Table of Content Links
- What foods help to produce breast milk
- Other lactogenic foods worth mentioning
- Lactogenic dietary tips
- Anti-lactogenic foods (foods that decrease milk supply)
- Homemade lactation cookie recipe
If you have a low milk supply, it’s always best to first try to increase milk production naturally, via your daily food intake.
Before reading this, please read our page "is my baby getting enough breast milk?". This will help you determine whether or not you have a low supply.
This page will discuss the good food choices that can help boost a mother's breast milk supply by including nutritious foods that support the chemistry of lactation.
If you do not have a low breast milk supply, then it is best not to worry about consuming extra amounts of these foods, as they might cause an oversupply of milk.
When does milk come in?
A mothers milk can take anything from three to five days to come in after birth. These first few days should be spent comfort feeding your baby, this will encourage your body to start producing milk.
During the first few days postpartum, your newborn will want to sleep most of the time and will survive on tiny amounts of colostrum; this is the yellowish pre-milk that is produced before your milk mature milk comes in.
It is essential that a mother breastfeed every two hours, even if she thinks nothing is coming out. Your breasts will start to produce milk on a supply and demand basis. Hand expression and pumping is a great way to encourage your milk to come in. Learn more about the delayed onset of breast milk here.
How to Tell whether Your Baby is Getting Enough Breast Milk
Top 10 Foods That Increase Milk Supply
Oats contain Tryptophan, Polysaccharides, and Saponins. These three substances promote the production of milk.
Many mothers have reported an increased milk supply, by consuming just one large bowl of oats each morning. There are just so many ways in which you can include oats into your diet. Some of my favorites are oat lactation cookies and homemade granola.
Lactogenic Granola Recipe
- 1/2 cup Nuts of choice. I prefer almonds, which are also lactogenic.
- 1/2 cup of mixed seeds of choice. I use pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. I also add flaxseed, also lactogenic.
- 1/2 cup Coconut shavings.
- 4 cups Oats. This should make up the bulk of your granola.
- 1/2 cup Dried cranberries.
- 15 Chopped dates (also lactogenic).
- 5 tbsp Cocoa nibs (optional for a chocolate taste)
Once all these dry ingredients are mixed together, you can blend the following:
- 4 - 5 large bananas
- 6 - 7 dates
Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Be sure to cover all the dry ingredients. Place in the oven on 50 degrees Celsius for a few hours to dehydrate. I usually leave mine in the oven overnight.
Store in an air-tight container.
Moringa is a popular supplement for good reason. It contains an array of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Many clinical studies have proven a significant increase in milk production when Moringa is used. It has even been proven to promote the early onset of milk production, as well as increased production when taken before delivery. (1)
Many suggest drinking a beer while breastfeeding to boost milk production, but research shows that beer can hamper supply, and it's actually the barley in the beer that is lactogenic. Barley is rich in beta-glucan that has been found to increase the hormone Prolactin. Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates the breasts to make milk. You can add whole barley to stews, rice, soups, and homemade bread.
Barley Water Recipe
Pearled barley, (1 cup) can be simmered in a quart (1 liter) of water for about two hours. Three tsp of fennel seeds can be added. Seep the mixture for 10 minutes before straining and drinking.
Barley is often germinated; this releases malting enzymes and turns the barley into a sweet, syrupy malt. This too contains beta-glucan. Be sure to buy barley malt that is pure. Sometimes manufacturers like to add other sweeteners to their malt. Barley malt can be used to sweeten any warm drinks, can be used in smoothies, and my favorite, on pancakes.
Barley also contains Tryptophan, which promotes the release of serotonin (feel-good hormones) and promotes the production of milk. So, not only will barley boost supply, it will improve your mood too.
Barley grass or barley water can improve the quality of breast milk by making it creamier and more nutrient rich.
Have you experienced a sudden drop in milk supply during your period?
