As a nursing mother, you probably have tons of questions running through your mind. You are concerned about your little one’s health and growth, and want to do nothing less than the best. One of the most important questions that nursing moms have is what to eat during the feeding months that will ensure a good supply of milk.
The nursing phase is one when a mother requires a lot of attention with regards to her food and health. Whatever you eat during this period is crucial to your post-delivery recovery. It will also directly affect the amount of milk that is produced.
How To Increase Breast Milk Supply?
One of the best ways to increase milk supply is to keep on nursing your little one. Your baby suckling at your breast more often is better than any other method to help your body produce more milk.
The emptying of the milk signals your body to increase the milk production. The emptier your breasts are, the faster they produce milk. The fuller your breasts are, the slower they produce milk. Waiting longer between feedings, waiting for your breasts to fill up with more milk is the wrong approach, and will actually lead to your body producing less milk. So feed your baby often to stimulate more milk. If you feel your milk supply stills needs an improvement, then you should consider adding foods that promote milk production. Milk stimulating foods are called galactagogues.
You will start feeding your baby right from birth (unless there are some medical complications.) This means that you need to have all the health and strength to be able to feed baby, as well as help your body recover.
[ Read: Cluster Feeding ]
Top 25 Foods To Increase Breast Milk
There are certain foods that increase breast milk and enhance lactation. Breast milk contains all the prime nutrients required for an overall growth and brain development of a newborn baby. Here is a list of the top 25 foods that you must include in your diet to increase breast milk supply. These foods help in not only increaseing breast milk production, but also you back to health, after your pregnancy and delivery!
Oats are easy to prepare as a meal.
- They are considered to control the occurrence of diabetes during post pregnancy.
- Oatmeal is loaded with energy.
- It contains fiber and is good for your digestion.
- Have a bowl of oat meal for breakfast. If the thought of having oatmeal is not appetizing, you can try having oat cookies instead.
2. Fennel Seeds:
Fennel seeds boost the quantity of your breast milk.
- They are digestives and help control baby-colic.
- Fennel seeds can be added along with seasonings to vegetable fillings. Add them to your tea or boil a few seeds with milk and drink up.
- Pop in a few seeds after a meal as a mouth refresher.
3. Fenugreek Seeds:
Fenugreek seeds are known for boosting breast milk supply.
- Chew on the sprouted seeds along with a glass of milk to prevent post-delivery constipation.
- It enhances your milk quantity.
- Toss in the seeds with seasoning and flavoring.
- Have them for breakfast as a pancake by mixing fenugreek seeds and rice.
[ Read: How To Store Breast Milk ]
4. Unripe Papayas:
Unripe Papayas are part of the South Asian cuisine.
- Papaya has been used as a natural sedative, which may help you to relax and feed baby better.
- Try it as a South Asian salad or toss it with flat noodles.
5. Spinach And Beet Leaves:
Spinach and beet leaves contain iron, calcium and folic acid.
- These are essential for recouping anemic mothers.
- These will help in making your baby strong.
- Spinach and beet leaves contain detoxifying agents.
- Spinach contains certain plant chemicals which could help prevent breast cancer.
- Include these leaves in a midday soup.
- Mix them with dough and make paratha (Indian flat bread) or chapattis for a meal.
- Remember to eat spinach in moderation as too much could cause diarrhea in your baby.
Garlic is considered the best food to increase breast milk, as it is well-known for boosting lactation in nursing mothers.
- It has chemical compounds which help in lactation.
- Garlic consumption prevents all types of cancer.
- Toss in a few stir-fried garlic cloves in your soup.
- Add it in a vegetable of your choice.
- Another option is to stir fry a handful of garlic cloves in ghee and have it with steamed rice, every alternate day.
7. Black Sesame Seeds:
Black Sesame seeds are a rich source of calcium and believed to increase milk supply.
- Blend sesame seeds with milk, sugar and almonds.
- Use in limited quantity, though.
A glass of carrot juice with breakfast or lunch will work wonders in lactation.
- Like spinach, carrots too have lactation promoting qualities.
- It contains Vitamin A which complements lactation and boosts the quality of your milk.
