The gift of breast milk is the most precious gift that a mother can give to her baby. Breast milk is the ideal food for babies. It provides the right mix of nutrients and antibodies to infants.
The health benefits of breast milk are numerous, whether it’s given through breastfeeding or through breast pumping. It contains proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins and enzymes for the baby’s growth and development.
Food to increase breast milk supply:
Every mother wants the best for their infants and therefore they are concerned about their breast milk supply. They wonder whether they are producing enough milk for their babies’ requirements.
A mother needs to have a high-protein and a high-fluid diet while breastfeeding.
Let’s take a look at 5 most important food to increase breast milk supply:
Oats is a rich source of iron and fibre. It can give the much-needed energy to the new mom. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal. If you are not a fan of oatmeal, you can add your favourite fruits to it. You can also use oats in cookies, muffins, pancakes, smoothies etc.
Barley contains properties that help to increase the levels of prolactin, which is the hormone responsible for the production of breast milk. It is rich in essential vitamin, minerals and antioxidants.
Boil some barley in water, strain and drink the water. You can also eat it in the form of porridge. Barley can also be added to soups, vegetable stews and salads. You can also make barley risotto, which is an interesting preparation of this healthy grain.
- Green vegetables
Green leafy vegetable such as spinach, beet leaves, lettuce and kale are important sources of iron, calcium and folate. They help in baby’s growth and development and also have detoxifying properties. Include right proportions of cooked vegetables daily in your diet.
- Pulses or lentils
Pulses, especially red lentils (Indian name – masoor dal), are believed to improve milk supply and are also a source of protein, iron and fibre.
- Brown rice
Brown rice and other grains are beneficial for lactating mothers. Brown rice is a rich source of B vitamins, magnesium, iron and folate, which help in the growth and development of the baby. Swap white rice with brown rice to reap health benefits.
Lactogenic food to increase breast milk supply
The word lactogenic comes from the latin word “LAC” which means “milk”, and “GENIC” which means “producing”. So, lactogenic food are those that help produce milk.
Lactogenic food, also known as galactogogues, are food, herbs and spices that contain specific nutrients that support lactation.
Here’s a list of 10 lactogenic food to increase breast milk supply:
- Fenugreek (Indian name – methi)
Fenugreek or methi is a very effective lactogenic food. It is a source of phytoestrogen. Fenugreek seeds have been used for generations to increase breast milk production. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are important for the development of baby’s brain.
You can soak fenugreek seeds in water and boil it. Remove the seeds and cool the water for a while. When it’s warm enough to drink, add honey to it and sip it. Fenugreek seeds can be added to tea while brewing it. The seeds are also added to roti and puri.
- Fennel (Indian name – saunf)
Fennel seeds are used to reduce gas and colic apart from being used to increase breast milk supply. It contains phytoestrogens and tryptophan.
Although it’s available in seed form, fennel is best eaten as a whole food, either raw or cooked. You can also soak a teaspoon of fennel seeds in a glass of water overnight and drink it in the morning or brew it in your tea.
- Sesame (Indian name – til)
The consumption of sesame seeds is highly recommended to increase breast milk supply. These seeds are a non-dairy source of calcium, which is important for your baby’s growth. Calcium is effective for full recovery of mother after delivery. You can use sesame seeds in your daily cooking or make sweet dishes like ladoos with them.
- Holy basil (Indian name – tulsi)
Holy basil or tulsi is known to increase milk production and has been used for generations by lactating mothers. It is also known for its calming effect, as well as promoting healthy bowel movements and a good appetite. You can have tulsi in the form of tea that will help you relax.
- Garlic (Indian name – lehsun)
Garlic has immunity-boosting powers, anti-inflammatory properties and helps lower blood sugar levels. Garlic is a great ingredient for lactating mothers, especially for those whose milk supply is on the lower side.
You can either eat cloves of garlic on their own or you can add garlic in most of your daily foods. You can also stir-fry a few cloves of garlic and add them to a soup or roasted vegetables.
- Carom/Thymol seed(Indian name – ajwain)
Ajwain is lactogenic in nature and is best to solve gas and acidity problems. Add one teaspoon of ajwain in a glass of water, boil and mix it with regular water. Sip this mix throughout the day.
Almonds contain vitamins and minerals that not only boost lactation but also help with the recovery of mothers after childbirth. It can be eaten on its own or you can soak it in water overnight and eat a handful in the morning.
Carrots are rich in Vitamin A and beta-carotene which are very healthy for breastfeeding mothers. Carrots can be eaten in several ways. You can have carrot juice or add carrots in potato stew or in salads.
Papaya has been used — both raw and cooked in soups — as a galactogogue in Asian cultures for centuries. Green Papaya contains enzymes, vitamins, including vitamins A, B, C and E, and minerals. It needs to be simmered until soft before consumed.
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and essential fatty acids or EFA, which are said to help with lactation. It makes the milk produced more nutritious. You can have salmon in different ways — steamed, grilled, or pan-fried.
