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Health provider experiences with galactagogues to support breastfeeding: a cross-sectional survey

Authors Bazzano AN, Littrell L, Brandt A, Thibeau S, Thriemer K, Theall KP

Received 7 September 2016

Accepted for publication 15 October 2016

Published 17 November 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 623—630


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Alessandra N Bazzano,1 Lisa Littrell,1 Amelia Brandt,1 Shelley Thibeau,2 Kamala Thriemer,3 Katherine P Theall1

1Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 2Ochsner Health System, New Orleans, LA, USA; 3MLT EpiConsult, Jingili, NT, Australia

Background: Exclusive breastfeeding for infants up to 6 months is widely recommended, yet breastfeeding rates are relatively low in the US. The most common reason women stop breastfeeding early is a perceived insufficiency of milk. Galactagogues are herbal and pharmaceutical products that can help increase milk supply; however, data on their efficacy and safety is limited. Lactation consultants, obstetricians, and other health providers are an important point of contact for breastfeeding women experiencing challenges with lactation. This study explored providers’ perceptions, experiences, and practices in relation to galactagogue recommendation.
A cross-sectional survey was conducted among a convenience sample of English-speaking health providers in the US who counsel breastfeeding women and their infants.
Results: More than 70% of respondents reported to recommend galactagogues. The most frequently recommended galactagogue was fenugreek with respondents indicating that they recommend it either ‘always’ (8.5%) or ‘most of the time’ (14.9%) and ‘sometimes’ (46.8%). More than 80% of the respondents indicated that galactagogues were useful for their clients and only one-third reported side effects. Reasons for refraining from recommending galactagogues were insufficient evidence of its efficacy and safety. Respondents reported a wide variety of sources of information used for their own education about galactagogues.
Discussion: Despite little evidence regarding safety and efficacy, some galactagogues are widely recommended and often perceived to be useful. However, concerns about their efficacy and safety remain. In order to assure both providers and users about safety and efficacy, more robust studies as well as better pharmacovigilance systems are needed.

Keywords: lactation, human milk, nutrition, clinical decision making, lactogenesis

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