- You can have carrots as raw, steamed or even pureed to a soup.
- In winters, try having pureed carrots stirred with warm milk and sugar.
9. Water And Juices:
Drinking water and juices is supposed to boost lactation. It increases the total milk volume per feed.
- It prevents you from dehydration and replaces fluid lost during lactation.
- Have a glass of water when you are thirsty or even before you begin to nurse your baby.
Barley not only boosts lactation, it also keeps you hydrated.
- You can boil barley and have the water through the day.
- Toss in whole barley with other vegetables with your favorite flavouring.
Asparagus is considered a must-have food for nursing mothers.
- It is a high fibre food.
- It is also high in Vitamin A and K.
- It helps stimulate the hormones in nursing mothers that are essential for lactation.
- Wash and chop asparagus. Boil with milk. Strain and drink for better milk production.
12. Brown Rice:
According to the research paper Increase Breast Milk Supply With Herbal Galactagogues published in the World Journal of Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences, brown rice enhances breast milk production. It has hormone stimulants which boost lactation. It also gives nursing moms the extra energy that is required post delivery. Also, it helps increase the appetite so as to enable the mother to eat nutritious food.
- Soak brown rice for half an hour and pressure cook it. Eat it with vegetables.
During and post pregnancy, there are hormonal imbalance that takes place in your body. Dried apricots have certain chemicals which balance out the hormone levels in your body.
- Apricots are rich in calcium and fibre and help boost lactation.
- Include apricots and walnuts in your oatmeal diet.
Salmon is a great source of EFA (Essential Fatty acids) and Omega-3.
- Both EFA and Omega-3 are highly nutritious and essential for lactating mothers.
- Including salmon in your menu boosts lactation hormones and make your milk more nutritious.
- Opt for steamed, boiled or even grilled salmon.
15. Cumin Seeds:
Cumin seeds boost milk supply. Make sure you have them in moderation though.
- These are appetizers and fat-burners.
- They help avoid digestive irritants like acidity.
- Add a pinch of cumin powder to milk or to butter milk and drink.
[ Read: Breastfeeding Techniques ]
16. Basil Leaves:
Basil leaves are a great source of anti-oxidants.
- Basil leaves have a calming effect which is important while lactating.
- It boosts your little one’s immunity levels.
- Add a few basil sprigs in your tea.
- Leave the sprigs for a while in hot water. Have this water first thing in the morning and experience the effect.
17. Dill Leaves:
Dill leaves look like a bunch of fine, dark green, silky hair. They have a distinct odor.
- Dill leaves are believed to boost milk supply.
- They have a high fibre content and Vitamin K. These helps to replenish the blood loss that happens during delivery.
- Add these to pancakes or to seasoned yoghurt.
18. Bottle Gourd:
Bottle gourd is generally not a preferred vegetable, but is high on nutrition.
- It is a summer vegetable which has high water content. This keeps a nursing mother hydrated.
- It also helps increase milk quantity.
- It is easy to digest and aids in lactation.
- If not as a vegetable filling, you can use it to make a sweet pudding.
- Drink freshly-made bottle gourd juice to help normalize raised blood sugar levels post-delivery. Make sure it is fresh and not stored.
19. Sweet Potato:
Sweet potato is a major source of potassium. It has energy producing carbohydrate which is needed to fight the fatigue.
- It also contains Vitamin C and B-complex and a muscle relaxant mineral that is magnesium.
- Have it with a low fibre diet.
- Make a smoothie of an apple and baked sweet potato.
- Make it as a pudding for dessert.
Almonds are rich in Omega-3 and Vitamin E.
- Vitamin E helps heal itching caused by post pregnancy stretch marks.
- Omega-3 helps lactation boosting hormones to help produce more milk.
- Have crushed almonds with milk for greater effect.
- Add almonds to your bowl of oat meal.
Chickpea is a protein snack and lactation booster for nursing mommies.
- It is a rich source of calcium, B-complex vitamins and fibre.
- Soak chickpeas overnight and boil in the morning. Mash a handful or two into any vegetable salad.
- Snack on a chickpea mash simply garnished with garlic and lemon juice.
