Since we have welcomed new readers to our blog, I thought I would take some time to update a post from 2011. I wrote this post in answer to a student’s concerns about herbs in holiday food that *might* affect a breastfeeding mother’s milk supply.
"Might" because each of us is unique. Some people may be affected differently than others...trust your observations if what you see is different than what is listed below, "true for you" may be different than what other people have experienced.
As I was researching, a couple of the articles mentioned that these herbs would have to be consumed in large quantities to affect your milk supply. However, in recognition that we are all unique, some mamas might see a decrease in supply, even with just a casual amount used in cooking.
The Bradley Method® teacher in me reminds you to please check any information with regards to herbs (or any substance/drug) with your care provider first. This list was created with lactation in mind. There are herbs on this list that may not be considered safe in pregnancy (hint: do your own research on sage and oregano). Please read, read, read on your own, and make your own decisions about what is and is not safe for you to use in your home cooking, or as a taste enhancer when you are eating out of your home.
So, with that caveat in mind…if you are a breastfeeding mom, here are some herbs used in holiday cooking to be aware of:
Parsley – known to reduce milk flow. Here is an instance where a sprig is not likely to affect your supply; however, a dish where it is a prominent ingredient (perhaps something like tabbouleh) is not recommended for a nursing mother.
Peppermint* – “menthe” family of plants; the oil, is known to suppresses lactation and engorgement (more HERE)
Sage* – reduces milk flow
Sorrel – not enough evidence about how much passes to breastmilk, plant contains oxalic acid, which is known to cause kidney stones, and in large quantities, kidney failure
Spearmint* – another plant in the “mentha” family
Thyme* – known to reduce milk supply
There is conflicting information on the following herbs – they appear on some “watch” lists and not others, or are listed as “safe” or GRAS (generally regarded as safe) on other lists:
Basil* – used to promote the flow of breastmilk; is also known to contain a chemical called estragole, which in larger medicinal amounts, caused cancer in laboratory mice.
Oregano* – anecdotal information that it can decrease supply; massage oil made with oil of oregano is used to decrease milk supply when weaning (more HERE)
As we enter the cold and flu season, it’s important to note that a derivative of the mint family is menthol. It is used in cough drops and cough preparations. So yes, even a cough drop or a peppermint candy could affect your milk supply if you are sensitive to the effects of plants in the mint family.
Lastly, there is a group of herbs that have alkaloid properties. They are not generally used for cooking and make more of an appearance as herbal remedies. If you decide to explore some of the lists below, here is what you need to know. Whether naturally occurring or synthetic (used in over-the-counter ("OTC") or prescription medications), alkaloids have been shown to inhibit prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production.
Keep in mind that much of the traditional knowledge about herbs has not been studied scientifically. You may have a decrease in milk supply from an herb or supplement that is not on this list. You know your body and you know your milk supply. If something changes with you or with your child, it is worth paying attention.
Have you found that there are any herbs or supplements that have decreased your milk supply?
*Although I could not find specific information on all of these herbs, they all belong to the same plant family, the Lamiaceae family. There are other members of this family that do not necessarily appear on the “watch” list for breastfeeding (rosemary, basil), so use your judgment and note your experience with any of these related plants. Read more about the mint family HERE
FOR MORE READING:
ARTICLES and EBOOK
For more reading on herb use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, see THIS publication from the ICEA journal that addresses several complimentary and alternative methods in pregnancy and labor. http://www.icea.org/sites/default/files/July%202012.pdf
Get your own copy of the Earth Mama, Angel Baby Herbs and Breastfeeding ebook
Herbs to Use During Breastfeeding
Earth Mama, Angel Baby company offers THIS list
Herbs to Avoid During Breastfeeding
KellyMom blog offers THIS list
Galactofuges – stop or reduce milk flow
About Peppermint Oil from the Infant Risk Center
About Peppermint Oil used in aromatherapy
Reading from WebMd
The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.