Inadequate breast milk supply is a frequently reported reason for early discontinuation of breastfeeding and represents a critical opportunity for intervening to improve breastfeeding outcomes. For women who continue to experience insufficient milk supply despite the utilisation of non-pharmacological lactation support strategies, pharmacological intervention with medications used to augment lactation, commonly referred to as galactagogues, is common. Galactagogues exert their pharmacological effects through altering the complex hormonal milieu regulating lactation, particularly prolactin and oxytocin. This narrative review provides an appraisal of the existing evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of pharmaceutical treatments for lactation insufficiency to guide their use in clinical practice. The greatest body of evidence surrounds the use of domperidone, with studies demonstrating moderate short-term improvements in breast milk supply. Evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of metoclopramide is less robust, but given that it shares the same mechanism of action as domperidone it may represent a potential treatment alternative where domperidone is unsuitable. Data on remaining interventions such as oxytocin, prolactin and metformin is too limited to support their use in clinical practice. The review provides an overview of key evidence gaps and areas of future research, including the impacts of pharmaceutical galactagogues on breast milk composition and understanding factors contributing to individual treatment response to pharmaceutical galactagogues.
Bibliographical noteThis article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
- Breast feeding
- Breast milk
- Low milk supply