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Herbalists have long embraced garlic as a beneficial supplement to nursing mothers' diets. The herb's distinctively pungent odor does not appear to bother most nursing babies and may in fact encourage babies to nurse longer, according to Dr. Julie Mennella, a Philadelphia biopsychologist who studied nursling behaviors related to garlic consumption by the mother. Anecdotal evidence indicates that garlic's strong antifungal and antibiotic properties may help nursing babies avoid thrush and help relieve mastitis suffered by the nursing mom.

Longer Nursing

Nursing babies whose mothers expressed breast milk with a garlicky odor generally nursed longer than babies whose mothers did not ingest garlic before breastfeeding, reported Dr. Mennella in “Pediatrics” magazine, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Longer successful nursing helps a nursing mother maintain an adequate supply of breast milk and allows the nursing baby to feed until he is satisfied. Because babies seem to respond to the garlic odor, deodorized garlic supplements are not an effective substitute for raw garlic.

Antifungal Properties

Garlic is a potent antifungal. Nursing babies sometimes contract a fungal-based yeast infection called thrush, which presents as a sore throat, white-spotted tongue and red diaper rash. A yeast infection in the nursing mom is known as candida. Babies with thrush often have difficulty breastfeeding, as their mouths and throats become irritated, and the babies unlatch frequently from their moms' breasts. Raw garlic may help a breastfeeding mom prevent or eliminate the yeast infection, relieve the irritation and help the baby breastfeed more.

Helps Fight Mastitis

Raw garlic contains strong antibacterial and antibiotic properties, according to Mennella. Anecdotal evidence indicates that this natural antibiotic herb does not cause a secondary yeast infection, as do many antibiotic medications. Nursing mothers may need antibiotics if they develop mastitis, a blockage of the breast's milk ducts that sometimes leads to infection. Consult your physician if you suspect you have mastitis, and ask if garlic could be an effective part of your treatment.