1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Garlic and Breastfeeding

By

Updated June 03, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Garlic and Breastfeeding

Garlic

richard_north/flickr

Garlic (Allium sativa) is a commonly used ingredient found in many recipes all over the world. It has been used throughout history for its medical benefits.

The actual origin of garlic is not known; however, the use of garlic dates back 5,000 years to ancient Egypt. It was found in King Tut’s tomb, and there are records of its use in ancient Greek, Roman, and Chinese medicine. Garlic has been used as a food, a dietary supplement, and a medical herb. It was even believed to ward off vampires.

Garlic contains vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. It is also made up of sulfur compounds, which are responsible for most of its beneficial health properties and its strong odor. Over the centuries, garlic has been given to treat infection, swelling, and problems with digestion.

Garlic and Breastfeeding

Garlic is believed to be a galactogogue. It has been used for many years as an herbal treatment to stimulate breast milk production and increase milk supply.

The garlic that you eat does travel into your breast milk and it can change the taste and smell of your milk. Some babies like the taste and are not at all bothered by garlic, while others may become fussy and irritated.

For infants that suffer from colic, garlic is one of the foods you may want to eliminate from your diet. However, if you and your baby tolerate it well, garlic in moderation can be very beneficial to your health and your milk supply.

How to Use Garlic

Garlic should be taken in via the foods that you eat. One or two cloves of garlic a day can be added to a variety of dishes. Use it to flavor vegetables, meat, pasta and seafood.

Eat garlic in moderation. Do not take garlic supplements or high doses of garlic meant to be used for medical purposes unless it is prescribed by a doctor or knowledgeable herbal specialist.

Health Benefits of Garlic

Lactation: In addition to helping increase the supply of breast milk for nursing mothers, it has also been suggested that babies who like the taste of garlic in the breast milk actually latch on and nurse very well.

Digestive Health: Garlic is beneficial for the digestive tract.

Heart Health: Garlic dilates blood vessels so it can help lower blood pressure. It is also used to lower cholesterol, thin the blood, and decrease the risk of heart attack.

Anti-Infective: Garlic has been used to treat bacterial and viral infections.

Anti-Fungal: Eating garlic might help prevent an overgrowth of yeast when taking a course of antibiotics. It may also give your immune system a boost to help you fight off thrush.

Other Benefits: Garlic may be useful in the treatment of colds, insomnia, asthma and cancer.

Warnings and Side Effects

Garlic can be dangerous if given directly to a baby. The only way your baby should get the benefits of garlic is through your breast milk.

Garlic can be irritating to some women and some infants. If you or your baby do not tolerate garlic well, do not eat it.

Garlic can lower blood sugar levels. If you are hypoglycemic or diabetic, avoid using too much garlic.

Overuse of garlic can thin your blood. Use caution if you are taking anticoagulant medication.

Summing Up

Garlic has been called the cure-all, and it is overall a healthy addition to your diet. Garlic should only be consumed through the foods that you eat, and you shouldn’t take garlic supplements unless you are under the care of a doctor or nutritional specialist.

Garlic is an ingredient in so many recipes that you will probably get at least some garlic in your diet while you are breastfeeding. If you and your baby tolerate it without any issues, there is no need to try to avoid it. However, if you notice that the baby develops colic-like symptoms after you have a meal that includes garlic, you may want to eliminate it from your diet.

Sources:

Humphrey, Sheila, BSC, RN, IBCLC. The Nursing Mother’s Herbal. Fairview Press. Minneapolis. 2003.

Jacobson, Hilary. Mother Food. Rosalind Press. 2004

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.