Your breast milk is the perfect food for your baby no matter what you eat! The foods you eat are broken down in your body and those nutrients are used to make your breastmilk. A healthy diet consisting of whole foods is the best source of lactogenic foods to increase milk supply. These foods include lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry, and wild-caught fish, which are all ideal as you recover from delivering your baby.
Proper nutrition and adequate water intake will help ensure a speedy and healthy recovery in your postpartum phase as well as provide the best possible milk composition for your baby’s needs. You can read more about postpartum recovery in my post here 10 Tips for Healing Your Body After a Baby.
The reality is that newborns require attention around the clock. You will be sleep-deprived in the first few weeks, which means it’s more important than ever to fuel your body with real food that will give you the energy you will need. Whether you bottle feed or exclusively breastfeed, your infant will require nourishment even at night!
Why Quality Lactogenic Foods to Increase Milk Supply are Important
According to a study done about the volume and composition of human milk in poorly nourished communities, the following impacted the mother’s milk supply as a result of their lack of proper nutrition:
The quantity and quality of their milk with lower values of fat, vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin A, and somewhat lower calcium and protein.
There are other factors that affect breastmilk in addition to the baby’s nourishment through fetal stores, birth weight, and iron obtained during their time in the womb. These other factors include the mother’s diet in pregnancy and the mother’s calorie reserves.
There are specific nutrients that increase in your breastmilk when you eat them. For this reason, whole foods containing these nutrients should be included in your diet because:
- Proper nourishment allows you to care for your baby because you have the fuel your body needs for energy and mood.
- Even though mothers that are not well nourished can still offer their baby breastmilk, the composition of their milk does change.
- Mothers who are well-nourished have been found to play with their babies more, and are more likely to exclusively breastfeed longer than mothers who are not well nourished.
- Your dietary intake of Essential Fatty Acids, micronutrients, B vitamins, vitamin C, are related to how much are in your breastmilk.
Focus on Nutrients in Milk Supply
Rather than focus on removing foods from your diet (unless your baby is showing signs of discomfort), focus on adding the following nutrients your body needs to produce the best milk possible:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3 and Omega 6
Whole foods and key nutrients also encourage a healthy gut, which will help support your immune system and make you less susceptible to infections like mastitis. Anti-inflammatory foods and whole foods high in fiber are great sources of nutrient-dense foods that help your gut. A “leaky gut” allows bad bacteria and toxins to enter your bloodstream because of the permeability of the intestinal walls. This is important to consider because your breastmilk is made by nutrients (and other substances) in your bloodstream.
As outlined in the book Eat to Feed and Mother Food, here are specific examples of foods you can include in your diet that are considered lactogenic foods to increase milk supply (also known as galactagogues). Keep in mind no food will fix an underlying issue of low milk supply. These foods are considered milk boosters and help you live a healthier life in general because of their nutrient-dense nature. You can let your whole family enjoy them!
- Grains and Flours: organic oats, barley, buckwheat, black rice, brown rice, quinoa, millet, bulgur
- Spices, Herbs, and Yeasts: anise, basil, fennel seed, fenugreek, turmeric, ginger, dill, cumin, garlic, brewer’s yeast, nutritional yeast
- Fruits and Vegetables: apricots, figs, dates, coconut, papayas, asparagus, avocados, kale, spinach, moringa, beets, carrots, fennel, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, dried seaweed
- Eggs and Dairy: eggs, full-fat Greek yogurt (low or no sugar), milk, butter, and cream
- Beans and Pulses: chickpeas, lentils, peas
- Fats and Sweeteners: extra-virgin coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, molasses, coconut sugar, dates
- Protein: organically raised or wild-caught fish and meat
Signs Your Baby May Have a Food Intolerance
In general, you don’t need to eliminate any foods from your diet unless your baby is showing signs that he/she is intolerant or allergic to a particular food. If that is the case, you may start by keeping a food journal to help identify the food(s) that are the culprits. Once your baby’s digestive system is a little more mature you can try including that food in your diet again to see if she/he is able to tolerate it better.
The most common food allergens for babies are cow’s milk/dairy, soy, gluten, corn, nuts, and shellfish. Sometimes caffeine can make babies colicky as well. As discussed in my post on Gluten in Breast Milk, symptoms your baby may experience are:
- Sore bottom
- Diaper rash
- Runny nose
- Weeping eyes
- Body rash
- Excessive crying, inconsolable
- Sleepless Baby
- Overly fussy
- Excessively gassy without relief
Tips for Lactogenic Foods to Increase Milk Supply
- Don’t diet excessively (anything less than 1800 calories) as that can reduce milk production.
- Include a diet rich in a variety of whole foods.
- Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables.
- Eat pasture-raised, wild-caught, or grass-fed protein when possible.
- The flavors of your food do get passed to the baby through your milk. Babies actually prefer flavored milk!
- Spicy and gassy foods should only be excluded on a case-by-case basis.
Lactogenic foods to increase milk supply should be thoughtfully considered as a means to get more real food into your diet. If you suspect your milk supply is low, work with a lactation specialist to determine underlying issues with an assessment and evaluation. Mother’s Food and Eat to Feed are great books if you want to learn more about lactogenic foods and herbs.