Galactagogue Use Prevalent Among Breastfeeding Mothers

Galactagogues, a food or drug that increases milk production, have been frequently used among breastfeeding mothers in the United States, according to new findings published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Infants should be exclusively breastfed throughout the first six months of life, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, with breastfeeding continuing for 24 months or beyond. However, just 26% of newborns in the United States exclusively consume breast milk at six months, and only 35% do so at 12 months.

In the U.S., inadequate milk production is the most often cited cause of breastfeeding termination. For adequate milk production, milk must be regularly and effectively removed from the breast by baby sucking or breast pumping.

Certain risk factors, including obesity, diabetes, heredity, previous breast surgery, and specific medications, can also affect human milk production.

To help with breastfeeding, many mothers have been turning to galactagogues, a type of food or drug that increases milk production. To delve into the perceived effects on milk production, the team analyzed 1,294 adult women in the U.S. Between December 2020 and February 2021, a cross-sectional online survey of mothers in the U.S., and their breastfeeding children, were examined.

The study collected information on galactagogues through self-reports and their perceived impact on milk production. They disclosed their consumption of specific foods, drinks, combinations of herbal items, single herbal products, and medications.

In addition, 18 foods, dietary groups, beverages, ten herbal supplements, two medications, and supplemental galactagogues were subjected to survey questions. The participants specified whether the consumption of galactagogues increased, decreased, maintained, or had no effect on their milk production for each affirmative response.

In the study, 15% of individuals reported feeling that their milk production was not producing enough, 47% of interviewees said they had just started nursing, about 58% of participants reported using galactagogues, 28% reported using herbal products, and 1.4% reported using medications.

Less than 5% of participants also admitted to using wine, non-alcoholic beer, fennel, milk thistle, blessed thistle, moringa, goat's rue, stinging nettle, alfalfa, Shatavari, domperidone, or metoclopramide as galactagogues.

Oats, lactation cookies, brewer's yeast, alcoholic beer, sports beverages, and mixtures of herbal medicines were named effective by more than 40% of participants.

Mothers who were comparably older or currently working reported consuming galactagogues much more. Galactagogues were also used more by mothers who had a C-section or have began nursing for the first time.

Regarding other breastfeeding-related traits, higher galactagogue use was linked to reported inadequate milk supply, low breastfeeding self-efficacy, infant latching issues, nursing pumped milk, and formula milk supplementation.

When nursing two or more children of various ages at once, mothers reported using galactagogues far less frequently.

The scientists emphasize the necessity for additional research on the security and effectiveness of widely used galactagogues in light of the study's findings. Additionally, supportive programs are required to inform nursing women of the best ways to boost milk production and achieve breastfeeding objectives.

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