Babies have been breastfed to survive and thrive since humans graced the Earth. Most moms who breastfeed will not need to increase their milk supply while nursing, but many may wonder if baby is actually getting enough milk. There are easy ways to determine if breastfeeding is meeting baby’s needs and how to increase breast milk with oatmeal or by other means.
Mothers can easily determine the need to increase breast milk. A nursing mother makes milk through supply and demand. When a baby is allowed to nurse frequently, in most cases the mother will make plenty of milk for the baby to thrive. Sometimes there may be a breastfeeding or other issue that results in the baby not thriving. If a baby under 6 weeks of age is not gaining well on breast milk alone or does not have five to six wet diapers and two to three bowel movement diapers in 24 hours, consult with a lactation specialist, health care professional trained in lactation, or La Leche League leader to determine how to increase milk supply.
Foods, herbs or medications that increase breast milk are called galactagogues. Oatmeal is considered a galactagogue by many lactation specialists, although the effectiveness is based on personal accounts rather than research. Many mothers have found that the addition of oatmeal into the diet allows them to produce and pump more milk than when they are not eating oatmeal.
Although oatmeal doesn’t have controlled studies to back it, there are some reasons it may work to increase breast milk. According to Hilary Jacobson, oatmeal is a comfort food for many mothers, promoting relaxation and relief from depression. Mothers who are low in iron may not be able to produce adequate milk, and oats provide iron. Oatmeal contains minerals that help stimulate the hormone oxytocin, contributing to successful letdown during lactation. There is a correlation between some galactagogues such as fenugreek and alfalfa and the reduction of cholesterol. Since oats are also known to reduce cholesterol, they may share the same characteristics of increasing milk supply.
Lactation specialists recommend eating a breakfast of whole oatmeal, steel cut oats or whole pods because they have more nutrients than instant oatmeal to help a mother relax and increase breast milk. Mothers can also use oats in snacks to increase consumption, thus increasing breast milk supply. Oats are easy to eat and most people tolerate them with no problems. Those with gluten sensitivity may want to buy oats that are gluten-free.
The best suggestion when trying to increase milk supply is to take care of mom and get some rest. Stress can inhibit milk production, so it pays to take a break. Increase water consumption, delegate responsibilities and enjoy nursing the baby as much as possible. Increasing breast milk supply can also be done through drinking water, eating at least 500 calories more per day, researching herbs and adding foods that may support lactation. Foods that may help increase supply include brewer’s yeast and essential fatty acids like those found in fish.
Some mothers increase breast milk through pumping after a feeding to milk the breast fully and send the message that more milk is needed. Prescription medications may be obtained through consulting with a health care professional. Check with a lactation specialist before using herbs as some are not suitable for breastfeeding. Various herbs that have been used to increase milk production include fenugreek in capsules or tea form, marshmallow root, nettles, blessed thistle and alfalfa. Some tea companies also make preparations to support lactation, which may be found at health food stores.