Best Foods To Boost Breast Milk Supply Naturally

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Best Milk Alternative

Introduction

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and essential bonding experience between a mother and her baby. However, some mothers may face challenges with low milk supply, leading to concerns about providing enough nourishment for their little ones. While there are various factors that can influence milk production, incorporating certain foods into your diet can help naturally boost breast milk supply. In this article, we will explore the best foods to enhance lactation, providing valuable nutrients that support both mother and baby's health.

Top foods that are known to boost breast milk supply

  • Oatmeal and whole grains

Oatmeal is a well-known lactogenic food, rich in iron, fibre, and essential vitamins. It helps increase the levels of prolactin; the hormone responsible for milk production. Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and barley also provide similar benefits. Start your day with a hearty bowl of oatmeal or incorporate whole grains into your meals to support lactation.

  • Fenugreek

Fenugreek is an ancient herb widely used to promote milk production in nursing mothers. It contains phytoestrogens that stimulate milk ducts and enhance milk supply. Fenugreek supplements or tea are popular options, but it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage and ensure it won't interfere with any existing health conditions or medications.

  • Fennel seeds

Fennel seeds have been traditionally used to boost breast milk production. They contain phytoestrogens and other compounds that mimic the estrogen hormone, stimulating milk flow. You can consume fennel seeds directly, add them to your meals, or brew fennel tea to reap the lactation benefits.1

  • Leafy green vegetables

Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are powerhouses of essential nutrients, including calcium, iron, and vitamin A. These nutrients support overall maternal health and contribute to improved milk production. Incorporate these vegetables into salads, smoothies, or stir-fries to enhance your lactation diet.

  • Salmon and fatty fish

Salmon and other fatty fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for brain development in infants and can aid in boosting milk supply. Additionally, they provide high-quality protein and vitamin D. However, be mindful of potential mercury content in certain fish and opt for low-mercury varieties.2

  • Nuts and seeds

Nuts like almonds and seeds such as sesame and flax seeds are rich in essential fatty acids and protein. They can help increase the richness and fat content of breast milk, benefiting the baby's growth and development. Snack on a handful of nuts or sprinkle seeds over your meals to enjoy their lactation benefits.

  • Garlic

Garlic has been linked to increased milk production due to its allicin content. While it may impact the taste of breast milk, many babies do not mind the flavour and continue nursing happily. Embrace garlic in your cooking to support lactation and enjoy its aromatic flavour.

  • Carrots

Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. This vitamin is essential for both mother's and baby's immune systems and eye health. Enjoy raw carrots as a snack or add them to soups and stews to incorporate this lactation-boosting vegetable into your diet.3

Hydration and its role in milk supply

  • The importance of staying hydrated

Staying properly hydrated is vital for breastfeeding mothers as it directly impacts milk production. Dehydration can lead to a decrease in milk volume, affecting your baby's nutritional intake. As you breastfeed, your body uses fluids to produce milk, making it crucial to replenish those fluids to maintain optimal milk supply.

  • Best beverages for breastfeeding mothers

Water is the best beverage for maintaining hydration while breastfeeding. Aim to drink at least eight to ten glasses of water daily, or more if you feel thirsty. Incorporating electrolyte powders or supplements into  plain water can also help boost your hydration. Other healthy options include herbal teas, coconut water, and natural fruit juices such as watermelon. Limit your intake of caffeinated and sugary drinks, as they may lead to dehydration and have potential effects on your baby.4

Meal planning for lactation

Creating a balanced diet for optimal milk production 

A balanced diet is the foundation for successful breastfeeding. Focus on nutrient-dense foods that support lactation and overall maternal health. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your meals.

Sample meal plans incorporating lactation boosting foods

  • Breakfast

Oatmeal with almond milk, topped with fresh berries and flaxseeds. A side of scrambled eggs and spinach.

  • Lunch

Grilled salmon salad with mixed greens, avocado, and a drizzle of olive oil. A slice of whole-grain bread on the side

  • Snack

Greek yoghurt with honey and sliced almonds.

