Moms who decide to breastfeed don’t have to change their diets to encourage the production of breast milk. However, eating foods that help in naturally increasing the volume of breast milk may help. These foods are called galactagogues.
What are galactagogues?
Galactagogues are basically foods, beverages, and substances that are found to be effective in helping boost a lactating mother’s milk supply. These are especially helpful for moms who exclusively pump as they don’t get the cues created by breast stimulation (which is vital for milk production) unlike moms who directly nurse their babies.
It’s been said that galactagogues work by encouraging the release of hormones that affect breast milk supply. However, one thing that you need to know is that galactagogues may not work on their own. You will still need to practice the basic recommendations for lactation, which include the following:
- Proper latch
- Frequent breastfeeding or pumping
- Skin-to-skin contact
- Breast compression
- A positive breastfeeding mindset
Does every breastfeeding mom need to take galactagogues?
The short answer is no.
While it is generally safe to eat foods that are considered galactagogues, such as fruits and vegetables (more examples can be found below), you need to check with your doctor or your lactation consultant before trying new supplements. For one, you may not even need to boost your milk supply!
Many breastfeeding moms experience a lack of confidence, especially during the newborn stage, thinking that they are not producing enough milk for their babies. But in general, your breast milk supply should be fine, considering that a 7-day old baby’s stomach is only the size of an apricot.
Then again, the addition of galactagogues to your diet may help you become more confident to breastfeed, which does have a great effect on your supply.
7 Most Common Galactagogues
There are plenty of galactagogues, and most of them are quite accessible. What we have on this list are the foods that can be easily added to almost any recipe. Some of them can even be baked into lactation goodies!
1. Dark green leafy vegetables
Even if they were not galactagogues, you should be adding dark green leafy vegetables into your diet. They are chock-full of essential vitamins and minerals that will benefit both you and your baby.
One of the most widely used galactagogues is fennel. It is a good source of phytoestrogens, which are believed to stimulate the production of breast milk. However, be careful not to eat too much fennel as it may have the reverse effect, which is milk supply decrease.
Grains are considered to be galactagogues, and oats are thought to be the most effective. Oats are thought to encourage the release oxytocin, which is a hormone necessary in breast milk production. It’s also full of saponins that are great for your immune system.
4. Brewer’s Yeast
Brewer’s yeast is also known as nutritional yeast, and it is a great source of protein, iron, and phytoestrogens that help with lactation. To take brewer’s yeast, you may drink a bottle of beer or take it in capsule form.
5. Raw Nuts
For snacks, choose raw nuts like cashews, almonds and walnuts that contain a high amount of proteins and amino acids. These amino acids are essential in the creation of serotonin, which helps in lactation.
Is there any spice — or food, for that matter — more universal than garlic? If you use a lot of garlic in your cooking, the great news is that it may help boost milk supply. If you are not particularly fond of garlic, you may also take it in capsule form.
7. Sesame Seeds
Finally, you can also add sesame seeds to your dishes to help increase your breast milk supply. Don’t forget to crush them first to get to the milk-boosting goodness that are found inside the seeds.
If you want to increase your breast milk supply, eating galactagogues may help in addition to frequent nursing or pumping, skin-to-skin contact, and a positive breastfeeding mindset. Again, the galactagogues on our list are very common and can be easily incorporated into your recipes!