I Made 3 DIY Lactation Smoothies & Here's What Happened

Ad failed to load

If you’re a new mom or mom-to-be, and you’re on Pinterest, you know that smoothies are apparently a huge part of parenthood. (And if you’re not a parent, you know smoothies are a huge part of just, like, being alive, apparently.) In the past, my ideal smoothie recipe was: "What fruit do we have in the fridge?” and “oh god, is there milk?” But knowing that a lot of breastfeeding women turn to smoothies in an effort to boost milk production, I decided it was time to try something new! I love smoothies, they’re a delicious way to have breakfast when you don’t feel like it! Anyways, someone had to get to the bottom of this.

First, I took to Pinterest to discover which lactation smoothies were the most popular. I sifted through dozens of recipes, trying to find the most popular, but instead found that most of the recipes were really similar. So I chose three smoothies that were very different from each other, and relied on different components to help you create milk.

The Experiment

In order to determine their effectiveness, I devised a plan wherein, over a period of three weeks, I would try each smoothie for three days, with a four-day buffer to allow my body to return to normal (if any changes did in fact occur). I pumped my breast milk every evening, so I could measure any changes in milk production, and whether or not those changes were significant or just normal ups and downs. On non-smoothie days, I ate my usual diet and did not ingest any of the ingredients that my smoothie recipes claimed would give my milk production a “boost,” such as flax, oatmeal, etc. I continued to feed my baby on demand as usual throughout the experiment. Also, this was done well after I had established a good breastfeeding routine, since I have no idea how this might vary for someone just starting out.

Ad failed to load

Because this is for science, I’ve rated each smoothie (on a scale of one to five) in three categories:

  1. Deliciousness
  2. Milk-Making Magic
  3. Ease

So is buying that new blender really worth it? Let’s jump into the results and find out!

Ad failed to load

Smoothie Number One: The Green

I really like green smoothies generally, so I was pretty excited about giving this one a try. Here is the green smoothie recipe that I tried:

Ad failed to load

1 cup almond milk

2 tablespoons hemp seeds (I eyeballed it)

½ teaspoon vanilla

Ad failed to load

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

1 cup berries (I used raspberries)

One handful of ice

Ad failed to load

Honey (or agave nectar) to taste

It has almond milk, flax, hemp for protein (oh my!), and spinach, which is supposed to increase lactation for reasons I don’t understand (I’m not actually a scientist, I’m sorry).

Ease: 4 out of 5

Ad failed to load

You have to put everything except the ice in first, which I found to be an annoying extra step, but it really needs the ice to be at all drinkable so it wasn’t worth skipping it.

Deliciousness: 1 out of 5

Real talk? This smoothie was so awful. The first time I drank it I honestly had to slam a Coca-Cola right afterwards, thus making me the worst hippie in the land. It was just too bitter and too … hempy? It tasted like your worst idea of health food, like I should've taken a sip and felt like I was glowing but instead I was just trying not to hurl.

Ad failed to load

Milkiness: 2 out of 5

One of the days that I tried this one I made slightly more milk than my average (5.0 oz. versus 4.3). However, the other two days it was exactly the same. It’s impossible to tell whether or not that little boost was due to the magical bitter powers of spinach and hemp (blech) or whether it was something else. Making milk is complicated!

Ad failed to load

Smoothie Number Two: Chocolate Peanut Butter

Most of the smoothie recipes that I found were some version of the one I ended up making. Some included Carnation Instant Breakfast packets, and some did not. I elected to skip it, but you could easily add it in if you were looking to get all your breakfast done at once. Protein comes largely from peanut (or any other) nut butter, and the magical ingredient that’s supposed to make milk happen is Brewer’s yeast, a single cell fungus used in the production of beer.

Ad failed to load

1 banana

2 tbs. peanut (or almond) butter

1 tbs. brewer’s yeast

Ad failed to load

2 tbs. flax seed

¼ cup rolled oats

1 tbs. cocoa powder

Ad failed to load

1 tbs. honey

1 cup milk

Handful of ice

Ad failed to load

Ease: 5 out of 5

It was easy. Throw everything in the blender and go. I did it with and without ice. I made it by putting in the ice in at the beginning and the end, and my blender handled it all.

Deliciousness: 2 out of 5

Ad failed to load

It’s deceptive! The first sip was pretty good, it tastes like, well, chocolate and peanut butter, which is what you want. It kind of tastes like chocolate and peanut butter with a touch of beer (from the yeast), which is probably not what you want, but is kind of doable — kind of — until it isn’t. The weird aftertaste compounded over time and became stranger and stranger. At the end on the first day, I actually had to take a break because I almost threw up. Your mileage may vary, but I have a very quick gag reflex (ha ha). You’ve been warned.

