Breastfeeding is a wonderfully healthy way for you to bond with your little ones while ensuring that all of their nutritional needs are met.
Breast milk not only nourishes a baby but also fortifies the immune system and may even defend against various health conditions later in life. Because of these benefits, doctors around the world advocate for breastfeeding as the optimal source of nutrition and maternal care for infants.
Unfortunately, exclusive breastfeeding does not come easy to all new moms.
In fact, about five percent of U.S. women cannot breastfeed, and roughly ten percent struggle with low milk production. Low breast milk supply is concerning, and you may wonder if you are making enough milk to get your child the nutrients they need to thrive.
Eating right can have a monumental effect on your ability to produce breast milk and nourish your little one. Below, we’ve compiled a list of 9 foods that will help support healthy lactation and help you follow a diverse, nutrient-rich diet.
Nine Foods To Help Support Milk Production
Oats are a tried-and-true lactation food. Women across the world use oatmeal as a go-to breakfast while nursing and many believe that oatmeal can improve their milk supply.
The benefits of oatmeal are numerous: this comforting, hot cereal is high in fiber, manganese, zinc, and iron, which are all essential nutrients for nursing moms.
Many breastfeeding women suffer from fatigue. Aside from helping to prevent anemia and increasing energy, iron is essential for nursing mothers because low iron is linked to low milk production. Therefore, incorporating iron-rich foods, such as oatmeal and other whole grains, into your diet can help improve your milk supply.
Another reason that researchers propose for oatmeal’s positive effect on lactation is the fiber beta-glucan, which is present in high quantities in oats.
Beta-glucan can have cholesterol-lowering effects. Importantly for breastfeeding mothers, researchers propose that it raises the levels of prostaglandin, a hormone that promotes breast milk production.
Nuts are a fantastic food to support breast milk production, primarily because of their high “healthy fat” content. The fats in nuts are known as “healthy” because of their chemical identity: these fats are unsaturated.
Unsaturated fats are known to help lower cholesterol in the body. This makes them very heart healthy.
When it comes to nursing, healthy fats are an important component of breast milk. The development of the heart and cardiovascular system, nervous system, and eyes require a steady supply of unsaturated fats. Consuming enough fats will ensure that your little one can get what they need from your milk.
The high-fat content of breast milk is beneficial to infants because their bellies are too small to hold very much food. This means that the food they eat must be very calorie-dense to give them enough energy to last between feedings.
Fats deliver a huge energy punch in a compact molecule. This makes natural sources of healthy fats, like nuts, a great way to support lactation as a new mom.
3. Protein-Rich Foods
Protein is essential to your little one’s development. Because of this, your milk is very protein-rich. This makes it essential that you replenish your body’s protein stores with the foods you eat to sustain both yourself and your new baby.
Consider rotating protein shakes, eggs, meat, fish, tofu, or tempeh into your child’s diet to help increase protein intake.
Meat and fish are both high in protein and b vitamins and will certainly give you a boost.
Fish, in particular, is a stellar choice as a lactogenic food. Fish contains another kind of fat, called omega-3 fatty acids, which are very important for your little one’s developing brain and vision.
The human body cannot synthesize omega-3 fatty acids on its own.
For breastfeeding moms, eating foods rich in omega-3s will ensure that your little one’s brain and eyes have the building blocks they need to grow. Meanwhile, supplying your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive can help boost milk production.
Fish is not an option for everyone. Luckily, there are other sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Avocados are one such source, as they contain a large portion of the healthy fats we discussed earlier and omega-three fatty acids, too!
Avocados are also high in fiber. After pregnancy, this can help your digestive system when postpartum constipation is an unfortunately common affliction. The healthy fiber found in avocados can also benefit your gut through its prebiotic effects (promoting the growth of good bacteria, which ease digestion).
Fennel seeds are widely used as a lactation aid. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates prescribed fennel to his female patients who struggled with low milk supply around 400 B.C.
The mechanism behind fennel’s positive effects on lactation is still unknown. However, one hypothesis is that the seeds cause an increase in prolactin levels. Prolactin stimulates milk production in nursing women.
The most common way to ingest fennel as a supplement is in the form of lactation tea.
The fennel plant itself, however, can also be eaten straight to provide further lactation support. Look for fennel bulbs in the produce section of your local grocery store. Fennel can be braised, pureed into soup, or even used as a pizza topping.
Don’t be afraid to get creative and enjoy the benefits of fennel!
6. Dark Leafy Greens
This one should come as no surprise: dark leafy greens are a great addition to almost any diet! However, these veggies boast even more benefits when it comes to nursing mothers.
Dark green veggies, like collard greens, kale, spinach, and bok choy, can pack a hefty dose of calcium in each serving.
It is recommended that nursing mothers increase their daily calcium intake. This enables them to provide calcium to their growing baby through breast milk without depleting their own stores and may help increase milk supply.
Adding foods high in calcium to your diet is an important consideration while nursing.
Legumes, including lentils, beans, and peas, are very rich in both protein and fiber. Certain legumes, such as chickpeas, kidney beans, and peanuts, also contain estrogenic compounds.
These compounds, also called “phytoestrogens” or simply “plant estrogens,” are hormone-like molecules produced naturally by some plants.
When you ingest phytoestrogen-containing veggies, the hormone-like chemicals may be recognized by your body as if they were your own hormones. This can potentially lead to a boost in milk supply by increasing the amount of milk-production-related hormones in your system.
8. Flaxseed and Sesame Seeds
Flaxseeds and sesame seeds have beneficial fiber and antioxidant properties. Flaxseed and sesame seeds also contain estrogen-like compounds to increase breast milk supply.
Garlic can be a powerful galactagogue. Many babies enjoy the taste of milk when their mother has eaten garlic. In fact, this can cause them to latch for longer and feed more than usual.
This effect is likely what gives garlic its galactagogue properties because milk production occurs according to supply and demand. When your baby eats more, you will produce more milk as needed. Garlic can help this cycle along by promoting longer latching.
However, garlic isn’t for everyone. If your baby is struggling with colic or an upset stomach, discontinue garlic consumption for a few weeks to see if it might be to blame.
When It Comes to Diet, Variety Is Key
The best dietary choice that you can make for both you and your little one is to incorporate a vast diversity of whole, healthy foods into your diet.
This means changing up your protein sources, fruits, and veggies and thinking outside the box to come up with new nutrient-rich food combinations. Diversity of diet helps ensure that you can get the nutrients that you need. In turn, this will promote healthy milk production.
Consuming galactagogues is an excellent step towards healthy lactation. However, for these foods to be able to take full effect, you must begin with a healthy base. It is essential to stay hydrated while lactating.
Boost Hydration With Greater Than
At Greater Than, our Trial 6-Flavor Variety Pack contains endless benefits for mothers and the entire family! Get ahead of your body’s needs by enhancing your hydration with an all-natural, electrolyte drink designed for nursing moms.
With a healthy diet and dependable hydration, you’re well on your way to healthy lactation! After all, not all hydration drinks are created equal.