We all know that mother’s milk is the best for the baby. In fact, it is recommended that babies are breastfed for the first 6 months of their life. After all, breast milk contains the right mix of crucial nutrients for your baby’s development. Some nutrients even protect your baby from illnesses and infections.1 Breastfeeding also strengthens the bond between you and your little one.
- Healthy moms rarely have low production of breast milk.
- Breastfeed frequently to increase production of milk.
- Feed 8–12 times a day in the first few weeks.
- Feed every 2–4 hours thereafter, depending on the baby’s demand.[/pullquote]
But what if you’re not producing enough milk? Experts suggest that low production of breast milk is a rarity in healthy moms. Taking milk from your breasts tells your body to make more. Therefore, not breastfeeding is a common cause of poor milk supply.2
Different countries across the world have local natural remedies to increase breast milk production, though most of them have not been clinically tested for efficacy. Here’s a list of common foods and herbs that experts and studies recommend.
1. Oatmeal And Brown Rice
According to the International Lactation Consultation Association, foods high in fiber like non-instant oats, brown rice, barley, and beans can increase milk supply.3 Oats and barley contain a type of carbohydrate called beta-glucan. Beta-glucans have been seen to increase the secretion of prolactin, the milk-producing hormone.4
Get some steel cut or rolled oats and make yourself a big bowl of porridge. Add any fruity garnish you like. Just make sure it tickles your taste buds. The satisfaction you find in tasty food can make your body release more oxytocin, the love hormone, which will keep your milk supply up.
2. Leafy Greens, Apricot, And Figs
Calcium-rich dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and bok choy and fruits like apricot and fig can also help.5
3. Fenugreek Tea
Fenugreek has been used for ages to increase milk supply in lactating mothers. A study found that new mothers who consumed a cup of fenugreek tea (made with approximately 2 g fenugreek) thrice a day were able to effectively improve milk flow.6
It is thought that diosgenin, a compound found in fenugreek, could be responsible for this effect due to its properties that are similar to estrogen (female sex hormone). In fact, it is even used in the production of synthetic estrogen.7
Although this remedy is generally safe, fenugreek can cause stomach pain and irritation in some nursing mothers and their babies, so make sure it agrees with both of you. You can watch for signs like colic or gas in your baby.
4. Palm Dates
Palm dates are traditionally used in the Middle East to improve milk flow in mothers. According to one study, women who consumed 10 palm dates thrice times a day had significantly higher milk production within 3 days of delivery. Dates are a good source of sugar (mainly glucose and fructose), minerals (magnesium, potassium, copper, and selenium), vitamins (B complex and C), and dietary fiber. They are also rich in antioxidants. Needless to say, they’re a nutritious food.8
But do keep in mind that dates are extremely calorie dense – 100 gm of dates gives you 277 Cal and half a cup of dates (75 g) is equivalent to one whole serving of fruit. So enjoy in moderation.9
Ginger is popularly used by new mothers to increase the supply of milk. When a study compared the volume of breast milk between women who took 500 mg ginger capsules twice a day and women who took a placebo, it was found that the ginger group had more milk on the third day postpartum. However, on the seventh day, there was no significant difference between them. This indicates that ginger is effective in improving milk supply in the immediate postpartum period without any notable side effect.10
Some research also points to ginger’s ability to shorten the time necessary for a new mother to reach full lactation. Specifically, this result was achieved when ginger was used in a topical herbal compress alongside turmeric and camphor.11
Moringa is traditionally used in Asian countries as a herbal galactagogue – that’s the medical term for food and drugs that increase breast milk. Research also shows that it can significantly increase the volume of milk produced by the seventh day after delivery. It is thought that moringa increases milk flow by inducing the production of prolactin, the hormone that regulates milk production.12
According to one study, 250 mg of moringa leaves in capsule form every 12 hours had a positive impact on lactation.13 While you may need to check with your doctor about any moringa supplements, you can include moringa leaves in your daily diet of vegetables. Try a soup of moringa leaves or, if you’re feeling adventurous, check out one of the numerous recipes from Asia.
Alfalfa is considered to have estrogen-like effects. As a result, this food can improve milk production.14 A handful of sprouts in your salad, pasta, or sandwich should work well. However, avoid taking alfalfa supplements. Having amounts greater than is usually consumed as food might not be safe during breastfeeding.15 Alfalfa could also cause loose stool. Avoid it if you are allergic to peanuts and legumes and have lupus.16
The Bataknese people in Indonesia used the leaf of the torbangun (country borage) in lactating women’s soups and stews to increase breast milk. A study has found that torbangun can indeed increase the quantity of breast milk in the first month of breastfeeding without affecting the quality of the milk. The women who received torbangun supplementation had a 65% increase in breast milk in the last 2 weeks of the study. This was much higher than what fenugreek could induce.17
Follow The Ayurvedic Route Of Good Food, Rest, And Herbal Medicines
Ayurveda considers both diet (aahara) and lifestyle factors (vihara) to be important influences on lactation in new mothers.
