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A lot of mothers want to increase their breast milk supply as they feel they are not producing enough for their baby’s requirements. This worry is something that’s more in the mind of the woman than something that should be a serious cause for concern. A lot of new moms have this worry; it’s only natural, of course, because they want the best for their little one!
While nursing, the biggest aspect that should be taken care of is the diet of the mother, as it not only impacts the amount and quality of breast milk produced, but also impacts the post-delivery recovery of the mother. It is important to consult a doctor while planning your postpartum diet, so that they can balance out nutritional requirements while keeping in mind which food enhances breast milk supply.
Video: 10 Best Foods to Increase Breast Milk
Signs of Low Breast Milk Supply
Most mothers have concerns about their breast milk supply and wonder whether they are producing enough milk. After all, the amount of milk going into the baby’s mouth cannot really be measured.
The best indicator of proper breast milk supply is to check your baby’s weight. You should take your baby regularly to the doctor and have him weighed to confirm whether his development and growth are on track. However, it is common for babies to lose weight immediately after birth. This aspect will be resolved within the first five or six days after birth. By day fourteen, your baby should be back to the weight he was when he was born.
If you have concerns regarding your break milk supply, look out for the following signs to ensure that you are producing enough breast milk:
- Breastfeeding is comfortable for you and is painless.
- Your baby likes to feed often. Breast milk is digested quickly and your baby will want to nurse often. This does not mean that you are not producing adequate milk. Most babies will breastfeed at 1.5 to two-hour intervals or will have at least 8 to 12 feeds in 24 hours.
- Your breasts will feel softer and emptier after each feed.
- You can watch your baby swallow while feeding.
- Your baby will want to come off the breast on his own after he is done feeding.
- Your baby will pass urine at least eight times in 24 hours. The stools will be of a light yellow colour and loose with some lumps. Babies fed only on breast milk can either pass stools several times a day or only once in seven days. Both situations are considered normal and you should not be worried about the same.
- It is also important to check whether the baby has latched on properly and to notice the pauses your baby takes in between feeding. The look on your baby’s face can help you assess whether the baby’s stomach is full.
The following are not signs of low breast milk supply, even if you feel like they might be indicative of something serious:
- Fussy feeding in the evening
- A decrease in the length of each feed
- An increase in the frequency of nursing
- No leakage from your breasts
- Little to no milk when you pump
How to Increase Breast Milk Supply
Here are some things that you can do in order to increase your breast milk supply:
- It is very important that your baby feeds the right way. If he is unable to latch on to the nipple or is in the wrong position, he will find it hard to feed. Other anatomical problems can also result in improper feeding. It is very important that the milk is removed from the breast while feeding, in order to ensure that adequate breast milk is produced. If your baby is not able to do this, then you should express the milk.
- Nursing frequently will result in the milk being removed from the breast properly. You should nurse your child for however long he wants to and at a frequency of 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Offer both sides while nursing. After he’s finished with feeding from one breast, offer the other side.
- You must avoid pacifiers and bottles as it can lead to nipple confusion. This means that your baby may find it hard to latch on to your breast if he’s used to sucking from bottles. You must give your baby only breast milk and avoid any other type of foods till he attains 6 months of age.
- Take care of yourself. Make sure you are eating a healthy diet, drink lots of fluids, get enough sleep, and try not to worry too much.
- You can use a pump in order to make sure that the milk is removed from the breast. The best way to ensure that the breast increases the production of milk is to stimulate the milk from the breast.
Top 31 Lactogenic Foods That Increase Breast Milk
While there haven’t been many studies to prove that the following foods have a positive impact on the production of breast milk, these foods have been used for generations by lactating mothers and have been found to be effective. These foods should be consumed as part of your daily diet, and not merely included as a supplement.
1. Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek seeds have been used for generations and across the world to increase breast milk production. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are important for your baby’s brain development. You can also use fenugreek leaves, as they are rich in nutrients like beta-carotene, Vitamin B, calcium, and iron. Fenugreek seeds can be added to tea while brewing it or can be used in the preparation of savoury dishes. The seeds are also added to roti and puri.
