We expect breastfeeding should come naturally, right? Once your baby is born, they latch onto the breast, and voila! The nursing relationship is born.
But for some of us, this isn’t always the case.
A low milk supply during the first few weeks of breastfeeding can result in a fussy baby, which leaves many new parents exhausted and searching for ways to boost their supply.
One method you may come across during your research is the use of brewer’s yeast. Here’s everything you need to know about brewer’s yeast and breastfeeding.
Brewer’s yeast (aka Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is a species of yeast that is often used as an energy booster, protein supplement, and immunity enhancer, among other things. You can find it in bread, beer, and over-the-counter nutritional supplements.
As a nutritional supplement, brewer’s yeast is packed full of vitamins and minerals, including:
- thiamine (B-1)
- riboflavin (B-2)
- niacin (B-3)
- pantothenic acid (B-5)
- pyridoxine (B-6)
- biotin (B-7)
- folic acid (B-9)
Brewer’s yeast comes in a variety of forms, including powder and tablets. It’s also a key ingredient in beer and bread, but you may want to think twice before you saddle up to a six-pack. The
Brewer’s yeast as a supplement may be useful, however. Although the science is lacking and there is no specific recommendation for dosage, Andrea Tran, RN, IBCLC, says if you’re going to use brewer’s yeast, it’s best to start with a low dosage, observe for side effects, and gradually increase as tolerated.
For women who want an exact amount, Kealy Hawk, BSN, RN, CLC says 3 tablespoons per day is the usual dosage for brewer’s yeast. “Some women find it is extremely bitter, and some brands are better than others for taste,” she says.
Like Tran, Hawk suggests starting with smaller doses and working up to 3 tablespoons per day. If you’re not a fan of swallowing pills, you can also add powdered brewer’s yeast to some of your favorite lactation-boosting recipes.
While you may know brewer’s yeast as an ingredient used in the production of your favorite beer or bread, when talking about breastfeeding, it is considered a galactagogue. A galactagogue is anything that promotes breast milk production.
“Some people feel that it does help to increase their milk supply. However, I am unaware of any clinical studies that definitively show that it does. Still, many women continue to use it,” says Gina Posner, MD, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center.
Tran points out that when a breastfeeding mother is trying to increase milk supply, she will often try several supplements at the same time. “This makes it difficult to determine if it was a specific supplement or a combination that resulted in the increased milk supply,” she says.
In fact, one
Some women swear by galactagogues like brewer’s yeast, but Hawk says they won’t work if you aren’t feeding baby enough. “The first thing any mama worried about her supply should do is to make sure she’s feeding effectively and enough,” she says.
While feeding often enough is important throughout the duration of your breastfeeding journey, the first few days after baby is born is an especially critical time period for establishing a lasting milk supply.
Newborns should feed 8 to 12 times per day, starting immediately after they’re born. If your baby feeds this often the first few weeks, your milk supply will get the jump-start it needs to last.
You can find brewer’s yeast at the grocery store, a health food store, or online. Naturopathic doctors may also recommend it as part of a regimen and sell it out of their office.
When shopping for powdered brewer’s yeast, make sure to check the label for any added ingredients. Try to choose a product that is 100 percent brewer’s yeast.
Some of the capsule or tablet forms of brewer’s yeast may come with other herbs that help support breastfeeding. If you’re considering a supplement with multiple ingredients, get your doctor or midwife’s approval before taking it.
You may also find brewer’s yeast in prepared products like breastfeeding tea or lactation cookies. Again, read the label before purchasing. Whenever possible, avoid products with fillers, additives, sweeteners, or sugar.
Posner says brewer’s yeast is a common supplement that many breastfeeding mothers choose to take. “While it seems safe to take when breastfeeding, without any clinical evidence to support its safety, I strongly suggest mothers discuss with their physician(s) prior to using it to ensure they understand any potential side effects brought on by allergies.”
Although brewer’s yeast is generally considered safe while breastfeeding, Tran says to avoid using it if you:
- have an allergy to yeast
- are diabetic, since it can lower blood sugar
- have Crohn’s disease
- have a weakened immune system
- are taking MAOI’s for depression
- are taking antifungal medications
Even if there is no concern for side effects, Nina Pegram, IBCLC at SimpliFed, reminds new moms that there are predatory products out there that feed on their anxieties, and there is no evidence behind them. “What we know works most often [to improve breastfeeding success] is working with board certified lactation consultants,” she says.
Supplementing your diet with brewer’s yeast is relatively safe. But like most things, it’s always a good idea to get the green light from your baby’s pediatrician or your care provider before using them.
If you are concerned about your milk supply, consider working with a lactation consultant. They can identify why your milk supply is low and help create a plan to encourage production.
In the meantime, feed your baby as often as you can. While breastfeeding is often harder than we expect, enjoy the snuggles, and remember that any milk you can give your baby offers tremendous benefits.