Drumstick has high iron and calcium content.
- It is good for lactation.
- It boosts immunity and enhances your nervous system.
- Have it steamed with flavouring if you want.
- Drumstick leaves also can be used along with vegetable fillings.
23. Poppy Seeds (Khuskhus):
It is very important for nursing mothers to relax completely during lactation. Poppy seeds have sedative properties that help you relax and calm down.
- Take caution to include it in a minimum quantity in your diet.
- Poppy seeds help relax your mind and body while nursing.
- Roast poppy seeds and add to puddings and porridges.
24. Cow Milk:
Cow milk has calcium and EFA. It promotes lactation. In fact, by consuming cow milk during lactation, you will help your child avoid developing an allergy to cow milk.
- Add at least two to three glasses of cow milk in your diet.
25. Oils And Fats:
It is recommended to keep fats and oils in your diet to a minimum, post pregnancy.
- Do not avoid fat and oil in your post-delivery diet.
- These are an essential part of lactation. They assist in absorption of vitamins and minerals present in other foods you eat.
- They also aid in easy bowel movement.
- Opt for olive oil, rice bran oil or any heart healthy oil.
- These help in balancing the supply of healthy fat to your baby.
- Other herbs leaves, and roots have been found helpful in increasing your milk supply:
- Anise seed, moringa leaves, shatavari root, goat’s rue, and torbangun leaves. In Indonesia, mothers are fed a soup made of torbangun leaves for one month after delivery. It is believed to help her heal well from delivery and make more breast milk.
- All the above foods have been traditionally used to improve milk flow in new moms. However, while some have scientific backing the others don’t. Consume the foods in limited quantities, and note the side-effects, if any. Also, go for organic products as the pesticide residue in the foods and herbs can increase the lead content in your milk.
Now you know what to eat during lactation, but there are also foods that you should not eat around this time.
Things To Avoid:
Avoid gas-generating foods such as potato, pulses, raw mango and raw banana.
Other foods such as thyme, parsley, peppermint and cabbage leaves are also said to affect your milk production adversely.
If you are a vegan, take nutrient supplements to make sure that you and your baby are not falling short of the essential vitamins and minerals.
[ Read: Foods To Avoid While Breastfeeding ]
Tips To Increase Breast Milk Supply
Many times, mothers assume that the milk supply is low, when it is not. The best way to confirm that the baby is nursing well and you are producing enough milk is by keeping a constant check on the baby’s weight. If you suspect decrease in milk supply and want to increase it, follow these tips.
- Nurse frequently and efficiently: Milk production is a demand and supply process. The more the baby drinks, the higher is the production. Nurse once every two hours. Position the baby properly while nursing so that he latches on well.
- Express milk: If the baby is unable to empty your breasts, express the milk after nursing to maintain the milk supply.
- Nursing vacation:Spend time just nursing your baby for two to three days and do nothing else. Of course, you have to feed yourself and be relaxed.
- Switch sides: Make your baby drink from both the breasts. Switch sides twice or thrice every time you feed. But let the little one finish one breast and then switch to the other. This technique gives fatty ‘hindmilk’ to the baby. Using breast compression helps the baby feed longer.
- Avoid pacifiers and nipple shields: Avoid using pacifiers and nipple shields. Avoid supplements, unless it is medically needed.
- Avoid solids: If the baby is younger than six months, avoid feeding her solids, water, and formula. Breast milk is all that she needs!
- Rest well: Besides eating well, rest well. Consume well-balanced diet and more liquids.
- Stay away from alcohol and nicotine: No surprises here, right? Alcohol and nicotine consumption are harmful not only during but also after pregnancy when you are nursing your little one. Nicotine and alcohol restrict the breast milk supply. These substances can pass into your baby’s body through breast milk and trigger developmental problems.
- Check your medication: If you are taking medicines, find out from your doctor if they are interfering with your milk production. Avoid using hormonal contraceptives right after your delivery.
- Stay calm and relaxed: Believe it or not, stress does play a major role in reducing the milk production. Well, handling a baby can be a tough job, and you may not get enough rest. Seek help from your family so that they babysit while you relax. The key is to stay relaxed by practicing healthy, stress reduction techniques like breathing exercises. These would help ensure a good supply of milk.
