Breastfeeding is a time that often comes with a lot of worry and stress for Moms, as they may worry about what to eat to make sure baby is getting the right nutrition to grow healthy, happy and strong. After all, breastmilk is often the sole source of nutrition for baby (unless you are supplementing with formula), and having enough of the good stuff is so important for baby to grow well!
But what happens when breastmilk production is slow, or you worry that maybe baby isn’t getting enough? Is there anything that can be done to stimulate the continual production of breast milk? The short answer is yes. Read on.
The best way to increase milk supply is through consistent and ongoing breastfeeding of your little one. It is often called a supply and demand process because the more you nurse, the more milk you produce! As the baby nurses, the stimulation of nerves in your breasts signals the production of more milk to be produced. In addition, the emptying of milk from your breasts also signals the production of milk. This critical cycle is what is needed to keep the constant generation and flow of breastmilk that your baby needs!
Now this being said, there is still a need to support your body with the right nutrients in order to promote more breast milk production. The best thing you can do for your body is to drink enough fluids to ensure you don’t get dehydrated. Breastfeeding moms are often so busy or overwhelmed, that it’s easy to forget (or neglect) the need to drink throughout the day. Ideally, you want you be drinking before you actually feel thirsty, and want to definitely avoid signs of dehydration (dark or stronger smelling urine, or constipation). Keep in mind, you only need to drink enough to satisfy thirst and don’t need to go overboard! Getting more than your required fluid needs each day does not actually help in more milk production, and may even cause you discomfort. Listening to your body’s signals is always best practice.
If you feel like your milk supply still needs improvement, then you could consider adding foods shown to help with increasing milk production. These foods, called galactagogues, are to be used in conjunction with the above suggestions and should not be relied on on their own to stimulate milk flow.
Take a look at the Top 5 foods to stimulate the production of breastmilk:
1. Fenugreek Seed
Fenugreek is a popular herb used in Arabic and Indian cultures that has been said to enhance milk production. Although studies on this herb is limited, one study did show a doubling of milk production compared to placebo groups when drinking a minimum of three cups (200ml) a day of Fenugreek tea. New mothers that want to increase breast milk production should aim for 500-1000mg of fenugreek. Please keep in mind that Fenugreek should only be consumed after and not during pregnancy as it is not considered safe yet to have while pregnant! Always consult with a doctor before adding herbal supplements to your diet.
Fennel is the vegetable version of Fenugreek (which are the seeds). It has a sweet, licorice-flavoured bulb and thin green fronds. Fennel contains phytoestrogens that supports healthy breast and tissue lactation. Try out this recipe for a great fennel slaw with mint vinaigrette!
Barley, a whole grain, is the richest source of beta-glucan (a type of carbohydrate called a polysaccharide) that has been shown to increase the production of prolactin, which is a breastfeeding hormone. This has been shown in both animals and human studies and as a result, it’s considered a lactogenic. Barley can be eaten whole and added to soups, salads, and stews and is a perfectly filling and healthy food for breastfeeding moms to incorporate in their diet.
Oats are an anti-inflammatory complex carbohydrate that also help counter constipation commonly experienced by many breastfeeding women. After barley, they are the best source of dietary beta glucans and are also very easy to work into your diet (ie. warm morning oatmeal, in muffins or in granola)!
Papaya has a relaxing property that helps with milk production and has been commonly used in Asian cultures to boost milk supply. Again, studies on this are limited, so we don’t exactly know how or why papaya would increase milk supply, but it’s a fruit with many health benefits that would be worth adding in decent amounts to your diet. Other foods that have the potential to stimulate and increase the production of breastmilk and are still being researched for more information include:
- Sesame Seeds
- Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
The good news is that there is no harm in consuming any of these while breastfeeding, so what’s worth a try for you as a Mom is definitely something to consider.