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Barley use while Breastfeeding

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 14, 2022.

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.[1-5] Some animal evidence indicates that a polysaccharide in barley can increase serum prolactin,[5-7] and one human study supports some galactogogue activity of barley malt and lemon balm in mothers of preterm infants.[8] Galactogogues should never replace evaluation and counseling on modifiable factors that affect milk production.[9,10] 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.[5-7] Refer to the LactMed record on Alcohol for details.

A double-blind study compared a commercial galactogogue product (Femaltiker, Nutropharma Llc., Poland) containing barley malt, 70% barley glucan and powdered lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) leaves to an identical placebo in the mothers of preterm infants. Mothers took one packet twice a day for 2 weeks, starting within 3 days of delivery. Milk volume was measured by mothers after extraction using an electric breast pump. Forty mothers in each group completed the study. On day 14 of the study the mothers in the barley group produced more milk than the mothers taking placebo (average 62.5 mL vs 95 mL). The total milk volume over the 2-week period was also greater in the active group compared to the placebo group (average 6036 mL vs 4209 mL).[8] The study had a rather high dropout rate and the results were not subjected to intention-to-treat analysis.


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. [PubMed: 2641755]
Yarnell E. Botanical medicine in pregnancy and lactation. Altern Complement Ther. 1997;3(April):93–100.
Scott CR, Jacobson H. A selection of international nutritional and herbal remedies for breastfeeding concerns. Midwifery Today Int Midwife. 2005;75:38–9. [PubMed: 16320878]
Winterfeld U, Meyer Y, Panchaud A, et al. Management of deficient lactation in Switzerland and Canada: A survey of midwives' current practices. Breastfeed Med. 2012;7:317–8. [PubMed: 22224508]
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.
Sawagado L, Houdebine LM. Identification of the lactogenic compound present in beer. Ann Biol Clin (Paris). 1988;46:129–34. [PubMed: 3382062]
Koletzko B, Lehner F. Beer and breastfeeding. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2000;478:23–8. [PubMed: 11065057]
Wesolowska A, Pietrzak B, Kociszewska-Najman B, et al. Barley malt-based composition as a galactagogue - a randomized, controlled trial in preterm mothers. Ginekol Pol. 2021;92:118–25. [PubMed: 33751522]
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. [PubMed: 29902083]
Breastfeeding challenges: ACOG Committee Opinion, Number 820. Obstet Gynecol. 2021;137:e42–e53. [PubMed: 33481531]

Substance Identification

Substance Name


Scientific Name

Hordeum vulgare

Drug Class

Breast Feeding


Milk, Human

Complementary Therapies




Plants, Medicinal

Disclaimer: 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.

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