Best Lactogenic Foods to Increase Breast Milk Supply
Breastfeeding moms may already know about best practices to increase breast milk supply such as nursing or pumping often, or to make sure that your little one is latching on properly. Typically, a lactation consultant may be able to help you assess your milk supply and what you can do to increase your breast milk production. Staying hydrated by drinking lots of water and juices can also prevent dehydration and boost milk supply for breastfeeding.
However, if you're still struggling with low milk supply or concerned that your baby is not getting the food nutrition that he/ she needs, here are some foods to increase breast milk supply for nursing mothers.
But before we move on to that topic, let’s talk about what good quality breast milk should be like and how to recognize if it helps your baby thrive or is insufficient for their development.
Breast milk is the complete form of nutrition for babies, for at least the first six months of their life. Luckily, breast milk is almost always high in quality no matter how malnourished the mother is. Breast milk will usually have all of the essential vitamins and minerals that a baby needs, but there are a few areas you should watch out for, like B12 deficiency or vitamin D.
Any change in your breast milk quality will affect your babies' growth and weight (gain or lose).
Signs that your baby is getting enough milk supply
When you breastfeed, there are no exact measurements of how much milk your baby has taken, so you might wonder how you will recognize if your baby is getting enough food at each breastfeeding session.
There are certainly a few ways that will help you decide if your baby is getting enough breast milk supply:
- Consistent weight gain is the best and most important sign.
- Frequently changing wet (urine) diapers at least 6 to 8 times per day.
- Breastfeeding on a schedule, your newborn should latch for breast milk every 2 to 3 hours.
- A newborn baby is calm and sleeps between nursing sessions.
- You can hear the baby swallowing.
- After breastfeeding, your breasts should be softer and less full than before.
On the other hand, there are clear signs of low breast milk supply that you should take note of:
- Lack of weight gain or dropping weight, normally babies droop around 10% of their weight in the first few days; after that, they should gain at least 30 to 40 grams per day.
- Dehydration is a clear sign of low breast milk supply; watch out for dry mouth, dark-colored urine, and lethargy.
- Dry or insufficient wet diapers.
Lactogenic foods for increasing milk supply
Fennel seeds have been linked to higher milk volume as they contain compounds similar to oestrogen to increase your milk supply and help boost lactation. It is also known to reduce gas and colic for your little one as its benefits can pass through breastfeeding.
You can add fennel to your tea or have them with milk. Alternatively, eat them raw and toss them with seasoning.
Brown rice and other whole grains are rich in beta-glucan which can boost lactation and milk production for new moms. It can also increase energy and appetite so that a nursing mother can get the food nutrition she needs and make sure she is producing enough milk for her baby.
You can cook brown rice with vegetables for a healthy and delicious meal.
Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and mustard greens are rich in iron and calcium that can increase milk production. Spinach and beet leaves in particular also contain detoxifying agents. In particular, spinach is one of the foods that has been linked with a lower risk of breast cancer so adding spinach to your diet can improve your health. However, moderate your intake of spinach in your diet as excessive consumption can lead to diarrhoea for your baby.
You can make spinach soup or cook them with brown rice for a healthy meal.
Sesame seeds can increase your breast milk supply by enriching breastfeeding mothers with calcium, which is also important for the healthy growth of your baby. You can use sesame seeds in your daily meals or blend them with almonds and milk as a snack.
Almond is one of the most well-known healthy foods which contains omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E to improve lactation and encourage a higher supply of milk when you're nursing your baby. Vitamin E can also reduce itching caused by stretch marks after pregnancy.
You can eat almonds raw, crush them and have them with milk or add them to oatmeal.
Salmon is known as a healthy food for good reason, and it contains many essential fatty acids to increase lactation and boost the breastfeeding mother's supply of milk. and DHA which can boost the healthy development of your baby.
You can boil, grill or steam salmon but avoid eating too much salmon that can increase your mercury levels.
While the effects of garlic on breast milk supply have not been medically reviewed, many nursing mothers swear by garlic to boost lactation. It can also prevent heart disease, prevent cancer and boost your immune system and health. You may opt to have it with vegetables or add it into your soup. However, you may want to moderate your intake of garlic as it can affect the smell and taste of your breast milk to your baby.
Barley can stimulate the production of prolactin which is also known as the breastfeeding hormone. It can increase breast milk supply and help mothers ensure they are staying hydrated while nursing their baby.
You can boil barley with water to make barley water or cook it with vegetables.
Oats are another great source of beta-glucan which can help to trigger the production of prolactin to increase milk supply. It is also rich in iron and low levels of iron can cause low milk supply. Oats can also give the breastfeeding mother more energy and control the occurrence of diabetes after pregnancy while being rich in fibre, improving the health of the mother.
You can have oatmeal, oat cookies or oat muffins to increase your intake of oats.
Papaya is an Asian favorite among foods to increase breast milk production, although their effects have only been recently medically reviewed. It can help breastfeeding mothers to relax and unripe papayas are said to be the most effective. You can eat it raw with cereal or yogurt or have it as a salad.
