If you're looking to increase your milk supply — or simply maintain a healthy amount for your baby through all the ups and downs of newborn life — you might be curious about the role your diet has to play. Galactagogues are foods believed to increase milk supply, though their efficacy isn't scientifically proven. Beyond those special foods, you can also modify your diet for optimal milk production. With that in mind, here are eight breastfeeding diet hacks to increase milk supply, because nothing's more stressful than the suspicion that you're not producing enough to feed your baby.
Remember, however, that while diet plays a role, the best way to increase supply is by nursing as much as possible. "Nurse, nurse, and nurse again" advised WebMD, correctly pointing out that breast milk follows a law of supply-and-demand. Especially in the first few weeks you spend with you baby, your body is trying to gauge how much milk to make — so the more you nurse or pump, the more you'll produce.
When in doubt, reach out to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or your doctor for help. Another great resource is Happy Mama Milk Mentors, which offers free online chats with infant-feeding experts.
1Drink Enough Water & Limit Caffeine
Breast milk is mostly fluid, so it's important to keep yourself hydrated to maintain your own good health — which indirectly impacts your supply. Keep a water bottle in the nursery to help you remember.
“Make sure there’s always a liter of water next to mom, because as soon as she starts to nurse, she’s going to be very thirsty," explains Joy Frazer of Joy of Life Family Medicine, a midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in Durango, Colorado, in an interview with Romper. Yep — she says a liter, so drink up.
Mayo Clinic also suggested drinking before you're thirsty, and paying attention to the color of your urine — dark yellow is a sign you're dehyrdated. Along those lines, you should limit caffeine, which might interrupt your baby's sleep and throw you both off schedule. Additionally, cut out sugary drinks when possible.
2Eat Protein Every Two Hours
"Nursing moms pretty much need a healthy snack with protein in it every two hours," explains Frazer. If you're not getting enough protein, you simply won't feel well, and you might not be consuming enough calories.
To get ideas for great protein-rich snacks, check out Mom To Mom Nutrition. Hummus, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt are all protein-rich options to keep in your fridge.
3Let Other People Cook For You
Being a new mother is stressful, and friends and family can make a huge difference. Bringing casseroles or cooking while you nap are kindnesses not to be underestimated.
According to Frazer, dad can keep track of that protein snack you'll want every two hours, which can really take a load off your mind. Especially in the beginning, you should have as much privacy and time as you need to sleep, eat, and breastfeed. "If dads and support people can be on top of that it can make a big difference," she explains.
4Balance Restaurant Foods With Water
Danielle Downs Spradlin, IBCLC, of Oasis Lactation Services, has a great tip for whenever you eat out or order in. According to Spradlin, restaurant foods are rich in salt — to stay hydrated, you'll need extra water with that Chinese takeout.
5Consider Herbal Supplements — Especially During Your Period
Always speak with a lactation consultant, or with a pediatrician, before you take any special supplements to up your supply. That said, classic supplements for milk supply include Malunggay, Goats Rue, blessed thistle, and Shatavari, explains Linda M. Hanna, RNC, MSN/Ed., IBCLC, and founder of My Nursing Coach— a mobile breastfeeding practice in Los Angeles providing in-home and online breastfeeding and postpartum support.
Ever notice that your milk production is different during your period? Here's what Hanna tells Romper — supplements can help during this time, too:
"The normal fluctuations in milk supply can be exaggerated when the hormones of lactation are intercepted by the hormones for menstruation. It is not uncommon for you to experience deep dives in your volume two days before the menstruation starts and as many as three-to-five days during the bleeding cycle. To protect the volume, continue to take the herbal supplements that help increase your supply through the month and double up on these when you are heading towards the beginning of the bleeding cycle."
In addition, Hanna recommends adding healthy fats, oats, grains and barley, and hops and brewers yeast for good measure.
6Galactagogues With Your Pizza
Some mothers have found fenugreek, blessed thistle, and alfalfa to be useful [in upping supply], as well as some Mother's Milk tea," explains Briana Violand, IBCLC, of NorthCoast Lactation Services in Amherst, Ohio, in an interview with Romper.
Garlic is another famous galactagogue, as is barley — which you can use to make crust for a supply-boosting pizza.
7Nursing With Diabetes
"Nursing mamas need extra snacks and calories to maintain an adequate milk supply, but a mom with diabetes really needs to pay extra attention and be sure to add extra calories and snacks spaced out throughout the day to stabilize blood sugar," explains Andie B. Schwartz, M.Ed., RD, LD, CLC, of Happy Family's Happy Mama Milk Mentor program. "I would recommend working with your diabetes educator to come up with an appropriate meal plan. In case of a drop in blood sugar, have 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates around in case of hypoglycemia."
For 15 grams of carbohydrates, slice a regular-sized apple in half, for example. Of course, if you're nursing with diabetes, you should always speak with your doctor about your nutrition plan.
8Don't Stress Too Much About Your Diet
According to Kelly Mom, a healthy diet is primarily recommended because it's healthy for you, but studies and human history both show that breast milk is an amazing substance. Even if your diet isn't perfect, your body will find a way to produce what your baby needs. "The main thing needed to maintain an ample milk supply is simple — the more often and effectively your baby nurses, the more milk you will have," the website noted.
So eat when you feel hungry, drink when you're thirsty, and try not to let your diet become an unnecessary source of stress.
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