Are you worried that you’re not producing enough milk for your baby? I know this feeling all too well, and it was especially overwhelming when I had my first bundle of joy.
Breastfeeding can be challenging, especially for new moms who are wracked with stress, self-doubt, and uncertainty. You’re trying to get the hang of things and trying to care for your newborn. But I assure you, all these feelings are absolutely normal.
When it comes to lactation and nutrition, there’s a myriad of information out there, and it may be overwhelming. We’re here to give you the lowdown on the best foods for lactation to leave you feeling great and benefit your milk supply.
- Lactogenic foods that help increase milk supply include complex carbohydrates (barley, oats, whole grains), vegetables (dark leafy greens, carrots, okra), and fruits (oranges, green papayas, blueberries).
- Other lactogenic foods include seeds (fenugreek, chia, hemp, flax), nuts (almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts), Greek yogurt, water, and nursing teas.
- To increase breast milk supply, feed baby often, pump breasts between nursing sessions, and avoid giving baby a pacifier until breastfeeding is well-established.
Is Your Milk Supply up to Par?
Do your breasts feel heavy when you first wake up? Do you hear swallows when your baby is at the breast? Is your baby growing well? These might be indicators that your supply is doing just fine.
Your baby’s cheeks should look full when nursing, and your baby should release from the breast on their own. You can also tell whether you have enough supply by how blissful your baby looks after feeding. They should look relaxed, with loose arms and open hands, which would indicate satisfaction.
How much does your baby pee? Once they start feeding well, they should wet around eight to 10 diapers per day. The urine should be light yellow or clear.
Perhaps one of the best ways to tell that you have enough supply is to check whether your baby is gaining enough weight. After birth, babies lose a little weight, but they gain 4 to 7 ounces per week once they start feeding regularly and once your milk comes in (1).
Your breasts will also feel soft after feeding, and you might feel sleepy.
What Causes a Low Milk Supply?
A low supply of milk can occur for a variety of reasons. We’ll go over a few common ones here:
- Poor latching: How well does your baby latch onto the breast? One of the most common causes of low milk supply is a poor latch. If your baby is struggling, your body will not get the signal to produce more milk.
- Less feeding: If you’re not breastfeeding your baby often enough, your milk supply will reduce to match. Newborns need to feed on demand, generally anywhere between eight and 12 times a day (2).
- Certain health conditions: Some illnesses, such as diabetes or anemia, could affect your milk production. Previous breast surgery may also be the culprit, as it can disrupt tissue formation. Mammary hypoplasia, which is a lack of sufficient glandular tissue, may also be the cause (3).
- Estrogen-based contraceptives: Some research suggests that contraceptives containing estrogen may reduce breast milk production (4). Instead, consider taking progestin-only birth control pills, as they don’t affect the milk supply, and wait until after six weeks postpartum to start them.
When Should I See a Lactation Expert?
If the reasons above are not the cause of your low supply, you might want to see a lactation expert or your doctor to determine where the problem is. However, before you reach that point, why not try some solutions at home?
How Do I Increase My Breast Milk Supply?
- Feed the baby often: Frequent nursing stimulates the body to produce more, so feed your baby whenever they seem hungry. You should also offer them both breasts at each feeding. Try to compress your breast during feeding to drain the milk until they’re satisfied.
- Pump your breasts: If your baby sleeps too long or you need to be away, you can pump between nursing sessions to increase the supply.
- Avoid giving your baby a pacifier: Encourage them to comfort themselves while breastfeeding because sucking will stimulate production. If you want to use a pacifier, wait until breastfeeding is well-established.
What Are the Best Lactogenic Foods?
As a breastfeeding mom, you need all the nutrition you can get. This means you should strive to have a balanced diet with all the necessary minerals and vitamins. That said, certain foods are more lactogenic than others.
Since you’re looking for foods that will increase your milk supply, the following list is a great place to start. We’ve categorized the foods into several sections to make it easy for you to digest. See what I did there?
Carbohydrates play a vital role in breastfeeding, and whole grains are always a better choice than refined carbs. The problem with refined carbs (such as white bread, white pasta, or pastries) is that they lack fiber and can spike blood sugar.
Go with complex carbs so you and the baby will both benefit. You’ll gain some slow-releasing energy to keep you going and some fiber to keep your blood sugar in check and improve digestion.
At this point, you probably already know that alcohol may inhibit milk production. However, barley, an ingredient in beer, is known to be lactogenic.
It’s one of the richest sources of beta-glucan, a polysaccharide known to increase prolactin, the breastfeeding hormone (5). One of the best things about barley is that you can add it to soups, salads, or even stews.
Oats are excellent milk makers because they also possess a high concentration of beta-glucan, just like barley. Oats may not be the most flavorful food on their own, but they’re very easy to work into a diet. You can make muffins, cookies, crumbles, or even top it with fruit.
3. Other Whole Grains
Whole-wheat toast and brown rice also contain beta-glucan, which makes them incredible lactogenic foods. Of course, they need to be whole grain; white flour or white rice don’t make the grade.
4. Brewer’s Yeast
Brewer’s yeast is high in iron, selenium, chromium, protein, and B vitamins. It’s been used as a nutritional supplement for generations and has always been recommended as a milk booster.
However, it passes easily into breast milk, so you need to use it in small amounts to avoid gas or fussiness in your infant. Use it in your baked goods or pancake recipes.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are also a complex carbohydrate that contain vitamin A. This is an essential vitamin because it’s essential for vision, cell and bone growth, and immune function (6).
Plus, sweet potatoes are a good source of potassium.
6. Beans and Legumes
Beans definitely belong to your diet if you’re a breastfeeding mom. This is because they contain protein, fiber, iron, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals stimulate the immune system, help to regulate hormones, and increase milk production, among other things (7).