Indian food to increase breast milk:
- Cumin seeds (jeera): There is a common practice in India of consuming cumin seeds (jeera) panjiri with dry fruits to enhance milk production. You can also roast them and add them to snacks, raitas and chutneys.
- Jaggery: In India, jaggery is given to new mother after five to six days of delivery instead of sugar. Jaggery is known to help boost milk production.
- Milk: Milk should be regularly consumed during pregnancy and after delivery too for at least 3-4 months.
- Moringa or drumstick: Drumsticks or moringa are vegetables rich in iron and calcium and believed to aid in increasing milk production. Include this vegetable in your meals to ensure that you’re lactating sufficiently.
Food to increase fat in breast milk
Eat more fats to increase fat in breast milk. Whatever you eat, your baby will eat in some form. Therefore, you should focus on including more unsaturated fats (healthy fats) in your diet and limiting saturated and trans fats. Food which contain unsaturated fats or healthy fats and are important for both yours and your baby’s diet are as follows:
v) Olive oil
How to increase quality of breast milk:
- Stay hydrated: Drink enough water during breast-feeding periods. Drinking sufficient fluids may not make the mother produce more milk, but is important in replenishing lost fluids.
- Adequate diet: A baby may take an extra 500 calories per day. Eating too few calories may leave breastfeeding mothers fatigued and without the energy necessary for optimal milk production. Therefore, it is fundamental to continue a well balanced diet with extra calories and protein for example 400-500 Kcal a day.
- Eat frequently: It is normal to feel hungry all the time during breastfeeding because your body consumes a lot of energy to produce breast milk. So, to help curb the hunger pangs eat three main meals during the day with a snack in between each. Also, include a snack after dinner, to support you with night-time feeds.
- Be moderately active: Try to do moderate intensity activities three or four times a week to help reduce stress levels, improve energy levels and build bone strength.
- Eat food high in calcium: Milk and dairy products like curd and cheese are great sources of calcium. Ragi, bajra are also rich in calcium.
How to increase breast milk naturally at home:
To increase breast milk naturally at home follow the following tips:
- Breastfeed more often: Breastfeed often. Breastfeeding your new baby 8 to 12 times a day can help establish and maintain milk production. But you can go for more or fewer feedings according to your health and comfort.
- Pump between feedings: Pumping between feedings can help you increase milk production. Warming your breasts before pumping can help make you more comfortable and pump easier.
- Breastfeed from both sides: Let your baby feed from both breasts at each feeding. Allow your baby feed from the first breast until they slow down before offering the second breast. The stimulation of having both breasts breastfed from can help increase milk production.
How to increase breast milk in one day
Increasing milk supply usually takes a little time. You can likely get more milk out of your breasts immediately through pumping but it may take several days to see a large increase in the supply of breast milk.
How to increase milk supply when pumping
The use of a regular and frequent breast pump to remove milk from your breasts can help to increase your breast milk supply. Whether you’re pumping along with breastfeeding, or exclusively, fully draining the milk from your breasts and the stimulation of the breast pump encourages your body to make more breast milk.
Follow the following tips to increase the milk supply when pumping:
- Always use the right breast pump
- Learn to use the pump correctly
- Prepare before pumping
- Pump often
- Pump for 10 to 15 minutes on each breast
How to increase breast milk after C-section
It’s a challenge for women who give birth by C-section because Caeserian deliveries can delay bonding between mother and child after the birth. But these challenges are worth overcoming so that the newborn gets the best possible nutrition. To increase breast milk after C-section follow the following tips:
- Start breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth
- Take help positioning your baby
- Breastfeed frequently
- Take proper medication
Food that decrease milk supply
Though most food help to enhance milk production there are certain herbs, plants and medication that can decrease milk supply. Let’s take a look at items that can decrease milk supply:
- Alcohol: Alcohol blocks the release of oxytocin which results in a rapid drop in the breast milk supply. Beer is harmful to the baby’s life and babies don’t like to take alcoholic breast milk that in turn results in less stimulation to the breast. Ultimately, this means a decrease in milk production.
- Parsley, peppermint and menthol: Consuming in large quantities any of these herbs may result in decreasing milk supply. Parsley is spread in salads like tabbouleh and peppermint and menthol can be found in gums, candies and also in teas.
- Caffeine: Caffeine finds its way into breast milk and large amounts can affect the health of the baby. Caffeine stays in baby’s system longer than in an adult’s, which will prolong its effect. Caffeine can make babies irritable and cause disruptions in their sleep.
A mother has the ability to create antibodies, strengthening the immune system of the baby through her breast milk. Mother’s milk provides protection to the infants from day-to-day exposure of illnesses with immune properties that pass into her milk.
Breastfed babies are less likely to contract ear infections and other diseases like pneumonia and meningitis or to become ill with gastrointestinal infections.
Not only that, such babies perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese and less prone to diabetes later in life.