If a mother is breastfeeding, some care must be taken when choosing a tea to drink. Some teas can have adverse effects on a mother's milk supply, so it is best to choose a tea for specifically for breastfeeding women. The best tea for breastfeeding will not contain caffeine, will have galactagogue herbs, and will not have unintended side effects for the baby or the mother.
Some teas, like black tea, have almost as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, but herbal teas tend to be decaffeinated or caffeine-free. Almost all “decaf” teas contain a small amount of caffeine, however. For these reasons, an herbal tea is best for breastfeeding women because caffeine can pass through the breast milk and make a baby fussy or unable to sleep. It is usually safe to begin gradually adding more caffeine back into the diet after the baby is six months old.
When drinking an herbal tea for breastfeeding, it is important to check the ingredients, as some herbs can actually decrease a woman's milk supply or aggravate hay fever or pollen allergies. Teas with sage, mint, menthol, and black walnut, among others, have all been shown to have a negative impact on milk supply and should be avoided in tea for breastfeeding. Galactagogues, or herbs thought to help increase milk supply, include fenugreek, blessed thistle, fennel, and raspberry leaf. Combinations of these herbs can be found in tea that is specifically formulated for breastfeeding, as can goat's rue, nettle, milk thistle, brewer's yeast, and hops. In fact, a few of these galactagogue herbs are thought to be so beneficial in increasing supply that they are taken in vitamin capsule form.
Ephedra, gingseng, black cohosh and kava-kava, should not be consumed in tea for breastfeeding mothers and neither should borage, star anise, wormwood, or ginko. In addition, aloe, licorice, and basil should also be avoided. Green tea can actually act as a diuretic and cause dehydration in breastfeeding women if several cups are consumed in one day.
Teas with fennel, chamomile, or ginger may help calm a fussy or gassy baby when passed through the breast milk, but it is important to observe the baby's reaction closely to make sure they are not becoming more irritated than usual. It is a good idea to consult with a pediatrician before trying a new tea during breastfeeding.