Do you feel like your breast milk supply is running dry? Do you think you’ve done just about everything to squeeze out more milk? Are you thinking of giving up on breastfeeding? Before you do, let me stop you in your tracks. Are you aware that there are foods that increase breast milk production? But before we even talk about that, how often are you feeding your baby?
The most important thing to remember in boosting your breast milk supply is to feed often. I cannot emphasize that enough. When you are establishing your milk supply, forget about routines and feed your baby on demand (meaning, whenever they are hungry). Do not rush them when they are having their meal. They will let go when they’ve had enough. And then, do not forget to offer your other breast every time you feed.
It is really all about supply and demand. Your body will adjust to the amount of milk your baby needs. So the more often your baby sucks milk from your breast, the more milk is produced.
So if you’ve nursed as often as you can and your baby is latched correctly to your breasts, and you think you still need a boost, then yes, by all means, you can consider adding milk stimulating food to your diet.
What are Galactagogues?
Simply put, galactagogues are lactogenic food or milk stimulating food. Apart from eating a healthy balanced diet, adding these can help you increase your breast milk supply. It is better to avoid food that are fried and processed. This means that you should incorporate more greens, protein and fruits into your diet. You will also needs carbohydrates for energy. Breastfeeding will make you tired and hungry, considering that you will also have interrupted sleep (which may not even be much especially after you give birth). So please do yourself a favour and eat well. You should also be drinking up to keep yourself hydrated.
Vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals, and protect us from diseases. Most do not even eat the recommended quantity of vegetables. It’s really a good thing that there’s more and more focus on healthy eating nowadays. Based on the Eat for Health: Australian Dietary Guidelines, breastfeeding women should eat at least 7.5 servings of vegetables per day. One serving means eating any of the following:
- 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables
- 1/2 cup cooked green or orange vegetables
- 1/2 medium sweet potato or other starchy vegetable
- 1 medium tomato, or
- 1/2 cup sweet corn
It will be good to include carrots, beetroot, sweet potatoes, and yam in your meals. Dark leafy greens like spinach, romaine lettuce, moringa (or malunggay) also help in lactation.
You can even make green drinks or smoothies because it’s easier to eat more vegetables that way. Spinach, kale, or romaine are great to use. I like mixing mine with fruits and chia seeds.
Fresh, whole fruits are always better than fruit juice due to added sweeteners (like sucrose or high fructose corn syrup). Apricots, green papaya, coconut, avocado, dates, and figs are a great addition to your diet. Breastfeeding women should have at least 2 servings of fruits per day. Just to give you an idea, one serving of fruits is:
- 1 medium apple, banana, orange, or pear
- 2 small apricots, kiwi, or plum
- 1 cup of diced or canned fruit (no added sugar)
- 30g dried fruit (occasionally), or
- 1/2 cup fruit juice with no added sugar (occasionally)
This includes eating whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, barley, and oats. It provides more dietary fibre than refined grains. Breastfeeding women are recommended to have at least 9 servings of whole grains a day. A serving of whole grains means:
- 1 slice of bread
- 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles, barley, or quinoa
- 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
- 2/3 cup wheat cereal flakes, or
- 1/4 cup muesli
Oats and Oatmeal
Oatmeal is a healthy meal that you can have for breakfast. It helps lower bad cholesterol and it can make for a satisfying meal. If you eat if before exercising, it can even help you burn fat.
It can come as quick-cook, rolled, or steel-cut oats. Quick-cooking or instant oats have been pre-cooked, dried, and rolled. They are ready in about 2 minutes. Rolled or old-fashioned oats have been steamed and rolled. This takes a little longer to cook, around 5-10 minutes. Steel-cut oats are toasted and cut oat groats (oat kernels that have been removed from the husk). They take the longest time to cook, about 20-30 minutes. Whatever you choose, remember to buy oats that have no added sugar, flavourings, or preservatives.
I would recommend preparing oatmeal with lactogenic ingredients such as almond milk, and topping it with almond slivers, sunflower seeds, raisins, cinnamon, apricots, dates, and/ or figs. For variety, instead of cooking oatmeal in a microwave or stove, you can even prepare overnight refrigerated oats in mason jars.
You can also bake some yummy oatmeal cookies.
Lean Meat and Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Nuts and Seeds, and Legumes/Beans
To increase your milk supply, salmon is a great source of essential fatty acids like omega 3, 6, and 9. Chickpeas, lentils, peas, and beans are also good for you, as well as almonds, macadamia, cashews, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. You should have at least 3.5 servings per day. How much is one serving?
- 65g cooked lean red meat
- 80g cooked lean poultry
- 100g cooked fish fillet or 1 small can of fish
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup cooked or canned legumes/beans with no added salt
- 170g tofu, or
- 30g nuts or seeds (no added salt)
There are also a number of herbs and spices which help increase breast production. Before you take any of these herbal supplements, it is best to consult your doctor or lactation consultant. Instead of enjoying the benefits, it may be harmful if it is not taken as directed.
- Fenugreek – This can be taken as tea or in capsule form. Don’t use this if you have diabetes or asthma.
- Milk thistle – It is also used to detoxify and cleanse the liver. It is a common ingredient in nursing teas and can also be used with other herbs like fenugreek and fennel.
- Black nigella – You can take black seed in capsule form. Avoid this if you are allergic to black seeds.
- Fennel seeds – Use this as a tea or include it when you cook. It also helps in digestion and help prevent colic in small babies (use with fenugreek).
- Cumin seeds – It is a good source of iron especially after giving birth, and it helps in digestion.
- Cinnamon – You can mix cinnamon powder with oatmeal, smoothies, cookies, or even tea with honey.
- Garlic and Onion – Take this in moderation and check to see if your baby is bothered with it, especially if they have colic.
What Foods to Avoid?
While you should do your best to be hydrated, it is best to avoid alcohol while breastfeeding, especially during the first month. If you really want to have one drink, there is no need to pump and dump. The key is to plan ahead. On average, it takes 2 hours for your body to clear the alcohol. So since you already know your baby’s pattern, you can express milk ahead of time so you can feed that to your baby.
You should also refrain from large amounts of tea, coffee, and soda due to caffeine as it disrupts sleep.
As a final note, remember that it is very important that you eat right while you are breastfeeding. You should look after yourself and your baby. To find out more about the amount and kind of food we need to eat for good health, you can check out Eat for Health: Australian Dietary Guidelines.
If you have any questions or would like to share what food worked for you to increase your milk supply, please leave a comment. I would love to hear all about it!