Breastfeeding and herbal medicines

Breastfeeding and herbal medicines

  • Check that all herbal medicines are suitable while breastfeeding.
  • Many herbal remedies are used because they affect the way your body functions. The chemicals that do this work are not necessarily any safer than prescription drugs while you breastfeed.
  • Herbal medicines may pass into your milk and affect milk production, just like any other type of drug.
  • Herbal medicines can vary greatly in strength and purity as they are not prepared in the same highly-controlled environment as standard medicines, which makes it difficult to judge their suitability while you are breastfeeding.
  • Some herbs may cause liver damage and need to be avoided while you breastfeed. These include coltsfoot, borage and comfrey.
  • Others herbs that may adversely affect your baby include feverfew, aloe, ginseng, black cohosh, kavakava and licorice root.
  • There are some herbs that supposedly increase milk supply - fenugreek - and those that are meant to decrease milk supply - sage - but there is little evidence that either work in this way.
  • The effect of St John's wort (hypericum) on your baby is not well-known, and so it's not recommended for breastfeeding mothers suffering from postnatal depression.
  • Safe herbal products to use while breastfeeding include garlic, ginger, chamomile, echinacea (short term use), fennel, and elderflower.

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This article was written by Ella Walsh for Kidspot. Sources include SA Government's Parenting and Child Health.

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