2. Fennel Seeds
Apart from being used to increase milk supply, fennel seeds are also used to reduce gas and colic. It is assumed that these benefits of the seeds will pass on to the baby through the breast milk. You can soak a teaspoon of fennel seeds in a glass of water overnight and drink it in the morning or brew it in your tea.
Garlic is well known for boosting the immune system, preventing heart disease, and having curative properties. While it can help boost your milk supply, garlic can also affect the taste and smell of the breast milk. Hence, it must be consumed in moderation.
4. Green Leafy Vegetables
Leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, fenugreek leaves, and mustard greens are a great source of minerals such as iron, calcium, and folate. These veggies have plenty of vitamins and are considered to help enhance the production of breast milk. You should have at least one portion of green leafy vegetables on a daily basis.
5. Cumin Seeds
Cumin seeds are known to help with digestion, relieve constipation, acidity, and bloating along with helping with lactation. They’re also packed with vitamins and calcium. Use these seeds in salads or soak them in water overnight, and drink the water to get the benefits.
6. Sesame Seeds
When thinking about what to eat to increase breast milk, a lot of people recommend the consumption of sesame seeds. These seeds are a great non-dairy source of calcium, which is extremely important for your baby’s growth. After delivery, even the mother will need calcium for effective and full recovery. You can use sesame seeds in your daily cooking or make sweet dishes like ladoos with them and have one a day.
7. Holy Basil
Holy basil or tulsi has been used for generations by lactating mothers. While it aids in milk production, it is also known for its calming effect, as well as promoting healthy bowel movements and a good appetite. You can have tulsi in the form of tea that will help you relax.
Oatmeal is great for controlling diabetes post-delivery while being a great source of energy. It is rich in fibre, which has a positive effect on your digestive system. You can eat oats for breakfast or make oats cookies. Nutritionists recommend adding oats to a lactating mother’s diet to increase breast milk production.
9. Unripe Papaya
While boosting milk production, unripe papaya also works as a natural sedative which will help you relax. You can ingest unripe papaya by grating it into salads. Unripe papaya is considered to be a great galactagogue across different Asian countries.
Carrots provide a great boost to lactation and are rich in Vitamin A which also improves the quality of the milk production. Eat raw carrots in the form of salads or juice it and have a cup in the morning along with your breakfast. Carrots are available anywhere around the world and are one of the best foods to improve lactation.
Barley boosts lactation and keeps you hydrated. You can have incorporate grains into salads or soak them in hot water overnight, and then consume the water the next day.
Asparagus is a high-fibre food that is rich in Vitamin A and K. It stimulates the hormone that is responsible for lactation. Steam asparagus lightly or sauté in a pan with another veggie for a tasty meal or snack.
13. Brown Rice
Brown rice is suggested as part of a new mom’s postpartum diet. It’s beneficial when it comes to lactation as it is believed to stimulate the hormones responsible for milk production. It is also highly beneficial to the mother as it gives her the energy she’ll need to take care of her little one and feed him too. Cook brown rice in a pressure cooker or rice cooker and have with vegetables.
Apricots are great to help stabilize hormonal imbalances and should be consumed both before and after delivery. It helps with lactation and is also rich in calcium and fibre. Add apricots to your breakfast for a nutritious start to the day.
If you have access to fresh salmon, then you should add it to your diet. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and essential fatty acids or EFA, which are said to help with lactation. It makes the milk produced more nutritious. You can have salmon in many different ways – steamed, grilled, or pan-fried.
16. Bitter Gourd
This vegetable is highly nutritious. It has a high water content which will keep the mother hydrated. It is easy to digest and helps increase the supply of breast milk. While you may not like the taste of bitter gourd, you can always find ways to make it more palatable.
17. Sweet Potato
Sweet potato is rich in carbohydrates that are important for providing energy to the mother. It is rich in Vitamin C, B-complex, and magnesium. You can cook sweet potato in a variety of ways, in both, savoury and sweet dishes.
This superfood is rich in Vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. This, along with the fact that almonds contain polyunsaturated fats, make these nuts a superfood. You can eat almonds raw or find almond supplements to increase milk supply. In many parts of the world, almonds are considered a great snack option due to their numerous health benefits. This is also the reason almonds are prescribed by doctors for nursing mothers.
19. Dill Seeds
Dill seeds are rich in magnesium, iron, and calcium, making it an ideal addition to the diet of a breastfeeding mother.
