Will Lactogenic Foods Improve my Milk Supply?
Lactogenic foods receive a lot of buzz when it comes to breastfeeding. Just hop on google and there are pages upon pages of lactation cookie recipes full of brewer’s yeast and oats in hopes to improve supply. Before we get into lactogenic foods, what they are, and if they work, there is much more to milk supply than the addition of these “magic” foods.
There’s More to Milk Supply than Eating Special Foods
While eating lactogenic foods can make a difference, milk supply starts with much more simple concepts. According to Lisa Marasco MA, IBCLC, FILCA, adequate milk supply starts with frequent and effective milk removal. Demand for milk will increase supply. This means baby breastfeeding or mom pumping consistently and effectively will send signals to the body to produce more milk.
Next up comes adequate nutrition. Having a new baby is overwhelming and parents give so much of themselves to keep this tiny human thriving. Don’t let your self care disappear, and make sure you are eating balanced meals frequently throughout the day. What does balanced mean? A combination of carbs, protein, and fat.
Instead of just toast (carbs) for breakfast, slather on nut butter (fat), and pair with a Greek yogurt (protein). When grabbing a snack, instead of a granola bar (carbs), how about a few energy bites made from dates, oats (carbs), and nuts (fat)? Aim to eat a balanced meal or snack every 2-3 hours.
Eating a variety of foods and continuing with a good multivitamin is also a good idea. Variety ensures that you are taking in a range of nutrients so that your body is well nourished. According to Marasco, protein, iron, iodine, omega 3 fatty acids, b vitamins, calcium, and zinc are all important in milk production. Variety and balance in your meals and snacks will help you get all the nutrients you need. Here are some ideas for getting these specific nutrients:
- Protein: Convenient breakfast options tend to be low in protein. Try make ahead egg bakes, breakfast burritos, or smoothie kits with protein powder or Greek yogurt.
- Iron: Animal proteins are a good source of iron. Plant proteins (like lentils, beans, and pumpkin seeds) provide iron but not in a form that is as readily available. Try pairing your plant-based sources of iron with a source of vitamin C (bell peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe, orange) for better absorption.
- Iodine: Your multivitamin may contain iodine, and iodized salt can also be an important contributor of iodine in the diet. Another option? Seaweed!
- Omega 3’s: Fatty fish like salmon and sardines are a good, low-mercury option. Flaxseed and walnuts are a good source as well.
- B vitamins: The different B vitamins come from a variety of sources. Try to make sure you are eating a variety of proteins (animal and plant sources), whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Calcium: Dairy is the easiest source of calcium, but not the only option. Fortified milk alternatives, tofu, and breakfast cereals can provide calcium as well.
- Zinc: Shellfish (like oysters), animal proteins (like beef and pork), and nuts and seeds (like pumpkin seeds) are all good sources of zinc.
Don’t forget hydration! Drinking enough fluids is important. “Fluids” pretty much means anything non-caffeinated (and non-alcoholic): water, juice, milk, herbal tea, etc. Even fruits and vegetables can help! Watermelon and cucumber are so refreshing! But how much is enough? You shouldn’t feel thirsty and your urine should be pale yellow. Try to keep a big cup within arms reach wherever you feed baby! Karrie Locher has great resources on breastfeeding, and she recommends putting together a nursing cart that contains everything you need to feed baby, including a big cup of water and plenty of snacks.
Now onto those lactogenic foods we’ve been alluding to. These are foods that MAY help milk production. I would first focus on the concepts listed above, and then add these foods on as an extra potential boost. There are a lot of foods and herbs believed to have lactogenic properties, but I’m just going to cover the ones that I think are simplest to add into your diet.
Foods that may increase milk supply:
- Nuts (almonds, cashews)
- Green leafy vegetables
- Seeds (pumpkin, flax, sesame)
- Fennel and fenugreek
- Whole grains (barley, quinoa)
- Brewer’s yeast
Recipes Containing Lactogenic Foods
Looking for more ideas to improve your nutrition while taking care of a little one? Check out these blogs!
Lisa Marasco MA, IBCLC, FILCA
Lactogenic Foods for Milk Production
Frank Nice MS, NPA, DPA
Common Herbs and Foods Used as Galactagogues
ICAN: Infant, Child & Adolescent Nutrition vol 3, no 3
Crystal Karges MS, RDN, IBCLC
How to Increase Breast Milk Naturally at Home
An award winning recipe developer, Dietitian Kaitlin’s mission is to empower others to reach their health goals by encouraging them to get back into the kitchen. Co-author of Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating and Cooking with Diabetes.