Herbal products and breast-feeding: Not a great combination

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86804963(1)Although most breast-feeding women would be aghast at the thought of taking drugs that could affect their babies, many are doing just that. According to a report in the journal Pediatrics in Review, many women use herbal supplements while breast feeding.

Dr. Paula Gardiner and colleagues from the Boston University Medical College warn that physicians should ask their breast-feeding patients about their use of herbal dietary supplements. They note that about 18 percent of the US population uses such supplements, and that women may use them for several reasons while breast-feeding. For example, some herbs are used to treat engorgement or, conversely, to increase the milk supply.

The authors also note that research into the safety and efficacy of such supplements is spotty much information comes from anecdotes about traditional uses. An example of some supplements that should not be used during breast-feeding can be accessed here, but that doesn t mean that other such medicinals are safe or effective.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava comments The problem is really that the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act takes these supplements out of the realm of drugs, which is really where they belong. Consumers really have no reliable information about the purity, safety or efficacy of such products. Physicians should be sure to ask their breast-feeding patients about their use of herbal products they could affect the health of both mother and baby.

Dr. Bloom, a big fan of irony adds, it borders on amusing that many pregnant women won t eat a Snicker s Bar for fear of what it might do to their unborn child, but when they are breast-feeding will scarf down a bunch of supplements (many of which are drugs, and unregulated ones at that) because of their perceived safety . This is as good an example as any of what the supplement industry is allowed to get away with. And their brilliant marketing strategies based on the terms natural and organic have succeeded in fooling just about everyone. Shame on them.