When I was breastfeeding my daughter, I must've heard and tried every remedy under the sun to improve my lagging supply. Some of them worked, some of them didn't, and some of them were just gross. However, I noticed that once I started asking for recipes and remedies, it was like I was opening a floodgate. Everyone and their mother had a cure or a method to make things better. Apparently old wives' tales about what to eat while you're breastfeeding are as many and varied as the old wives themselves, but hey, if the prescription is beer, who am I to argue?
There's one old wives' tale that seems to be evergreen and have some scientific backing — water, and making sure you drink enough water for your supply. There is some back and forth about how much is enough, but the one consensus is that you shouldn't let yourself get thirsty. Forcing fluids or drinking tons more than you normally do isn't advised, but drinking enough? That's something everyone can get behind. Other popular old wives' tales about what to eat while you're breastfeeding are somewhat more controversial. These can range from drinking a beer with breakfast to eating more sardines, and there seems to be a unique remedy in every culture across the globe. Here are a few of my favorites.
1.Black Sesame Gelatin
My grandmother-in-law is from Singapore. When I got pregnant, she told me to eat black sesame jello so that my children would have lots of long, lustrous dark hair. Honestly, I ate it because it was gentle on my stomach, and my kids do have some seriously drool-worthy hair that shines like a mirror.
But when I was breastfeeding, she gave me the same advice. Only this time, I was supposedly eating it so that my hair didn't fall out while I was in my postpartum period. Spoiler alert: my hair did fall out. In clumps. It was disturbing. And it did nothing for my supply.
At least six (at last count) responders to my query popped in with "My mom/gran/old lady on the side of the road told me to drink a Guinness each night/afternoon/breakfast to increase supply." It's arguably the most popular old wives' tale about breastfeeding and food.
According to Live Science, there's some very tenuous research that says that "some studies have drawn a link between a polysaccharide, a type of carbohydrate present in barley hops, and an increase in prolactin, the hormone that aids the production of milk from breast tissue." However, they also note that adding booze to the mix deletes the benefit. Darn.
Some have brewer's yeast, some have malt, some have both, but do these lactation cookies work? Who knows, but writer Danni Jo Makestroski tells Romper that this tradition started way back in Poland with the women in her family's village who would make biscuits with yeast instead of baking powder for the women who were breastfeeding.
Personally, I'm down with chocolate chips and yeasted cookies. They taste great, and make a fantastic breakfast.
4Lots Of Hot Foods & Soups
When my little one was just 2 weeks old, we had to take him to the emergency room because his reflux had some strange presentations. In the triage area, a very nice nurse told me when she saw me pounding a protein bar (paraphrasing here), "Sweetie, you must eat only hot foods and soups and liquids when you're breastfeeding to keep up your supply when they're so young. It's good for your milk."
While I have no idea if this is utter hogwash, it was early March and I love soup, so I gave it a go. It worked, and apparently it's worked for lots of other people.
This one is almost as popular as Guinness. According to school teacher Ally Saf-Al, her grandmother and mother both told her that oats were king when it comes to making milk. "They told me to make the oatmeal with milk, to toast the oatmeal with butter, and add a splash of vanilla, cream, and sugar," she tells Romper.
At that point, I'm not sure if you're making oatmeal or some decadent breakfast dessert, but I'm going to try it. Sure, I'm not breastfeeding, but I do have taste buds, and this sounds delicious.
6Fennel Or Fenugreek
By the way, fenugreek and fennel are not the same thing, even if I thought it was the case for years. According to chef Olympia DeFarkuas, both of these are old-school Greek remedies for low milk supply. "We give fenugreek tea and eat sauteéd fennel or fennel salad," she tells Romper. You can also use fenugreek in curries or salad dressings. Fenugreek is a known galactagogue, or milk supply enhancer, according to Kelly Mom, so it's worth a try.
OK, we'll call this a "future" old wives' tale, because Gatorade is a relatively new convention. It's a popular remedy amongst millennial moms with low supply, so I'm sure we'll be foisting it upon our daughters in generations to come. You know, when we're the old wives. Some say it's only the blue flavor that works, some say any flavor, but I have a secret love of the blue ice, so that's where I'd be heading. It's worth noting there's no scientific evidence to back up this claim, but if you're thirsty and like Gatorade, why not?
It's kind of fun to think that in a generation we will be the old wives in the tales, but also kind of terrifying. Seriously, we are the generation that decided that lower back tribal tattoos and "icing" each other were things we should do. Alas, at least we can rely on the tales of our mothers if we start to suggest low cut jeans or Monster Energy drinks.