Many times mothers are concerned whether they are producing enough milk to fulfill their baby’s needs or they should work on some method to increase the breast milk production.
It must be emphasized that most of the mothers are able to produce a sufficient quantity of milk which is able to satisfy their baby’s hunger. The best way to confirm this is by keeping a constant check on the baby’s weight. If the baby is latching to the breast properly, is nursing well and is gaining proper weight, then you can be assured that you are producing enough milk.
If you feel that you are producing milk in insufficient quantity and you are looking for ways to increase breast milk, this article would guide you.
There is no magic potion or secret recipe to increase breast milk production. The most important thing to remember is that milk production works on a demand and supply mechanism. The more you feed your baby, the more your body gets a signal to increase breast milk production.
Thus, the most important factor to increase milk production is to start breastfeeding from the very beginning and continue feeding at frequent intervals throughout the day.
Regular breastfeeding and an adequate well-nourishing and balanced mother’s diet will ensure that you produce enough milk to fulfill your baby’s needs.
Read more about Diet for Breastfeeding Mothers – What to Eat and What to Avoid?
In spite of this, some women experience difficulty in producing enough milk. Many foods are available which are known to increase milk production. Though not many studies have been conducted to prove their efficacy, these foods have been traditionally used by generations of lactating mothers and have been found to be effective. Foods which are increase milk production are known as galactagogues.
A word of caution: These foods should be consumed as part of your daily healthy and wholesome diet, and not as some exclusive food supplements.
Foods to Increase Milk Supply
Herbs and Spices
1. Fenugreek seeds
Rich in omega 3 fatty acids, beta-carotene, Vitamin B, calcium, and iron, fenugreek seeds have been used since ages to increase milk production. It also helps to relieve post-delivery constipation. It can be added to tea while brewing or to various dishes to enhance their flavor.
2. Fennel seeds
Its estrogenic properties help to increase milk production. Its beneficial effects are also passed on to the baby and help to relieve gas and colic in the baby. It can be added to tea, soups, stews or other dishes.
Known to have a large number of health benefits, garlic also acts a galactagogue. However, its intake imparts a peculiar taste and smell to the breast milk. While most of the babies may prefer this altered taste, some infants may dislike it. In such cases, it should be consumed in moderation.
Ginger has a large number of medicinal properties. It relieves nausea, aids digestion, helps to fight common cold, reduces inflammation and boosts immunity. It also provides a soothing and calming effect on the body. In addition, it is known to increase milk production. It can be consumed as ginger tea, or added in shredded or dried powder form to various dishes.
5. Cumin seeds
Besides increasing milk production, these also help to improve digestion, relieve constipation and acidity.
6. Sesame seeds
They are a rich source of calcium and also help to increase milk production.
7. Basil or tulsi
Another popular galactagogue, it also aids in digestion.
8. Dill seeds
They are a rich source of iron, calcium, and magnesium besides increasing milk production.
9. Curry leaves
They are rich in minerals, improve blood circulation and increase milk production. They can be added to various dishes to enhance their flavor.
10. Blessed thistle
It causes increased production of hormones which promote milk production. Along with fenugreek, it is an excellent galactagogue.
Barley is the richest dietary source of beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is known to increase prolactin, a hormone which stimulates breastfeeding. It also helps to maintain hydration of the body.
It is a rich source of beta-glucan, iron, magnesium, zinc and fibers. It is not only one of the best foods for increasing the milk supply but also contain important nutrients essential for both the breastfeeding mother and her baby. The high iron content present in this cereal makes it ideal milk boosting food since low iron levels are known to reduce milk production.
13. Brown rice
It is also known to stimulate the production of hormones which cause increased milk production. Besides, it provides calories to the feeding mother and helps to increase the mother’s appetite. It can either be cooked with vegetables in a pressure cooker or rice cooker or eaten with pulses.
14. Green leafy vegetables
A storehouse of iron and various other minerals and vitamins, green leafy vegetables like spinach, mustard greens, kale, collards, lettuce must be included in the diet of a breastfeeding mother. This is especially important for vegetarian mothers as they are a rich source of plant-based or non-heme iron. They also contain phytoestrogens that are known to increase breast milk production.
Widely available all over the world, carrots are known to increase milk production. They are also a rich source of vitamin A. They can be eaten in raw form as salad or juice. They can also be prepared as vegetables or various delicious dishes.
Rich in vitamins and fiber, it stimulates lactation. You can either steam it or sauté it along with other vegetables.
17. Bitter gourd
It is highly nutritious, easy to digest and known to increase breast milk production. Its high water content helps to keep the mother hydrated. In spite of its bitter taste, a variety of tasty dishes can be made using this vegetable.
18. Sweet potato
A rich source of vitamins including vitamins B and C and magnesium, sweet potato is also a storehouse of carbohydrates which is useful for providing energy to the mother. It is also known to act as a galactagogue. It can be steamed and eaten as a snack or added to various dishes.
A very nutritious vegetable, beetroot is a rich source of minerals and fiber. Besides acting as a galactagogue, it is also known to purify the blood. It can be eaten raw as a salad or cooked as a vegetable.
