What can I eat and drink to make the best milk?
Well, the simple answer to that is: eat enough calories and drink to match your thirst.
If the answer is so easy, then why are there so many special breastfeeding diets advertised? There are so many supplements, teas, cookies, and drinks aimed at increasing lactation. So let’s take a closer look at all of these things.
First, I want to go back to my original point that there is no special breastfeeding diet. Eat your regular diet and drink enough to quench your thirst. Consider all of the women around the globe who consume their usual diets and breastfeed without a second thought. If you’re concerned about your weight, though, now is not the time for a restrictive diet. While you are in the early stages of regulating your milk supply, avoid a significant lowering of your caloric intake. Place your focus on eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods to satisfy your appetite.
Beyond that, there are foods that are commonly used as galactagogues (things that help you produce more milk). Those foods include:
- Brewers Yeast
- Leafy green vegetables
There are also herbs that have been associated with increased lactation. We’ll take a deeper dive into the different ways those work in a later post. For your knowledge, these are some of the common herbs:
- Blessed Thistle
- Fenugreek (this one is highly controversial)
- Goat’s Rue
- Stinging Nettle
Are Galactagogues Always Necessary?
Galactagogues are controversial in the lactation world. There are lactation professionals who do not believe there is any place for them. There are others who promote them as the first line of defense. I find myself in the middle. There is some evidence that shows that galactagogues in the form of food and supplements can have a positive impact on milk production in the early days. My recommendation is to enjoy lactation tea and lactation cookies if you feel so inclined. They are not mandatory, though! There is no specific food that you must eat in order to produce an adequate supply of breast milk.
What to Avoid
There is also no food that you simply cannot eat. The key here is to watch your baby. If you notice your baby becomes irritable after that fourth cup of coffee, then this is a sign to adjust your caffeine intake. Infants can sometimes have trouble digesting the proteins in cows milk, soy, or egg. Removing those can make a difference if that is the source of your baby’s discomfort.
Sometimes a food we think may be offensive to a baby is actually something they prefer. For example, this study found that infants suckled for longer when their mothers had recently ingested garlic.
Breastmilk is made from your blood, not from the food you are currently digesting. Small particles of the foods we eat do end up in the milk, which can affect the variety of flavors our babies are able to experience when nursing. Your body regulates the composition of your milk, often taking nutrients from maternal stores to do so. It’s important to eat a healthy diet in order to replace those stores and keep your body in optimal health.
What About Fat?
You can affect the composition of fat in the milk, but your diet will not affect the amount of fat in your milk. For instance, if you eat a diet high in omega-3 fats, your breastmilk will have more omega-3 fats but the overall percentage of fat will remain the same.
What is the key to a good milk supply?
If you are concerned about your milk supply, I would have you talk to an IBCLC before making any radical diet changes. Frequent, effective emptying of the breasts is far more important than a specific food or drink! In a baby that is feeding at the breast, this means there is a deep, effective latch. When mom is pumping, this means the flanges are sized well and she is pumping frequently and following those pumping sessions with hand expression.
If there is something deeper going on – say a hormonal imbalance or an anatomical issue with the breast or baby’s mouth – an IBCLC can get to the root of that problem and create a specific care plan for you.
Worried that you’re not making enough milk? Please get in touch and set up an appointment. We can evaluate the latch, the pumping routine, and consider your unique history to figure out what is going on. Home visits, office visits, and virtual visits are all available.
ABM Clinical Protocol #9: Use of Galactogogues
in Initiating or Augmenting Maternal Milk
Production, Second Revision 2018