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Barley use while Breastfeeding

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 2, 2019.

Barley Levels and Effects while Breastfeeding

Summary of Use during Lactation

Barley (Hordeum vulgare) contains starch, dietary fiber such as beta-glucan, and the enzyme diastase. Barley is a purported galactogogue and is used by mothers in many cultures to increase their milk supply.[1][2][3][4] Some animal evidence indicates that a polysaccharide in barley can increase serum prolactin.[5][6][7] Galactogogues should never replace evaluation and counseling on modifiable factors that affect milk production.[8] No data exist on the excretion of any components of barley into breastmilk or on the safety and efficacy of barley in nursing mothers or infants. Barley is safe to be consumed during breastfeeding, except by persons with celiac disease. Allergy to barley occurs rarely.

Dietary supplements do not require extensive pre-marketing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Manufacturers are responsible to ensure the safety, but do not need to prove the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements before they are marketed. Dietary supplements may contain multiple ingredients, and differences are often found between labeled and actual ingredients or their amounts. A manufacturer may contract with an independent organization to verify the quality of a product or its ingredients, but that does not certify the safety or effectiveness of a product. Because of the above issues, clinical testing results on one product may not be applicable to other products. More detailed information about dietary supplements is available elsewhere on the LactMed Web site.

Drug Levels

Maternal Levels. Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.

Infant Levels. Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.

Effects in Breastfed Infants

Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.

Effects on Lactation and Breastmilk

Studies in animals indicate that a polysaccharide found in barley is apparently responsible for an increase in prolactin after beer ingestion.[5][6][7] Refer to the LactMed record on Alcohol for details.


1. Chaudhuri RN, Ghosh BN, Chatterjee BN. Diet intake patterns of non-Bengali Muslim mothers during pregnancy and lactation. Indian J Public Health. 1989;33:82-3. PMID: 2641755

2. Yarnell E. Botanical medicine in pregnancy and lactation. Altern Complement Ther. 1997;3 (April):93-100.

3. Scott CR, Jacobson H. A selection of international nutritional and herbal remedies for breastfeeding concerns. Midwifery Today Int Midwife. 2005;75:38-9. PMID: 16320878

4. Winterfeld U, Meyer Y, Panchaud A, Einarson A. Management of deficient lactation in Switzerland and Canada: A survey of midwives' current practices. Breastfeed Med. 2012;7:317-8. PMID: 22224508

5. Sawadogo L, Thibault JF, Rouau X et al. The lactogenic action of plant extracts. In, Martinet J, Houdebine LM, Herbert H, eds. Biology of lactation. Paris. Institut National de la Research Agrono. 1999;553-64.

6. Sawagado L, Houdebine LM. Identification of the lactogenic compound present in beer. Ann Biol Clin. 1988;46:129-34. PMID: 3382062

7. Koletzko B, Lehner F. Beer and breastfeeding. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2000;478:23-8. PMID: 11065057

8. Brodribb W. ABM Clinical Protocol #9: Use of galactogogues in initiating or augmenting maternal milk production, second revision 2018. Breastfeed Med. 2018;13:307-14. PMID: 29902083

Barley Identification

Substance Name


Scientific Name

Hordeum vulgare

Drug Class

Breast Feeding


Complementary Therapies




Plants, Medicinal

Administrative Information

LactMed Record Number



Information presented in this database is not meant as a substitute for professional judgment. You should consult your healthcare provider for breastfeeding advice related to your particular situation. The U.S. government does not warrant or assume any liability or responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of the information on this Site.

Further information

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