Reglan for Boosting Breast Milk Supply: Should You Try It?

reglan for breast milk supply

Breastfeeding is often said to be the natural way to feed a baby, but it’s not always simple. Many new moms deal with problems like difficulty getting the baby to latch, sore nipples, breasts that are too full, and not making enough milk.

One of the biggest worries is not producing enough milk. That leads many moms to try different ways to make more milk, like asking for prescription drugs such as Reglan (metoclopramide) as a possible solution. Let’s explore what Reglan is, how it affects milk supply, and whether Reglan for breast milk supply is the right choice for you.

What is Reglan and How Does it Work?

Reglan is a medication primarily used to treat gastrointestinal (GI) issues like nausea and vomiting. Interestingly, one of its lesser-known effects is increasing prolactin levels in the body. Prolactin is a hormone that plays a key role in milk production. So, in theory, Reglan can help increase a mother’s milk supply.

how does reglan for breast milk supply work

How Does Metoclopramide (Reglan) Increase Milk Supply?

Dr. Christine Masterson, Chief of the Women and Children’s Service Line at Summit Medical Group in New Jersey, explains that metoclopramide (Reglan) works by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain. This action leads to an increase in prolactin levels, the hormone responsible for stimulating milk production.

Metoclopramide turns off a chemical in the brain called dopamine, which allows for prolactin elevation,” says Dr. Masterson. “It can vary tremendously in how effective it is for breastfeeding, though some patients may receive a 50 to 100 percent increase in milk supply.

How Long Does It Take Reglan to Increase Milk Production?

The timeframe for seeing an increase in milk production after starting Reglan can vary. Some mothers may notice a boost in their supply within a few days, while for others, it might take up to two weeks to see a significant change. The standard regimen usually involves taking the medication for a course of 10 to 14 days, with some women experiencing continued benefits even after the treatment ends. However, individual responses can differ greatly.

Reglan Breastfeeding Side Effects for Baby

While Reglan can be effective in increasing milk supply, it is essential to consider its side effects, particularly for the breastfeeding baby. Since metoclopramide passes through breast milk, infants can be exposed to the drug. Dr. Masterson notes that the concentration of metoclopramide in the baby’s blood can be up to 10 percent of the mother’s dosage, potentially causing gastrointestinal issues in infants.

“This may affect the baby’s GI tract: causing more gas formation and abdominal discomfort or changing their bowel movements to diarrhea,” Dr. Masterson reveals. These side effects, although typically mild, can be distressing for both the baby and the mother.

Reglan Side Effects for Mom
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Reglan Side Effects for Mom

Metoclopramide for Breastfeeding Side Effects

The side effects of Reglan for breast milk supply aren’t limited to the baby. Mothers can experience a range of adverse effects, some of which can be severe. Common side effects include:

  • headache
  • fatigue
  • dry mouth
  • gastrointestinal issues like nausea
  • diarrhea

More concerning are the potential neurological and psychological side effects. Metoclopramide can trigger or exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression, conditions to which new mothers are already susceptible due to postpartum hormonal changes and the stresses of caring for a newborn. Dr. Masterson warns, “A drug that carries a serious risk of depression may not be the best choice, especially at a time when moms are particularly vulnerable to mood changes.”

Lactation consultant Leigh Anne O’Connor, IBCLC, echoes these concerns. “I have seen too many women experience symptoms of anxiety and depression while taking metoclopramide to feel comfortable recommending it to my patients,” she says.

Domperidone vs. Metoclopramide for Milk Production

Another drug sometimes used to increase milk supply is domperidone. While not approved for sale in the United States due to concerns over cardiac side effects, it is commonly prescribed in other countries like Canada. Domperidone works similarly to metoclopramide by increasing prolactin levels but tends to have fewer central nervous system side effects because it does not cross the blood-brain barrier as easily.

Comparatively, domperidone might be considered safer for breastfeeding mothers due to its lower risk of causing anxiety and depression. However, because it’s not readily available in the U.S., many mothers and healthcare providers turn to metoclopramide despite its potential drawbacks.

When Might Reglan for breast milk supply Be Appropriate?

There are specific situations where Reglan might be particularly beneficial. These include:

  • Women with naturally low levels of prolactin
  • Women who have had breast surgery, such as reduction
  • Women with conditions like breast hypoplasia
  • Adoptive mothers wanting to breastfeed

In these cases, after considering all factors and potential risks, a healthcare provider might recommend Reglan as part of a broader breastfeeding support plan.

Does Milk Supply Stay Up After Reglan?

One of the critical questions for mothers considering Reglan is whether the increase in milk supply will persist after they stop taking the medication. According to Dr. Masterson, the goal of using Reglan is to establish a robust milk supply within the first few weeks postpartum, ideally continuing without the need for ongoing medication.

“If you use it for [up to] 12 weeks—no longer—then hopefully your breastfeeding will be better established and you won’t need the extra boost,” Dr. Masterson explains.

However, the long-term success of maintaining milk supply can depend on several factors, including the underlying cause of low milk supply and the mother’s overall breastfeeding support system. Establishing good breastfeeding practices, staying well-hydrated, well-nourished, and reducing stress are critical components in sustaining milk production.

Balancing Benefits and Risks

Ultimately, the decision to use Reglan to increase milk supply should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider. It’s essential to weigh the potential benefits against the risks and side effects. For some mothers, the benefits of increased milk supply may outweigh the potential downsides. For others, the risk of side effects, especially concerning mood disorders, might lead them to seek alternative methods.

Alternatives to Reglan for Increasing Milk Supply
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Alternatives to Reglan for Increasing Milk Supply

Despite the potential benefits of Reglan, it’s essential to explore other avenues before resorting to medication. A thorough lactation evaluation by an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) can help determine if there are underlying issues affecting milk supply. Often, problems that seem like low supply can be resolved with proper breastfeeding techniques and support.

Support from a lactation consultant can address many common breastfeeding issues and help mothers develop a plan to increase their milk supply naturally. They can help identify issues such as poor latch or inefficient feeding, which might be mistaken for low milk supply.

This approach may include strategies like increased nursing frequency, breast compression, and the use of galactagogues—foods or herbs believed to promote milk production. Addressing these issues can often result in a natural increase in milk production without the need for medication.

Conclusion

While Reglan (metoclopramide) can be an effective option for increasing milk supply in breastfeeding mothers, it is not without its risks. The potential side effects for both mother and baby make it a choice that should be carefully considered and monitored by healthcare professionals. Non-pharmaceutical approaches and support from lactation consultants can often provide effective solutions without the added risks.

Ultimately, the decision to use Reglan should be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the unique circumstances and health history of each mother and baby. If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, seeking the guidance of an IBCLC and understanding all your options can help you make the best choice for your family.

If you’re concerned about your milk supply, the best first step is to talk to your doctor or pediatrician. They can assess your situation, recommend natural approaches to boost production, and determine if Reglan is a right option for you.

References

  1. Metoclopramide for Milk Production in Lactating Women – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8648493/
  2. Can you really take a prescription drug to boost your milk supply? – https://www.singlecare.com/blog/metoclopramide-reglan-for-breastfeeding/
  3. Use of Reglan (Metoclopramide) to Increase Milk Supply (PDF) – https://theminnesotabirthcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/reglanfull.pdf
  4. Domperidone to Increase Breast Milk Supply in Mothers of Preterm Infants – https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2010/0701/p78.html
  5. 23 Foods That Increase Breast Milk – https://www.healthline.com/health/galactagogues
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