Eating a balanced diet with lots of vegetables, fruit, grains, and protein – as well as staying hydrated – is vital for everyone’s health and wellbeing. But it’s especially important when you’re breastfeeding your baby or expressing breast milk to give to them in a bottle.
When you’re exclusively breastfeeding, it’s recommended that you eat between 300 and 400 extra calories a day. Breastfeeding parents are also advised to take a daily vitamin D supplement.
While there's no one 'magic' food that is scientifically proven to boost breast milk supply, some parents swear that certain foods can help to produce more breast milk. On the other hand, there are some foods and drinks that you should avoid or limit when breastfeeding.
Top foods that boost breast milk production
Let's run through what foods you can include in your breastfeeding diet to support breast milk production.
These foods are sometimes referred to as lactogenic foods or galactagogues. They contain specific nutrients that support the production of the hormone prolactin and therefore boost lactation and breast milk supply. They include…
- Dark, leafy vegetables: Veggies like lettuce, kale, spinach, and broccoli contain lots of nutrients and phytoestrogens that could potentially have a positive effect on your breast milk supply.
- Fennel: This vegetable has been used for its lactogenic properties in India and the Middle East for hundreds of years and contains lots of tryptophan (an important feature in breast milk).
- Fresh ginger: Some parents find that eating (or drinking) ginger helps support their let-down and breast milk flow.
- Garlic: Widely known as a galactagogue, garlic has been used for many years to stimulate breast milk production. You can add more garlic into your diet by using it to flavour everyday meals including vegetables, meats, pasta, and sauces.
- Lean beef, pork, lamb, and poultry: These meats are all high in iron and therefore may help bolster your breast milk supply.
- Legumes like chickpeas and lentils: These versatile foods contain lots of protein and beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids which transfer to breast milk and help aid healthy brain development.
- Nuts: Almonds and other raw nuts including cashews, walnuts, and macadamia nuts are healthy and full of protein and calcium which play an important role in breast milk production.
- Oats, barley, and whole grains: These are all good sources of iron, and low iron levels are known to negatively impact breast milk supply.
What to drink to increase breast milk supply
Breastfeeding is thirsty work, and hydration plays a big role in maintaining a good breast milk supply. Put simply, if you’re dehydrated, you will produce less milk. So, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids (water is best) throughout the day and a good idea to have a drink beside you when you’re breastfeeding or expressing breast milk using a pump – drink when the baby drinks!
To wrap up, if you’re struggling with maintaining your breast milk supply, don’t hesitate to raise your concerns with your doctor or lactation consultant.