The Best Foods To Increase Breast Milk Supply
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Are you worried that you’re not producing enough milk for your baby? Let’s take a look at the best foods to increase breast milk supply as well as leave you feeling great!
In This Guide
Are you worried that you’re not producing enough milk for your baby?
For new moms, breastfeeding can feel challenging. You’re dealing with uncertainty, stress, self-doubt and are just trying to wrap your head around what being someone’s mom actually means.
The nursing phase requires a lot of attention regarding your food and health and whatever you eat during this period is crucial to your post-delivery recovery and will also directly affect the amount of milk that is produced.
Good nutrition will help increase your milk supply, give you more energy and help you take off the baby weight. In fact, some foods are better than others. Let’s take a look at the best foods to increase breast milk supply as well as leave you feeling great!
How to Know if You Have Low Breast Milk Supply
If your breast feels heavy when you wake up and leak occasionally, that may be an indication that your milk supply is just fine.
But the best way to tell that you have enough supply is to check whether your baby is gaining enough weight. While most infants lose weight immediately after birth, full-term babies should lose no more than 7 percent of their birth weight in the first few days after birth (source).
Research has also shown that temporary weight loss in newborn infants immediately after birth might lead moms to think they’re not producing enough milk and start supplementing right away, leading to a potential issue with breast milk supply and demand.
The following are signs your baby isn’t getting enough milk:
- Poor weight gain – It’s normal for newborns to lose 5% to 7% of their birth weight in the first few days – some lose up to 10%. However, after that, they should gain at least 20 to 30 g (0.7 to 1 oz) per day and be back to their birth weight by day 10 to 14 (source). If your baby has lost 10% or more of her birth weight, or she hasn’t started gaining weight by days five to six, you should seek medical advice immediately.
- Insufficient wet or dirty nappies – The number of poos and wees your baby has per day is a good indicator of whether or not she is getting enough milk. Seek medical advice if you’re concerned or if you have noticed her dirty nappies decreasing in wetness and heaviness.
- Dehydration – If your baby has dark-colored urine, a dry mouth or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), or if she is lethargic and reluctant to feed, she could be dehydrated (source). Fever, diarrhea, and vomiting, or overheating, can cause dehydration in infants. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical advice quickly.
Even though low milk supply is rare, your baby may still struggle to get enough for other reasons during her first few weeks. She may not be breastfeeding frequently enough, or for long enough, she may not be latching well or might have a condition that makes it harder to take in milk.
What Causes A Low Milk Supply?
Factors that can affect milk production include:
- Poor latching: One of the most common causes of low milk supply is poor latching. If your baby is struggling, your body will not get the signal to produce more milk.
- Less feeding: If you’re not breastfeeding your baby often enough, your milk supply will reduce to match. Your newborn should be nursing 8-12 times per day for about the first month (source).
- Certain health conditions: Some illnesses such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a low or high thyroid, diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure) could affect your milk production. In some cases, treatment of your health problem will help you to boost milk production, although supplementation may be needed (source).
- Estrogen-based contraceptives: Some research suggests that contraceptives containing estrogen may reduce breast milk production (source). Instead, consider taking progestin-only birth control pills as they don’t affect the milk supply.
Although many women worry about low milk supply, insufficient breast milk production is rare. In fact, most women make one-third more breast milk than their babies typically drink.
How Do I Increase My Breast Milk Supply?
Milk production is a demand and supply process. If you need to increase milk supply, there are a few things you can try:
1 Breastfeed as soon as possible
Waiting too long to start breastfeeding can contribute to low milk supply. Hold your baby skin to skin right after birth and your baby will likely breastfeed within the first hour after delivery.
2 Breastfeed often
Frequent nursing stimulates the body to produce more, so feed your baby whenever they seem hungry. You should also offer them both breasts at each feeding. Try to compress your breast during feeding so you can drain the milk until they’re satisfied.
3 Check your latch
Make sure your baby is latched on and positioned well. Look for signs that your baby is swallowing.
4 Be alert to feeding problems
Offer both breasts at each feeding. It’s OK for your baby to nurse on only one breast at a feeding occasionally — but if this happens regularly, your milk supply will decrease. You might pump the other breast to relieve pressure and protect your milk supply until your baby begins taking more at each feeding.
5 Don’t skip breastfeeding sessions
Pump your breasts each time you miss a breastfeeding session to help protect your milk supply.
6 Hold off on the pacifier
If you choose to give your baby a pacifier, consider waiting until three or four weeks after birth. This will give you time to establish your milk supply.
7 Use medications with caution
Certain medications decrease milk supply, including medications containing pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Zyrtec D, others). Your health care provider might also caution against certain types of hormonal contraception, at least until breastfeeding is firmly established.
