Lactogenic Foods to Increase Milk Supply
Did you know that there are certain foods reported to increase milk supply? This post will touch on some of most well known lactogenic foods and how they may help with milk production.
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Once I learned about lactogenic foods and breast milk enhancer foods, my stress with breastfeeding disappeared. While foods for increasing milk supply may not work wonders for everyone, it’s at least something to have in your corner.
Disclaimer: While I am a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s in Public Health, I am not a lactation consultant and I am not diagnosing or providing personalized information. This post is meant to summarize different foods to increase milk supply, based on research.
We all go into this unknown of what nursing or breastfeeding will bring. You’ve probably heard sweet stories of it being so “bonding,” but you may have also heard stories of pain, regret and frustration.
The truth is, we all have our own breastfeeding experience, whether we choose to nurse, pump (exclusively or not), do bottle feeding, or do formula.
This post is not meant to shame moms who can’t or don’t choose to breastfeed.
Instead, it’s just meant to provide some evidence-based resources about foods that increase milk supply for breastfeeding and touch on supplements to increase breast milk.
In This Article
Lactogenic Foods – What the Research Says
I’m not here to say eating the “best foods for breastfeeding” will solve your milk supply issues, but eating enough is certainly one part of the equation for milk supply. Honor your breastfeeding hunger!
There’s also research on supply and demand, and breastfeeding frequency and milk removal affect milk supply as well.
However, this post is specifically focused on breastfeeding foods to increase milk supply.
As mentioned in his paper, Common Herbs and Foods Used as Galactagogoues, researcher Frank Nice writes that herbs and foods have been used historically as galactagogues by breastfeeding women to maintain and increase milk supply (1).
However, he acknowledges that there is a lack of evidence-based information on the use and safety of herbals and foods as galactagogues in many cases, herbs especially.
The FDA does not regulate the marketing of herbals and research studies are not required.
So, all the more reason to take care in what supplements you choose to take and to consult with your doctor, OBGYN, lactation consultant, etc.
It’s important to remember that while we have plenty of anecdotal evidence about the efficiency of certain lactogenic foods, we still need more peer-reviewed and published research before we can have definite recommendations.
As with anything, some of these foods for increasing milk supply may work better for some people than others.
Overall, getting enough calories and hydration is important, and incorporating as many healthy snacks postpartum as needed.
I always recommend some of these healthy breastfeeding snacks at night if you’re up nursing or pumping. Eating enough helps your milk supply.
Foods to Increase Milk Supply
As mentioned by the American Pregnancy Association, these foods listed below are galactagogue foods, meaning they may have substances that increase milk supply.
So, if you’re looking for how to increase milk supply when pumping, or just how to increase breast milk supply in general, these foods that help with lactation may help you!
Many of these lactogenic foods go well in smoothies, so if you love smoothies, check out this post with 10 ideas for a lactation smoothie to help increase milk supply.
Many of these also work great as a healthy breastfeeding snack!
Please note that all of these foods for milk supply may not be necessary for your particular diet or situation.
These may provide to be lactation increasing foods for some, and if anything, they are general healthy foods to add to your diet.
Oats were an easy lactation enhancing food to include in my diet as a new nursing mother.
I loved to make cookie dough overnight oats, a big bowl of hot turmeric oatmeal, or baked oatmeal (apple pumpkin pie oatmeal or sweet potato oatmeal bake with blueberries are my personal favorites).
There are so many ways you can meal prep oatmeal to get the lactogenic benefits of oatmeal for milk supply.
- I often made these chocolate chip baked oatmeal cups and easy protein granola to snack on during the day or during night nursing sessions.
- And for me, pumpkin is always in season and these no bake oatmeal lactation cookies are a hit!
- Mix oats with some healthy fats in these peanut butter cheerio bars to up your calories to help with milk supply too.
- Wake up to a premade breakfast with high protein overnight oats (high calorie overnight can to help meet your energy needs, which may help with milk production).
Oats also provide iron, energizing carbohydrates, and B-vitamins to help with the production of energy, and fiber.
There’s not much published evidence about oats helping with breastfeeding but there is a plethora of anecdotal evidence and many lactation recipes available that use oats.
If anything, they are nutritious, budget-friendly, easy and convenient to include in many foods.
Similarly, whole grains have a balanced nutritional profile that may help support the hormones responsible for the production of breast milk and can be a galactogogue food.
Aside from oatmeal, barley, millet and brown rice are great grains to include in your breastfeeding diet.
Carbohydrates, like whole grains, can be comforting foods.
Comfort foods may help women release the hormone, oxytocin, which is involved in the production of milk.
Fennel, an aromatic yellow-flowered European plant, is part of the parsley family. You can find it in many tea recipes (I happen to like this fennel tea with ginger).
Fennel may have estrogen-like properties, which may be why it’s known to help promote the milk ejection reflex.
The vegetable part of the fennel plant can be eaten raw or cooked with other vegetables. You can eat it as part of a soup or include it in other recipes.
Fennel seeds can also be used as a topper for many recipes and can be eaten whole.
Since fennel is also used as an herb, it’s important to be aware of some of the side effects as well. Talk with your personal care provider to determine if they may be right for you.
