Although they sound like they're from another planet, galactagogues can be as natural as natural can be! A galactagogue is an ingredient that helps induce, increase or maintain breastmilk production. There are natural and synthetic forms.
Natural galactagogues, such as foods and herbs (find a list HERE) , have been used for their milk-making properties for centuries, and vary by culture. In the United States, oats and lactation cookies reign supreme. In Korea, new mothers sip seaweed soup. Indian mothers enjoy split lentils (dal). Chinese families nourish with oats and green papaya.
The idea is these foods are so nutrient dense they boost mother's energy and nutrition, thus helping to boost her breast milk supply. After all, if we don't have any nutritional reserves, we'll likely just be pulling from an empty tank. Some, such as oats, are known to increase oxytocin hormone levels which relaxes and calms us. This relaxation reduces stress and can help us boost milk supply.
There are also synthetic forms, such as medications used to increase prolactin and help with the breast milk let-down. These are given to both humans and animals when other interventions don't do the trick. As with any medication, they can have negative side effects, so always speak with your OB and IBCLC licensed breastfeeding specialist before starting down a medicated path.
Successes with galactagogues have been documented worldwide for centuries, but due to lack of controlled trials, differences in body chemistry for both baby and mama, and ethical testing concerns, results remain time tested and anecdotal, but not medically certain.
One thing is certain: eating lactogenic foods while breastfeeding nourishes your mind, body and soul at the bare minimum! Couldn't all us mamas use that comfort to relieve stress??
If your production is low, speak with an IBCLC licensed breastfeeding specialist and opt for natural galactagogues before taking synthetic medications.