If you are a breastfeeding mom, you may be wondering if there are any foods that can improve your milk supply. Foods with lactation-promoting properties are called lactogenic foods or galactagogues. Adding lactogenic foods to your diet, along with frequent nursing or pumping can give your milk supply a boost.
Low breast milk supply can be due to certain illnesses, consumption of birth-control pills, certain hormonal changes in the body, nutritional deficiencies, improper latching position of the baby and infrequent breastfeeding due to cracked nipples. Inadequate breast milk can put your baby at a high risk of malnutrition, a weak immune system, poor memory and many other health problems.
As breast milk is a very important nutritional source for newborn babies and infants, it is important to take steps to increase its supply.
Foods That Increase Breast Milk Production
Oatmeal has long been recommended as a way for moms to boost their milk supply. Researchers know that oatmeal has properties in it that help to lower cholesterol and maintain a healthy blood pressure. These properties in oatmeal may also help with other functions in the body including lactation. Nutrition may not be the only reason why oatmeal is good for breastfeeding moms though.
Oatmeal is a comfort food. When a woman sits down and eats a bowl of oatmeal, it may help her to relax, which in turn may cause her body to release oxytocin (a hormone involved in milk production). In addition, being relaxed may help with the milk let-down process.
Asparagus is considered a must-have food for nursing mothers. It is a high fiber food. It is also high in Vitamin A and K. It helps stimulate the hormones in nursing mothers that are essential for lactation. Wash and chop asparagus. Boil with milk. Strain and drink for better milk production.
3. Brown Rice
Brown rice gives nursing moms the extra energy that is required post-delivery. It has certain chemicals that help normalize the mood swings and sleep pattern. It helps increase the appetite. It has hormone stimulants which boost lactation. Opt for brown rice instead of white rice. Brown rice also helps maintain sugar levels in the blood.
4. Basil Leaves
Basil leaves are a great source of anti-oxidants. Basil leaves have a calming effect which is important while lactating. It boosts your little one’s immunity levels. Add a few basil sprigs in your tea. Leave the sprigs for a while in hot water. Have this water first thing in the morning and experience the effect.
5. Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek seeds have been used for ages to increase breast milk supply and now there is research to back this ancient belief. Research has shown that fenugreek or fenugreek seeds increases milk supply. Some doctors say that if you include fenugreek seeds in your diet, you will have an increased supply of milk within a week. Besides, fenugreek seeds are a great source of iron, calcium, vitamins and minerals.
But be careful not to consume too much as it is a mild diuretic and you may end up losing a lot of water. Fenugreek tea is a popular drink given to new mothers. Fenugreek seeds are can be added to many dishes, especially vegetables, and meat dishes.
Breastfeeding increases your caloric needs and your need for certain vitamins and minerals. Spinach is a good source of calcium, iron, Vitamin K, A, and folate. Folate (or folic acid) is particularly important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Dark leafy green vegetables like spinach also contain phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens, which are believed to promote breast tissue health and lactation, are plant-based chemicals that have similar properties as estrogen.
Among its many curative properties, garlic is said to help in increasing breast milk supply. Studies have shown that the infants of mothers who eat garlic tend to feed for a longer time, and many babies seem to like the flavour in breast milk. Garlic milk is a popular traditional post-delivery drink given to nursing mums.
Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, lima beans, or green beans, are frequently used lactogenic foods. Hummus, which is traditionally made from chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil, is a perfect snack for breastfeeding moms. It is a complete protein, and the combination of chickpeas and garlic (another galactagogue) makes this nutrient dense snack, a top choice for nursing moms.
Whether you sauté it, stew it, or toss it raw into a salad, fennel is an herb that is widely believed to be an excellent galactagogue. If you particularly dislike anise or black licorice, this herb is not for you.
For those with an adventurous palate, fennel is full of healthy phytoestrogens. Bonus for those with queasy stomachs—fennel is also known to be fantastic for aiding digestion and settling an upset belly.
A glass of carrot juice with breakfast or lunch will work wonders in lactation. Like spinach, carrots too have lactation promoting qualities. It contains Vitamin A which complements lactation and boosts the quality of your milk. You can have carrots as raw, steamed or even pureed to a soup. In winters, try having pureed carrots stirred with warm milk and sugar.
11. Cumin Seeds
As well as stimulating milk supply, cumin seeds are said to improve digestion and provide relief from constipation, acidity and bloating. They are also a source of iron to help you gain strength after birth.
Salmon is a great source of essential fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. EFAs and Omega-3 fatty acids, like what’s found in salmon, are thought to give your milk supply a boost even though they are not technically considered a galactagogue.
There are a couple of reasons why we think EFAs and Omega-3s help increase a woman’s supply. The first is that they simply improve mom’s nutrition so that she can produce the hormones necessary for milk production. In addition, EFAs are part of what breast milk is made up of.
Essential fatty acids are a key component in breast milk. Naturally, having more EFAs available will allow mom to produce fattier, more nutritious, breast milk.
Other Tips to Increase Breast Milk
Stay hydrated. According to studies, 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. You don’t need to drink three gallons a day, but you do need to be adequately hydrated—8 glasses (64 ounces) of fluid each day is an absolute must.
In the early stages of your breastfeeding journey it’s a necessity to have a bottle of water next to where you’re going to nurse. You might not be thirsty when you sit down, but it isn’t uncommon to be overwhelmed by thirst after a few minutes.
Pump in-between nursings. The best way to increase your supply by using a pump is to double pump for 5-10 minutes after you nurse your baby, or a least 8 times in 24 hours. Try to set the pump on maximum unless your nipples are very sore.
Most pumps work better on the higher suction settings. Minimum is kind of like the baby sucking in his sleep toward the end of the feeding, and maximum is more like the vigorous sucking he does for the first few minutes of the feeding.
Breastfeed your baby regularly. Your body adapts milk production to the amount being demanded. So if you start supplementing your milk with formula or other supplements, your milk supply will go down. The more you feed your baby, the more milk your body will produce. You may find that milk production is best when you develop a feeding routine for your baby and feed at regular intervals. This gives your body the time to produce the needed amount again.
Get enough rest. If you are too tired, your body will not have the energy to produce milk properly. So try to catch up on your sleep and rest during the day if you are up a lot at night.
Try to relax. Getting used to your new life as a mum can be stressful at times. Stress is known to affect the let-down reflex that secretes milk and even milk production. So for your and your baby’s sake, it’s a good idea to try to relax. Try to arrange for help in the house whether it is from family members or hired help.
Think baby, think milk. While you are feeding, stroke and calm your baby using a lot of skin-to-skin contact – a practice called grooming. Enjoy his sweet face and the feel of his skin. This will help in increasing milk supply by stimulating your milk ejection reflex. The milk ejection reflex squeezes the milk you make out of the milk glands and down into the ducts and milk sinuses where it’s available to baby.