Going through it myself, I’ve been reading for the past few weeks on nursing and on foods that help increase breast milk supply. Before I get into the foods, let’s set something straight first. Milk supply is based on demand; the more frequent you nurse, the more milk your body makes. That’s the single most important tip for nursing moms. Lifestyle habits like reducing stress and getting good sleep also help with breast feeding success.
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Back to the foods, I must say that for most of them, the benefit is anecdotal or folklore, rather than based on scientific evidence.
- Fluids. You need to drink. Period. I always get extremely thirsty while I nurse, and I wonder if this is my body’s natural way to remind me to drink. Water is an excellent way to hydrate, but if you only drink water–according to a friend–breast milk can become too water or light, which may not keep your baby full. Drink low fat milk and 100% juice for some fat and more nutrients.
- Fenugreek. It seems to be the most common herb touted to increase breast milk supply. While sold in supplement form, fenugreek can be found as powder, like any other spice, and can be used in cooking. Fenugreek teabags are available but seem to be too bitter and not as effective. I tried fenugreek with my first baby and it didn’t work, but I’ve met women who can confirm its magic. The downside of fenugreek is maple-smelling sweat and urine. Some women are ok with it, I personally was not. Read more about fenugreek’s safety and dosage.
- Oatmeal. A friend of mine told me about oatmeal, saying that all carbs in general increase breast milk. One day after having oatmeal for breakfast, I could confirm that. The best thing about a bowl of oatmeal; if it doesn’t work, it won’t hurt.
- Green leafy vegetables, like parsley. And there isn’t an easier and more delicious way to eat a large amount of parsley other than a bowl of tabbouleh. It’s a staple salad for nursing moms in the Middle East and it worked for me too.
- Caraway. I wrote in my previous post that caraway seeds are thought to help increase breast milk supply, according to folklore in the Middle East. My sister’s professor in pharmacy school denies that though, saying that caraway doesn’t increase the total supply but improves the protein content of breast milk. I couldn’t find any science to support either claims, so I can’t recommend a supplement form. Instead, try the caraway pudding I shared last time. I have a cup almost every day.
- Nuts. Nuts are often recommended for nursing moms. I don’t know if they increase breast milk supply or not, but what I know for sure is that they improve the quality of fat in breast milk. The baby will get the same fats the mom eats, and a handful of nuts can ensure having the healthy ones in your breast milk.
- Seaweed soup. Danielle Omar, registered dietitian, says that Korean women swear by seaweed soup. There has been some buzz lately about the health benefits of seaweed. That’s another blog post.
- Herbs and spices like ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric, dill, basil, marjoram, and fennel.
- Vegetables like carrots, beats, and yams.
- Lactation cookies. Registered dietitian Nicole Ferring Holovach says her friend noticed a small increase in milk production with these cookies. Nicole says the active ingredient is brewer’s yeast. Is it possible that the oats in these cookies help too? Possibly.
- More Milk Special Blend. Registered dietitian Cordialis Msora recommended this blend, saying that she experienced a 50% increase in her milk supply within a few days of using it.”It is a tincture containing goats rue, fenugreek, blessed thistle, nettle and fennel in a grain alcohol mixture. Goats rue is the active ingredient in Galactogil, a drug used in some parts of Europe to increase milk supply.”
What foods have you tried or heard of that help increase breast milk supply?