Keeping abreast of drugs to boost lactation

23 Feb 2018
Support is key to breastfeeding success

While medicines used to boost milk supply for new mothers are generally safe, all options should be considered carefully, a University of Queensland researcher has cautioned.

Dr Treasure McGuire from UQ’s School of Pharmacysaid reassurance is key to caring for new mothers who are unable to produce a sufficient milk supply for their baby.

“As primary health carers, our role is to support and encourage mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding so they don’t feel as though they are failing,” Dr McGuire said.

“Premature delivery, difficult labour, infection, illness and cracked nipples can all contribute to low milk supply.

“If a baby is delivered prematurely, the physiological mechanisms for effective milk production are not yet fully developed.

“Frequent feeding can improve milk supply; but constant feeding may lead to sore, cracked nipples which can make feeding extremely difficult and painful.”

This evidence-based review was aimed at primary health carers to provide practical therapeutic advice to improve patient management of new mothers.

Dr McGuire explained that simple strategies such as ensuring adequate hydration, nutrition and home support can be implemented initially to restore the mother’s confidence and help increase her milk supply.

“Mothers should be encouraged to persist and ‘hang in a bit longer’ as babies already have enough nutrient stores to cover the first week postpartum," she said.

“In cases where problems persist, prescribed medicines can be effective with early intervention and commencement within three weeks of delivery.”

Some women may require lactation suppression after miscarriage, stillbirth, maternal illness, or when they choose not to breastfeed.

“Mothers who opt for milk reduction medicines need to be made aware that it is very difficult to restore milk supply once the medicine is administered if they later change their mind about bottle feeding,” Dr McGuire said.

This review was published in the Australian Prescriber, and a podcast is available here.

Media: Dr Treasure McGuire, +61 7 3346 1957; Jo Hickman, UQ Communications,, +61 7 3346 3037.