A daily dose of calcium and magnesium during a woman's period is often recommended to prevent a drop in milk supply. Almonds contain copious amounts of calcium and magnesium; if you pair them with some banana, they make a powerful lactogenic snack. Just 100g of almonds contains 67% magnesium and 26% calcium of a person's recommended requirements for one day. Almonds also contain Tryptophan, which promotes serotonin production as mentioned above. A great way to benefit from this would be to add almond milk to your homemade lactogenic granola (mentioned above) and you will see an increase in milk supply soon!
Leafy Green Vegetables
Any food that reduces water retention is considered lactogenic; leafy greens are natural diuretics. Kale, seaweed, spinach, and rocket are especially good at boosting milk production. Leafy greens are nutrient powerhouses and will help to boost your immune system too!
Fenugreek contains phytoestrogens. In my experience, boiling the seeds and drinking the water as a tea, is much more effective than using the Fenugreek supplements. Boil 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds in 1 quart (1 liter) of water for 10 minutes. Strain and drink up to 4 cups per day. Enjoy with added honey and lemon juice to taste. Learn more about taking Fenugreek while breastfeeding. (2)
This is a common supplement that is taken for many other purposes too, but a breastfeeding mother can use it for not only increasing breast milk production but also for increasing the fat content of her milk. Take two to three capsules daily.
Flaxseed contains estrogenic properties that help a mother produce more milk. They also improve the quality of breast milk by increasing the healthy fat content in your milk; this promotes healthy brain development.
Brewers yeast can help increase milk supply as well as introduce essential nutrients into the breast milk, it is high in iron, chromium, selenium and B vitamins.
The whole Fennel plant and its seeds contain phytoestrogens, which help to increase supply. Fennel is best used fresh, as a whole-food. You can chop it up and use it in salads or in stir-frys.
Other Lactation Foods Worth Mentioning
- Asparagus, Green beans, Carrots (especially carrot seeds), Yam, Sweet potatoes, Peas, and Beet.
- Cashews, macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, and avocados.
- Millet, brown rice and all other grains and legumes.
- Lactogenic beverages include water, coconut water, lactation teas, body armor sports drink, ginger ale and any imitation coffee containing chicory, dandelion or malt.
- Garlic, onion, and ginger. Use these only if you, yourself, do not suffer from any adverse reactions towards them, if you are okay after eating them, your baby should be fine, too.
- Lactogenic spices include marjoram, basil, anise seed, dill, caraway, turmeric (half a tsp of turmeric per day can help with increasing your milk supply, as well as preventing a breast infection).
- Apricots and green papaya.
How to Increase Milk Supply Naturally
How to produce more breast milk by changing your diet
- Make sure that you are eating enough calories in your day; this will help increase breastmilk quantity and quality in general. Use our calorie calculator for breastfeeding mothers.
- Drink enough water and other fluids. Your body will need extra water to keep up with milk production while keeping you hydrated at the same time.
- When spicing your foods, you can add things like caraway, dill, basil, marjoram, garlic or gomasio (a condiment made from sesame seeds) to increase lactation.
- Always supplement with good essential fatty acids like omega 3, 6 and 9. These can be consumed in your diet by eating avocado, seeds, and nuts.
Alcohol can decrease the release of the hormone Oxytocin, which is not good for the flow (let-down) of milk. Just one night of heavy drinking can dramatically decrease supply. BUT - the occasional glass of wine is okay.
Sage, Parsley, and Peppermint
In small amounts these herbs will not affect your milk supply, for example, peppermint is used in some herbal preparations to decrease tummy cramps in moms and babies (even while breastfeeding). BUT - as soon as you start to consume larger amounts of these herbs, they can have a detrimental effect on your milk production. Stay away from large amounts of peppermint candies or parsley pesto! Sage tea is regularly used to decrease milk supply of those mothers who are weaning.
Chasteberry is sometimes recommended to mothers with engorged breasts. This herb inhibits the secretion of Prolactin and should only be taken if you want to decrease milk production. Mothers who would like to decrease swelling and engorgement without decreasing supply can use Turmeric to combat inflammation instead.
Make Your Own Lactation Cookies
1. Producing more milk with Moringa - study
2. Fenugreek - NCBI