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The foods that can boost your breast milk

23 Nov 2022 • 7 min read

Find out how making small tweaks to your diet could help you produce more milk while breastfeeding your baby New mum? If you’re breastfeeding, it’s normal to worry about how much milk you’re producing, particularly in the first few weeks. The good news: most women can make enough breast milk for their babies.1 Still unsure? Adding certain foods to your diet could help boost breast milk production.2

Eat a healthy diet

First things first; tuck into a healthy, balanced diet. You need an extra 500 calories a day to provide all the energy and calcium required while breastfeeding.3 If your diet is low in calories – fewer than 1500 calories per day – researchers think your baby may not get all the nutrients and calories they need.4 Go for lean protein like tofu, eggs, and nuts, and eat at least five portions of fresh fruit and veg a day for fibre, vitamins and minerals.5 You’ll also need to drink up to 3 litres of fluids a day, for example water and herbal tea, to avoid dehydration.6

Tuck into milk-boosting foods

Two foods in particular have been shown to help improve breast milk production:

Fenugreek

This small, yellow seed with a bitter, burnt-sugar flavour7 has been used for centuries to increase breast milk flow. It works by stimulating sweat production. As the breast is a modified sweat gland, this means you may see increased milk volume too.8 Although, you might feel a bit more sweaty than usual! A 2011 study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found that women given fenugreek tea daily produced more breast milk, and their babies also regained their birth weight faster.9

Fennel

A Greek botanist first discovered fennel’s breast milk-boosting properties around 60AD and ever since, mothers have been using fennel to improve their milk flow. Researchers at the University of Antioquia in Colombia reported in a 2014 overview that including fennel in your diet may help increase milk supply.10 Fennel can taste of aniseed when raw, but cooking softens this flavour.11 Sprinkle raw or roasted fennel on your salads, stir it into risottos and stir-fries, or bake in a gratin.


Oats and sesame seeds

There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence from mothers that oats and sesame seeds may help increase breast milk flow. In the UK, USA and Australia, new mums bake ‘lactation cookies’ containing oats, while in Mexico, sesame seed cakes are eaten by breastfeeding women.12,13 However, there is no scientific evidence to back up these claims.

Sources

  1. NHS Choices. Breastfeeding: is my baby getting enough milk? Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/breastfeeding-is-baby-getting-enough-milk/
  2. Abascal K, Yarnell E. Botanical Galactagogues. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/244890005_Botanical_Galactagogues
  3. Kominiarek MA, Rajan P. Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5104202/
  4. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Nutritional Status During Pregnancy and Lactation. Nutrition During Lactation. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235589/
  5. NHS Choices. Breastfeeding and diet. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/breastfeeding-diet/
  6. Healthline. How much water you need to drink. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-much-water-should-I-drink
  7. BBC Good Food. Fenugreek seed. Available from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/glossary/fenugreek-seed
  8. ScienceDirect. Galactagogue. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/galactagogue
  9. Turkyilmaz C, et al. The effect of galactagogue herbal tea on breast milk production and short-term catch-up of birth weight in the first week of life. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21261516
  10. Tabares F, Jamarillo J and Ruiz-Cortes Z. Pharmalogical Overview of Galactogogues. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4165197/
  11. BBC Good Food. Fennel bulb. Available from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/glossary/fennel-bulb
  12. Bazzano AN, et al. Maternal experiences with and sources of information on galactagogues to support lactation: a cross-sectional study. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5338995/
  13. Moran L and Gilad J. From Folklore to Scientific Evidence: Breast-Feeding and Wet-Nursing in Islam and the Case of Non-Puerperal Lactation. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614654/
 

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