Milkiness: 1 out of 5

Since nearly every recipe out there was a variation on protein and Brewer’s yeast, I went into this pretty sure it was going to do something. It absolutely did not. There was no noticeable increase in either the amount I was able to pump or how, um, “full” I felt. Because of that, I decided to look it up. It turns out there is absolutely no scientific evidence whatsoever that Brewer’s yeast increases your milk supply. The idea seems to come from back in the day, when people used to tell nursing mothers to drink beer. The idea is that Brewer’s yeast can give you the same boob benefits, without all of the fun (or risk to your baby).

Ad failed to load

FYI: nursing moms totally drink all the time in Europe, and Europeans seem to be doing OK, just sayin.

Smoothie Number Three: The Regular

Ad failed to load

I included this one because it was so much different than many of the other lactation smoothies. It didn’t rely on oats, or hemp, or Brewer’s yeast to get the job done. In fact, it just seemed like a pretty regular smoothie I might happily drink for non-lactation reasons!

It included the following ingredients:

2 cups spinach

Ad failed to load

2 cups frozen blueberries

¾ cup vanilla yogurt

¼ cup milk

Ad failed to load

Ease: 5 out of 5

Making smoothies is easy, you guys. Thanks for playing along.

Ad failed to load

Deliciousness: 5 out of 5

This smoothie absolutely did not suck! In fact, it was really tasty. The berries and yogurt gave it plenty of sweetness without adding any honey or sugar. This was the last smoothie I tried, and my three days on this one were seriously a breath of fresh air after everything else.

I loved this smoothie most because it felt like a fun drink instead of a chore. All week long I'd been suffering through these less-than-stellar smoothies and this was the first time that I really enjoyed what I was drinking and putting into my body.

Ad failed to load

Milkiness: 2 out of 5

OK, I’m rating this two out of five because even though there was no difference in the amount I was able to pump during the three days I spent on this smoothie, there was, ahem, a noticeable physical difference, shall we say. Parents who've breastfed all know exactly what I’m talking about. It seems impossible that such a simple combination would have much effect, but my breasts felt more full more often, and there were leaks, even though my son’s eating schedule didn’t SEEM to change any. Maybe it’s the spinach? Maybe I was just better hydrated? I honestly have no idea.

So, Do They Work?

I’m going to say that no, lactation smoothies didn't really work for me. (At least the three I tried.) While this experiment (science! discovery!) seemed like a fun idea in the begining, throughout I found myself asking “why am I doing this, again?” about a hundred times. The majority of the smoothies were gross, and I really, really, hate pumping.

Ad failed to load

Based on both my reading and my experience, breastfeeding or pumping more often is a much surer way to give your milk supply an added boost than altering your diet. On the other hand, two things that you really need as a nursing parent are to be properly hydrated, and to get enough protein. That can be really tough! Especially if you are taking care of a baby. As a first-time mom, I really want to do everything I can to make sure my son is getting the nutrients he needs and that I'm taking care of my own body, but always making sure I'm doing everything by the book is daunting and totally overwhelming.

I liked making the smoothies because they were quick and fairly easy to assemble, but I think if I were to keep on down this path I'd definitely try to introduce better tastes and flavors so that I can actually enjoy what I'm putting into my body.

Images: Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover (5), Giphy (4)

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In April

It's that time of the month again: as March draws to a close, Netflix gets ready for a little bit of spring cleaning. Though some TV shows and movies will have to find homes elsewhere, their departure makes room for all kinds of exciting new media. A…
By Megan Walsh

The Pressure To Worry About The Gap Between Kids Is So Bad For Moms

"Two under two is absolutely crazy," a friend recently told me upon hearing the news that I was expecting a second child. "Why would you do this to yourself? Seriously, why?" However harsh her words, she was only echoing the same feelings I'd been ba…
By Marie Southard Ospina

To Be Honest, I Couldn't Survive Motherhood Without My Job

The decision to work outside the home once you've become a parent can be a complicated one. Some people don't really have a choice, and go back to work because they're either a single parent or can't sustain their family on one income. Some choose to…
By Priscilla Blossom

I Feel Guilty That My Kid’s Dad Is A Better Parent Than Me, & That’s BS

I was scared, and he was sure. I was clueless, and he was well-researched. I was making mistakes, and he was picking up the pieces. From the moment I found out I was pregnant until just last night, when I threw my hands up in the air and left the alw…
By Danielle Campoamor

