really have no choice anymore. The hard-hitting reality is, many mothers come face-to-face with these challenges related to initiating and sustaining breastfeeding. Unfortunately, we live in a society where breastfeeding in public is frowned upon even if mothers are well-covered. People aren’t progressive enough to see the work that moms put into giving their babies the best care there is. So maybe next time you see a breastfeeding mother, you can give her a reassuring nod and smile instead of a shaming eye roll and snare. 💖