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10 Healthy Foods To Help Lactation & Increase Breast Milk Supply

The experience of pregnancy is unique for each expecting mom. Similarly, the experiences that come along after childbirth are also different for everyone. For example, for some moms, the breast milk supply kicks in from day one, while for some, it takes from a few days to even 1 – 2 weeks to establish a breast milk supply. This article aims to help moms who are struggling with the supply issue. So, let us understand if there are options for foods to increase breast milk quickly!

Foods To Increase Breast Milk Supply – Is It A Possibility? 

If you are wondering if there is any food to increase breast milk supply, the good news is, YES, certain foods can help have a better breast milk supply for new moms. Of course, a balanced diet and adequate intake of water and fluids is a must, which usually ensures that one has enough breastmilk supply. But sometimes, it might take a while to have a proper supply due to lifestyle and food habits. This is where certain foods to increase breast milk can come in handy. In later sections of this article, we will talk about such food for breast milk and its benefits. 

Healthy Foods To Avoid While Breastfeeding

Before we dive deep into the topic of food to increase milk supply, let us understand certain food/edibles that one should avoid during breastfeeding, as they can lower the breastmilk supply or can harm you or your baby while breastfeeding. Lactating mothers should avoid the consumption of alcohol or caffeine while breastfeeding. Over-the-counter, supplements can also be harmful. For any supplements or medicine, while breastfeeding, it is advised to consult your doctor. Packaged food and processed food are also not great food choices while breastfeeding. 

Best Food Items For Lactating & Breastfeeding Moms 

Even if you have a good milk supply and do not need specific foods to increase breast milk, you will still need to eat healthily. Here are some foods that are beneficial for lactating & breastfeeding mothers. 

  • ◾ Green and leafy vegetables
  • ◾ Seasonal fruits and salads
  • ◾ Nuts and seeds
  • ◾ Dairy products
  • ◾ Vitamins in the form of eggs, beans, fish or poultry
  • ◾ Whole grains like barley, ragi, etc. 
  • ◾  8 – 10 Glasses of fluids per day

Top 10 Lactogenic Food Items To Increase Breast Milk Supply 

Here is a list of known food to increase breast milk supply – 

  1. 1. Fennel & Fenugreek Seeds – The most common breast milk increase food that older women traditionally swear by are fennel and fenugreek seeds. Both of these contain phytoestrogens and are known to be the best foods to increase breast milk supply. Add it to boiled water, to tea or eat them roasted or raw. 
  2. 2. Barley – The hormone responsible for producing breast milk is known as prolactin. Barley is one of the richest dietary sources of beta-glucan, a polysaccharide that increases prolactin.  
  3. 3. Oatmeal & Oats Milk – Yet another superfood for breastfeeding mammas. Oats, too, have a higher concentration of dietary beta-glucan and are known to help new moms establish a better supply of breast milk. 
  4. 4. Whole Grains – Apart from Barley & Oats, Wheat and Rice are also high in beta-glucan and can help better breast milk production. 
  5. 5. Garlic – Although there is no medical study that supports the theory that garlic is one of the foods to increase breast milk, for ages, many moms swear by the benefits of 2 – 3 cloves of garlic in food every day for breastfeeding moms. 
  6. 6. Papaya -  is a superfood that is also great for your gut; consume it raw or ripe, cook it into a soup, or make a salad out of it. In addition, papaya is a super fruit and is among the known foods to increase breast milk supply in new moms. 
  7. 7. Holy Basil – Also known as Talsi, Holy Basil is India's trusted kitchen herb used in tea and water for generations to help lactating mothers improve their milk supply.  
  8. 8. Apricots – Rich in calcium and fibers, Apricots are beneficial both during pregnancy and after delivery. They are known to help stabilize hormonal imbalance and help with low milk supply. 
  9. 9. Moringa – Drumsticks or Moringa are rich in iron and calcium. It is believed that the calcium content in it aids in increasing breast milk supply. Apart from adding the drumsticks to your daily food, you can also try a tea made from moringa leaves or ask your doctor if you can use Moringa capsules. 
  10. 10. Water & Milk – If a lactating mother's body is dehydrated, she will not produce adequate milk for her newborn child. Thus consuming sufficient water, milk, and other fluids also help in establishing a good supply of milk. 

Top 3 Anti-lactogenic Food Items

On the other hand, here are some foods that should be avoided as they lower the supply of milk for new moms – 

  1. 1. Alcohol – Alcohol releases oxytocin, and many nursing mothers experience a letdown in milk supply after consuming alcohol. A glass of wine or a pint of beer is OK, but do not indulge in a long-term and significant consumption of alcohol. 
  2. 2. Caffeine – A cup of coffee or tea will not hurt you during your pregnancy or breastfeeding journey. But your doctor will advise you to cut down on caffeine, as it is a big anti-lactogenic food, dehydrates you, and lowers your milk supply. 
  3. 3. Peppermint or Menthol – Consuming peppermint or menthol in a minimal quantity might not have a significant effect, but these are also present in many gums, candies, and mouth fresheners; consuming it in large quantities can lower your breast milk supply. 

Stress – The Biggest Enemy Of A Breastfeeding Mother

New moms often worry about their breast milk supply, while there is nothing really to be worried about. Stress can further decrease your breast milk supply, and your stress and anxiety can indirectly affect your baby's health as well. So, instead of stressing over low supply, relax, focus on healthy eating and consuming adequate fluids, and consult an expert for help if needed. 

Other Factors Affecting Breast Milk Supply 

There are a lot of different factors apart from food and nutrition that affect the breast milk supply for a new mom. However, here are a few things that you will need to keep in mind.(1)

  • ◾ Sleep – A new mother's body is exhausted and recuperating from childbirth experience. Feeding and raising a little one is not easy. Thus you need a good 8 – 9 hours of sleep every day. Disturbed or less sleep can stress you out and affect your breastmilk supply too. 
  • ◾ Water Intake – Consuming more water does not ensure more breastmilk supply. But not consuming enough water means that you will notice a reduction in the supply, and you might feel exhausted more often.  
  • ◾ Pumping vs Breastfeeding – The natural suckling motions while feeding stimulate the breasts and help produce milk faster. This can not be replicated while expressing or pumping the milk. Thus there will be a difference in the quality of milk  
  • ◾ Medicine – If you are on any medication that disrupts your natural hormonal balance, that can also result in a low milk supply. Make sure your doctor knows about every medicine that you consume during pregnancy and after childbirth. 

The bottom line is your body is naturally capable of producing adequate milk for your baby's nutritional needs. But in case there is a low supply issue, your kitchen and some superfoods that are known foods to increase breast milk are at your rescue. 

Questions Breastfeeding Parents Usually Ask

Q1 – I am already breastfeeding my older child. Will breastfeeding two children decrease my milk supply?

A mother's body can increase the breast milk supply as the demand goes up. This is because it adjusts to the need for growing kids, feeding twins or multiple kids, etc. So you don't have to worry; your milk supply will be sufficient to breastfeed both your babies. 

Q2 – My baby cluster feeds a lot during growth spurts. Will my milk be enough for her?

Milk production in the human body is dependent on demand. So do not worry; no matter how many times your baby feeds, your milk will be sufficient for her. 

Q3 – I have heard garlic is among the foods to increase breast milk supply but will consuming garlic change the taste of my breast milk too? 

Yes, strong-smelling foods can indeed change the taste of your breast milk. But your baby has already gotten used to these tastes while inside the womb as they swallow the amniotic fluid. So this does not in any way have any effect on the quality of your breastmilk. 

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