Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Nursing

Dissertation Committee

Mary Barger, PhD, MPH, CNM, FACNM, Chairperson; Kathy Shadle James, DNSc, APRN, FAAN, Committee Member; Semira Semino-Asaro, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, PMHNP-BC, Committee Member


breastfeeding, lactation, galactagogue, perception, insufficient, milk supply


Background: Research has shown up to 80% of mothers perceive their breast milk production as insufficient, which is the most common reason for early cessation of breastfeeding and introduction of galactagogue supplements.Therapeutic use of herbal, food, and pharmaceutical galactagogues has long been believed to help mothers increase breast milk production despite a lack of documented evidence of efficacy.

Purpose: This study examined the relationship between galactagogue use and mothers’ breastfeeding self-efficacy, mothers’ perceived insufficient milk supply and breastfeeding duration goal.

Methods: A descriptive, cross-sectional study design was used. Between September 2018 and January 2019 a convenience sample of 214 mothers were recruited from pediatricians’ offices when mothers presented for infants’ well newborn visit between 2-21 days postpartum. Mothers completed a one-time study survey comprised of Breastfeeding Self-Efficacy Scale – Short Form (BSES-SF), Perceived Insufficient Milk (PIM), and demographic questions in either English or Spanish. Basic descriptive statistics and unpaired t-test on total BSES-SF score, PIM score, and breastfeeding duration goal by galactagogue use were performed. Based on these results and literature review, hierarchical linear regression models were planned.

Results: Of the 199 mothers, most were Hispanic (71%), spoke English (70%), had public insurance (75%), and planned to return to work (67%) at 13 weeks postpartum. Overall, 36% were taking herbal galactagogues and nearly 60% taking foods they perceived would increase their milk supply. There was no statistically significant association between herbal and food galactagogue use and the dependent variables. However, mothers who did not use herbal galactagogue scored 4 point higher on the BSES (p = .06) and had decreased perception of insufficient milk supply than mothers who used herbal galactagogues. Null findings made a regression analysis unnecessary.

Conclusions: Recommending use of herbal galactagogues too early may indirectly send the wrong message that mothers are not able to make sufficient breast milk to nourish their babies. Providers need to encourage and educate families and communities on how to support breastfeeding mothers to protect and promote mothers’ breast milk supply starting prenatally, during the first 48 hours during inpatient stay, then up to 1 month old.

Document Type

Dissertation: USD Users Only