Nuts are an easy addition and natural food for increasing breast milk because they’re so portable! I kept a little tin of almonds next to my bed for night nursing sessions and middle-of-the-night hunger.
Nutritionally, nuts are high in protein and healthy unsaturated fats, both of which can help with keeping you fuller longer, a great option for constant hunger while nursing.
I prefer to buy them in bulk because they last longer. Cashews, macadamia nuts and walnuts may also help.
I make zucchini almond flour muffins to freeze a bunch for postpartum, too!
Garlic has been shown to have antioxidant properties and many health-promoting properties. It is also believed to be a galactagogue food.
Interestingly enough, many mothers think of garlic as a turn-off to babies for tainting the taste of breastmilk.
However, a study published in Pediatric Research found that babies spent more time attached to the mothers’ breast after mothers ingested garlic, compared to mothers who consumed garlic capsules.
Garlic is easy to add to your diet. Sautee it and add it into soups, pumpkin chili, stews, crispy parsnip fries, roasted vegetables and pasta recipes.
Flaxseeds and Sesame Seeds
Both have phytoestrogens that can help with milk production. Flaxseeds are also full of essential fatty acids that help with decreasing inflammation as well.
I love throwing flaxseeds in smoothies and I even use flax eggs in this vegan brownie recipe.
Flax seeds are easy to add to oatmeal, muffins, yogurts, salads and more.
I’ll admit, brewer’s yeast has a strong taste and odor that kind of turns me off. But, you don’t really taste it when it’s baked into the recipe.
For example, I use it in my berry banana oat waffles and you don’t even know it’s there.
Brewer’s yeast is a powder, so easy to add to things. It’s full of B vitamins, iron, protein, selenium and many other minerals.
I love this brewer’s yeast because it’s made by and for nursing mothers.
Fresh Ginger Root
Ginger is a well known galactagogue in Thailand. A study published in Breastfeeding Medicine found that women taking ginger root had higher milk production than women in the placebo group, not taking ginger.
I wouldn’t recommend popping ginger supplements, but adding raw, fresh ginger to your meals can be easy, or finding ginger teas that you like.
Or, grate some ginger and make your own tea.
We’re all well aware that we should be eating more dark leafy green vegetables, including spinach, kale, arugula and collard greens.
However, since these foods may help support milk supply, they provide more bang for your buck!
Add greens to sandwiches, smoothies, stirfries, pasta dishes and more to enhance the nutritional content of the dish. They’ll add calcium, iron, Vitamin C, B Vitamins, Vitamin A and more.
There are also herbal galactagogues, like fenugreek, blessed thistle and alfalfa, but those aren’t the focus of this post.
You can learn more about herbal galactagogues here and the efficiency of galactagogues in this systematic review.
Are Lactation Supplements Safe?
As mentioned earlier, many supplements are not reviewed or regulated by the FDA.
Meaning it’s a free-for-all, and consumers need to be savvy.
The bottom line seems to be that if you can use foods to increase milk supply, that seems to be the safer bet.
If you are a surrogate or adoptive mother, or there are other causes for reduced milk production, it may be a situation to consider herbal galactagogues and supplements, from a knowledgable care provider or source.
It would be prudent to talk with your doctor, OB-GYN or lactation consultant before taking anything.
For more resources on motherhood:
These freezer meal ideas for new moms are super helpful and chock full of tips for freezer friendly, healthy recipes.
This post talks about how we introduced solids with baby led weaning and used sweet potatoes for baby led weaning.
This short TED talk is a great way to think about the transition to motherhood.
- Nice, Frank. Common Herbs and Foods Used as Galactogogues. Ican: Infant, Child, & Adolescent Nutrition. 3. 129-132 (2011). doi: 10.1177/1941406411406118.
- American Pregnancy Association. Galactagogues – Boosting Your Milk Supply. Accessed February 19, 2020 from https://americanpregnancy.org/breastfeeding/galactagogues-boosting-your-milk-supply/
- Mennella, J., Beauchamp, G. The Effects of Repeated Exposure to Garlic-Flavored Milk on the Nursling’s Behavior. Pediatr Res. 34, 805–808 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1203/00006450-199312000-00022
- Panwara Paritakul, Kasem Ruangrongmorakot, Wipada Laosooksathit, Maysita Suksamarnwong, and Pawin Puapornpong.Breastfeeding Medicine, 361-365 (2016).http://doi.org/10.1089/bfm.2016.0073
- Bonyata, Kelly IBCLC. What is a Galactagogue? Do I need one? Kelly Mom. Accessed February 18, 2020 from https://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/herbs/herbal_galactagogue/
- Mortel Mylove, Supriya Mehta. Systematic review of the efficacy of herbal galactagogues. Journal of Human Lactation. 29(2):154-62. (2013). doi: 10.1177/0890334413477243.
- Zuppa AA, et al. Safety and efficacy of galactogogues: substances that induce, maintain and increase breast milk production. Journal of Phamaceutical Sciences. 13(2):162-74 (2010). doi 18433/j3ds3r
Breastfeeding our babies are very important so if you are like me who produced little milk, this article is perfect for you to increase milk production.