If you’re nursing and struggling to keep up with demand, one question that’s likely to cross your mind is, ‘What are the best lactation foods?’
Breastfeeding comes with its own unique set of challenges, especially in those first few months while you settle into a routine. Being a new mom means that you’re probably facing feelings of self-doubt, frustration, and lacking confidence. All these feelings are absolutely normal!
There is a wealth of information concerning nutrition and lactation, but picking through it all can be confusing. Hence, I’ve put together some of the best foods to help with lactation, that will benefit you and your baby.
What Causes a Low Milk Supply?
There are a number of reasons why you may be suffering from a low milk supply. Here are a few of the most common:
Less Frequent Feeding
If you’re not breastfeeding frequently enough, your supply will drop in order to match the demand. Feeding your newborn as and when they want allows your body to produce enough milk to satisfy their hunger.
Generally, this means that your newborn should be feeding anywhere from eight to twelve times in the space of 24 hours.
This is one of the most common causes of low milk supply, and I, for one, had difficulties, so can appreciate why it can be tricky. If your baby is struggling to latch on correctly, your body will not receive the milk-producing signals that it needs.
Some health conditions can affect lactation, such as diabetes and anemia. And, if you’ve had breast surgery for medical or cosmetic reasons — it can also interfere with your milk supply — potentially causing issues with the formation of tissue.
After having a baby, planning another one is usually the last thing on your mind. So, no doubt you’re taking precautions, which could be in the form of hormonal birth control pills.
However, the bad news is that this type of contraception — particularly a form that contains estrogen — can cause a drop in your milk supply. It doesn’t happen to everyone but something that you may need to consider and possibly find an alternative if you’re taking a pill that contains this hormone.
Is Your Milk Supply Low?
Experiencing a low milk supply can be tough, but even more so during the first few weeks. Your baby may be struggling to get enough milk. This may be because she is not feeding for long enough or even often enough.
But there are signs you can watch out for if you suspect low milk production:
Poor Weight Gain
Remember that it’s perfectly normal for newborns to lose a percentage of their birth weight in the first few days — some can lose up to 10 percent, but the average is around five to seven percent. After that, they should start gaining weight steadily at around 1 ounce (20 to 30 grams) per day.
If your baby isn’t putting on weight at this rate, you may want to consult a medical practitioner.
Lack of Wet and Dirty Diapers
The number of wet and dirty diapers your baby produces in a 24 hour period is always a good indicator of whether they’re getting enough milk. For a breastfed baby, they should be making roughly six wet diapers and two dirty ones in 24 hours.
Some of the signs to watch for in your baby are dark-colored urine, dry mouth, jaundice, lethargy, and a refusal to feed. These all mean that your little one could be dehydrated. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
How To Increase Breast Milk Naturally At Home
There are a variety of ways you can increase breast milk supply. To give you an idea, take a look through this list:
- Start breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth.
- At the start of your breastfeeding journey, you should feed often — around eight to 12 times a day.
- The latch is key. Ensure that you check it’s correct every time you feed.
- Offer both breasts to your baby at each feed.
- Don’t skip feeding sessions, but if you have to, you should pump to keep up your milk supply.
- Consider holding back on giving your baby a pacifier or at least until they’re three to 4 weeks old.
- Certain medications can impact your milk supply. These include medicines that contain pseudoephedrine and some hormonal contraceptives.
- Avoid alcohol or nicotine — both decrease your milk supply.
- Consume plenty of foods that support lactation.
- Make sure you drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
Top 20 Best Foods To Increase Milk Supply
Before we hit my best foods for breastfeeding moms, I’d like to explain something.
You see, all these lactation-enhancing foods have something in common — they fall into a group called galactagogues. While this term may sound more at home in a Star Trek movie — it refers to a substance that increases breast milk supply.
So, now I’ve divulged that essential piece of information, here are some of the best lactation foods you should be including in your diet. Don’t forget, they also help to provide a great variety of vitamins and minerals. All of which are essential to your baby’s development.
