Medications that boost levels of milk-making hormones, such as prolactin, can boost a mother’s milk supply in situations such as relactation, or adoptive nursing or when a mother has been trying to maintain a milk supply by pumping for a baby who can’t feed at the breast. The medication with the best record for being effective is 10 milligrams of metoclopramide (Reglan), 3-4 times a day, for 4 to 14 days, and then gradually tapering off the dosage. The effect of this medication on milk production varies considerably from mother to mother, with some mothers experiencing a doubling of milk supply and others experiencing little to no effect. When the medication is stopped, the milk supply often declines, yet it usually remains higher than the pre-medication level. Metoclopramide is generally safe for baby. In fact, it is used as a medication for gastroesophageal reflux, even in premature infants. A word of caution. Metaclopramide is not without it’s side effects. Seizures have been reported in breastfeeding mothers taking this medication. Be sure to consult a doctor experienced with this medication. Other occasional side effects that mothers may experience are: anxiety, diarrhea, depression, headache, restlessness, and fatigue. These side effects can be minimized by lowering the dosage.
The use of other medications is still in the experimental stage. Human growth hormone has been shown to increase breastmilk production in mothers of premature infants. This is similar to what the dairy industry does by administering bovine growth hormone. The dosage used in one study was 0.2 IU per kilogram per day, to a maximum of 16 IU per day for seven days injected subcutaneously. It is expensive, but preliminary research shows that this is a promising treatment. Also in the research stage is the use of thyroid-releasing hormone which has been shown to increase prolactin levels. Oxytocin nasal spray which stimulates the milk- ejection reflex, yet it is no longer widely available. If you have a special situation that seems to warrant the use of medication to increase your milk supply, consult your doctor. These medications should be used in combination with other techniques for building up mother’s milk supply, especially increasing the frequency of nursing or pumping.