20. Drumsticks or moringa
It is rich in iron and calcium and is known to boost milk supply. It can be cooked as a vegetable or consumed as moringa tea. Its leaves can also be used to garnish dishes.
21. Unripe papaya
Many societies and cultures in the eastern world believe that unripe papaya increases milk production. It also has the properties of a natural sedative which provides relaxation. It can be eaten raw as a salad or cooked.
Apricots are known to restore normal hormonal balance in the body. A rich source of calcium and fiber, it also helps to increase milk production.
An excellent summer fruit, watermelon can help increase milk production in lactating mothers. Watermelon is a good source of fructose, fiber and, water. It keeps the body hydrated, and also supplies essential minerals to the body.
It is rich in fructose, vitamin C, vitamin A, citric acid, and fibers. A very healthy fruit, it is also known to improve lactation.
A rich source of polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, calcium and proteins, almonds are known to increase milk production. They can be eaten as such or added to milk after crushing.
Pulses and Legumes
It possesses large quantities of vitamin B complex, protein, fiber, and calcium. Presence of these essential nutrients makes it a good galactagogue. Chickpeas can be boiled and added to various dishes.
Widely used all over the world, lentils are known to increase breast milk production. They contain lots of proteins, minerals, vitamins, and dietary fiber.
A healthy alternative of cheese for vegans, tofu is packed with proteins, calcium minerals and vitamins. It can be added to different vegetables to make a healthy and lactation-friendly meal.
It is rich in essential fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. It not only increases the milk production but also adds to the nutritive value of milk. It can be cooked in various ways including steaming, grilling, and frying.
While considered inconsequential, water is actually one of the most important factors to increase milk production. A dehydrated body will make less milk. So a breastfeeding mother must drink plenty of water throughout the day. She should also eat foods which contain a lot of water content, such as fruits and vegetables.
Milk is considered a complete food as it is rich in calcium, folic acid, essential fats, proteins, etc. It also helps to keep the mother’s body hydrated. Consuming two glasses of milk per day is essential to ensure adequate breast milk production.
32. Green Tea
Laden with antioxidants and minerals, green tea improves blood circulation and lowers blood cholesterol levels. It also provides the much needed relaxing effect to the mother. In some cultures, it is thought to provide a boosting effect on milk production.
General Tips To Increase Breast Milk Supply
Start breastfeeding from the very beginning
The sooner you start breastfeeding your baby, the higher are the chances that you will produce an adequate quantity of milk. Putting your baby to the breast in the initial days of birth (even when the milk production is very low) will send positive feedback to your body to produce more milk.
Feed your baby at frequent intervals
Production of breast milk is a demand and supply process. The more your baby drinks breast milk, the more your body will be stimulated to produce it. You should feed your baby every two or three hours. Also, make sure that the baby is latched properly to the breast.
Empty your breasts regularly
It is important to empty your breast so that the body receives a signal for producing more milk. So you should empty one breast completely before moving to the other one. In case, the baby is unable to empty your breasts, you should express milk either manually or by using a breast pump.
Read more about Breast Pumps- Types, Working, Uses and Selection tips
Feed from both the breasts
You should feed your baby from both the breasts. Switching sides should, however, be done only when the baby has emptied one breast completely. This enables the baby to take in the hindmilk which is richer in nutrients (as compared to foremilk which is more watery and is meant to quench baby’s thirst).
Avoid giving water or any additional food to your baby for the first 6 months
It is recommended that the babies be given breast milk ONLY for the first 6 months of their lives. Giving water or additional formula feed to the baby during this period will reduce the baby’s urge to consume breast milk which in the long run will reduce your milk production.
Take adequate rest
A physically and emotionally draining childbirth followed by taking care of a newborn baby can put a lot of strain on the mother’s body. The condition gets aggravated if the mother has older kids to look after as well. So it very important that you take good care of yourself. A tired body is less likely to make adequate milk. Besides eating a well-nourished diet, you must take adequate rest and let your body heal. Don’t hesitate to take help from relatives or close family friends.
Avoid mental stress
Besides physical rest, your body also needs mental relaxation. Stress is one of the factors known to reduce milk production. Unnecessary worry is going to harm both you and your baby. You can stay calm and relaxed by practicing deep breathing exercises or yoga.
Avoid alcohol and smoking
It is better to avoid these substances if you want to increase your milk production. Healthy choices during this period can have a positive long term effect on both your and your little one’s health.
Do not take any medication without consulting your doctor
If you are taking or plan to take any medicine, you must consult your doctor to be sure that it doesn’t interfere with your milk production. Similarly, it is better to avoid hormonal contraceptives during breastfeeding as they can alter the hormonal balance in your body. Barrier contraceptives like condoms should be preferred during this period.
Wear the right bra
Wearing a properly fitting bra is a must for avoiding discomfort, associated with engorged breasts, especially in the initial days after delivery. Wearing a tight bra can compress your breasts and affect milk flow. It can also cause blockage of ducts and inflammation ultimately leading to reduced milk production.
Read more about Breast engorgement: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment
Gentle massaging your breast helps to ease the flow of milk. It also helps to open blocked ducts and soften any hardened areas or lumps present in the breast.