1. Dried Apricots
High in fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium and calcium — dried apricots make for an amazing food to snack on. They also contain prolactin-boosting tryptophan, plus, their natural sugar content means they’re ideal for a busy-mom energy boost.
We all know that blueberries are a superfood — they contain one of the highest amounts of antioxidants of all fruits. These are then passed onto your baby through your milk, helping to fight free radicals that can damage cellular DNA.
Strawberries are another fantastic berry that’s also a great source of vitamin C, and with a high water content, consuming them will top up your hydration levels. Remember, to avoid fatigue and keep up milk supply, remaining hydrated is crucial for nursing mothers.
3. Green Papayas
Unripe or green papaya is one of the best galactagogues going. It contains carotenoids that help with the absorption of vitamin A and beta carotene, both of which are key for nursing mothers.
Papaya can also be incorporated into your diet in a range of ways, from smoothies or just a great healthy snack to eat on its own.
While you’re breastfeeding, you need an increased amount of vitamin C. Oranges are one fruit loaded with this nutrient.
Vitamin C plays a crucial role in boosting the immune system, growing teeth, muscles, and bones in babies. The best way to ensure that they’re getting enough is through your breastmilk.
What’s more, if you don’t have the time to sit to eat an orange — drink one instead. Grab some freshly squeezed OJ and sip that as you crack on with your day.
Go bananas with this potassium-laden fruit. If you’re breastfeeding, you need around 2800 mg per day for you and your baby. This mineral will help to keep your fluids and electrolytes balanced.
And, if you’re always on the move, a banana is top of the fruits for carrying convenience.
Carrots contain beta carotene, which is an antioxidant that your body then converts to vitamin A. This promotes good vision but is also important for growth, development and your little one’s immune system.
Vitamin B6 is another reason to include carrots on your plate — it’s a nutrient that helps convert your food into energy. Hence, carrots are a great way of supplying this additional energy that breastfeeding moms need to increase lactation.
The primary ingredient of guacamole, avocados are packed with protein, potassium, vitamin K and folate, which helps cell growth and brain function. While high in fat, it’s of the healthy kind and they’re low-carb too.
You can spread it on toast, mix it into salads, and of course, if you love Mexican cuisine, avocado is the perfect accompaniment to tortillas, nachos, or fajitas.
Besides its use in beer, barley is also one of the richest sources of beta-glucan. This is known to increase prolactin which is the breastfeeding hormone. It’s super versatile and can be added to a range of different meals such as soups, salads and even stews.
A breakfast staple in my home, oats also contain a high concentration of beta-glucan. This whole grain is fiber, protein and carbohydrate-dense, includes B vitamins and is high in minerals like iron.
Whole oats are the only food source containing a unique antioxidant that is said to protect against heart disease — another reason to include them in your diet.
Again, these are really easy to work into your diet on a regular basis, even though they can be a little bland by themselves. They’re perfect for adding to home-baked muffins, cookies, or you can even sprinkle them on top of your yogurt.
10. Brewer’s Yeast
Brewer’s yeast has been used for generations as a nutritional supplement. It contains high concentrations of iron, selenium, chromium, protein, and vitamin B making it a brilliant way to boost your milk supply. It also passes easily into your breast milk which is a good thing. But be wary of how much you use as it can cause your little one gas, so use sparingly.
11. Sweet Potatoes
A root vegetable that’s also a first-rate complex carbohydrate. Sweet potatoes contain vitamin A. This nutrient is essential for the development of vision, cell and bone growth, and immune function. They’re also a great source of potassium and fiber.
You can bake, roast or mash, and they make a terrific alternative to french fries. Plus, they’re an awesome addition to a curry.
12. Dark Leafy Greens
The great galactagogue greens of spinach, kale and broccoli. They’re also one of the best sources of protein, iron, and vitamins — all of which are essential nutrients for both you and your baby.