8 Avoid alcohol and nicotine
Drinking moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol can decrease milk production. Smoking can have the same effect.
The Best Foods To Increase Breast Milk Supply
As a breastfeeding mom, you need all the nutrition you can get. This means you should strive to have a balanced diet with all the minerals and vitamins you need. That said, certain foods are more lactogenic than others.
Here is a list of the top 10 foods that you should include in your diet to increase breast milk supply:
1. Whole Grains
Whole-wheat pasta and oatmeal are are an important source of B vitamins, minerals, and fiber and will keep you feeling full longer, and won’t get you those energy dips you do with refined carbohydrates (source).
Whole wheat and brown rice are also rich in beta-glucan and help in milk production so you should make whole grains part of your diet every day.
Lactation cookies, or “Breast Milk Cookies” are made out of flaxseed meal, oats, and brewer’s yeast and can help increase milk production. Try any of these 11 delicious lactation cookie recipes that will boost your milk supply.
2. Salmon and Sardines
Salmon is an excellent source of protein and are rich in vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also one of only a few sources that have natural vitamin D, and since many women have vitamin D deficiencies, you should include it in your diet every week. B12 and omega-3 are also great for new moms since it’s thought to help ward off postpartum depression (source).
Salmon is great for breastfeeding moms because it contains large amounts of DHA, a type of fat important for the development of a baby’s nervous system. Both salmon and sardines boost lactation hormones and make your milk more nutritious.
Fresh fruits, especially bananas, and vegetables are among the best sources of potassium. Potassium will keep your electrolytes and fluids in balance and a breastfeeding mom need 5,100 milligrams of potassium per day to have enough for two (source).
Carrots possess beta carotene and vitamin B6 and are essential when it comes to providing the extra energy that lactating moms need to improve their milk supply (source).
5. Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and broccoli are re rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K as well as fiber, antioxidants, and essential minerals including calcium (source). They are also low in calories you can eat them all day long and not have to worry about how many calories you have consumed.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Just one medium sweet potato meets the daily recommendation of vitamin A for breastfeeding moms. Vitamin A is important for vision, bone growth, immune function and cell specialization (source).
Your baby is dependent on your dietary intake to get the vitamin A required for growth and development and babies who are breastfed are very rarely found to be deficient in vitamin A.
7. Legumes and Beans
Beans should definitely be a part of your diet as they’re a great source of protein, iron, and fiber, as well as phytochemicals. Phytochemicals stimulate the immune system, help to regulate hormones, and increase milk production among other things (source).
Worried about gas? Well, beans and legumes do have that tendency, but they won’t bother your baby and their advantageous qualities make it worth it!
8. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds contain protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Cashews, almonds, and macadamia nuts are the most popular choices for giving your milk a boost and they’re also high in good fats and antioxidants.
Almonds are touted as great for breastfeeding moms because they are a good non-dairy source of calcium and breastfeeding moms should have 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Your milk is high in calcium, and if you don’t get enough of it in your diet, it could negatively impact your bones and teeth
If family members have a history of nut allergies, stay away from almonds until your baby is at least three months old. That’s because food proteins can easily pass from mom to baby’s bloodstream in the first three months.
9. Apricots and Dates
Eating apricots and dates can increase prolactin, which is the hormone that tells your body to produce milk. Apricots contain essential nutrients such as dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium and dates are also calcium-rich, high in fiber and naturally sweet.
During and post pregnancy, there is a hormonal imbalance that takes place in your body. Dried apricots have certain chemicals which balance out the hormone levels in your body.
Calcium is imperative for you and baby and you need to have 1000 milligrams per day. This is easy to meet with low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt, which also contains protein. There are so many flavors available that you are sure to find ones you like. Add fruit or granola for an even yummier yogurt.
If your baby has been diagnosed with milk protein intolerance, dairy products like yogurt should not be part of your diet. (source)
There are many more foods that various studies have deemed great for breastfeeding moms, among them: avocados, pumpkin seeds, garlic in all forms and some lesser known ones like fenugreek and curry. What’s really important is eating a varied diet of natural, unprocessed foods.
Also, don’t forget one more equally essential non-food addition to your diet.
Drinking sufficient water is so important for milk supply. Too little water also dehydrates you and makes you feel sluggish and slow. Drinking a minimum of eight glasses per day will leave you replenished and feeling well.
WANT TO REMEMBER THIS?
You don’t necessarily need a specialized diet while breastfeeding but having nutritious foods to eat is essential for your baby’s development and your milk supply.
If the reasons above are not the cause of your low milk supply, you might want to see a lactation expert or even your doctor, to determine where the problem is.