Foods That Increase Breast Milk

By Shantana Goerge
Foods That Increase Breast Milk
Foods That Increase Breast Milk

For those who have decided to breastfeed their babies, it can be alarming to suspect that the baby is not able to get enough milk from her mother. Signs that baby is getting enough milk include baby producing six to eight wet diapers per day, hearing the sound of the baby swallowing while nursing, and weight gain in baby. If the mother suspects that she is not producing enough milk for her baby, there are some food options for the mother to consume to increase her milk production.

Foods That Increase Milk Production

Nursing mothers need to be sure to drink enough water.
Nursing mothers need to be sure to drink enough water.

A nursing mother needs to have adequate nutrition if she is to make milk that is nutritious for her baby. Some specific foods and drinks can help her body increase its production of breast milk.

Nursing mothers need to be sure to drink enough water. Breast milk is made up of mostly water, so it is difficult to make enough milk if the mother is dehydrated. A mother who drinks enough water and eats nutritious food can boost her ability to take care of her children, especially as it relates to breastfeeding. Nursing mothers, however, should not drink too much water, which can decrease milk production. A rule of thumb is to drink enough water to turn your urine a pale yellow color. Dark yellow urine is a sign of too little water, and colorless urine indicates too much. Also, dry lips are a signal to drink more water.

Oatmeal is a popular food choice for increasing milk production, according to kellymom.com. One theory is that its high iron content corrects for anemia in the mother, which can lead to low milk supply. Another possibility is that, like any grain, it adds calories the mother might be missing to produce enough milk. Regardless, it is an easy way to support breastfeeding.

Cultures around the world recommend beer to boost a nursing mother's milk supply, however there is a dearth of scientific data to back this up, according to www.drgreene.com.

For women wishing to try taking beer to increase their milk production, it's worth noting that many mothers report getting good results from non-alcoholic beer. This is an option for mothers concerned about passing alcohol to their baby in their breast milk.

Carrots are high in beta-carotene, which is required in higher amounts for lactation.

Similar to carrots, beets are high in beta-carotene. They are also high in iron, which can help alleviate anemia and boost milk production.

Besides being nutrient dense, leafy greens support milk production by being high in the phytoestrogens that support lactation.

Food and Drugs to Avoid

Nicotine also can have a negative impact on milk production.
Nicotine also can have a negative impact on milk production.

To support your milk production overall, a nursing mother should avoid certain foods and drugs that are known to decrease milk production. Following are some suggested foods and drugs to eliminate.

According to kellymom.com, sage is known for decreasing milk production, even at low levels. The average nursing mother need not worry about small amounts in foods, but mothers struggling with low milk supply may want to avoid this herb entirely while trying to increase their supply.

Nicotine also can have a negative impact on milk production, so mothers struggling with low milk supply may want to consider giving up smoking while breastfeeding.

Estrogen can act as a milk supply depressant, so birth control pills containing the hormone should also be avoided if the mother is addressing low milk supply issues.

The purpose of decongestants is to "dry things up", including milk supply. These types of drugs should be avoided if low milk supply is an issue.

Caffeine can adversely affect milk production. Avoiding coffee, tea, chocolate and other foods containing caffeine might be helpful for a mother battling low milk supply.

Calming Options

Mothers who are stressed when nursing may enjoy nursing in a quiet room, and even putting on relaxing music.
Mothers who are stressed when nursing may enjoy nursing in a quiet room, and even putting on relaxing music.

Low milk supply in a nursing mother can cause anxiety and concern for your baby. Other steps that parents can take in more serious cases include using a breast pump between nursing sessions to stimulate greater production, and making a deliberate attempt to lower stress levels. Stress can seriously inhibit milk production and can inhibit the let-down reflex during nursing. The "let-down" during a nursing session is when the breast milk moves from the milk glands, where milk is produced, into the milk ducts, where it flows out and into the baby's mouth. Mothers who are stressed when nursing may enjoy nursing in a quiet room, and even putting on relaxing music and something over their eyes to block out light.

About the Author

Shantana Goerge has been writing since 1997, bringing straight-forward communication to a variety of notoriously-taciturn careers, including health inspection, public health education and science reporting. In addition to writing on these topics, she also writes on her other passions: Parenting, spirituality and nutrition. She holds dual bachelor's degrees in microbiology and food science from Michigan State University.