Breastfeeding has benefits for both mom and baby, but it doesn’t come easily or naturally for everyone.
While breast milk has been shown to nourish your baby’s immune system and even reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, it’s not always easy to keep the supply flowing. Mothers and breastfeeding parents often struggle with the challenge of producing enough milk to satisfy their hungry babies, and that’s not to mention other difficulties like engorged milk ducts, cracked nipples, and latching.
One easy way to support your breastfeeding journey is to consume lactogenic foods containing minerals and vitamins shown to boost your breast milk supply. Of course, good habits like regular feedings or pumpings and getting enough contribute most to milk production, but some anecdotal evidence has shown the following foods, herbs, and beverages might help kickstart the flow.
A lot of wives’ tales exist when it comes to pregnancy and breastfeeding, and you might have heard the advice that Guiness stimulates breast milk supply.
We can’t testify to that, but considerable evidence does point to whole grains as a nutritious lactogenic food source.
Notably, barley is one of the most rich dietary sources of polysaccharides that increase the breastfeeding hormone in both humans and animals.
Toss a handful of barley into soups, stews and risottos. Or use germinated barley make a syrupy sweetener for beverages, baked goods, and more.
Dark leafy greens
Vegetables like kale, alfalfa, lettuce, spinach, and broccoli are full of calcium and phytoestrogens that have been shown to have a positive effect on milk production. Add them to a stir fry, make a salad, or dress up your next panini with a rich burst of color.
Drink dried fennel in the form of a tea, or add the licorice-sweet(ish) fresh fennel bulb chopped up to your next salad. This Mediterranean miracle herb contains phytoestrogens and can be supportive when enjoyed in moderation.
Some studies show that fenugreek (which can be taken as a tea, tincture or supplement) significantly increases lactation in breastfeeding parents compared to placebo groups.
Oats (or oat milk)
While not the most flavorful food on this list, oats are a solid choice for breastfeeding parents. Oatmeal contains iron and is enjoyed by most as a comfort food, which improves stress levels and helps you cozy up with your babe.
If you like ginger tea for settling your stomach, you’ll also appreciate it for stimulating breast milk supply. Some studies show that ginger is a promising herb for improving the flow of breast milk.
High in calcium and estrogen-like plant properties, sesame seeds are more than just a tasty topper for your favorite sushi rolls. Eat sesame seeds as a salad topping, in a trail mix, or rolled into a nutrient-dense energy ball as a way to stimulate lactation and produce more milk.
When taken in the first two weeks after giving birth, milk thistle has been anecdotally shown to boost milk. Milk thistle is known for its tell-tale white veins running through the leaves of the plans, and it’s historically been linked to breastfeeding for. Once known as Saint Mary's Thistle and Our Lady's Thistle, this herb can be enjoyed as a tea or taken as a supplement.
Get ready to enjoy pumpkin-spice lattes, pumpkin loaf, pumpkin pie, and more. Consumption of this popular savory gourd was correlated to significantly improved milk volume in a study, and of course — it’s delicious! Pumpkin is also packed with nutrients like vitamins A, B1, B6, and C, copper, fiber, folate, and manganese.
Forget about vampires: garlic is good for breastfeeding, too. Garlic has been used as a galactagogue (lactation-stimulator) in India and Turkey, and thanks to its popular, pungent taste, people in Western countries are giving it a try, too. While it may change the taste of your breastmilk, some claim that babies like it and therefore breastfeed more frequently and, in turn, stimulate your breast supply.