How to Support Lactation Through Diet

If you are concerned that your baby is not getting enough milk you might be thinking of ways to increase your milk supply. We can certainly help with that. Below you’ll find a list of delicious foods that are known to help increase milk production, but first we recommend that you take a moment to determine whether or not your supply really is “too low.”

At one point or another most new moms fear that their babies aren’t getting enough milk, and this fear can often lead to early weaning. Mother’s bodies are amazing, actually responding to the demands of her baby’s appetite! Supply increases as demand increases and adjusts as baby eats less. That being said, it remains possible that a baby can need more than a mom is making at a given time. La Leche League International has a wonderful resource on their website called “How Can I Tell If My Baby Is Getting Enough Milk?” to help you determine if there is a problem.

Hydration

One very simple way to boost your milk supply is to boost your water intake.   Water won’t contribute to overall milk volume, but staying properly hydrated will keep you focused and feeling your best. When Baby is still very young you may find that you are very, very thirsty whenever you breastfeed. Make a point of keeping a bottle of water within easy reach whenever you sit down to feed. You can drink herbal teas too, but try to avoid caffeine, as well as sugary pops and juices which offer very little in the way of nutritional value.

Beta Carotene

Looking for a quick and easy snack? Carrots are really rich in Beta Carotene which converts to Vitamin A once ingested. The German Nutrition Society suggests a 90% increase in vitamin A for breastfeeding women and The American Pediatrics Association cites vitamin A as one of the most critical vitamins during pregnancy and the breastfeeding period, especially in terms of lung function and maturation. Slice some carrots into sticks and keep ‘em nearby!

Galactagogues

This fancy word is derived from the Greek root word galaktos, or gala—note it’s resemblance to gaia (earth)—and is a name given to herbs that support lactation in nursing mothers. Herbs under the galactagogue umbrella include Anise, Fennel, Fenugreek, Alfalfa, Blessed Thistle, Goat’s Rue, Nettle, Hops, Borage, and Red Raspberry Leaf to name a few. The herbs are ingested after brewing the leaf into tea or distilling into a tincture.

Fenugreek

Fenugreek is technically a galactagogue herb, but it’s so special that it needs its own heading. Fenugreek is a strong herb and when taken in large amounts can also help lower blood sugar levels (so should be avoided by diabetics). Fenugreek is sold in bulk, in capsules, or in ready-made teas and comes with the caveat that it should be used consistently for best results, otherwise you run the risk of actually decreasing your supply over time. Fun fact: When taking Fenugreek, you may notice that your body is putting out a fragrance, not unlike maple syrup. This is normal and a sign that you are on the right track to rectifying any lactation issues.

Sesame Seeds

These little powerhouses are full of calcium and polyunsaturated fat. Whip up a tasty smoothie with this recipe, or experiment with adding Tahini to your cooking. It’s incredibly versatile and very tasty!

Oatmeal

Delicious, nutritious, and filling, oatmeal is quite possibly the perfect mommy breakfast. An excellent source of iron, oatmeal can increase milk production for women who are experiencing low-iron levels–often a culprit behind low milk supply. Other green, leafy vegetables with relatively high iron contents (eg. spinach) are also valuable sources of iron. Let food be your medicine!

Herbal Teas

There are a lot of “milk teas” on the market, so when making a selection look for one that delivers the desired effects.

Blending certified organic ingredients such as, Fennel, Anise, Caraway Seed,  and Fenugreek, Rumina’s Abundance tea —so-named in honour of the Roman goddess of breastfeeding  encourages milk production. Another positive effect is that those same herbs also warm the digestive system and can help prevent colic in the breastfed baby.

Foods to Avoid

Not all foods are ideal for increasing or maintaining milk supply.

If you are a peppermint tea fan you may find that you produce less milk. There is little evidence that a single cup would affect you, but if you do have a taste for peppermint you may want to take note in case you experience dips in supply.

Nibbling on parsley won’t do any damage but remember that parsley is a diuretic and should not be taken in large amounts.  The same applies to sage and oregano, which does not rule them out as seasoning in your turkey dinner, but would apply when eating large amounts of them in case that you like to do that kind of thing.

If you find that your baby is fussy or especially gassy after nursing you may need to take a look at your own dairy diet. For example, dairy is one of the first food groups to get cut out of a nursing mother’s diet. Dairy can also affect Baby’s skin, worsening conditions such as eczema.

As if possibly cutting out dairy isn’t bad enough, you may also want to cut back on caffeine–if you haven’t already. A strong diuretic, caffeine can have a dehydrating effect on you and can get to baby through your milk, affecting baby’s irritability and fussiness.

Sarah Cosman

Cosman & Webb Townships Organic, Bury, Quebec, Canada