Becoming a mother is an overwhelming life change no matter how prepared you may feel. You read the books, chatted with friends, grilled your OB/GYN and your child’s future pediatrician, and yet nothing prepares you for motherhood quite like being handed your newborn child.
Your expectations for breastfeeding your baby are often amiss as you discover your baby and body have plans of their own.
With breastfeeding rates on the rise in the United States, there are a lot of resources for lactating mothers to get support during their breastfeeding journey. Lactation consultants and breastfeeding groups can offer advice to help a woman achieve her breastfeeding goals and ensure her baby is thriving.
But what if your milk supply needs a little boost? Research suggests there are foods that help increase breast milk supply and are rich in nutrients (known as galactogogues).
If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you need to consume about 350 to 500 additional calories per day. You want to eat foods that will not only provide the calorie boost you need for breastfeeding, but foods that offer beneficial nutrients for both you and your baby. Remember quality calories over quantity!
If you’re looking for a boost to your milk supply, these five foods may help.
What Foods Help Produce Breast Milk?
Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach are packed with nutrients, including calcium. Spinach also contains phytoestrogens that have shown a positive effect on breast milk production.
Not a fan of spinach? Foods like broccoli, soy, chickpeas, and flaxseed also contain phytoestrogens that help increase milk production. Flaxseed also contains essential fatty acids, an important healthy fat vital to the development of an infant’s brain. Try this homemade, delicious lactation cookie made with ground flaxseeds.
2. Lean meats, poultry, and fish
Although there is no research with direct evidence that consuming meat increases breast milk supply, lean beef, pork, and poultry are top sources of iron – which is one of the most vital nutrients to your body. Breastfeeding and pumping moms also need extra protein to fuel the production of their milk supply.
Low-mercury fish such as salmon, tilapia, pollock, and skipjack tuna are a few choices to get your iron and protein intake. Ensuring your body has enough iron can help eliminate fatigue and is vital to immune system function, which is very important to a sleep-deprived mother.
To further boost a healthy immune system and enhance the absorption of iron, drinking a glass of orange juice or other juice high in vitamin C with your meal will enhance the absorption of iron.
3. Whole grains like oatmeal
Pumping and breastfeeding mothers have relied on oatmeal for generations to keep their breast milk supply flowing. Why? There is research that beta-glucan, a soluble fiber, found in oatmeal are believed to contribute to increased prolactin levels and milk supply.
Additionally, oatmeal is a healthy source of carbohydrates and is also high in iron. Half a cup of dry oats provides about 2 mg of iron, or about 20 percent of a breastfeeding woman’s daily need.
Low levels of iron are known to inhibit milk production. If you’re not a fan of a good old-fashioned bowl of slow-cooked oatmeal, blend oats in your morning smoothie, or try other whole grains like brown rice or barley. Try this 30-minute quick and nutritious baked sweet potato oatmeal dish.
This leafy vegetable is in the carrot family and has long been considered as a galactagogue. It can be found in teas and other supplements for breastfeeding mothers to encourage milk production, but it is totally appropriate to cook it up by itself.
You can find it at your local specialty grocer and is delicious roasted, tossed in salads, or simply sliced and served with dip. The taste of fennel is commonly compared to that of black licorice, so make sure you’re a fan of the flavor before you buy a bunch. Try this easy, 30-minute warm fennel salad.
5. Brewer’s Yeast
Brewer’s yeast is a very healthy nutritional supplement that contains B vitamins, iron, protein, chromium, selenium, and other minerals. Consuming brewer’s yeast for increased breast milk production is yet another case of traditional wisdom.
Find it at your local natural foods store and mix in with baked goods or toss in your smoothie.
Most importantly, drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated while breastfeeding is essential. Not drinking enough water causes dehydration, which in turn inhibits milk production. In addition to drinking plenty of water, try to eat foods that are naturally rich in water, such as fruits and vegetables.
Fueling your body with nutritious foods while breastfeeding can help provide nutrient-rich milk to your baby and help you maintain a healthy milk supply. It is important not to stress about your milk production and it is always best to consult with your doctor if you are concerned your baby isn’t getting enough milk.
Breastfeeding is a marathon, not a sprint, so make sure you are giving your body the nourishment it needs.
This is a list of a few of my favorite lactation recipes. Most of the recipes are quick, easy, and nutritious for busy moms. All recipes were curated and developed by Registered Dietitians.
- Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Smoothie
- Banana Nut Oat Muffins
- Easy No Bake Lactation Bites Recipe
- Peanut Butter Banana Overnight Oats
- Carrot Cake Overnight Oats
- Homemade Vanilla Almond Granola
- Best Lactation Cookies
- Warm Fennel Salad with Grapes and Feta
Found a recipe you want to make? Click on the click above!