Foods that help promote healthy breast milk production can be considered "galactagogues". Certain herbs, such as blessed thistle and fenugreek have been prescribed by midwives historically for increasing milk supply.
Common foods that have the reputation of boosting milk supply include:
dark leafy greens
Breastfeeding mothers may find it useful to incorporate these foods into their diet if they are well tolerated. Some galactagogue foods may be gas-producing in babies and mothers should proceed with caution, especially with higher fiber whole grains and legumes. If well tolerated by both mommy and baby, these foods are also nourishing and full of health-promoting properties.
Mothers who desire to build a healthy breast milk supply should also pay attention to hydration status. The general recommendation for fluid intake is half the body weight in non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic fluids such as plain water, fresh-pressed fruit and vegetable juices, soups, and certain herbal teas designed for breastfeeding mothers. Unsweetened coconut water is naturally hydrating and a good source of electrolytes. This may be a healthier choice over bottled re-hydration drinks.
Certain medications such as antihistamines may decrease milk supply with daily use. Mothers in need of over-the-counter medications should discuss dosages with a knowledgeable licensed healthcare practitioner including any prescription medications that may interfere with a healthy milk supply. Usually, there are safer alternatives that can be prescribed.
Herbs that may decrease breastmilk supply with daily use in lactating mothers include sage and peppermint. These herbs can be used in cooking infrequently and in small amounts but may become problematic if used daily in herbal tea preparations or concentrated in oils. A certified herbalist can guide breastfeeding mothers on other herbs that may impact breastmilk production.
While galactagogue foods and herbs can be a helpful addition to achieving a robust breast milk supply, it is important to encourage breastfeeding mothers to nurse often and for as long as the baby needs to empty the breast. Especially in the early weeks, a mother may become concerned that her baby isn't getting enough milk. Chronic stress and sleep deprivation can impact milk supply and so the mother is encouraged to connect with an International Board Certified Breastfeeding Consultant (IBCLC) to support and assist her for a positive and successful breastfeeding experience.
Christy lives on the Space Coast of Florida where she educates and supports new mothers on lactation, nutrition, and self-care. She is the mother of three breastfed children.