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If you’re breastfeeding, chances are that your milk supply is a source of interest for you and others. With everyone wanting to discuss how breastfeeding is going, along with typical breastfeeding challenges, it might feel like there’s a lot of pressure on you to produce just the right amount of milk to feed your little one.

With such demands on breastfeeding mothers, it’s no surprise that products that claim to assist in milk production have entered the market. One such product is lactation tea.

Before you consume this product, you probably have a few questions: Is it safe? Does it actually work? What even is lactation tea?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered…

Lactation tea is a blend of herbs that can be consumed as tea, typically several times a day, during the postpartum period. It’s marketed as a supplement for increasing breast milk supply.

Does lactation tea actually live up to its name and produce more milk? Well, the scientific evidence on lactation tea is not entirely clear — more research is definitely needed. There is ample anecdotal evidence from women claiming that they noticed a positive increase in their milk supply while using lactation tea.

Even if the herb blends in these teas aren’t effective at triggering more milk production, drinking extra liquid several times a day will help keep you hydrated — a key to good milk production.

Plus, taking time to care for yourself — which can release the relaxed, loving hormones shown to be beneficial to milk production — is a good thing, so there may be something to using lactation tea.

Some of the common herbs found in lactation teas are fenugreek, blessed thistle, fennel, stinging nettle, goat’s rue, moringa, and milk thistle.

  • Fenugreek is an herb with a taste similar to maple syrup. While there is still much research to be done on fenugreek, limited studies suggest that it may help increase milk production. It should, however, be avoided during pregnancy as it can cause uterine contractions. (There is also some concern that fenugreek acts like estrogen and may be unsafe for women with hormone-sensitive cancers.)
  • Blessed thistle is commonly used for digestive issues as well as part of lactation teas. Unfortunately, like many herbs there is not much scientific data available on its actual usefulness of it in increasing breastmilk production.
  • Fennel has not been thoroughly researched enough to prove effectiveness for increasing lactation. Thought two small studies found it may help increase milk volume.
  • Stinging nettle is full of nutrients and antioxidants. It is thought to reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure. Although it is not safe for pregnant women to consume due to its potential to cause uterine contractions, there are anecdotal stories about its ability to assist with lactation. Like most herbs, more research is needed to scientifically prove this.
  • Goat’s rue is said to help the liver, the adrenal gland, and digestion in addition to its potential lactation benefits. Although the studies on Goat’s Rue have been small and more research is still needed to prove its milk producing benefits, it is thought to be a well-tolerated herb.
  • Moringahas been popular around the world for many years, but is just recently becoming well known in North America. Hyped for its nutrient content as well as its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, the herb has been studied on animals, but more research needs to be done on humans. To date, not many side effects have been reported.
  • Milk thistle is another herb thought to be good for the liver, bones, and brain. Like many herbs included in lactation teas, only small scientific trials have been performed to prove its effectiveness in increasing lactation. Due to the lack of information available on its side effects, women who are pregnant are generally advised to avoid this herb.

One ingredient you won’t probably notice in lactation tea is sage. This herb is typically viewed as drying up breast milk and sage tea is often recommended during weaning.

It’s important to note that while some of the effects of herbs and herbal products are known there is not yet sufficient research on many aspects of the herbs and herbal blends to know all of the possible effects, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Therefore, it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking herbal-based products and only take blends from sources that you are comfortable with.

There are some herbs that are not safe to consume while breastfeeding. Before consuming any herbal blends, it’s important to check with your doctor or lactation consultant for the most up-to-date listings of safe and unsafe herbs for breastfeeding mothers.

While you should always follow the specific instructions that come with your lactation tea, in general, lactation tea is brewed like most other teas (i.e. use hot water, steep the herbs, and drink). Like most teas, lactation tea can be brewed one cup at a time or as a larger batch to be consumed over time.

It can usually be sweetened, iced, or have other flavors added to it. In general, somewhere between 1 to 3 cups a day is suggested, but always note how much is recommended for your specific type of tea.

You can find lactation tea in natural foods stores or shop for them online. Here are some popular brands:

Traditional Medicinals. The Organic Mother’s Milk Tea sources its herbs from ethical trading partnerships. It is non-GMO verified and all ingredients are certified organic, kosher, and caffeine-free. The tea does have a distinct licorice taste that may not appeal to all palates.

Pink Stork. In addition to mint and vanilla flavored lactation teas, this company also makes a strawberry passion fruit postpartum recovery tea. The lactation teas are made without GMOs, gluten, wheat, sugar, dairy, animal products, and soy. The tea sachets are plant based, and made of 100 percent biodegradable tea bag material. The herb mixes use fenugreek, nettles, and milk thistle as its key herbs. One thing that sets Pink Stork apart is that it identifies as a woman-owned business.

UpSpring Milk Flow. Known for its unique chocolate and berry flavored powdered drink mixes, this brand includes fenugreek and blessed thistle as key herbs in its mix. These mixes are all-natural and non-GMO. They do contain dairy and soy though. Instead of drinking as traditional tea, UpSpring suggests combining the chocolate mix with milk or adding to a smoothie or yogurt. The company suggests adding the berry flavor to cold water or juice.

Earth Mama Organics. The Milkmaid Tea comes in 85 percent post-consumer recycled and recyclable cartons. It is USDA certified organic, non-GMO verified, and certified kosher.

Milkmakers. This brand uses certified organic ingredients in their teas that are naturally caffeine-free. What sets it apart from other brands is the unique flavors it offers like coconut, lemon, and chai.

Oat Mama. This company offers tea blends with organic herbs that are fenugreek- and caffeine-free. This company likes to point out that their teas have zero calories!

Herb Lore. The Moringa Blend loose leaf tea is caffeine-free, non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, and made in the United States. It uses moringa instead of fenugreek to help boost milk supply, so it doesn’t have the strong licorice-like taste some people associate with fenugreek.

If tea is not your preferred drink or you’re not getting the reaction you had hoped for, you don’t need to give up on increasing your milk supply. There are plenty of other methods to try. Some of the most popular include:

  • Eat lactation cookies and bars. Expect a lot of oats, baker’s yeast, wheat germ, and flaxseed!
  • Enjoy some extra skin-to-skin time with your baby. This will not only help you and baby feel secure, but it will help inspire those loving, relaxed feelings that can help get milk flowing.
  • Avoid certain medications, tight fighting bras, and smoking, which can all negatively impact milk production.
  • Stay hydrated. Staying well hydrated is important not only for your own health, but also for producing lots of breast milk!
  • Get a massage or extra sleep. We know rest and relaxation may be hard to come by with a baby in the house, but just like extra skin-to-skin time, this can help increase the hormones needed to produce and release more breast milk.
  • Feed or pump frequently. Breasts produce milk based on a theory of supply and demand: The more you extract and the more frequently you extract milk, the more breast milk the body will think it needs to make.

Breastfeeding is a unique experience and a personal journey. For women who want to increase their milk production, there are lots of options to try, including lactation teas.

Lactation tea may not be the solution to the perfect milk flow for every person. And research isn’t clear if it scientifically does increase milk supply.

However, if you stick with a source you feel comfortable with, consume a normal amount, and make sure to avoid any allergens, you will have gotten some extra hydration and nutrients — and possibly a blissful moment to yourself!