How Non-Alcoholic Beer Affects Milk Supply

Your great-aunt Dora insists that beer will increase your milk supply, but should you believe her? If you don't feel like full-on drinking, or heard that it might not be such a good idea, you may be wondering, will non-alcoholic beer increase my milk supply?

Though the issue needs more study, Chemical and Engineering News reported that non-alcoholic beer might in fact increase milk supply, citing studies of sheep that found that beer powder, barley extract, and malt trigged prolactin levels. (Hops had no effect.) Chemical analysis suggested that the prolactin trigger was a polysaccharide found in barley. Who knew?

As for great-aunt Dora's advice, alcoholic beer might not be your best bet after all. Too much alcohol can inhibit your let-down, according to Today's Parent, and chronic or heavy drinking can quickly and significantly impact milk production. For these reasons, alcohol is considered an "anti-lactogenic" food — the exact opposite of what you're looking for.

If you're concerned about your milk supply, the foods you want are called "galactagogues." (I know, I know. Sounds like a space alien.) Historically, beer used to be a galactagogue, but that was way back in the day, when the beer mothers drank had extremely low alcohol levels, and a high nutritional content, to boot. Some moms even brewed special beer for their own breastfeeding selves (which I find strangely inspiring). Other famous galactagogues include barley, barley malt (hello, O'Doul's), fennel, oats, dill, and papaya.

But do they actually work? Lactation consultant Tera Kelley Hamann tells Romper that in her opinion, galactagogues are more psychological than anything else, but that doesn't mean they don't work. If you believe a certain food or drink will help your milk supply, that alone can decrease stress hormones, which helps you make more milk.

So if you just love the taste of an ice cold beer on a summer afternoon, a non-alcoholic glass might help your breastfeeding. But there are also other ways to introduce barley malt into your diet, especially if you have a sweet tooth. Hamann suggests swinging by your local ice cream parlor for a chocolate malt. (Now she's put the idea in my head, I'm going to do just that — even though I'm no longer breastfeeding. Because chocolate malt.) These days, you can also find barley malt at your local health food store, where it's marketed as a sweetener. Add some to hot chocolate, or replace sugar with barley malt the next time you whip up a batch of lactation cookies. Even if they don't magically increase your milk supply, at least you got something delicious for trying.