Foods and Herbs for Adequate Breastmilk Production

by Anna Bartels, TCM apprentice

While there are often discussions and warning about foods that you should not eat while breastfeeding, equally important is a focus on the best foods to eat while breastfeeding.  While these foods are great for any nursing mother, for mother’s who are having trouble with milk production in particular, these suggestions may be helpful.

Overall, eating sufficient meals and drinking enough water is the most important when it come to milk supply, but there are certain types of foods that promote and interact with the chemistry of lactation (lactogenic foods).

Foods and Spices

  • Certain spices, such as marjoram, dill, and caraway help promote milk production
  • Tumeric has lactogenic properties and is also an anti-inflammatory, so may be useful in preventing or treating breast inflammation.
  • Fennel (enjoy a cup of fennel tea in between meals)
  • Black sesame seeds (dry roasted)
  • Carrots, beets, yams, sweet potatoes are full of beta-carotenes which you need more of during lactation
  • Dark leafy green vegetables are full of essential nutrients and minerals, but also contain phytoestrogen which supports lactation.
  • Oats contain a lot of phytochemicals and are also a great source of iron, which is essential to producing healthy milk.  Oats are also utilized as nervine tonics and can be helpful in treating nervous issues and as antidepressants.
  • Garlic
  • Ginger can be helpful for letdown and milk flow
  • Brewers or nutritional yeast contain essential vitamins and nutrients like chromium and vitamin B complex, which can help with levels of energy and emotional balance.  In addition, they contain protein and good levels of phytoestrogens, which can lead to boosts in milk supply.

Herbs

  • Fenugreek is not for use during pregnancy, but is one of the most common herbs used to increase milk supply.  It’s a common ingredient in Indian curries and has also been known to decrease blood sugar and cholesterol.  Large amounts of fenugreek can cause a mama’s sweat and urine to smell like maple syrup.
  • Nettle contains iron which is easy to digest, as well as calcium, folic acid and vitamin K.
  • Fennel Seed has been known increase milk production and it also is a digestive aid which can help to soothe a colicky baby through the breastmilk.

It’s always important to remember that if you have a low milk supply and you are supplementing your diet with herbs to make sure you do so in a balanced supply.  If you over-consume herbs that promote lactation, you could possible face issues with producing too much milk, including over supply, engorgement, mastitis or clogged ducts.

Resources

A great resource, created by the US Department of Agriculture is the Choose My Plate Website.  You can use this website to create a nutritional plan based on your own specific dietary needs.

A great article by By Hilary Jacobson CH.HU.SI. on lactogenic foods and herbs.

A recipe for Major Milk Lactation Cookies and a website where you can order pre-made lactation cookies.  Both cookies contain a variety of ingredients which are known in increase milk supply.

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