Herbal Supplements Safe with Breastfeeding: L-tryptophan, GABA, St John's Wart, SAMe, DPLA???

topic posted Thu, April 16, 2009 - 1:07 PM by  Duracell
My marriage is in terrible turmoil and my therapist is suggesting I look at herbal supplements to help me deal with this difficult time. My son Connor is now 26 months and we are still nursing a few times a day but I don't think I have much milk left.

She is advising I look into L-tryptophan, GABA (gamma-amniobutyric acid), St John's Wart, SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine) and DPLA (DL0phenylalanine). Any advice on whether these are compatable with breastfeeding? Most of the research I've found online says because of the lack of study of these herbs you should avoid them by breastfeeding (Dr Hale specifically says meds are better as he doesn't even believe these herbs work). I have called my OBGYN but am still waiting for a call back although I highly doubt whether they will even know if these are safe.

I really would appreciate any advice you can give me, thank you.

For those of you who know me personally, I would really appreciate you keeping my marriage troubles confidential.
posted by:
SF Bay Area
  • Unsu...
    For serious insomnia I have found Melatonin, which naturally occours in the body all ready to be more than helpful. But can also be habit forming if youre taking it every night. Im not sure how it would come through in Breast milk.

    For stress, during my pregnancy, I have used Bach's Rescue Remedy.
    • Melatonin is a huge no-no when breastfeeding. It gets into your milk and can affect the baby.
      • This thread is funny (NOT in the haha kind of way) because I was just getting ready to post something similar. I would love to hear more of what other ladies have experienced as well.

        Here is where I'm at right now.
        I too am having some difficulties and am still bf'ing my 11 mo. old girl. I am/was nervous about taking something but things are really bad right now and hubby has no ability to conceptualize how much worse he is making things with him power tripping and him verbally taking all his stress out on me, and etc etc. Since I can't make him change I have to work on me and eventually it will cause him to change though it likely will get worse first.

        A friend suggested I take Prozac. I looked online and found from the Dr. Sears website that for Antidepressents research studies have shown Zoloft to have the lowest transference into breastmilk, with Paxil being second, and Prozac being the last choice. His site also suggested St. John's Wort but no difinitive studies. I also spoke to someone yesterday that I've known for many many years who is a licensed therapist and mother of a teenager who was bf'd and she told me to absolutely not not not take the Zanax (sp) that was also prescribed but rather if I needed it to take Melatonin to help with sleeping. But if I take the Zoloft in the very low dose that was prescribed and I take it in the morning I shouldn't have issues with sleeping. Also over in PPMama's Kava was suggested. The problem I have with Kava, hylands, etc is I need to get myself on an even keel and need something daily not something for "when I'm feeling.... "

        So my plan is to bf in the morning before going to work. Taking the Zoloft when I get to work. Within a few weeks, no longer pumping during the day (she is partly transitioned to regular milk now), and bf'ing for night night around 8pm which will be between 10 - 12 hours from when I took the pill.
        • Gab, I had PPD and took Paxil for 9 months. It saved me but I did put on a huge amount of weight (about 50lbs) although I was also taking Domperidone for milk supply which also causes weight gain. Paxil is safe for breastfeeding and neither my husband nor I saw any changes in Connor. I highly recommend seeing a therapist (I used to take Connor to therapy with me) and making sure you get out for walks each day, even if it is only 15 mins. Exercise will make a huge difference (especially if you can get out into nature).

          So sorry to hear you're struggling Gab. I hope things work out for you.
      • Could you be more specific about why melatonin is bad while nursing? I was under the impression that was something safe. Please provide any sources you have.
        • Melatonin supplementation should be avoided in women who are pregnant or attempting to become pregnant, based on possible hormonal effects. High levels of melatonin during pregnancy may increase the risk of developmental disorders. In animal studies, melatonin is detected in breast milk and therefore should be avoided during breastfeeding.

          Melatonin is a synthetic hormone. It's never a good idea to take those sorts of supplements while pregnant or nursing. There is some information about studies that were done on pregnant rats and the outcome wasn't good. Esp with the female babies. It caused some genital delay in the formation of the vaginal opening.
          • K
            offline 52
            Wow, I did not know that about melatonin. In general (and it's a big general) I think herbal stuff is milder because the effects are less. For example, Ambien (which I will admit has saved me more than once) is a knock-out powerful sleep aid but it's considered "moderately safe" for breastfeeding and in fact they will give it to you in the hospital after delivery. However, Valerian, which is far less powerful and doesn't knock you out anywhere near Ambien does, has not been studied sufficiently, so people say just to avoid it. I tend to think if something is really powerful a big pharma company would have capitalized on it by now and there would be all sorts of studies. But, I do know that kava kava does stick around a bit longer in the liver (and I think they were trying to get some law about driving while on kava kava passed in California) so that's one I would be cautious about.

            But, the best person to really ask is a naturopath who specializes in ob/gyn and post-partum care--or even better, one who does ped work too.

            Oh, and if you ever look at a can of formula, you will see L-tryptophan as one of the ingredients to help knock babies out the way breastmilk does.
            • The thing about melatonin is that it's a synthetic hormone. It stays in your body longer and it can get into your milk easier. I'm sure it's fine if you are taking it once in a while or only 1mg at a time. But, most melatonin I've seen is slow release (worst of all) and no smaller than 3mg tablets.

     Kellymom doesn't say NOT to take it but it's not really encouraged either. It does confirm that the slow release isn't good though.

              I highly recommend acupuncture, yoga, and good old fashioned healthy diet and exercise for those who are having sleep/depression issues. I always try those things first and most times it does the trick. When I don't have time or when things just seem super hard and I'm at my wit's end I try to take a 10-15 minutes break alone or a walk if the weather permits.

              Calms Forte' is also a very useful remedy and works very well if you can't fall to sleep. It's very safe and effective.
              • I'm surprised- i'd never heard a bad word about melatonin before now. I don't take it often, but i do take it regularly when i get bouts of insomnia (maybe every few weeks to every few months). Once the insomnia pattern kicks in, i do take it for 3-7 days straight, whatever my body needs. I understand the body's feedback mechanism, the more i get it from an external source, the less signal my body has to make it internally but sometimes i NEED sleep, and for me it works very well.

                Gina I've never seen it dosed higher than 1mg, nor have i seen a slow release version. Must be a difference in what our local stores stock.

                Now i'm getting paranoid- i need to go research it more.

                One other source is Lactmed:

                it's a government site, best for pharma drug answers, not as thorough on herbs and such but if there's ever been ANY study, of ANY size (even 3 people) of that particular substance in breastmilk, they'll have it listed.
                • Good to know.

                  My experience with Melatonin hasn't been great. I have horrible nightmares and if not then my dreams are very vivid and I end up sleeping fitfully and not feeling very well rested. If I'm absolutely having a horrible time sleeping the combination of sleepytime tea and 2 calms forte helps. But, I think what my idea of insomnia and someone else's might be different. I know my mother in law HAS to take slow release ambien because she's tried everything else and still can't sleep.

                  And, yeah...when I was taking the melatonin off and on before having kids I could NOT find it under 3mg and they were all slow release. I used to just take half or 1/3 of a pill.

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