Milk production works on a supply-and-demand basis: the more baby nurses, the more your body produces milk. But what if a mama needs a little boost? Luckily, there are certain foods that can help you make more milk. Lactogenic foods, also known as galactagogues, contain phytoestrogens and other chemical properties that stimulate lactation. Although women have used these milk-making foods for centuries, it's important to note that there's no scientific proof that they actually work. But if you're doing all the nursing you can, staying hydrated and eating well and you still think you need some help with milk supply, giving lactogenic foods a try may be worth your while.
We've reached out to dietitian and lactation consultant Vanessa Rissetto to find out about the ingredients that you should add to your breastfeeding diet. Here are 7 lactogenic foods that can ramp up your milk supply.
- Oats – Oats contain plant estrogens, which have been associated with the stimulation of milk glands. It also has a fiber called Beta-glucan, which can increase the levels of prolactin (a hormone that is responsible for producing milk) in the bloodstream. Check out these recipes for Oatmeal cookies, Oatmeal (porridge) and Oatmeal muffins (Instead of dried currents, use raisins, cranberries or dried plums).
- Fennel – Both fennel and fennel seeds have phytoestrogens that stimulate lactation. But fennel seeds, a kind of herb that is used for seasoning, is particularly great because they also treat other uncomfortable symptoms like indigestion, stomachache and gas. You can sip on fennel tea or add fennel to your side dishes and salads.
- Dark leafy greens – Spinach, kale, alfalfa, collard greens, beet leaves and broccoli are nutrient powerhouses that are traditionally used to support and promote lactation. They all contain phytoestrogens and are packed with minerals, calcium and iron that great for your energy and your immune system. Try a recipe with one of these greens.
- Garlic – Garlic is known for its many medical benefits and has been a praised galactagogue for years. What's more, it's believed that babies who like the taste of garlic from breast milk can latch on and continue to breastfeed well. However, Vanessa Rissetto says that "if your little one is fussy/colic, it's one of the first foods to go. It does pass through breast milk so a good rule is not to over do it."
- Flax seed - Flax seeds have estrogenic properties that can help nursing moms make more milk. Whole flaxseeds work better than the ground powder kind, and flaxseed oil provide healthy fats that are a healthy component of breast milk to promote a child's brain development. You can sprinkle flaxseeds on your cereals and salads or try these banana butter lactation cookies.
- Almonds - High in proteins and fatty acids, nuts are a great addition to your diet and have been considered galactagogues for years. Almonds are some of the best nuts to improve milk production. You can eat them raw or drink almond milk. Crushing them onto your oatmeal is also a great way to get milk-making benefits from both foods.
- Sesame Seeds - Sesame seeds are high in calcium and, like flax seeds, contain estrogen-like properties that are known to increase milk supply. You can eat them whole, in trail mix or sprinkled on salads. You can also make hummus with Tahini, a sesame seed butter.
As with anything, moderation is key. Some lactogenic foods can have side effects like over-supply, mastitis and sucking problems. If taken in too high dosage, some of them can even have the opposite effect of decreasing milk production. Remember also that the more you nurse (and empty your breasts out), the more efficient these milk-boosting foods can be.