Which foods can help with breastfeeding?



By Jayne
Leonard
 



Reviewed by Katherine Marengo LDN,
RD


Oatmeal | Brewer’s yeast | Fenugreek seeds | Garlic | Fennel seeds | Protein-rich | Leafy greens | Alfalfa | Sesame seeds | Foods to avoid | Recipes | Other tips | Summary

To
produce milk, the body requires extra calories. Certain foods and drinks may also
influence the amount of milk that a woman produces.
Read
on to discover some of the best foods to help lactation, along with some other
tips to encourage a steady flow of breast milk.
There
has been very little research into foods that increase lactation. However, the
following may encourage the production of breast milk:

Oatmeal

According
to anecdotal reports, oatmeal is one of the best foods for boosting the milk
supply. It is also a good source of nutrients that are important for
breastfeeding women and babies.
These
nutrients include:

  • fiber
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • zinc
According
to the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Family Medicine and Community
Health, oatmeal’s high iron content may explain why it is popular with
breastfeeding women. Low iron levels can reduce the milk supply.
Oats
are also versatile and easy to prepare, making them a great meal option.

Brewer’s
yeast


Brewer’s
yeast is a fungus that manufacturers use to make beer and bread.
Also,
some people consume it because it acts as a probiotic and encourages gut
health.
The
yeast is also a rich source of:

  • protein
  • B
    vitamins
  • iron
  • trace
    minerals
Many
people say that brewer’s yeast is a galactagogue, which is a substance that
promotes lactation.
Brewer’s
yeast is generally safe to consume while breastfeeding. However, understanding
its full effects on lactation will require more research.

Fenugreek
seeds


Fenugreek
seeds are a staple in many Asian recipes. They are also a popular remedy for
boosting the supply of breast milk.
Results
of an older study, from 2011, suggest that drinking three cups of fenugreek tea
a day leads to a significant increase in breast milk output, compared with a
placebo. However, not all research supports this finding.
According
to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH),
fenugreek may cause:

  • diarrhea
  • a
    worsening of asthma symptoms
  • breast
    milk, urine, and sweat to develop a “maple-like” smell
The
NCCIH also advise women to avoid fenugreek while pregnant, as it may affect
uterine contractions. They caution that there is a lack of research into the
risks of taking fenugreek while breastfeeding.
Garlic

Eating
garlic or taking garlic supplements may support lactation in some women.
Although no research exists to show its effectiveness, some people in India use
garlic as a galactagogue.
However,
consuming too much garlic can cause breast milk to take on its odor. Some
babies do not like this, and they may feed for shorter periods as a result.

Fennel
seeds


Fennel
seeds are a common ingredient in teas and supplements marketed to increase
breast milk output. Some people also use fennel seeds to relieve gas and
bloating.
Some
studies report that taking fennel while breastfeeding can increase the volume
and fat content of milk and help the baby gain more weight.

Protein-rich
foods



foods that help lactation tofu

Protein
is essential for the production of breast milk, and it passes from the woman to
the baby to nourish and support growth.
For
this reason, breastfeeding women require an additional 25 grams of protein per
day.
To
ensure a steady supply of milk, it is essential to eat plenty of protein-rich
foods every day.
Good
sources of protein include:

  • lean
    meat
  • eggs
  • beans
    and lentils
  • tofu
  • nuts
    and seeds
Fish
represent another strong source of protein. However, the United States Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) advise pregnant and breastfeeding women to avoid fish
that contain high levels of mercury.
Those
with the highest levels of mercury include:

  • shark
  • swordfish
  • king
    mackerel
  • tilefish
  • bigeye
    tuna
  • orange
    roughy
  • marlin
Leafy
green vegetables


According
to the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Family Medicine and Community
Health, many fruits and vegetables — including leafy greens — may help
encourage lactation.
Examples
of leafy green vegetables include:

  • beet
    greens
  • dandelion
    greens
  • kale
  • parsley
  • spinach
  • watercress
Eating
a wide variety of vegetables while lactating has other benefits for the woman
and baby. It may encourage breastfed babies to eat more fruits and vegetables
when they get older, according to some research.
A
varied diet can also help prevent common nutrient deficiencies during pregnancy
and lactation, such as deficiencies in:

  • magnesium
  • vitamin
    B-6
  • folate
  • calcium
These
vitamin and minerals are present, in varying amounts, in leafy green
vegetables.

