There are many foods that are considered to be galactagogues, which help to increase the supply of breast milk. Throughout the world, women in different cultures are given certain foods right after childbirth and while they are breastfeeding. Some of these foods are full of vitamins and minerals, and others contain chemical properties that may aid in the production of breast milk. Whatever the reason may be, these lactogenic foods are believed to promote and support a healthy supply of breast milk.
Whole Grains: Whole grains are very nutritious, and they are believed to have properties that support the hormones responsible for making breast milk. Eating whole grains may increase your milk supply; slow-cooked old fashioned oatmeal is the most common grain used as a galactagogue. Barley, whole grain brown rice, oatmeal cookies or foods made from whole grains can also be used.
Dark Green Vegetables: Dark green vegetables such as alfalfa, lettuce, kale, spinach and broccoli are full of nutrients, especially calcium. They also contain phytoestrogens that may have a positive effect on milk production.
Fennel: Fennel is a plant from the Mediterranean. Fennel seeds are often used as an herb to flavor many different foods, but fennel is also a vegetable that can be cooked or eaten raw. The bulb, stalk and leaves of the fennel plant are edible and can be added to soups, stews or other fennel recipes. The plant estrogens found in fennel are believed to help nursing mothers make more breast milk.
Garlic: Garlic is very nutritious and believed to be a healthy addition to most diets. It is thought to be a galactagogue, helping nursing mothers make more breast milk. It's also believed that the taste of the garlic in the breast milk may help keep breastfed babies nursing longer. While it seems that some infants do, in fact, like the taste of garlic in the breastmilk, others may not tolerate it very well. If your baby shows signs of a food sensitivity after you eat garlic, you may want to try to avoid the garlic for a while. Garlic can be added to your diet as a flavoring for many dishes, including vegetables, meats, seafood, pasta and sauces.
Chickpeas: Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans or ceci (chi-chi) beans, are a common legume used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. Chickpeas have been used as a galactagogue since the ancient Egyptian times. They are a nutritious food that is high in protein, and they also contain plant estrogens. Hummus, a spread or dip made from chickpeas, is another way to enjoy this very healthy bean.
Sesame Seeds: High in calcium and estrogen-like plant properties, sesame seeds are believed to help nursing mothers make more breast milk. You can eat sesame seeds alone, as an ingredient in the recipes you prepare, as a topping for salads or in a trail mix combined with other seeds, nuts and dried fruit.
Almonds: Nuts, especially almonds, are considered to be galactagogues. Many nursing mothers eat almonds or drink almond milk to increase the creaminess, sweetness and amount of their breast milk.
Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil: Like sesame seeds, flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens that can influence milk production. Flaxseed can be sprinkled onto salads and cereals or you can try a flaxseed recipe.
Fresh Ginger Root: Ginger is used as a galactagogue but is also believed to help with the let-down reflex. There are many dishes that contain ginger that you can try. You can also add ginger to your diet by drinking ginger ale made from actual ginger, and ginger tea.
Brewer's Yeast: Brewer's yeast is a very healthy nutritional supplement that contains B vitamins, iron, protein, chromium, selenium, and other minerals. It is used by nursing mothers to help increase energy, get rid of the baby blues and make more breast milk.
Nursing Teas: Ok, tea is a beverage, not a food. Yet nursing teas are one of the most common choices for women who want to try to increase their breast milk supply. Nursing teas contain different combinations of herbs, such as fenugreek, blessed thistle, milk thistle and fennel, that are believed to help increase the supply of breast milk. Teas are also comforting and easy to prepare.
Not all women will see results from eating these foods, but it certainly couldn't hurt to try them. If you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, many of these foods may already be a part of it. Since most of these foods are healthy and nutritious, adding a few more should be OK. Just keep in mind that, like everything else, you do not want to overdo it. If they seem to be working for you, monitor your milk supply. Once you reach a point that you feel comfortable with, reduce the amount of these foods that you consume. If you continue to increase your milk supply, you could end up with too much milk. An overabundant milk supply could lead to problems such as engorgement, plugged milk ducts and mastitis.
Humphrey, Sheila. The Nursing Mother's Herbal. Fairview Press. Minneapolis. 2003.
Jacobson, Hilary. Mother Food. Rosalind Press. 2004
Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition. Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.