Breastfeeding requires drinking healthy beverages to bolster your breast milk supply, including herbal tea. While herbal tea can be an enjoyable choice, be mindful that certain herbs could have adverse reactions on your baby and some brands contain ingredients which could pose potential dangers to new moms. In this article we’ll address if it is safe and what ingredients should be avoided during breastfeeding.
Though most herbal and traditional medicines are generally safe in moderation, if you intend to drink herbal tea while breastfeeding it is wise to consult a naturopath or other health practitioner first if this will involve drinking untested herbal blends that could affect both quantity and quality of breast milk (1). Chemicals from herbs could enter your bloodstream through your tea bags, permeating into breast milk production (1).
Some herbs have long been recognized for their galactagogue properties, or ability to increase milk production. One such herb is fenugreek, used to increase milk supply for centuries by mimicking the hormone oxytocin (2) which plays an essential role in both developing and releasing milk production in nursing mothers (2). Fenugreek may be consumed via tea or supplement; however excessive consumption could be harmful for your baby.
Fennel tea can also serve as an effective galactagogue, like its counterpart fenugreek, acting as an natural diuretic and helping with water retention and digestive issues (3-4) though some studies indicate it may cause stomach irritation for certain individuals.
If you want to enjoy a cup of fennel tea, ensure it is organic. Non-organic varieties contain harmful pesticides and contaminants which could transfer directly into your breast milk (4).
Chamomile, lemon balm and nettle can also be made into tea for consumption during breastfeeding. While all three herbs may help alleviate nausea symptoms in some women who breastfeed, further studies need to be conducted regarding lemon balm and nettle for this use in breastfeeding women.
Caffeine can also be found in certain herbal teas, which may cause adverse effects on milk supply (5). Although no official Australian guidelines exist regarding safe levels of caffeine consumption for breastfeeding mothers, it is advised to limit daily caffeine intake to around 300mg (6).
When purchasing herbal tea, always read and check its label to make sure it is caffeine and chemical-free. Furthermore, selecting one made from ingredients grown using organic methods will bring greater health benefits for both mother and baby (7). Finally, consult a naturopath, lactation consultant or healthcare provider prior to beginning a new herbal tea regimen; they can assist in selecting safe ingredients, setting consumption guidelines for amounts consumed as well as provide insight into any possible side effects which could potentially harm your infant(8).