A study found that following a diet that adhered to Ayurvedic principles improved inadequate lactation. It also helped boost the frequency of breastfeeding over the course of 3 months.
The dietary regimen consisted of milk, sprouted green gram, wheat pudding, whole wheat flat bread, rice, lentils, green leafy vegetables with meat, onion and garlic chutneys, and fruits. The participants also had a glass of milk with dry ginger and pepper each day.
Proper rest, a happy state of mind, and avoidance of strenuous work were also advocated during the study.18
Ayurveda also uses medicinal formulations to increase milk flow (stanyajanan dravya). Decoctions of roots such as ekshuvalika (Saccharum officinarum), kusha (Desmostachya bipinnata), darbha (Imperata cylindrical), and Kasha (Saccharum spontaneum) find a place here. Sesame, garlic, and shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) are also used for increasing lactation.19 As always, check with an Ayurvedic doctor before taking herbal supplements or Ayurvedic medications.
Try Homeopathy Medicines Made Of Windflower, Castor Bean, And Stinging Nettles
Homeopathy uses medicines prepared from windflower (Pulsatilla), castor bean (Ricinus communis), and stinging nettle (Urtica urens) to treat poor lactation. However, keep in mind that a homeopathic doctor needs to assess your condition to determine the medication and dosage that will be appropriate for you.20
|↑1||Breastfeeding. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑2, ↑3, ↑5||Marasco, Lisa. “Increasing your milk supply with galactogogues.” Journal of Human Lactation 24, no. 4 (2008): 455–456.|
|↑4||Sepehri, Houri, Catherine Renard, and Louis-Marie Houdebine. “β-Glucan and Pectin Derivatives Stimulate Prolactin Secretion from Hypophysis In Vitro.” Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine 194, no. 3 (1990): 193-197.|
|↑6, ↑8||El Sakka, Abeer, Mostafa Salama, and Kareem Salama. “The effect of fenugreek herbal tea and palm dates on breast milk production and infant weight.” J Pediatr Sci 6 (2014): e202.|
|↑7, ↑14||Duke, James A. The green pharmacy: New discoveries in herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions from the world’s foremost authority on healing herbs. Rodale, 1997.|
|↑9||Date. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑10||Paritakul, Panwara, Kasem Ruangrongmorakot, Wipada Laosooksathit, Maysita Suksamarnwong, and Pawin Puapornpong. “The Effect of Ginger on Breast Milk Volume in the Early Postpartum Period: A Randomized, Double-Blind Controlled Trial.” Breastfeeding Medicine 11, no. 7 (2016): 361–365.|
|↑11||Dhippayom, Teerapon, Chuenjid Kongkaew, Nathorn Chaiyakunapruk, Piyameth Dilokthornsakul, Rosarin Sruamsiri, Surasak Saokaew, and Anchalee Chuthaputti. “Clinical effects of Thai herbal compress: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2015 (2015).|
|↑12||Raguindin, Peter Francis N., Leonila F. Dans, and Jacelie F. King. “Moringa oleifera as a Galactagogue.” Breastfeeding Medicine 9, no. 6 (2014): 323–324.|
|↑13||Estrella, Ma Corazon P., V. Jacinto Bias III, Grace Z. David, and Michelle A. Taup. “A double-blind, randomized controlled trial on the use of malunggay (Moringa oleifera) for augmentation of the volume of breastmilk among non-nursing mothers of preterm infants.” (2000).|
|↑15||Alfalfa. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑16||Nice, Frank J. “Common herbs and foods used as galactogogues.” ICAN: Infant, Child, & Adolescent Nutrition 3, no. 3 (2011): 129-132.|
|↑17||Damanik, Rizal, Mark L. Wahlqvist, and N. Wattanapenpaiboon. “Lactagogue effects of Torbangun, a Bataknese traditional cuisine.” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition 15, no. 2 (2006): 267.|
|↑18||Tanwar, Ankur Kumar. “To Evaluate the Efficacy of Aahara–Vihara on Stanyaksaya in Healthy Female Volunteers of Different Deha Prakriti.” Journal of Ayurveda and Integrated Medical Sciences (ISSN 2456-3110) 1, no. 1 (2016): 01-06.|
|↑19||Singh, Karam, and Bhavna Verma. “Breast Feeding–An Ayurveda Perceptive.” Journal of Homeopathy & Ayurvedic Medicine 2012 (2013).|
|↑20||Breastfeding. National Center For Homeopathy.|