However, mothers who are still in their pregnancy should avoid unripe papaya as it can induce labour.
Asparagus is high in Vitamin A, Vitamin K and fibre and it is one of the essential foods for nursing mothers as it can increase lactation and her supply of milk.
You can steam it or cook it with other vegetables as part of a healthy meal.
Red dates can be found in many confinement foods and is one of the best-known foods for a breastfeeding mom. It has high tryptophan levels which is a type of amino acid that can boost your lactation and boost prolactin levels to increase your supply of milk.
Apricots are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, calcium and potassium and are known to encourage lactation and milk supply for a mother who is nursing her baby.
You can have this food as a snack in between meals or eat it as part of a salad.
Carrots are rich in Vitamin A and can enhance the nutritional value of your milk. It can also improve lactation so that you can produce more milk supply for your baby.
You can have this versatile food raw with a salad, steam it or even have it with soup. A breastfeeding mom can also juice this food for a quick snack in the morning.
Bittergourd may not be the most popular of foods, but it is high in water content which can enhance the supply of milk for your baby. It also aids digestion for breastfeeding moms.
You can have it as a smoothie or cooked together with eggs.
Moringa is a vegetable that has high calcium and iron content that can encourage lactation while boosting your immune system to improve the health of the mother and baby. This is also one of the more versatile foods and you can either eat fresh moringa leaves, use moringa capsules or drink moringa tea.
Milk has calcium, healthy fats and folic acid that can promote lactation for a nursing mother and reduce the likelihood that your baby will develop an allergy to milk. You can drink a glass of milk two to three times a day.
Chickpeas are one of the most common types of foods in Indian and Mediterranean cuisines and contain high protein and fibre content that is good for health. It is also rich in Vitamin B and calcium that can encourage the production of milk.
You can either have chickpeas with salad or mash them while adding garlic and lemon juice as garnish.
Blessed thistle can help boost milk supply as it can increase the production of the prolactin and oxytocin hormones which encourages lactation. You can eat this food as a supplement to your regular meals or add it to hot water to make tea. You can also take this with fenugreek to greatly boost your breast milk production.
Brewer' s yeast
This food is rich in high protein, iron, chromium and B-vitamins and can be used to help increase your breast milk production. It has its name because it is used in the production of beer and yeast.
While the effectiveness of brewer's yeast in increasing your breast milk supply has not been medically reviewed, many breastfeeding moms have found that it may help to boost lactation.
You can use small amounts of brewer's yeast in baked foods and they are commonly found in lactation cookies.
If you're struggling to follow a breastfeeding diet to boost milk production while caring for your baby, lactation supplements may be the way to go. They typically contain certain foods that are known to help boost milk supply while promoting milk flow and enhancing nutrition in breast milk for the healthy growth and development of your baby.
You can also use lactation supplements as an add-on to your diet to help you further increase your milk supply in addition to the foods you're already eating to help make sure you can produce enough milk for your baby.
Foods that should be avoided as advised by the lactation consultant
Certain foods like potatoes, raw banana and raw mango could cause you to generate more gas and decrease your milk supply. Cabbage leaves, thyme, parsley and peppermint can also reduce the production of milk.
While they are thought to have compounds similar to oestrogen that can help increase breast milk production for some women, others may experience some undesirable side effects while taking it. Too much of it in your diet can cause diarrhoea, make your baby gassier or worsen asthma. For more information on the possible adverse effects of Fenugreek.
Other ways to boost milk supply
Other than watching your diet, you can follow these tips to boost your supply of milk.
Reduce your stress
Stress and post-partum depression can contribute to a low milk supply. It's important to take care of your mental health in addition to your physical health and communicate with your doctors, family members and partner. Make wellness habits a part of your routine like meditation or breathing exercises.
If you are struggling to take care of your baby, seek help from others like family members so that you can get the parenting support you need.
Eating well and resting well is essential for a new mother and can help to boost milk supply. You may need the support of a family member or confinement nanny to help you take care of the baby while you can get some rest from parenting.
Have frequent feeding
The more your baby can empty your breast, the more milk you can produce. If you can, have a feeding every two hours and ensure your baby can latch on well.
Switch sides two or three times each time you have a feeding as this could get your baby to have a longer feeding. This also gives fatty hindmilk to the baby which is higher in nutritional content.
Pump between feedings
Pumping between feedings can encourage milk supply as the milk from your breasts will be drained and used up, stimulating the production of milk.
If your baby often latches only on to one side, you may need to pump the other breast until your baby can take more milk from that breast.
If your baby is used to a pacifier, your baby could feed less as they rely less on your breast milk for comfort. Avoid pacifiers so that your baby can feed more which will stimulate your breasts to produce more.
Avoid nicotine and alcohol
Substances like nicotine and alcohol can be harmful during pregnancy and after pregnancy while restricting milk supply. These could also pass into your baby's blood via breast milk.
Check your medication
Take care to check the medication you are taking, including for normal illnesses like colds as these can affect your breast milk supply.