Is it safe to breastfeed while I take herbs for fertility? Some fertility herbs are safe for use when breastfeeding, but how do you know which ones? Are you a breastfeeding mother who is interested in taking herbal remedies to boost fertility? How can you make smart choices when preparing to use herbs for fertility? Can fertility herbs harm your nursing baby? When choosing herbs for fertility, while you are still breastfeeding, it is important to use caution. It is just as important, as when you are pregnant. Your body is utilizing everything you take in to make your child’s body. Breastfeeding is an important responsibility.
There is nothing quite as sweet as feeling your baby suckle at your breast. A deep connection and sense of pride. Your body is nourishing your baby’s. Perhaps you are beginning to feel ready for another child. Have you considered using fertility herbs to help you with your next pregnancy? Whether you are just wanting to use herbal remedies to prepare your body for your next pregnancy, or you are already struggling to get pregnant again, you will find this article useful!
I am going to cover common scenarios in which breastfeeding mothers may find themselves. There are fertility situations you may find yourself in, where you may consider taking fertility herbs. Do you fall into any or some of these statements?
I am a breastfeeding mother who…
- Hasn’t had a menstrual cycle since before I was pregnant.
- Is having irregular menstrual cycles since my menstrual cycle has begun, after the birth of my child.
- Has been trying to get pregnant again unsuccessfully.
- Has a history of infertility.
- Conceived through IVF.
- Has low progesterone.
- Wants to prepare for another pregnancy.
- Has a history of fertility issues such as PCOS, endometriosis, uterine fibroids.
- Is over 40 with poor egg health.
- Is breastfeeding my toddler or older baby.
- Was diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure.
If you find you can relate to any of those statements and are interested in herbal remedies for those situations, please do thorough research before taking any herbs.
Are Natural Fertility Herbs Safe for My Breastfed Baby?
Natural options for boosting fertility seem safer than medications for breastfeeding moms. Just because they are natural, does not mean they will not have a toxic effect on your baby. Some medicinal actions of herbal remedies may be passed through breast milk to your baby. Because babies have low weight, quicker circulation, are still developing, have immature organs and body systems, anything that has an effect on your body, is going to have a much stronger effect on your baby. An older baby has a much greater capacity to handle herbal remedies than a baby that is under 6 months. This does not mean that it is okay to take all herbal remedies once your baby is older, but it is something to take into consideration. As your baby becomes more mature, he/she will be able to better metabolize and detoxify what is ingested. Nourishing food herbs are going to be the most safe.
Common Fertility Herbs and Their Safety for Breastfeeding
Note: This list may not contain all herbs you are looking for. All the herbs listed have the most common fertility actions listed, as well as safety for breastfeeding. Every mother and child is different, it is best to speak with a health care practitioner before beginning any new herbal remedy.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa): Nutritive. Contains some phytoestrogens. Aids in protection against xenohormones. Aids in vaginal atrophy and dryness. Nourishing as an infusion for breastfeeding moms. Leafy parts only.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): This is an adaptogen herb, mild sedative, pain reduction, anti-inflammatory, aids in healthy blood cell formation. Used for PMS, PCOS, stress, pain, anxiety, depression, postpartum depression. May suppress respiratory function in excessive doses. May be best to only use this herb while breastfeeding, under the care of your health care practitioner.
Bee Products (Royal Jelly, Bee Pollen, Bee Propolis): Use to balance hormones, support endocrine function. Because bee products may contain a variety of many plant parts, there is an increase risk of allergy for you and your baby. If your baby has a history of bee allergy, including honey, on either side of the family, there is an increased risk for bee allergy in your baby. It is best to avoid bee products in therapeutic dosage, outside of honey in food, when breastfeeding. Never feed a baby honey prior to 1 year of age, due to risk of botulism poisoning.
Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa): Used to treat painful menstruation, PMS, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, dysfunctional labor and ammehorrhea. Limited-to-no research to show if it is safe for breastfeeding. Should be avoided during breastfeeding.
Black Haw (Viburnum prunifolium): Commonly used for painful menstruation. Pain associated with endometriosis, uterine fibroids. May reduce contractions for threatened miscarriage. For breastfeeding mothers it has been shown fine to use for acute situations where pain is present. Not for use consistently long-term while breast-feeding.
Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides): Sometimes used for women with absent periods. Is a uterine and ovarian tonic. Aids in painful menstruation. No information regarding safety of Blue cohosh for breastfeeding. Should be avoided during breastfeeding.
Burdock (Arctium lappa): Nourshing and cleansing for the liver, aiding in hormonal balance. Limited information on safety for breastfeeding. Because it is cleansing, may want to be avoided during breastfeeding. Some reports of skin rash.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomom spp.): Often used to control blood sugar levels in women with PCOS. Not recommended in therapeutic doses for breastfeeding moms. Fine to use in cooking.
Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus): Commonly used for painful menstruation. Pain associated with endometriosis, uterine fibroids. May reduce contractions for threatened miscarriage. For breastfeeding mothers it has been shown fine to use for acute situations where pain is present. Not for use consistently long-term while breast-feeding.
Damiana (Turnera diffusa): Increase libido. Possible toxic effects, not recommended for breastfeeding.
Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale): Nourishing. Used to increase nutrition, supportive of liver health, for hormonal balance. Dandelion leaf is also a diuretic, so do not exceed safe dosage, as this may cause diarrhea. Safe for breastfeeding when taken as an infusion or eaten as a food. Babies lack vitamin K when born. Dandelion leaf is high in vitamin K.
Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale): Aids in liver health, stimulates digestion. Safe for breastfeeding when eaten as a food. Not for use in therapeutic dosage. Best made into an infusion.
Dong Quai (Angelica Sinensis): Aids in hormonal balance. Used for congestive fertility states such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, PCOS, ovarian cysts. Supports healthy circulation to the uterus, nourishing for the blood. Reduction in pain associated with reproductive organs. Do not use while breastfeeding. There has be some case reports of rash in infants who’s mothers were taking Dong Quai while breastfeeding.
Evening Primrose Oil (Oonethera biennis): Aids in hormonal balance. Rich source of omega 6 fatty acid (LA & GLA). Has been used to increase quality of breast milk, though research is limited. LA and GLA are components of healthy breast milk. May be safe for breastfeeding.
False Unicorn Root (Chamaelirium luteum): Uterine and ovarian tonic, supports regular menstruation. This plant is endangered, we do not recommend using it. Not recommended for breastfeeding.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis): Supports the nervous system. Aids in lowering stress related fertility issues. Possible interaction with lowering thyroid function, not recommended for women on hypothyroid medications. May be safe for breastfeeding in limited quantities in an infusion. No more than 1 cup a day, not for long-term use.
Licorice Rt. (Glychirrhiza glabra): Adaptogen. Used to promote hormonal balance. May increase estrogen. Not recommended for breastfeeding in therapeutic doses. Safe for occasional use in a tea blend.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii): Adaptogen. Nourishing to the endocrine system, promoting and aiding in overall hormonal balance. Limited research on safety for breastfeeding. Acute toxicity and cytotoxicity studies have shown no potential toxicity for Maca. Hundreds of thousands of people have used maca with no reported side effects. Peruvian mothers have eaten it for thousands of years, even while breastfeeding. That being said, because there is limited research for safety of use during breastfeeding, it is not suggested for use while breastfeeding.
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum): Supports liver health, regenerates liver cells. Liver health contributes to proper hormonal balance. Has been used for hundreds of years to support and increase breast milk supply. May be safe in most cases for breastfeeding. May also help reduce postpartum depression.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca): Use for painful menstruation associated with endometriosis, ovarian cyst, uterine fibroid. Aids in bringing on menstruation. Uterine tonic. Aids in heart health, protecting and uplifting for depression and stress. Limited research on use for breastfeeding. Best used only in acute situations under the guidance of a skilled health care practitioner.
Nettles (Urtica doica): Nourishing. High in vitamins and minerals. Has been used for hundreds of years to help keep up mother’s milk supply, aiding in rich healthy breast milk. Best consumed as an infusion.
Oat Straw/Milky Oats (Avena sativa): Nourishing, aids in stress reduction by supporting nervous system. Great support for stress related fertility issues. Fresh Milky Oats is stronger than Oat Straw. Use to increase breast milk supply. Safe for use while breastfeeding.
Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus, spp): Nutritive. Uterine tonic. This plant has a high tannin content, which theoretically may lower iron absorption. Shown to be safe for breastfeeding. Best combined with an herb high in vitamin C for proper iron absorption, like Hibiscus flower or Rose Hips. Best taken as an infusion.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense): Nurtritive. Phytoestrogenic, may help protect body from xenohormones. Standardized Red Clover isoflavone products should not be used during breastfeeding, because of increase in estrogenic activity. Red Clover infusion has been shown safe for breastfeeding when consumed on occasion.
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens): Aids in reducing high androgen levels, may support estrogen balance. May reduce hirsutism in women with PCOS. Not recommended for use while breastfeeding.
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus): Estrogen regulator. May aid in hormonal balance and regulation of the menstrual cycle. Shown to aid in immunological fertility issues. Some studies show that Shatavari may increase a mothers milk supply. This herb has shown signs of contributing to prolactin production. It is important to be mindful of potential risk for heavy metal contamination when purchasing herbs from India. Shatavari is native to India. It would be best to search out a reputable source for this herb that is organic and fair trade.
Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris): May aid in regulation of ovulation. Increase in libido. Not for use while breastfeeding.
Vitex also known as Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex agnus-castus): Used to regulate menstrual cycle, bring on absent period, indirectly increase progesterone production. Many women have used Vitex to increase milk supply when breastfeeding. Some research shows that in some women Vitex inhibits prolactin production, which may decrease breast milk supply. It appears to increase milk supply in women with very young babies, and lower it in women breastfeeding older babies.
Yarrow (Achilia millefolium): Astringent, aids in reduction of heavy menstrual bleeding. May help to bring on menstruation. Aids in reduction of painful menstruation. Aids in reduction of pelvic congestion. May be consumed in very low doses during breastfeeding, under the advised care of a practitioner. If your baby has a history of allergy to the Compositae plant family (sunflowers, asters, daisy), this herb should be avoided.
For a complete list of Fertility Herbs and their actions click here…
Are your Fertility Programs safe for me to use while breastfeeding?We do not recommend using our Fertility Programs for breastfeeding moms. Each program may contain herbal blends which may have some herbs not suitable for breastfeeding. They may also contain other supplements that may not be suitable for breastfeeding. If you have questions on a specific product, please contact us for more information.
Should I Continue Breastfeeding or Stop to Try and Conceive?
All mothers come to this world with different fertility needs. If you find that you are caught between continuing to breastfeed the baby you hold in your arms today, and getting pregnant again as soon as possible, consider the following…
- If you are nursing a baby that is under 9 months old, breastfeeding may be more important than trying to conceive. The nourishment and bonding is very important for baby. If you get pregnant while still breastfeeding, your milk supply may lower, your milk may dry up in some cases, your desire to continue breastfeeding may feel like a struggle. Breastfeeding while pregnant is possible, but it takes a huge commitment and drive to maintain adequate milk supply. If you choose to continue breastfeeding while pregnant be sure that you are eating a whole food nutrient dense diet, drinking plenty of water and getting adequate rest!
- If your baby is older than a year, do you think your baby may be ready to wean? You have breastfed for a year now, great job! Greatly consider the needs of your baby. Each child is different. Pay attention to the needs of your child. Are you and baby ready for weaning and moving to full time food and other milk choices? I have found that just by night weaning, or cutting nursing times in half, may greatly increase fertility. This may even bring on menstrual cycles in women who have yet to menstruate!
- Are you an older mom that feels time is running out? If you are nearing, or are over 40, you may want to weigh the options, breastfeeding or conception? This may take some planning with you and your partner. While we feel breastfeeding is very important, you have to decide if your chances of expanding your family is more pressing.
A Note About Medications and Breastfeeding
If you are interested in information regarding the safety of medications and breastfeeding, I highly recommend the book The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins, R.N., M.S., now in its 6th edition! I love this book. It has a great section at the end, in detail, about medication safety while breastfeeding.
I hope you find this article helpful. Please let us know if you have any questions!
1. Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health, Aviva Romm, Churchill Livingstone, 2010
2. The Nursing Mother’s Companion Revised Edition, Kathleen Huggins, R.N., M.S., Harvard Common Press, 1990