Due to the unknown risks of milk thistle, breastfeeding women should talk to their healthcare provider before taking this supplement while nursing a child. Although there is almost nothing known about the safety of using milk thistle while breastfeeding, it is thought that this herb may affect the quantity and quality of breast milk because it may have estrogen-like properties.
An Overview of Milk Thistle and Breastfeeding
Milk thistle is an herbal supplement often recommended for increasing breast milk supply. However, no reliable scientific studies have demonstrated that it is safe (or even if it really works to increase milk supply).
Is Milk Thistle Safe While Breastfeeding?
It is not known if milk thistle supplements are safe (or unsafe) for women who are breastfeeding. No studies have evaluated the safety of milk thistle for use during breastfeeding. Similarly, no studies have evaluated the effectiveness of milk thistle for increasing breast milk supply in humans.
Although this herbal supplement has been traditionally used as a galactalogue (a substance to stimulate breast milk production), theoretically, milk thistle might actually have a negative effect on the quantity and quality of breast milk. Milk thistle may have estrogenic (estrogen-like) properties, which might interfere with the normal production of breast milk.
Talking With Your Healthcare Provider About Milk Thistle and Breastfeeding
You should talk with your healthcare provider about milk thistle and breastfeeding. Each woman's situation is different, and you and your healthcare provider understand your situation best. After considering what you want and expect, as well as your current health situation, you and your healthcare provider can make a shared decision about milk thistle and breastfeeding that is right for you.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Jellin JM, editor. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Available at: http://naturaldatabase.com/. Accessed August 11, 2008.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Milk thistle: effects on liver disease and cirrhosis and clinical adverse effects. Summary, evidence report/technology assessment: Number 21 (September 2000). AHRQ Web site. Available at: http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/epcsums/milktsum.htm. Accessed August 11, 2008.
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Herbs at a glance: milk thistle (March 2008). NCCAM Web site. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/milkthistle/. Accessed August 11, 2008.
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