For centuries, people have turned to brewer’s yeast, a single-cell fungus used in beer production, as a naturopathic medicine and as a dietary supplement. Historically, midwives and folk health care providers have recommended brewer’s yeast as a galactagogue, or a natural product for increasing a mother’s production of breast milk.
If you are interested in using brewer’s yeast while breastfeeding, you should understand that there is no conclusive scientific evidence proving that it works. However, brewer’s yeast is generally safe and unlikely to produce any side effects for a nursing mother or her breastfed baby.
Theories about Brewer’s Yeast and Breastfeeding
Brewer’s yeast’s reputation as a galactagogue likely relates to the historic use of beer as a breast milk enhancer. Traditionally, many cultures have associated naturally brewed beers with increased lactation. It’s possible that brewer’s yeast contrinutes to beer’s reputation, but other ingredients– such as alcohol, barley and hops– may also be responsible. Note that large amounts of beer may actually inhibit let-down reflex, leading to breastfeeding complications.
Nutritional Benefits of Brewer’s Yeast for Nursing Moms
Brewer’s yeast can be an effective nutritional supplement for breastfeeding mothers, even if its reputation as a galactagogue is unfounded. Brewer’s yeast Brewer’s yeast is a great source of B vitamins, including niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, folic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, and biotin. Brewer’s yeast also contains trace minerals such as selenium and chromium, which are essential for overall health for nursing mothers.
Side Effects in Breastfed Babies
Brewer’s yeast is very unlikely to cause any side effects in a breastfed baby whose mother uses brewer’s yeast while nursing. If you take very large doses, your baby’s bowel movements may smell somewhat “yeasty” or fermented, similar to sourdough bread. Very sensitive babies may experience increased gas while their mothers take brewer’s yeast, although this is an unlikely side effect.
Side Effects for Nursing Mothers
Although digestive side effects are rare in the babies of women who take brewer’s yeast, these mild intestinal discomforts are fairly common in adults taking the product. You may experience bowel cramping, flatulence or increased belching while taking brewer’s yeast. Do not use brewer’s yeast if you are taking Demerol, a narcotic painkiller sometimes prescribed for postpartum pain. It could increase the risk of side effects from this drug. Tell your health care provider about any supplements you take.
Visit the University of Maryland Medical Center for more information about brewer’s yeast for breastfeeding women.