Most nursing mothers worry at some point if they are producing enough breast milk for their growing baby. I know it’s worried me. So while breastfeeding is finally back on the rise in the U.S., some mothers give up because they fear they are starving their bundle of joy. In fact, low breast milk supply is one of the biggest reasons mothers give for stopping the practice.
There are so many variables with lactation, but one way we can all easily keep our milk production at a comfortable level – for both baby and mommy – is to eat lactogenic foods, foods that naturally increase breast milk.
Top 10 Lactogenic Foods to Increase Breast Milk
These tiny, but mighty, seeds have been used to improve lactation for centuries. Both the seeds and the plants have plenty of tryptophan, one of the 10 essential amino acids our bodies need, and that increases milk production. Fennel is very versatile and easy to add to lots of different recipes. You can enjoy it cooked or raw. It has a wonderful licorice taste that adds a lot of flavor to any meal. You can also drink fennel tea, which is a delicious way to make sure you are staying hydrated while nursing. I use them in my Lactogenic Cookie Dough Bites recipe.
Brewer’s yeast is packed full of vitamins, especially B vitamins, along with phytoestrogen, polysaccharides, chromium, and protein—all of which are important to lactation. If a mom isn’t getting all of the nutrients she needs while breastfeeding, Brewer’s yeast can supply not only a boost to milk production but can also help you feel more energetic and emotionally balanced. Not sure what to do with Brewer’s yeast? How about making a Lactogenic Smoothie? Simply delicious!
It’s not surprising to see this plant-based supplement on the top 10 list! Moringa is a powerhouse of nutrients, including protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Clinical studies have found a significant increase in milk production in nursing women who included Moringa in their diet…in just four days! By day seven of ingesting Moringa, women in the study had actually doubled the amount of breast milk they produced. This complete food offers a lot of great benefits for mommy too. Breastfeeding takes a lot out of your body and including this lactogenic food in your diet boosts your health and helps you feel amazing. Learn more about its awesomeness here.
Barley has been known as a lactogenic food since the time of the ancient Greeks, some 2,000 years ago. It offers polysaccharides, a natural form of long-chain sugar which stimulates prolactin secretion, which increases breast milk. Prolactin is the chief hormone involved in milk production. Along with polysaccharides, barley supplies tryptophan, which also increases milk supply. Tryptophan is a precursor for serotonin, which is our feel-good neurotransmitter, so having plenty of barley in your diet will keep you feeling great during this wonderful, but busy, time!
These tasty treasures are filled with all types of goodness that make them a shoo-in for the top 10 lactogenic foods list, including protein, calcium, healthy fats, and tryptophan. Many nursing moms say that drinking almond milk also increases lactation. Almonds are also high in calcium. In some studies, calcium has increased breast milk production after menstruation begins again after giving birth.
Dark, leafy greens
Of course, leafy greens should be a large part of everyone’s diet, but they are especially helpful for nursing mothers. Water retention may suppress milk production, so foods that are natural diuretics are considered lactogenic. Leafy greens can help reduce the swelling that occurs during pregnancy. Some offer the added benefit of tryptophan, such as watercress and spinach. Others to include in your lactogenic diet are dandelion leaves, kale, lettuce, rocket, seaweed, spinach, watercress.
Oats are one of the most commonly recommended lactogenic foods. That’s because they are comprised of three major lactogenic substances. They contain both tryptophan and polysaccharides. They also have saponins—a substance that is a precursor for making hormones in the body. Since lactation is a hormone-based event, this is especially important. Oats are also easy to add to a lot of different recipes. You might enjoy my Lactogenic Baked Oatmeal to make sure you have time to eat a healthy breakfast.
Apricots are loaded with tryptophan and are easy to add to your diet. You can slice them to add to cereal, eat them dried, and they are wonderfully flavorful in chicken dishes. Looking for an easy, delicious apricots recipe? Try my Chocolate Apricots.
These Mediterranean delights might not be something you keep in the house until December, but as a nursing mom, you should keep a stash in your pantry. Dates have plenty of tryptophan, so they will definitely help with breast milk production. They are also a wonderful way to “eat sweet” without eating junky desserts. Want help with that? Check out my famous (in my household, anyway) Healthy, Chocolate Covered Amazeballs.
Not only are legumes full of fiber and protein, both of which are important to nursing moms, but they also have essential fatty acids in the form of Omega 3. One of the main reasons why women breastfeed is to make sure their babies receive the nutrients they need for growth and brain development. Essential fatty acids are vital to providing this. Because our bodies can’t manufacture these, we must get them in our foods. Ensuring baby gets what they need means mom must get plenty essential fatty acids in her diet. One delicious way to do that is by eating a nice variety of legumes, including lentils, peas, mung beans, chickpeas and black, kidney, lima, and string beans.
Oh and one more resource that I want to give you is my FAVORITE book all about breastfeeding and lactogenic foods: Mother Food. I have read is several times and reference it often! I have breastfed for a total of 6 years and counting, so this book has been a tremendous help to me. Every breastfeeding Mama should have a copy!
I also invite you to check out my Motherhood Page for more information about pregnancy and breastfeeding.