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Can I Increase My Breast Milk Production with Garlic?

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Question: Can I Increase My Breast Milk Production with Garlic?
I've heard that I can increase my breast milk production by using garlic. Is this true?
Answer: Yes and no.

Because you produce milk according to a supply and demand process, if your baby nurses more then you're going to produce more milk to meet your baby's demand.

So how could garlic play into this?

Studies have shown that after mothers consume garlic their babies breast-feed longer and consume more milk.

More nursing + More milk consumption = Boost in supply, right?

Well, that's only part of the story. Since this is not recent news and this information has been circulating by word-of-mouth for some time, an important detail tends to get left out.

The little detail? It's really only mothers who ingest garlic occasionally whose babies react in this way. Babies who regularly drank garlicky milk didn't show a real difference from drinking plain old breast milk. That's why this shouldn't be used as a long term strategy for upping your milk supply.

If you want to use garlic to help keep your supply steady, then eating garlic once a week or every other week should help. In addition, if you want to tempt your baby into eating during a nursing strike or illness, then by all means, give garlic a try. (It sure can't hurt!)

If your milk supply is dwindling or you worry that you aren't producing enough for your baby, then you should turn to stronger measures such as herbal remedies or other treatments in consultation with your health care provider. Some issues with low or decreased milk supply can be caused by medical factors (some that can be treated easily like postpartum thyroid dysfunction), so it's important to rule this out.

Sources:

  • Mennella, J A, and G K Beauchamp. "The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling's behavior." Pediatric Research 34.6 (1993): 805-808.

  • Mennella, Julie A., and Gary K. Beauchamp. "Maternal Diet Alters the Sensory Qualities of Human Milk and the Nursling's Behavior." Pediatrics 88.4 (1991): 737.
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