A Mother’s Garden of Galactagogues: Growing Milk-Boosting Foods & Herbs from Around the World
By Hilary Jacobson
For nine or so months you watch and wait. The baby grows. Mama does, too! And then, voila, the little one arrives, and it’s time to nurse. But something’s wrong…Maternal milk supply issues are not uncommon. At least one in twenty breastfeeding women has issues at some point, and the possible causes are numerous—birth control medicines taken earlier in life, estrogens and other toxins and chemicals, the stresses of modern life (such as noise, light or lack of sleep), dietary deficiencies and more.
What to Drink to Increase Breast Milk
What to do? Clearly, as WAPF folks understand, dietary interventions are the most important first-line treatment. Yet even cultures with good diets have used nature to help resolve health issues, including milk supply problems. We particularly enjoyed A Mother’s Garden of Galactagogues (referring to substances used to increase milk production) because of the depth of historical research it contains. Hilary Jacobson combed through ancient, modern and in-between literature—from medieval, Greco- Roman, Asian, European and other sources— compiling foods used historically and globally to induce or increase lactation.
The book is motivated by her personal experience. While living in Switzerland, Jacobson gave birth to a child and unfortunately had issues with her milk supply. She explains, “I struggled with a low supply with my second son too. But when he was eight weeks old, I happened to order a Swiss soft drink named Rivella at a restaurant. The next time we nursed, he swallowed quickly to keep up with the flow. Then he fell asleep in my arms, beautifully content, a smile on his face.”
After asking herself whether the answer was really so close at hand, she learned that Rivella is made from mineral-rich whey, flavored with herbal extracts. However, though a nurse and lactation specialist told her it was common knowledge that this was an effective way to help women with milk supply issues, it couldn’t be openly recommended. When Jacobson asked why not, this was the reply: “No one will study Rivella or similar things because no one makes a profit if a mother breastfeeds her baby.”
What Herbs Help Produce Breast Milk
Unlike other books on the topic, A Mother’s Garden not only covers plants that can help with milk issues but also discusses how to grow and prepare them. The plants covered, as the title indicates, are truly global in scope. The book also shows uses for all plant parts—from flowers to roots, leaves to bark—covering annuals, perennials and everything from trees and shrubs to herbs and plants. Some, like dandelion and purslane, may grow in your yard or be commonly regarded as weeds. Jacobson even mentions our beloved elderberry (actually the elder flower).
When it comes to growing and obtaining, she is careful to mention the importance of doing so organically. She encourages readers to grow the plants themselves, even in small spaces or indoors, using pots, sprouting or microgreens. The last thing a mama wants is to contaminate her milk supply with dangerous chemicals.
The book is well-organized, with easy-to-use appendices, detailed, alphabetical breakdowns of plants and parts, and a simple and enjoyable writing style. “Accessible” is another fitting word for this work—even a novice to herbalism and plant-based medicine can easily use the information without stress or fuss.
We especially appreciated Jacobson’s recognition of the fact that the causes of milk supply issues are complex, meaning that no one plant or set of plants will solve this problem for everyone. Depending on the underlying cause(s), some foods and plants will help some women more than others. So, if one approach doesn’t help, don’t despair. Try another of the recommended ideas or combinations. Overall, A Mother’s Garden is an easy-to-use reference tool that doesn’t stray from its stated task.
Two thumbs up.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2022🖨️ Print post