- Use the right bra: Wearing a tight bra that compresses your chest region or one that is rigid around the band can affect milk flow. The wrong bra can lead to clogged ducts, blocking milk production.
- Breast massage: Massaging your breast will help open blocked ducts, besides loosening hardened areas or lumps. It does not increase milk production but allows easy flow of milk. It may even lessen the risk of mastitis. Massage gently on the breasts and do it yourself as you can judge the pressure applied:
- When both you and your baby are comfortable and relaxed, give a gentle massage on the chest region, ending towards the nipple.
- Now let your baby suckle. Then massage another breast. Be gentle as vigorous strokes could damage the ducts.
- Nurse skin-to-skin: Go skin-to-skin while nursing . Take off your clothes from the upper part of the body and leave your baby in a diaper, while nursing. Wrap a blanket covering both of you together and begin breastfeeding. The technique promotes bonding and helps in releasing more milk-producing hormones.
- Add pumping sessions: Add pumping sessions in between or after nursing sessions to maintain the milk supply. Pump for at least two to five minutes every time.
The key to speed up milk production is to remove more milk from the breasts, frequently, so that lesser milk accumulates in between the feeds. Here are some tips to increase milk production through pumping.
- Use an automated hospital grade electric pump and pump both the breasts simultaneously.
- Shorten the intervals between pumping, rather than increasing the pumping duration. For instance, pump thrice every 15 to 20 minutes than thrice every half an hour, in case you are away for 8 to 10 hours.
- Follow the ‘massage-stroke-shake’ (M-S-S) pumping technique developed by Chele Marmet, co-director of the Lactation Institute in Encino, California:
- Double pump the breasts for five to seven minutes and stop.
- Simultaneously massage both the breasts in a circular motion (as if self-examining).
- Use your fingertips to apply gentle strokes in a line from the chest wall till the nipple.
- Using your hand, cup each breast and lean forward. Now shake your breasts gently.
- Repeat pumping for another five to seven minutes.
The M-S-S technique stimulates prolactin levels, thereby increasing the milk production in a short time.
All About Lactation:
Understanding lactation would help you boost milk supply. We have categorized lactation into three main phases:
a. Steps Leading To A Healthy Lactation:
Your body reacts to your baby’s milk demands and produces in the following way:
- Your baby’s sucking is a strong pull for the milk to come.
- Your brain receives the message.
- Your brain releases the milk ejection hormone called oxytocin.
- Oxytocin flows through your blood to your breast muscles.
- The milk induced due to prolactin hormone flows out through the breasts.
- You begin feeding the baby, and will hear active swallows while suckling at the breast.
b. Symptoms To Show That It Is Lactation Time:
It is surprising how your body will get ready to feed just at the time your baby starts to get hungry.
- It usually takes two weeks for your body to settle into a proper feeding routine.
- You will start experiencing a kind of tingling under your breasts.
- Sometimes you hear your hungry baby crying and you will experience a sensation in your breasts
- You may most likely experience a fullness and discomfort in the breasts if you have passed the feeding time and not fed yet.
- Many women may automatically start to leak milk when it is time for feeding.
c. Tips For A Smooth Lactation:
The following will help make lactation time better and easier for both you and your baby:
- Nurse your baby in a quiet room.
- Stay calm.
- Follow the lactation diet listed above.
- Wrap warm towels around your breasts for 5-10 minutes before feeding, to help stimulate your milk to let down.
- Burp your baby after every feed.
- Consult your doctor in case of any discomfort to you or your baby.
- Breast feed your little one regularly. Aim for feeding baby a minimum of 8-12 times each day (or 24 hours).
- Avoid worrying about your post-delivery weight-gain. This is the time to eat right. You can always get on a diet later.
Make sure you eat the right foods, sleep well and take adequate rest. Keeping calm and staying rested will help you pass through these initial months with ease. Make use of the nursing time to bond with your baby. Very soon she will grow up, and you will suddenly come to miss your breastfeeding sessions!
Have some more foods to increase breast milk? Do share them with us.