If you’re a breastfeeding mom, you may know how it feels to be on a quest to find things that can increase your milk supply. And whether your quest leads you to a land of myths or a land of facts, you may be willing to try anything to up your liquid gold. While there are many claims that certain foods can increase milk production, there are also some that believe essential oils can do the trick. Can essential oils increase milk supply, or is it just a fantasy?
The essential oils most recommended for increasing milk supply are fennel oil and basil oil, and Parenting Healthy Babies added the essential oils of lavender, melaleuca, and clary sage to the list. The article suggested that the progesterone in basil oil, the anti-inflammatory properties of lavender oil, and the other hormone-boosting properties of fennel and clary sage oils can help boost your milk supply and increase its fat content.
There is, however, no real data that supports these claims. According to the Kennesaw Pediatrics Newborn Center (KPNC), the benefits of using essential oils to increase milk production are based on anecdotal data, and there are no studies that conclusively endorse these effects. KPNC explained on its website that while there are studies that show fennel tea increases milk supply, there’s no way to know if fennel oil will. They also noted that you should never use fennel oil for more than 10 days, and the oil should be avoided entirely by diabetic and epileptic moms.
But how safe is it to apply these oils topically? Romper spoke with Leigh Anne O'Connor, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), who says that she does not recommend using essential oils on your breasts. "They are drugs that are not regulated, and there are other tried and true methods to increasing milk that are safe," she says.
If you do decide to use essential oils to increase your supply, you should take a few precautions. La Leche League International (LLLI) explained that because essential oils are highly concentrated and can be toxic, you should never apply them to your nipples where they can be ingested by your baby. Just Breastfeeding recommended diluting your essential oils with a carrier oil, like coconut or olive oil, to avoid any skin irritation as well. KPNC also suggested washing any oils off of your breasts before nursing so that they aren’t absorbed by your baby.
So if you want to use essential oils to increase milk supply, you should speak with your doctor first, but if you are having issues keeping up your supply, you can always talk to a lactation consultant. They can offer you advice and support while you continue looking for the holy grail of milk supply.