These Millennial Parents Are Taking Gender-Neutral Parenting To An Entirely New Level

A woman on the subway looks at my bulbous shape and asks, “What are you having?” I take a deep breath and throw a glance to my 5-year-old. “I’m having a baby,” I say to the woman. “No, no” the woman says laughing as she pushes further. “Are you havin…
By Madison Young

I’m Registered At Babies “R” Us, & I'm Freaking The Hell Out

Hi. My name is Abi, and I’m registered at Babies “R” Us — and I’m freaking out. This may sound silly, but after being a die-hard Toys “R” Us kid, I was so excited to register at their baby store once my husband and I finally got our big fat positive …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

My Daughter Is Obsessed With Being "Pretty" & I'm Way Past Terrified

Last week, when I picked up my daughter after school, she immediately wanted to know if I liked her hair. "Is it pretty?" she asked. Her hair was pulled up into two ponytails that were intertwined into thick, long braids. A shimmering pink and purple…
By Dina Leygerman

7 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 20s, But I Will

I was 24 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was a surprise, since I was on birth control (side note: antibiotics and birth control don't mix), but my partner and I decided to continue with the pregnancy and committed to m…
By Candace Ganger

Women Who Miscarry Early Deserve To Grieve — Here's How Hospitals Should Be Helping

When I lost my baby back in 2013, it was because of a very early miscarriage. Because of the little amount of time I spent being pregnant, it was though my child had never really existed, which made the next few years hard — I felt like they had been…
By Risa Kerslake

7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me In The First Hour After Giving Birth

I don't know if it was the buzz of the surrounding machines, the non-existent cry of our son as the doctors tried to resuscitate him, or the fact that I'd already been through labor and delivery once before, but I knew something was missing after I h…
By Candace Ganger

Moms’ Groups Weren’t For Me, Sorry

I go to my moms’ club everyday of the week, but not usually on weekends. My moms' group is a place I can always count on finding fellow mothers who understand the daily struggles and triumphs of parenthood and of juggling life’s responsibilities. Dep…
By Samantha Taylor

Millennial Women Are Getting Married Later Than Gen X, & The Reasons Why Are Pretty Badass

The battle of the generations seems to come up when it comes to every lifestyle or career choice people make. Women, especially, are an important demographic when it comes to analysts looking at the lifestyle choices we make or the expected milestone…
By Josie Rhodes Cook

I've Had 3 Miscarriages But *Please* Keep Telling Me About Your Pregnancy

I can feel the tension the moment my friend announces her pregnancy. I can hear the forced nonchalant attitude she's willing herself to exude as she fishes for the ultrasound. I know why I was the last to learn that she was expecting; why she keeps l…
By Danielle Campoamor

7 Early Signs You're Going To Need An Epidural, According To Experts

Even if you've constructed an elaborate birth plan, it's impossible to control every aspect of labor and delivery. Complications can occur, proactive measures might be necessary, and your mind is subject to change when those damn contractions really …
By Candace Ganger

I'm Pregnant & I Refuse To Read Any Parenting Books

I didn't read any parenting books when I was expecting my daughter, and I refuse to read any parenting books as I await my second child now. I'm the first to admit that I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to raising my daughter. A good d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

7 Reasons Why March Babies Are Total Badasses

From the moment you become pregnant, you begin to wonder what your little one will be like. Will they look like you, your partner, or your Great Aunt Edna? Will they be the quiet, thoughtful type or arrive on this planet raring to go? It's fun to ima…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

12 Overnight Face Masks To Use To Wake Up Feeling Pampered AF

Spring is right around the corner, and as far as I'm concerned, the sunshine and warm breezes can't come soon enough. But now that we're about to say goodbye to winter, it's a good time to take stock of your facial skincare routine. You know, in the …
By Katie Malczyk

11 Essential Products To Pack In Your Hospital Bag, According To OB-GYNs

The minute you go into labor (or think you're going into labor), chaos ensues. You and your partner are likely to get a little frantic, just like in the movies, so you most definitely want to have a hospital bag packed before the day comes. This prec…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

7 Photos You *Must* Take In The First 6 Months Of Motherhood

In my experience, becoming a mom is like becoming an amateur photographer. There's just something about the need to capture every single coo and sorta-smile that leaves you obsessed with all things photography. I know I couldn't stop taking selfies w…
By Candace Ganger

Here's How Early An Ultrasound Can Actually Determine Your Baby's Sex

From the moment you see those two lines on a pregnancy test, there are a few markers along the way that stand out as especially exciting. Amongst them are hearing your baby's heartbeat and feeling that first, sweet little kick. And if you are finding…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik