Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing. It nourishes your little one while letting you share a special moment. But what do you do when your breast milk is low? It’s enough to make any mother worry.
There’s the possibility of medication, but you may prefer more natural ways to increase breast milk. This is typically the safer route – for both you and your baby. So before you run to the pharmacy, check out these herbs, foods, and techniques for increasing your breast milk production.
As an herbal galactagogue, fenugreek tea can naturally boost breast milk in the early postpartum period. The Journal of Pediatric Sciences shares that this increase is pretty significant. Fenugreek’s positive benefit is likely from its diosgenin, a compound that’s actually similar to estrogen.1 However, fenugreek can cause bloating, gas, and stomach upset in some mothers. It may even bother your baby’s digestive system. So, start with a small amount and see how both of you react.
For another way to produce more breast milk naturally, try moringa. This herb is used as a galactagogue in many countries, including the Philippines. It’s thought to encourage prolactin production which helps the body make more milk. If you take moringa, you’ll likely see the greatest impact 4 to 5 days after giving birth.2
Garlic is amazing for adding flavor to dishes. But did you know this herb can naturally promote breast milk production, too? Its immune-boosting properties will also keep your body healthy enough to support breastfeeding.3
Also, some studies have even found that newborns breastfeed longer when human milk is flavored with garlic. When you eat this herb, it may transfer to your milk and add that flavor. Most babies will tolerate it, so eating garlic may be helpful in moderation.4
Within the first three days of giving birth, ginger will give you a natural breast milk increase. This was proven in a study where lactating women took 500 mg ginger capsules twice a day. The best part was that there weren’t any side effects, so it’s considered safe. Capsules are ideal if you don’t like the taste of ginger, but you can also try ginger tea or adding it to food.5
Whole grains like brown rice are jam-packed with fiber. Eating enough of this nutrient will increase breast milk production naturally, so focus on your intake.6 The daily recommendation for adults is 21 to 38 grams, but most Americans only get 16 grams. So don’t forget about it!
Increase your fiber intake slowly. This will prevent intestinal problems like gas and bloating. To help things move along, drink lots of water.7
Dates are popular natural sweeteners that are full of vitamin B6, potassium, and magnesium. They’re also an excellent source of fiber, making them a natural food to increase breast milk. In addition, newborns have been known to gain more healthy weight when the mother eats dates – even more than fenugreek.8
Dark Leafy Greens
Leafy green veggies will treat your body to high levels of vitamins and minerals. But they also are full of calcium, which will naturally increase breast milk supply, according to the International Lactation Consultant Association.9 You can also get calcium from almonds, sesame, and dark leafy green veggies like spinach.10 Think spinach, kale, and collard greens. It’s a delicious reason to try a new green smoothie recipe.
If you’re wondering about a simple way to make more breast milk, follow this basic rule: breastfeed! Doing it often will stimulate the mammary glands. “Practice makes perfect” as they say.
Start breastfeeding as soon as you give birth. From there, aim for 8 to 12 times every 24 hours. This will encourage optimal milk production and get things moving.11
Express Breast Milk
You’ve probably heard tips about how to hand express breast milk. This is a good way to save milk for later while promoting breast milk production. It can also relieve engorgement when your breasts are painfully full of milk.
With clean hands, massage your breasts first. Use one hand to cup a breast and the other to make a “C” with the forefinger and thumb. Repeatedly gently squeeze near – not on – the areola until milk beings to drop out. Continue along other parts of the breast until no more milk flows.12
You can also increase breast milk naturally while breastfeeding. Simply use your hand to apply light, gentle pressure on your breast. This will stimulate milk flow while encouraging your baby to eat more. The breast compression technique also works while you’re using a breast pump or expressing milk.
Remember, lactation consultants are the experts. They can teach you how to breastfeed properly and give you tips on how to make it easier. If you’re concerned or confused, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
|↑1||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.|
|↑2||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 breast milk among non-nursing mothers of preterm infants.” (2000).|
|↑3||Garlic. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑4||Mennella, Julie A., and Gary K. Beauchamp. “The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling’s behavior.” Pediatric Research 34, no. 6 (1993): 805-808.|
|↑5||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.|
|↑6||Marasco, Lisa. “Increasing your milk supply with galactogogues.” Journal of Human Lactation 24, no. 4 (2008): 455-456.|
|↑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.” Journal of Pediatric Sciences 6 (2014).|
|↑9||Calcium. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑10||Marasco, Lisa. “Increasing your milk supply with galactogogues.” Journal of Human Lactation 24, no. 4 (2008): 455-456.|
|↑12||Expressing and storing breast milk. National Health Service (NHS) Choices.|