For a quick and hassle-free meal, throw them into a stir fry or an omelet. They can even be added to soups and smoothies.
Okra often has a strange slimy texture and this means many people don’t enjoy it. But there are plenty of ways in which you can reap the benefits by adding it to recipes — making it taste better and even hiding the strange texture.
It’s high in folate (vitamin B9) and is also a rich source of niacin (vitamin B3), thiamine (Vitamin B1), potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Use it to beef up stews, soups and casseroles, Okra will even work well in a gumbo or grilled as a side dish.
14. Beans and Legumes
As a breastfeeding mom, beans are an amazing addition to your diet. Containing protein, fiber, iron and phytochemicals — these plant-based compounds help to stimulate your immune system, regulate your hormone levels, and also increase your milk production.
They’re another super-easy food item to add to your diet as they can be added to dips, chili, or casseroles.
Even though garlic is a well-known galactagogue it does have an exceptionally strong odor and should be consumed in moderation. There is also no research to back up the claims that it helps to increase lactation — but many women swear by it.
Fenugreek for breast milk is perfect — its seeds are full of phytoestrogens that help with the production of milk. For every spoonful you consume, you’ll be receiving minerals like iron, magnesium and calcium as well as a good helping of fiber.
However, even though it’s a really useful food to eat while you’re nursing, for people with diabetes, legume allergy, or heart/thyroid problems — it’s best avoided.
Packed full of vitamins and minerals, these seeds have earned their superfood status. They contain high levels of calcium, plant-based protein, fiber, and magnesium, along with a generous content of omega-3 fatty acids.
This surprising mix of nutrients will help you and your baby to feel fuller for longer. They also taste pretty good and can easily be incorporated into your diet.
These seeds are another superfood on our list. This time because of their high levels of healthy fats — omega-3 fatty acids — and protein. They’re also a substantial source of vitamin E as well as zinc and iron.
Sprinkle them on your breakfast, salads or add them into dips for a nutrition boost.
19. Lactation Cookies
These are a fantastic way to fit in some of those foods that are good for you but may not be on your favorite list. Many lactation cookies include brewer’s yeast, chia seeds, oats and fenugreek.
You can find them in convenient ready-to-eat packs or if you fancy a baking day, you could make your own. You can add anything that you like — such as blueberries, apricot, and strawberries to give your lactation a lift.
20. Nursing Teas
Ok, so these aren’t technically a food, but they could help with lactation, so I feel they’re worthy of a mention.
These teas are herbal — including ingredients like milk thistle, fenugreek and blessed thistle. While some contain a single herb, other blends include a combination of herbs and supplements.
Another plus for lactation teas is that, not only do they help with your milk supply, but they help to keep you hydrated and feeling relaxed.
Every mom’s breastfeeding journey is extremely personal, and no two women will have the same experience. But many women suffer from lactation issues and often seek ways to help them increase their milk supply in a natural way at home.
The list I’ve put together includes some of the best lactation foods, but they also provide you with a diverse range of nutritional benefits — all required for the healthy development of your baby and your health.
Lactation Foods FAQ
Which Food Helps To Increase Breast Milk?
Take a look at my top 20, and you will find a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and beans to bump up your supply.
Does Sunflower Lecithin Increase Milk Supply?
Organic sunflower lecithin is a natural fat emulsifier. This can help to prevent the breast ducts from blocking. They don’t help to increase your milk supply but will help to keep your milk flowing without any blockages.
What Food To Increase Breast Milk?
Foods such as dark leafy vegetables, fruits such as strawberries and blueberries are all ideal for helping to increase your milk supply. Fenugreek for milk production is also recommended.
How To Increase Milk Supply?
Many nursing moms find themselves asking, ‘How to increase milk supply naturally?’ As we’ve discussed, there are a few different ways of doing this but the most successful seems to be a combination of good nutrition and increased feeding or pumping sessions.