Does alfalfa help increase breast milk production?

Alfalfa has become popular as a supplement to increase breast milk production. Works? What does science say? Here we detail it.

Last update: 02 May, 2022

In traditional medicine, alfalfa (Medicago sativa) It has been classified as a “natural galactagogue”, that is, it has the ability to increase the production of breast milk. According to its defenders, the phytoestrogens contained in the plant are behind these properties. However, it is a subject that is still under investigation.

For now, the evidence in this regard remains limited. In fact, some side effects and interactions have been observed that should be considered before using this type of supplement. Do you want to know more about it? Keep reading!

What is alfalfa?

alfalfa (Medicago sativa) It is a perennial legume plant that belongs to the family Fabaceae. For years it has been used in traditional medicine as it is a source of bioactive compounds including fatty acids, phytoestrogens, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and proteins.

In particular, its leaves and roots are used in the preparation of herbal supplements. Also, its seeds are used for food purposes. And it is that, as detailed in a review shared in Pharmaceutical Biologyits phytoconstituents give it the following properties:

  • Estrogenic.
  • antioxidant.
  • Anti-ulcer.
  • Antimicrobial.
  • Hypolipidemic.
  • Anti-inflammatory.
  • Neuroprotective.
  • Hypocholesterolemic.

Precisely, this last property is the one that is linked to its ability to increase breast milk production. And although this traditional use persists and has been investigated, doubts remain. Let’s see.

For many mothers, the production of breast milk is a concern, as they want to have enough for their children.

Why is it said that alfalfa helps increase breast milk production?

The use of alfalfa as a breast milk stimulant dates back a long time. In folk medicine, supplements derived from this plant have been used among lactating mothers who, for some reason, needed to increase milk production.

Its phytoestrogen content is believed to be behind the galactagogue effect. These plant substances resemble estrogen and can attach to their receptors in the body. Despite this, the evidence is limited and inconclusive.

Information shared through Drugs and Lactation Database points out that although alfalfa consumption has been promoted as a galactagogue and is included in proprietary blends intended to increase breast milk production, there are no scientifically valid clinical trials to support such use.

Although it is an interesting source of saponins, estrogenic isoflavonoids, vitamin K and L-canavanine (an amino acid), studies have not been able to confirm that it can promote lactation.

Because of this, the same source states that these supplements should not replace evaluation and counseling on those modifiable factors that indicate milk production. And it is that, in the face of this problem, changes in diet and lifestyle are usually suggested that do help.

Is it risky to consume alfalfa to increase breast milk?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers alfalfa safe in most cases. But he warns that substances contained in this plant, such as L-canavanine, stimulate the immune system and tend to be harmful in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus.

Other warnings regarding its consumption are the following:

  • Alfalfa Supplementation can lead to episodes of diarrhea in mother and baby.
  • Despite the lack of evidence on its potential as a galactogogue, its consumption is not recommended in women who have an excessive production of breast milk.
  • Due to its vitamin K content, its simultaneous intake with anticoagulant drugs is disapproved.
  • Its administration should be avoided if there is a diagnosed autoimmune disease.
  • Nor should it be ingested if there are hormonal disorders. If so, you should first consult a doctor.
  • Alfalfa supplements in teas, capsules and tablets They lack regulation by entities such as the FDA. Therefore, there is no guarantee of quality and purity. It is important to buy them in a reliable place.
If the mother has an immune pathology, such as lupus, she cannot take these supplements.

Presentations and mode of consumption of alfalfa

In case you want to try alfalfa as part of the diet during lactation, it is best to consult a doctor first. In general, the plant is available as food, tea, and tablets. The best way to take advantage of its properties is with food.

Both the sprouts and the seeds can be incorporated into salads, soups, stews and other preparations. Its use is recommended cooked to avoid risks of poisoning by E. coli. As for the tea and the tablets, they must be ingested according to the manufacturer’s instructions, without exceeding the recommended dose.

Are there other ways to stimulate breast milk production naturally?

Low breast milk production is often a cause for concern. After all, it is proven that it is the best food for the proper development of the baby.

So what to do about it? There are several suggestions:

  • Start breastfeeding as soon as possible preferably one hour after delivery.
  • Give milk often. The more stimulation the breasts receive from the baby’s suckling, the better.
  • Use a breast pump. It also helps stimulate the ducts.
  • Maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Besides, drink plenty of water.
  • Feed with both breasts and rotate.

Ultimately, it’s a good idea to seek breastfeeding advice from your doctor or midwife. The professional can verify if the breastfeeding technique is adequate or if medications are being taken that decrease milk production.

Similarly, it can help resolve all concerns regarding supplements, diet and other strategies that affect successful breastfeeding.

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