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Galactogogues for Breast Milk Production

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Poor production of breast milk is the most frequent cause of breast lactation failure. Often, physician prescribe medications or other substances to solve this problem. The use of galactogogues should be limited to those situations in which reduced milk production from treatable causes has been excluded. One of the most frequent indication for the use of galactogogues is the diminution of milk production in mothers using indirect lactation, particularly in the case of preterm birth.

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Professional lactation support should be the cornerstone of health-service support for postpartum mothers to achieve breast-feeding practices widely recognized as optimum for child health and development, including prompt initiation and exclusive breast-feeding during the first 6 months of life. Improving access to support and counseling is vitally important to improving breast-feeding rates. As of 2013, there were only 3.5 international board-certified lactation consultants and 3.8 certified lactation counselors per 1,000 live births in the United States.5 Counseling may not fully address physiological barriers to breast-feeding, such as primary lactation insufficiency

Delayed childbearing, high rates of cesarean section, stressful labor lasting >1 hour, and obesity can create physiological barriers to the establishment of lactation. For example, delayed onset of lactogenesis II, defined as the increase in lactation observed within 72 hours of delivery, was reported to affect 22%-31% of women according to studies that took place in California and Conneticut, respectively. Risk factors for delayed onset of lactogenesis II include primiparity, high body mass index, cesarean section, and stress during labor or prolonged labor. Other causes of low milk production may be generally related to mammary hypoplasia and use of analgesics during labor.

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There are numerous references about herbal medicine and breastfeeding. However, they are mainly based on empirical traditions and on human studies. This information could be deficient in systematization, is unstructured, heterogeneous, and thus has nonverifiable quality

From previously mentioned plants classified as galactogogues, there are currently available studies for efficacy and safety, but their mechanisms of action have not been elucidated yet [Mortel M, Mehta SD, 2012]. Publications generally focus on the effects with no emphasis on the mechanism by which milk production stimulation is achieved. The increased use of herbal medicine is also encouraged by a trend towards organic production, mainly in European markets, and the growing evidence on its safety and efficacy [. Frankič T, Voljč M, 2009]. Several factors explain the tendency to use botanical galactogogues: adverse effects of synthetic drugs and a better understanding of chemistry, pharmacology and clinical use of botanical drugs and their derivatives, the development of analytical methods that facilitate quality control, and the development of new ways of preparation and administration [Vanaclocha C, 2003].

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Definitely, because of limited literature on this topic in veterinary practices, it is of interest to characterize the doses, characterization of phytochemical composition (molecules), formulations, and mechanisms of action, side effects, and drug interactions of galactogogues, mainly the herbals ones. This is an innovative research area that could be projected as sustainable strategies for massification and optimization of milk production in the dairy and swine industry (e.g., increasing weaning weight)

These plants could be given as feed rations or its concentrated extracts (essential oils, alcohol extracts, lyophilized extract, among others) as supplements. Apparently, they are compatible with animal welfare but further basic and applied research about this issue is proposed.

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Underwood MA. Human milk for the premature infant. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 2013;60(1):189–207.

Zapantis A, Steinberg JG, Schilit L. Use of herbals as galactagogues. Journal of Pharmacy Practice. 2012;25(2):222–231.

Baig MI, Bhagwat VG. Study the efficacy of Galactin Vet Bolus on milk yield in dairy cows. Veterinary World. 2009;2(4):140–142.

Romano-Santos E, Fernández-González B, Díez-Soro L, Martínez-Bonafont S. ¿Qué sabemos de los galactogogos? Matronas Profesión. 2009;10(4):27–30.

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