I love how easy beans are to use in dips, chilis, casseroles, and even on salads. The same goes for lentils.
You’re worried about gas, right? If you eat beans and lentils regularly, gas becomes a thing of the past. Furthermore, any gassiness is not likely to be passed on to your baby.
As we all know, vegetables are our friends. They’re full of vitamins and minerals and some have a great deal of water to help keep you nourished and hydrated.
Besides that, your baby will get used to their flavor in your milk and may also end up liking them (8). You might escape having a picky eater!
1. Dark Leafy Greens
Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and broccoli are great galactagogues. They’re some of the best sources of protein, iron, and vitamins, which are essential minerals for both of you (9).
Carrots possess beta-carotene and vitamin B6 (10). These are essential for providing the extra energy that lactating moms need to improve their milk supply.
Okra is one of those foods you either love or can’t stand, given the sometimes slimy texture. But if you want the benefits, it’s not hard to find recipes that make it taste delicious.
High in folate, it’s also a good source of other vitamins and minerals, including niacin, thiamine, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Garlic is a well-known galactagogue, and even though there’s no research backing up its effectiveness, many mothers claim it works. Of course, garlic is one of those foods you want to take in moderation because of its odor.
It’s widely recommended that you eat two servings minimum of fruit every day while breastfeeding. However, not all fruits are lactogenic, so let’s check out some of the yummy ones that fit the bill.
Oranges are the king of vitamin C, which you need when breastfeeding more than when you were pregnant. This vitamin plays a critical role in growing teeth, muscles, and bones in children.
Yes, even for newborns! And the only way to give it to them is through breast milk.
2. Green Papayas
Cooked unripe papaya is one of the best galactagogues; they’re wonderful at inducing lactation (11). Papaya contains carotenoids that can help in the absorption of vitamin A and beta-carotene for nursing moms. They’re easy to incorporate into smoothies, and they make a healthy snack for you and your baby.
You already know that blueberries are a superfood given the antioxidants they contain — one of the highest amounts of all fruits (12). These antioxidants will pass to your baby and help fight free radicals that could damage cellular DNA (13).
These are another source of vitamin C that’ll make it easy for you to meet the recommended daily intake of 120 milligrams (14). They feature a high water content, which will help keep you hydrated. It’s imperative for breastfeeding moms to stay hydrated in order to prevent fatigue.
Potassium might have been important when you were pregnant, but it’s more so now that you’re breastfeeding. Potassium will keep your electrolytes and fluids in balance. Breastfeeding moms need 5,100 milligrams of potassium per day to have enough for two (15).
Avocados contain protein and more potassium than bananas. Of course, other foods contain potassium, like potatoes, so you don’t need to pack up on avocados alone. They also contain folate, which is good for brain function.
For breastfeeding moms and their babies, avocados are a source of amino acids essential for cell growth.
7. Dried Apricots
High in fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, and calcium, dried apricots are a snack that surely packs a punch. But they also contain tryptophan, which can boost prolactin levels. Other calcium-rich dried fruits, like figs and dates, are great options, too.
Seeds are not only an excellent source of fiber but monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well.
They’re packed full of minerals, vitamins, and healthy antioxidants (16). Even better, they help reduce cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Some of them are super lactogenic, like the ones listed below.
Fenugreek and its seeds both contain phytoestrogens that help with milk production.
Fenugreek, however, is not so good for people with diabetes, a legume allergy, or even heart or thyroid disease. If you have any of those, consult your doctor before consuming it. Use it in moderation by eating it raw or incorporating it into other dishes.
Chia seeds are amazing! They’re rich in calcium, protein, fiber, and magnesium. Apart from that, they pack a pretty powerful punch of omega-3 fatty acids (17).
All these nutrients will leave you and your baby feeling fuller for longer. They also have a nice pleasant taste, and you can incorporate them into salads, granola, smoothies, and more.
Hemp seeds are a superfood, given their high levels of omega-3s. These are a complete source of protein,, meaning they have essential amino acids that you and your baby need.
They also come with a high concentration of vitamins and minerals, including the B vitamins. They’re bursting with zinc and iron, which are essential for your baby’s growth.
Like hemp seeds, flaxseeds contain fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. The secret to unlocking all the goodness is to grind them because the body doesn’t digest them well when they’re whole.
You can also use flax oil which has a light, sweet taste. It pairs well with vegetables and incorporates seamlessly into smoothies. Flaxseeds will not only help with your milk supply but might combat inflammation too.
Nuts are full of iron, calcium, zinc, B vitamins, fatty acids, and protein, making them one of the best overall snacks. Almonds are especially considered a galactagogue. Other good options for milk-making support include cashews and macadamia nuts. Rather than roasted and salted varieties, try raw nuts when possible.
2. Greek Yogurt
Calcium is imperative for you and your baby, and you need to have 1,000 milligrams per day. This is easy to meet with low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt, which also contains protein.
The best thing is that there are so many things you can do with yogurt. From eating it plain to adding fruits or granola, the list is endless. Unless your baby has a dairy intolerance, indulge yourself (18).
You’d be surprised at the number of moms who simply disregard water while breastfeeding. Hydration is super important. Water is essentially the base for your increased milk supply, along with eating the right food.
Drinking a minimum of eight glasses per day will leave you replenished. It’s also very important because it’ll prevent fatigue.
4. Nursing Teas
Lactation teas are made of herbs and certain supplements. You can make your tea as you please, either with a single herb or a combination. Some of the herbs you could combine include milk thistle, fenugreek, and blessed thistle.
Besides increasing your breast milk supply, teas are always a treat that comforts and relaxes a person, and they are to prepare.