Oats is a popular cereal grain known for its healthy nutritional profile (1). The cereal is widely consumed in breakfast and as part of other dishes. It is believed to have lactogenic properties that boost breast milk supply, thus making nursing mothers interested in oats.
This post shares information about oats while breastfeeding, its galactagogue properties, and possible health benefits for nursing mothers.
Does Oatmeal Increase Breast Milk Supply?
Traditionally, oatmeal is used as a galactagogue in many cultures. Lactation experts believe that oats may increase the production of the oxytocin hormone, which can help increase breast milk production (2). However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to prove that oats can increase breast milk supply.
The belief of oats being a galactagogue is probably propagated due to its use as a lactogenic food for centuries (3). Nevertheless, you can safely make oats part of your daily diet. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends oatmeal as a healthy food choice for breastfeeding mothers (4).
Health Benefits Of Oats For Breastfeeding Mothers
Whole oats contain proteins, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber (soluble and insoluble). The following are some of the notable health benefits of oats.
- Provides vital micronutrients: Oats contain several essential micronutrients, including vitamin B6, vitamin E, zinc, iron, folic acid, copper, and magnesium (5). These nutrients can help in postpartum recovery while also supporting the baby’s health through breast milk (6).
- Improves digestive health: Fiber in oats could improve bowel movement, thus avoiding/ easing constipation. Besides, it could promote gut microbiota, which may improve digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (1). Studies also suggest that maternal consumption of fiber-rich foods, such as oats, may modify breast milk composition and promote infant health (7).
- May promote immunity: Oats contain beta-glucan and bioactive phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects (8). These compounds may boost the maternal immune system, which in turn can benefit the baby, as well.
- Benefits overall health: Several studies have shown that regular consumption of whole oats could regulate blood glucose, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure (9) (10).
The health benefits of oats majorly depend on the type of oats consumed. Prefer whole oats to processed, ready-to-cook instant oats to enjoy maximum benefits.
Are There Any Side Effects Of Consuming Oats When Nursing?
Oats do not have any side effects for breastfeeding mothers. In some individuals, they may have specific side effects (11).
- Individuals sensitive to fiber may experience bloating and flatulence when consuming oats for the first time. Start with a small serving and gradually increase the quantity.
- Those with chewing and swallowing issues should avoid eating oats. Poorly-chewed oats may increase the risk of intestinal blockage.
- If you have any problems or disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, consult a doctor before adding oats to your diet. Digestive tract problems that delay gastric emptying may increase the risk of intestinal blockage due to oats.
- Oats is a gluten-free cereal grain, but it may cross-contaminate with gluten-containing cereal grains, such as wheat. Mothers with gluten intolerance/sensitivity may purchase oats from a reputable brand to avoid gluten contamination.
Oats do not have any known interactions with medicines. Nevertheless, if you are on medication or consume dietary supplements, take the advice of a lactation expert or a doctor before consuming oats.
How Can Nursing Mothers Add Oats To Their Diet?
Whole oat groats, steel-cut oats, rolled oats, and instant oats are types of oats that can be a part of your healthy diet. Whole oat groats and steel-cut oats are the least processed type but may take longer to cook and digest. Rolled oats and instant oats cook faster but may contain fewer nutrients.
The following are the different ways to enjoy oats as part of your lactation diet.
- Oatmeal prepared with rolled or steel-cut oats mixed with skimmed milk, a handful of nuts, and topped with fresh seasonal fruit slices makes for a healthy choice for nursing mothers.
- Savory oats porridge made with rolled or instant oats, seasonal vegetables, and a teaspoon of seeds, like sesame seeds, can be a healthy alternative to sweet oatmeal.
- Oats pancake is a healthy breakfast recipe to include oats flour in your diet.
- Sandwiches and rolls made with oatmeal bread, vegetables, and homemade spreads, make for a nutritious snack.
- Overnight oats is an easy no-cook breakfast and snack recipe. Add oatmeal to milk/yogurt and add seeds, like chia seeds, and leave it overnight in the refrigerator to prepare it.
- Oats cookies and bars made with healthy ingredients, like cinnamon, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits are a delicious snacking option.
- Oatmeal soup made with whole oats groats or rolled oats, vegetables, and chicken/tofu shreds is an appetizing dinner recipe.
You can also add rolled oats or oats bran to other soup recipes to increase your fiber intake.
Oatmeal can be used in several other recipes, like a binder in meatloaf and burgers or as a crunchy topping to casserole dishes.
Adding oats to your well-balanced lactation diet can contribute to the increased nutritional supply. You can prepare different recipes with oats to make it interesting. Consume oats regularly to enjoy its benefits in the long run.
2. Foods that promote lactation; Jamaica Hospital Medical Center
3. 5 Breastfeeding Diet Myths; Johns Hopkins Medicine
4. Tips for Breastfeeding Moms; US Department of Agriculture
5. Oats, raw; US Department of Agriculture
6. Breastfeeding and a Mother’s Diet: Myths and Facts; La Leche League League GB
7. Gamze Cavdar et al.; Microbiome, Breastfeeding and Public Health Policy in the United States: The Case for Dietary Fiber; NCBI
8. Shengmin Sang and YiFang Chu; Whole grain oats, more than just a fiber: Role of unique phytochemicals; Researchgate
9. Joseph M Keenan et al.; Oat ingestion reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with mild or borderline hypertension: a pilot trial; NCBI
10. Qingtao Hou et al.; The Metabolic Effects of Oats Intake in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis; NCBI
11. Oats; Medline Plus; U.S. National Library of Medicine