“Breast is best.”
It’s the message every new mother encounters again and again from pretty much the moment she conceives.
The problem is that breastfeeding isn’t always easy for every woman.
The surgeon general cites poor family and social support, employment, and child care issues, as well as lack of access to health services, as barriers to breastfeeding — acknowledging that these barriers all contribute to lower than ideal breastfeeding rates.
For those who do manage to overcome those barriers, milk supply issues can often lead to frustration and giving up sooner than originally planned.
In fact, a 2015 study found that approximately 35 percent of women report low milk supply as their reason for quitting breastfeeding early.
There are a lot of arguments in both the scientific and breastfeeding communities about how accurate those numbers are, but one truth remains.
Plenty of moms want to breastfeed, and search for ways to boost their own milk supply.
A quick Google search will point you to all kinds of recipes, teas, and products marketed to women hoping achieve that goal.
Beth Rasmussen told Healthline that lactation cookies work for her.
“The brewer’s yeast and oatmeal in them really helps production,” she explained.
And Carla Wiking told Healthline that tea was one of her go-to milk supply-boosting tools.
Enter the “Pink Drink”
But recently, something new has been getting all the supply-boosting buzz.
News about Starbucks’ Pink Drink has appeared everywhere from Cosmopolitan to “Today,” with new moms raving about the milk-boosting properties of this sweet, uncaffeinated beverage.
On the menu it’s called the Strawberry Acai Refresher, a blend of fruit juices and creamy coconut milk that some mothers say contributes to an overabundance of breast milk.
But is there any truth behind those claims?
For their part, Starbucks isn’t saying.
Healthline reached out to representatives at the coffee mega chain only to be told “no comment” when asked whether they think the Pink Drink can deliver on those milk boosting promises.
But there were several nursing mothers willing to weigh in.
Sarah Lindholm told Healthline that she’s been a fan of the drink for a while, even before its most recent claim to fame.
But as mom to a 3-month-old, she’s never noticed a surge in her milk production because of the drink.
“I’ll still be ordering it,” she said, “simply because it tastes good. In fact, I was looking on Pinterest today for a recipe I could make at home.”
She does wonder if it might help purely because it tastes so good. Perhaps that alone encourages women to be more hydrated and therefore boosts supply.
Debunking some of the theories
It’s a nice theory, but lactation consultant Wendy Wisner put that claim to rest.
“It’s a myth that drinking more fluids or consuming more calories increases supply,” she told Healthline. “You would have to be quite dehydrated or malnourished for that to make a difference.”
Other mothers have suggested that it might be the coconut milk in this drink that helps boost supply, but Wisner shot that down as well.
“There is definitely no research showing that coconut milk is a galactagogue. I haven’t even seen it mentioned in breastfeeding circles,” she said. “Same with acai, one of the other main ingredients in the Starbucks drink.”
A galactagogue is an herb or medication that boosts milk supply. According to the American Pregnancy Association, there are quite a few galactagogues that could help.
So what does Wisner think is behind the hype of the Pink Drink?
“It’s most likely placebo or coincidence,” she explained. “Sometimes when mothers believe something will increase their supply, it relaxes them. This relaxation can help with ‘letdown’ so the milk flows more easily. If these moms feel like it works, go for it. But moms who are having true milk supply issues shouldn’t rely on this drink to help.”
Translation: The Pink Drink isn’t going to boost your supply if you’re struggling. But what might?
“The single most important way to increase supply is to breastfeed or pump more,” Wisner said. “It’s supply and demand. If that isn’t working, see a lactation consultant. Or call a breastfeeding counselor — like a La Leche League Leader — to troubleshoot.”
They’ll keep drinking it
Several of the women Healthline spoke to acknowledged that the Pink Drink milk-supply promises seemed a little too good to be true.
But that wasn’t going to stop them from drinking it.
“My sister made me try one a couple weeks ago and she got me hooked,” Tania Whitfield said. “Now, I’m totally using this as justification to get one every day. I have noticed that my breasts feel fuller in the day or two after drinking one. So, there’s that.”