In the US, more than 80% of women start out breastfeeding but this number drops by 30% before six months.
For a few days after delivery, your breasts will produce colostrum. This is a serum rich in antibodies to protect your newborn's sensitive immune system. After about 3 to 4 days you will start to notice that your breasts feel firmer. This is your milk coming in.
Breastfeeding helps to trigger your body that its time to heal after giving birth. Without breastfeeding, this process can take weeks longer.
Many women want to breastfeed but feel that they lack the ability and finally give up. If that's you or you're searching for ways to increase production, don't call it quits yet!
The answer may be as simple as galactagogues.
What It Is
Galactagogue is easier to say that it is to read. Feel free to fudge it as you read over this article. It derives from the Greek 'gala' or 'galackt-' meaning milk.
A galactogogue is any drug or food that helps to increase the production of breast milk. All that yummy breast milk will help you and your baby to live healthier lives.
What It Isn't
Galactagogues won't replace lactation advice or regular nursing. The best diet for a breastfeeding mother is a balanced diet rich with fresh fruits and veggies.
If you are having difficulty producing milk, your doctor can recommend a lactation consultant. Your body will only produce as much as it needs. If you often skip feedings, you can count on having low, sporadic supply. This is also true if you feed only a little or don't pump when you bottle feed.
Consume herbal galactogogues (say that five times fast) as a tea or as a part of a meal. While you can take them as supplements, the whole food is best. The nutrients in them will be more readily available for your body to use.
Garlic has long been held to increase breast milk supply. This member of the onion family is a jack of all trades. It contributes to hair and heart health, cold and flu symptoms, and a myriad of other ailments.
Studies show that babies feed at a higher rate after the mother consumes garlic. This leads to higher milk production but might be because babies like the taste of the garlic.
Stinging Nettle includes iron, calcium, and vitamins A, C, K, and several B vitamins. It is used to treat inflammation, enlarged prostate, and high blood pressure.
You can take Nettle as a tea, in a soup, or as a tablet. Nettle can cause an overabundance of milk to be produced if taken right after childbirth. This can cause pain and discomfort.
Nettle can cause mild stomach upset. It should never be taken while pregnant as miscarriages can occur. Talk to your doctor to determine if Stinging Nettle is okay to add to your diet.
Dandelion root is generally accepted as safe for consumption as a galactagogue. It is packed with vitamins and minerals to help get your milk pumping. Like other herbs, take Dandelion root as a tea or eat it as a part of a meal.
Fenugreek is probably the most popular of the galactagogue family. This herb native to India has been helping mommies all over the world feed their babies.
Ginger has been used for centuries as a remedy to various ailments. It relieves symptoms related to the cold and flu, poor digestion, and nausea. If you used this for morning sickness during pregnancy, use it again to boost your milk production.
Ginger is a tasty addition to soups, salads, smoothies, and meals.
Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are part of any healthy diet. The less processed the better. As your milk-production-needs increase, so too does your nutrient needs. Add these next items to your plate to ensure your milk is as nutrient dense as possible.
6. Yams and Sweet Potatoes
Yams are often confused with their cousin the sweet potato. Yams can be starchier and less sweet than sweet potatoes. They also grow much larger.
Because of this confusion, feel free to eat both for their milk enhancing properties. They contain lots of Vitamin A and potassium to keep mom and babies healthy and happy.
7. Carrots and Beets
Like Yams, carrots and beets contain a copious amount of beta carotene. Beta carotene is converted into vitamin A which is essential for producing breast milk.
Carrots and beets also have a reputation for changing the color of breast milk. So don't be alarmed if your milk turns orange or pink.
If pregnant, avoid large amounts of beetroot juice.
8. Dark, Leafy Greens
The iron, protein, and vitamins present in leafy greens are vital to your milk supply. Dark leafy greens also contain phytoestrogens which are believed to promote breast health. Veggies like, kale, spinach, and broccoli are a few to start with.
Some veggies can make breastfed babies a bit gassy. Experiment with a few different things to find the right combinations.
You can consume fennel as both the plant and the seed. It is available as a tea, a supplement, and a vegetable. The estrogen-like properties of fennel help to improve milk production.
Fennel is also used for its digestive properties and can soothe upset tummies.
10. Green Papaya
Green, unripe papaya is good for milk production because it promotes oxytocin. Oxytocin aids in the production of breastmilk. This fruit is commonly consumed across Asia and is a mainstay in Thai dishes.
Cooking it will make it easier to consume.
Grains, Nuts, Cookies, Oh My!
If you were afraid you have to leave out your sweet treats, fret no more! A few of the ingredients mentioned below can be used together to create lactation bars. They are convenient little cookies or granola bars you eat with each meal to improve breast milk production.
11. Chickpeas and Lentils
Both chickpeas and lentils are high in protein, fiber, folate, and many other nutrients. These power foods are also very versatile. Eat them in soups and stews or as pasta and flour.
12. Brewer's Yeast
Brewer's Yeast is emerging as the magic formula for breastfeeding mom's on short supply. Brewer's Yeast is an inactive yeast that is used in bread, wine, and beer making. It is used as a dietary supplement to aid with blood sugar levels and digestion.
Brewer's yeast contains iron, folic acid, and protein among many others. It is a common ingredient in lactation bars and cookies.
Spices like turmeric and cumin are great for breastfeeding moms. Turmeric has been used as an anti-inflammatory and pain fighting agent for centuries. A tablespoon boasts a great source of iron, potassium, and manganese.
Cumin is high is iron and is used in similar ways to turmeric. Consume them both as a supplement or to add spice to a meal.
14. Raw Nuts
Raw nuts such as almonds and cashews are high in protein, fatty acids, and amino acids. While they can promote the healthy production of milk, they also keep mom's calories up. When you eat well, it is easier for your lactation glands to produce at the highest quality output.
Almonds are a common addition to lactation snacks.
Oats are full anti-inflammatory, antibiotic saponins. These support the immune system and the lactation hormones, improving your flow. Some people swear by oatmeal, while others have no luck. Try it for yourself and be sure to measure and record your outcome for later comparison.
More Ways to Boost Your Milk Production
Your body will respond most readily to a holistic approach.
Try these methods in addition to your diet for best results:
- Gently squeeze the breast as your baby is drinking
- Try more frequent feedings to encourage a stronger supply
- Find the best feeding position for your baby
- Use skin to skin contact as much as possible to promote oxytocin and lactation hormones
- Avoid smoking
- Avoid tight tops and bras
- Don't get discouraged if have difficulty finding a solution. You are doing what's best for your baby's long-term health.
Keys to Remember
What works for you may not work for others. Likewise, some things may have better results than others. If you are pumping, keep a detailed log of the amounts. This will give you a clear view of what works and what doesn't.
Galactogogues are great ways to increase your flow of milk. You can have them dried, cooked, as teas, or dietary supplements.
Supplements are a great way to get the nutrient-dense herbs and minerals. Many herbs were used as medicine around the globe and still are. This means they can have both positive and negative side effects.
Having had children before is not necessarily an indicator that you will have an abundant milk supply. Speak with your doctor before self-diagnosing any problem you face. A lactation consultant will be versed in every problem breastfeeding mothers face.