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Whether you're a new mom or a mom to be, breastfeeding is probably on your radar. From picking out nursing bras to preventing sore nipples, you're learning everything you can to prepare for your baby. The number one focus, though, is probably increasing or maintaining your milk supply. Feeling in the dark about low milk supply is totally normal, and getting used to feeding your baby takes time!
We’ve all heard the various tips and tricks for increasing milk supply. There are several options you can try, from power pumping to breast massage. If you’re seeing no progress after giving everything a shot, you’re not alone. Have you ever thought about how food can impact milk supply?
Foods that stimulate milk production are called galactagogues and have been used for centuries by new moms striving to enhance the lactation process. These foods contain nutritional vitamins, minerals, and various chemical properties that can help increase milk production.Read on to learn which foods increase breast milk and what foods to avoid.
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Breast milk is not directly made from the food you eat, it’s made in the breasts! But, the types of food you eat can affect the milk production process. In fact, what you eat may change the taste of your breast milk for your baby. When you digest something, it is broken down into small molecules that are absorbed into your bloodstream. The molecules circulate through the breast tissues, and eventually move into the alveoli (milk producing) cells and into your breast milk. Because your baby is exposed to what you put into your body, it’s important to eat a wide variety of foods because this may help smooth out the transition to solids later on.
“Eating a balanced variety of foods provides the best overall nutrition for your baby, especially if you are exclusively breastfeeding, the more variety you consume, the wider the range of vitamins and other nutrients your baby will receive,” says Wendy Wright, IBCLC.
Because your baby feeds off the nutrients you eat, it’s important to have a well-rounded and robust diet to make sure you're eating all of the right foods to fuel both you and your baby. You’ll be more hungry while nursing, so don’t bother counting calories! Eat when you’re hungry and make sure to incorporate a variety of meats, veggies, dairy, and grains into your meals.
Remember that all mamas produce different amounts of milk, and the amount that you produce is just right for your baby. Gauging the level of milk you're producing is based off of your baby's health. A baby that isn't eating enough may show signs of:
Infrequent poops and pees: Babies should be filling their diapers every 2-3 hours. If your baby isn't filling diapers, they are likely dehydrated and it may be time to check your milk supply.
No weight gain: Babies grow 5-7 ounces per week depending on their age. If your baby is not meeting the healthy growth checkmarks, it is a cause for concern.
No swallowing: Watch to see if your baby is swallowing during each feeding. If they aren't swallowing at all, they may not be properly expressing milk.
Most foods can’t affect the true quality of your breast milk, but there are foods that can help to increase your milk supply. These foods contain vital compounds and minerals that are thought to help stimulate milk production. It’s important to remember that while many of these foods have been beneficial for plenty of moms, there is a lack of published research behind foods and their impact on breast milk production. If you’re having trouble with milk supply, it won’t hurt to add some of these new foods into your daily diet after consulting your doctor.
Whole grains like barley and brown rice are nutritious and contain powerful properties that have proven to increase prolactin, one of the important hormones in breast milk production. Barley and brown rice can be easily added to a variety of different meals to create a healthy and filling diet to increase milk supply.
From your classic bowl of oats to an oat milk matcha, oats are a great source of iron. Insufficient iron levels have proven to inhibit breast milk production, so eat your oats while you can!
Any lean meat is a great source of iron and protein which has proven to increase milk supply. Eating lean meat during nursing in general is recommended to fuel both you and your baby.
Studies show that there is possible correlation between adding garlic and other aromatic ingredients to your diet and increasing milk supply. Because of this, garlic is a popular food that many nursing moms swear by! Garlic is a great ingredient to add to any delicious dinner, so this is a fairly simple food to incorporate into your life.
Pack some apricots and other dried fruits for your midday snack! Dried fruits are packed with healthy nutrients, and they also contain tryptophan which is known to increase prolactin levels.
We know that protein is necessary for milk production, and chickpeas are one of the highest protein sources out of any plant. Chickpeas can be added to virtually any meal for a great source of protein and tastiness!
Incorporating safe herbs into your diet can help boost your milk supply:
Fenugreek: These aromatic seeds are the most common herb used for increasing milk supply. Fenugreek contains compounds similar to estrogen and has proven to be successful for moms, however there is a lack of scientific evidence on whether or not it is truly effective.
Holy basil: Add this herb to your favorite pasta dish for a heavenly flavor. Plus, it is believed to increase milk supply!
Ginger: Fresh ginger is incredibly healthy and is great in any dish. Fresh ginger has been linked to increased milk supply and encourages the milk let down process.
Seeds and nuts are nutrient and protein-rich, perfect for increasing your milk supply:
Almonds: Almonds are packed with proteins and antioxidants which are great for your health, and for milk production. Toss a handful in your trail mix for the perfect snack!
Flaxseed: Flaxseeds have phytoestrogens that are influential in lactation. Flaxseeds can be sprinkled on tasty salads and can be incorporated into dessert recipes for an extra healthy bite.
Brewer's yeast: Brewer’s yeast is a known galactagogue, but there is little scientific evidence that it is effective for increasing milk supply. However, plenty of women swear by it. Brewer’s yeast can be found in beer, bread, and nutritional supplements.
Pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds are rich with Zinc, a vital nutrient for supporting your immune system, and your baby’s! Studies show that low zinc levels can affect milk supply, so it’s important to eat it when you can.
Fennel seeds: Fennel seeds are known to help with digestion and are one of the oldest natural methods for increasing milk supply. Similar to flaxseed, fennel seeds contain phytoestrogens that boost the milk production process. Fennel can be added to tea, soup, or as a seasoning to any meal.
Leafy greens are an excellent source of protein and calcium, both of which are key nutrients for boosting the lactation process. Greens like spinach, kale, and fenugreek leaves are perfect for any salad. Moms are advised to eat dark leafy greens at least 1-2 times a day for a well-rounded diet that enhances lactation.
While water is not a solid food, staying hydrated is crucial for boosting lactation. When you are lactating you are constantly losing fluids. Keep a water bottle by your side and keep sipping! The more that you stay on a hydration regimen, the more likely you are to produce a robust milk supply.
Paying attention to what you shouldn’t put in your body is just as important as paying attention to what you should, especially during breastfeeding. Here are some foods to avoid during breastfeeding:
In reality, you can drink alcohol while nursing, but be careful not to overindulge. 1 drink a day is the CDC guideline or how much you can drink without it having any negative effects on your breast milk. Remember that if you choose to drink more, some alcohol will appear in your breast milk. If you drink too much while breastfeeding, the rule of thumb is to wait two hours after you have a drink to breastfeed again. Just keep some breastmilk on hand either in the refrigerator or have some frozen if you know you’re going to have a few drinks!
Similar to alcohol, caffeine in moderation should not be a problem for you or your baby. However, remember that caffeine is a stimulant!. If you’re drinking your morning, afternoon and evening java, your baby may feel the effects of your coffee habit.
Eating these herbs in large amounts has proven to decrease milk supply, similar to using any prescription medications. If you eat these herbs occasionally within meals or tea, you should be just fine.
While there is not much scientific evidence to back whether certain foods increase or decrease milk supply, moms for centuries have been trying different methods to help boost the lactation process. It is not necessary to regulate what you eat during lactation, but it is always important to be mindful of creating a well-rounded daily diet that fuels both you and your baby. If you want to learn more about the steps you can take to have a positive nursing experience, check out our pumps to learn more about how Willow can help with everything you need - including your insurance benefits!
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