4 Things That Can Decrease Your Milk Supply

Want to keep your breast milk flowing? Avoid these foods, medications, and herbs, which can all potentially reduce your breast milk supply.

As a breastfeeding parent, there are many tactics you can take to ensure you're able to make more than enough breast milk for your baby. These include frequent breastfeeding or pumping, using proper breastfeeding techniques, and eating certain foods, called galactagogues, that may boost breast milk production.

However, it's important to know that some things you do or eat may interfere with making breast milk. In fact, consuming certain plants, herbs, and medications can decrease your supply. Some, like alcohol or parsley, will slowly de­crease milk supply, while others, like pseudoephedrine, will dramat­ically stop the production of milk within hours of the first dose.

If you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding or your breast milk production, consult with your doctor or a certified lactation consultant. However, generally, avoiding or limiting the ingestion of things known to reduce breast milk production is a good place to start. Learn all about the food, herbs, and medications that can decrease your breast milk supply.


For many years, health care pro­viders, other lactation experts, and various cultural traditions recommended that breastfeeding parents enjoy a beer before nursing to help with the milk ejection reflex (called letdown), offer relaxation, boost milk supply, and improve milk quality. However, this advice was misguided, particularly if you drink alcohol regularly or engage in binge drinking.

While alcohol may help one relax, it does so by acting as a depressant to the central nervous system. It also blocks the release of oxytocin, which results in a de­crease of circulating oxytocin. This can temporarily disrupt the letdown reflex, which is crucial to the flow of breast milk during feedings.

However, while researchers discourage frequent drinking while breastfeeding, they also note that "occasional drinking while breastfeeding has not been convincingly shown to adversely affect nursing infants." According to the National Institutes of Health, "Nursing after 1 or 2 drinks (including beer) can decrease the infant's milk intake by 20 to 23% and cause infant agitation and poor sleep patterns." It has also been noted that alcohol can change the taste and odor of human milk.

Breastfeeding parents have reported that their breasts feel much fuller after drinking alcohol. However, we now know the full feeling is typically the result of inefficient milk transfer to the in­fant rather than increased production. Also, the myth that alcohol im­proves milk supply is rooted in the fact that many types of beer used to contain therapeutic levels of barley or barley malt, which are known galactagogues. However, modern beer-making results in sub-thera­peutic levels of barley or oats.

While the occasional alcoholic beverage is unlikely to reduce your milk supply, chronic alcohol consumption can. Additionally, after a night of heavy drinking, you may no­tice that your milk supply rapidly declines. Some lactating people are able to recover quickly from this decrease, usually within 24 to 48 hours. For others, frequent nursing or pumping in addition to ga­lactagogues will be needed to build back a robust milk supply that will meet the nutritional needs of their baby.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the safest route is to abstain, moderate alcohol consumption (up to four ounces of wine, one ounce of hard liquor, or eight ounces of beer per day) is unlikely to have any appreciable negative impact on your infant, your milk supply, or your infant's abili­ty to nurse. Any amounts beyond this should be avoided. It's also recommended to wait at least two hours after drinking before nursing.

Sage, parsley, peppermint, and menthol

Many herbs are naturally lactogen­ic foods that may provide you with the boost in breast milk production you're looking for. However, not all herbs are created equal when it comes to promoting breast milk production. Sage, pars­ley, peppermint, and menthol have all been noted to decrease milk supply in breastfeeding people who consume large quantities of each. For this reason, these herbs are often used for weaning. (Note that peppermint contains high levels of menthol, which is a chemical found in various types of mint.)

However, scientific research and anecdotal evidence are inconclusive. There are no formal studies proving whether or not these herbs impact breast milk supply or the exact quantity needed for each herb to have a negative impact on breastfeeding. That said, some anecdot­al evidence indicates that these herbs can decrease milk supply. However, note that some cultural traditions also use them to increase breast milk production. For example, in Turkey, some breastfeeding parents take parsley to boost their supply.

Furthermore, researchers suspect that if there is an impact one way or the other, you'd need to ingest a lot of the substance. So, you don't need to avoid each of these herbs altogether, just be mindful of dishes that contain large amounts. For in­stance, sage is a popular herb used around Thanksgiving, lots of parsley is found in dish­es like tabbouleh, and peppermint is often found in teas, gums, and candies.

Additionally, note that research shows that menthol drops improve nipple fissures, and applying menthol to soothe your nipples is unlikely to negatively impact your breast milk supply.


Chasteberry, the dried fruit of the chaste tree, is native to the Mediterranean. It has long been used for a variety of reproductive issues including symptoms related to PMS, endome­triosis, and menopause. Chasteberry has also traditionally been used to help breastfeeding parents who are experiencing engorgement or any other type of painful swelling of the breast.

According to the National Institutes of Health, chasteberry should be avoided by breastfeeding parents as it may not be safe for the parent or baby.

Chasteberry has been shown to act directly on the pituitary gland, inhibiting the secretion of prolactin. When prolactin levels are reduced in a breastfeeding parent, milk supply typically reduces with it. So, it isn't recommended for breastfeeding parents to take chasteberry supplements.

If you're looking for an herb to help ease the inflammation associated with en­gorgement, turmeric is a well-studied option that doesn't have a negative effect on milk supply. In fact, in some traditions, it is used to boost breast milk supply. Additionally, it can be used as a topical application to counteract breast engorgement. Cabbage leaves placed on the breasts may also be helpful.

Pseudoephedrine, methergine, and bromocriptine

Some medicines adversely affect breastfeeding, so it's important to ensure any prescription or over-the-counter medications you take won't suppress lactation. Pseudoephedrine (the active ingredient in Sudafed and similar cold medications), methergine (often used to treat severe uterine bleeding after child­birth), and bromocriptine (brand names Parlodel or Cycloset, used for a variety of health issues) have been shown to have a negative effect on milk supply.

If your supply has dropped, and you realize you've taken one of the medications list­ed here, ask your doctor if you can switch to an alternative treatment for your medical issue. Increased breast­feeding, supplementation with lactogenic medications, herbs, or foods, and possibly additional pumping will help you build up your milk produc­tion again.

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