Alfalfa
sprouts


Alfalfa
is a type of pea. People consume sprouted alfalfa in salads, other meals, as a
tea, and as a dietary supplement. Alfalfa may have modest benefits for
lactation.
While
no clinical trials support the use of alfalfa as a galactagogue, some women
report that it helps boost breast milk production. Alfalfa is often an
ingredient in lactation teas and supplements.
Sesame
seeds


In
Mexico, some breastfeeding women consume sesame seed cakes to increase their
milk production. These seeds are rich in calcium, which may explain some of
their effects on breast milk.
Calcium
intake is especially important during pregnancy and breastfeeding for the bone
health of the woman and baby. Consuming too little of the mineral while
breastfeeding can result in milk with low calcium content.
For
lactating adults, the recommended daily calcium allowance is 1,000 milligrams.
Just 3 tablespoons of sesame seeds provide more than 25 percent of this amount.

Foods
to avoid



foods that help lactation avoid dairy

Many
women find that they do not need to avoid any foods while breastfeeding. Others
report that certain foods and beverages reduce their milk supply or cause the
baby to be fussy.
Foods
that commonly cause issues include:

  • products
    with caffeine, including coffee, tea, and chocolate
  • dairy
    products
  • herbs,
    including parsley, peppermint, and thyme
  • spices,
    such as cinnamon and chili
  • fruits,
    including citrus, kiwi, prunes, and pineapple
  • gas-causing
    vegetables, such as onions, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower
Every
woman and infant are different, however. Keeping a diary and looking for
patterns can help identify problematic foods.

Recipe
suggestions


The
following recipes may help increase milk supply and quality:

  • Oatmeal
    lactation cookies. As well as being a tasty treat, these cookies contain
    several foods that could boost lactation, including oats, brewer’s yeast, and
    egg.
  • Oatmeal
    and banana lactation smoothie. Also containing brewer’s yeast and peanut
    butter, this smoothie is rich in fiber and protein, and it may support healthy
    digestion and sustained energy.
  • Lactation
    tea. This lactation tea contains just fennel and fenugreek, which may boost
    milk production and reduce bloating.
  • Lactation
    oatmeal. A person can prepare this easy dish in advance for a quick, healthful
    snack between infant feeds.
  • Kale
    and lentil soup. Combining leafy greens and lean protein, this warming soup is
    a freezer-friendly option for breastfeeding women.
Other
tips for healthy lactation


Dietary
choices can support lactation, but there are also many other ways to increase
milk supply. These include:

  • breastfeeding
    very soon after delivery
  • nursing
    frequently, in response to infant demand
  • expressing
    milk after breastfeeding to maintain supply
  • staying
    hydrated, with water and juices
  • getting
    plenty of rest
  • reducing
    stress through meditation and exercise
  • wearing
    a well-fitting nursing bra
  • avoiding
    alcohol and nicotine
  • ensuring
    that the baby’s latch is effective
  • receiving
    prompt help from a lactation consultant if nursing issues arise
  • discussing
    medications with a doctor, as some can decrease milk supply
Summary

When
breastfeeding stops early, a perception of low milk supply is the most commonly
reported reason.
Often,
women can boost their breast milk supply through a combination of dietary and
lifestyle changes.
For
example, eating more leafy green vegetables, protein-rich foods, and certain
herbs and seeds may support healthy lactation. Also, consuming a wide variety
of nutritious foods will have other benefits for the woman and baby.
Breastfeeding
women with concerns about their milk supply or quality should speak to a
doctor, midwife, or a lactation consultant.





SOURCE: MEDICAL NEWS TODAY
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.