  • Dinner

Quinoa and vegetable stir-fry with tofu or chicken. A glass of watermelon juice.5

Other natural methods to enhance breast milk supply

  • Breastfeeding on demand

Breastfeed your baby whenever they show signs of hunger, as frequent nursing stimulates milk production. Responding promptly to your baby's cues also strengthens the emotional bond between mother and child.

  • Pumping and nursing frequency

Regularly pumping breast milk can help maintain and increase milk supply, especially if you're separated from your baby or need to build a milk stash. Additionally, nursing or pumping on both breasts during feeding sessions can further stimulate milk production.

  • Skin-to-skin Contact and its impact

Skin-to-skin contact between the mother and baby enhances oxytocin release, which is essential for milk ejection. This practice also promotes bonding, reduces stress, and helps regulate the baby's body temperature and heart rate.6

Foods and habits to avoid

  • Foods that might reduce milk supply

Certain foods, like sage, peppermint, and parsley, have been associated with potentially decreasing milk supply. While the impact can vary from person to person, consider avoiding these foods in large quantities if you notice a decrease in milk production.

  • Unhealthy habits that can impact lactation 

Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and certain medications can interfere with breastfeeding and may be harmful to your baby. It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using any medications or substances while breastfeeding.7

Consultation and professional advice:

  • The role of lactation consultants

Lactation consultants are valuable resources for breastfeeding mothers. They offer expert guidance, troubleshooting, and personalised solutions for any breastfeeding challenges you may encounter.

  • Seeking help when experiencing breastfeeding challenges

Breastfeeding can be challenging, and it's okay to seek help when needed. Reach out to a lactation consultant, your healthcare provider, or breastfeeding support groups for assistance and encouragement.8

Conclusion

Breastfeeding is a remarkable journey that requires proper nutrition and care. Including these lactation-boosting foods in your diet can naturally enhance your milk supply and ensure that your baby receives the best nourishment possible. Alongside a balanced diet, maintaining hydration, breastfeeding on demand, and seeking support from a lactation consultant or healthcare professional can further promote successful breastfeeding and a strong bond between mother and baby. Remember that every woman's body is unique, so be patient and kind to yourself as you navigate this precious phase of motherhood.

References

  1. Integration C. Foods That Promote Breast Milk Production. UPMC HealthBeat [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Jul 27]. Available from: https://share.upmc.com/2022/09/foods-to-promote-breastmilk/.
  2. 10 Breastfeeding Superfoods to Increase Milk Supply. Verywell Family [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jul 27]. Available from: https://www.verywellfamily.com/foods-that-increase-breast-milk-supply-431598.
  3. How to increase breast milk: 7 foods to eat. Today’s Parent [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2023 Jul 27]. Available from: https://www.todaysparent.com/baby/breastfeeding/foods-to-increase-breast-milk/.
  4. MD CT. What to Drink to Increase Breast Milk Supply. Zaya Care [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2023 Jul 27]. Available from: https://zayacare.com/blog/drinks-to-increase-breast-milk-supply/.
  5. 11 Nutritious Recipes for Breastfeeding Parents. Healthline [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2023 Jul 27]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/lactation-boosting-recipes.
  6. How to Increase Breast Milk: Home Remedies, Diet, Supplements. Healthline [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2023 Jul 27]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/how-to-increase-breast-milk.
  7. Breastfeeding diet: Nutrition and foods to avoid [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2023 Jul 27]. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322844.
  8. A Lactation Consultant’s Secrets to Increase Your Milk Supply. milkdust [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jul 27]. Available from: https://milkdust.com/blogs/health/a-lactation-consultants-best-tips-to-increase-your-milk-supply.

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Best Milk Alternative
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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Sarah Nadiri

Masters in Cancer, MSc University College London, London

Sarah is a registered biomedical scientist with a specialty in cancer research studies. She has five years experience working in various research facilities such as the Cancer Institute and The Francis Crick Institute. Additionally she has experience working in clinics, in various hospital labs around London and various intermediary care roles within the NHS. She joined Klarity in February and is currently contributing as a medical writer.

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