From eating oatmeal to drinking a beer, women receive a lot of confusing advice on what to eat or drink while breastfeeding to help boost or maintain their supply! A substance that increases milk production is known as a galactagogue (also spelled galactagogue). While galactagogues have not been evaluated by the FDA or even studied much, anecdotal evidence suggests they can be powerful breastfeeding supports.
Before taking a galactagogue, it’s important to make sure your milk supply is actually low. Factors such as how your breasts feel, how long your baby sleeps, frequency of nursing, and the amount you pump are not accurate ways to determine if you have enough milk! If you do determine your milk supply is low, it’s always best to consult a trained breastfeeding counselor or board-certified lactation consultant before proceeding.
Galactagogues exist in the form of foods, herbs, and prescription medications. As far as milk-stimulating foods go, most of the classics are part of a healthy diet anyway, so they fall under the category of “why not?” If you are trying to boost m ilk supply, try incorporating some of these into your diet:
1. Dark, Leafy Greens
In addition to providing important vitamins and minerals, these supply the compound phytoestrogen, which may support lactation.
2. Green Papaya
This Asian fruit is a great source of vitamin A and vitamin C.
3. Fennel & Fennel Seed
Because this sweet, licorice-flavored spice has estrogen-like qualities, it can be helpful in treating digestive and menstrual issues, as well as in increasing milk supply.
4. Brewer’s Yeast
Who knew this pantry staple contained powerful antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties? It’s also a comfort food that might help a woman’s body release oxytocin, which is involved in milk production.
In addition to foods, a plethora of herbs are thought to support lactation. Fenugreek is probably the best-known. Its seeds smell and taste like maple syrup, so you might too while you are taking it! A heavy hitter for breastfeeding moms, fenugreek is not effective for everyone. Milk thistle, another herb that has been used for thousands of years to stimulate milk production, is most effective when combined with fenugreek. Both can be taken in pill or tea form.
There is no substitute for best nursing practices—increasing the frequency and duration of nursing and/or pumping is the best way to increase milk production. However, galactagogues can be a wonderful support to such practices!