When considering what to have to increase breast milk production, people often overlook water. Staying hydrated is absolutely essential to improve milk production, so remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Drink each glass at intervals, instead of having a large amount in one go.
21. Drumsticks or Moringa
A vegetable high in iron and calcium, drumsticks are believed to aid in increasing milk production. Therefore, including this vegetable in your lunch or breakfast meals can help ensure that you’re lactating sufficiently. You can have fresh moringa leaves to garnish your food, or have capsules or moringa tea to avail of its benefits.
Milk is naturally filled with folic acid, calcium, and healthy fats, which not only helps with milk production but ensures that the milk is nutritionally balanced for your baby. Ensure that you drink a glass of milk twice a day to guarantee an increase in breast milk production.
The chickpea is a superfood in its own right, rich in protein, and fibre. It can be considered healthy for anyone but the presence of Vitamin B complex properties and calcium in chickpea can help boost your breast milk production too.
A very nutritious veggie, beets are a blood purifier, rich in fibre, and healthy minerals. It is theorised that along with helping boost milk production, beets also help in enhancing the breast milk with blood purification properties that will benefit your baby.
Lentils are a commonly used ingredient worldwide due to the presence of lots of minerals, vitamins, and protein in them. Add to this already super combination the presence of dietary fibre (found in some types of lentils) and you have an ingredient that is not only healthy in general, but also helps greatly increase breast milk production.
Tofu is a superfood packed with minerals, vitamins, calcium, and a lot of protein. It is commonly used in East Asia to help increase lactation. Making a stir-fry with tofu, lentils, and green leafy veggies will ensure you have a balanced and lactation-friendly diet that will also keep you extremely fit and healthy.
Watermelon is rich in fructose, fibre, and of course, water. It keeps you hydrated, infuses your body with essential minerals and helps maintain or increase your breast milk supply. Staying hydrated by drinking water and consuming foods with a rich water content, like watermelon, can help mothers struggling with lactation problems.
28. Green Tea
Green tea is flush with antioxidants and minerals that help the body relax. Drinking a glass of green tea every day will purify your system. It also helps with blood circulation and cholesterol, and in some countries, it is thought to significantly help increase breast milk supply.
29. Curry Leaves
Curry leaves are used in several dishes in Indian cooking. This is because these delicious leaves are known to boost melanin, help improve blood circulation and increase your body’s ability to break nutrients down. They are also rich in minerals that can help nursing mothers boost their lactation production.
Grapefruit, in some parts of the world, is considered a mega fruit. It is rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin A, citric acid, fructose and essential dietary fibres. This fruit is considered to be one of the most healthy additions anyone can make to their diet, especially a nursing mother looking to improve lactation.
31. Blessed Thistle
Blessed thistle is an herb that is recommended for stimulating lactation. The theory behind this is that it helps to increase the production of hormones prolactin and oxytocin, which, consequently, leads to the increase in breast milk supply. Blessed thistle can be taken as supplements, or you can consume a tea made by adding 1-3 teaspoons of this herb to hot water. It is also claimed that taking blessed thistle along with fenugreek can work wonders when it comes to increasing breast milk supply.
Why It’s Important to Stay Stress-Free While Breastfeeding
Stress is one of the leading causes of low breast milk production. If you’re suffering from postpartum depression, this can add to your problems. In this case, you are advised to seek the help of a mental health specialist. Apart from seeking professional help, keeping communication lines open between your partner, caregivers, and doctors will make your life a lot easier. It is also highly recommended that you meditate and find activities that keep you calm.
Remember, when planning a diet to stimulate lactation, you must also consider that your body has other needs. It is essential that you maintain a balanced and healthy diet with different elements to help boost lactation. Your entire diet should not solely focus on increasing breast milk supply. Ensure you talk to your doctors regularly about your health and seek the help of a nutritionist to help you craft out a diet that will meet all your needs. Also, making changes to your diet isn’t the only thing you should do. Doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise daily to help boost the mother’s immunity and to help the blood circulate better.
Support from your partner and other members of your family will help you sail through the period of breastfeeding smoothly. It’s advised to exclusively breastfeed your baby till 6 months of age, and to continue to breastfeed him till the age of 2.