Before we get going, real talk: there are no magical foods to increase milk supply that will work for everyone.
There are so many reasons breastfeeding can be challenging and, somewhat frustratingly, a cure-all doesn’t exist.
If you feel you’re not producing enough milk, you’re not alone.
There are many reasons breastfeeding is tricky.
A rare condition called mammary hypoplasia can get in the way of milk production—as can recent breast surgeries and hormone therapies.
So how much milk do you even need to produce? Let’s take a look:
- For the first few days: The milk you produce in the first few days of your baby’s life is called colostrum. It’s incredibly nutritious, so only a little bit is needed.
- After the first week: Think roughly 24 ounces in 24 hours.
- After the first month: You may up production to 24 to 32 ounces in 24 hours.
- After six months: As your baby grows, so do their needs. By this stage, you’re in the 36 to 48 ounces a day territory.
Sometimes, what we think is low supply is actually not low supply at all.
When your baby goes through a growth spurt, for example, they may suddenly want to feed more than you’re used to.
If you’re able to provide milk when your baby wants it (usually about every two to three hours at first) and they are growing, you’re probably producing enough milk.
Other signs that your supply isn’t low?
Your baby seems happy and full after feeding, and releases from your nipple on their own.
This journey can be pretty isolating, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Support is available. There are a whole lot of mamas on Peanut who are going through similar experiences.
Also, if you’re feeling unsure, chat with your healthcare provider.
Getting in touch with a lactation specialist can really help.
What helps to increase breast milk?
Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis.
The basic rule is: the more you feed, the more you produce. Like a little boutique restaurant.
To keep a constant flow going, consider:
- Getting a good latch. Strategies such as tickling your baby’s lip with your nipple can help, as can letting your baby lead. Breastfeeding position also matters. But latching can be easier said than done. This is where a lactation specialist is a great idea. As is your Peanut community. It’s just so much better to do this together.
- Skin-to-skin contact. Consider this a prescription for cuddling. Skin-to-skin contact with your baby can stimulate oxytocin and prolactin, the hormones that help produce breast milk.
- Frequent feeds. When your breasts are stimulated, your prolactin levels go up, triggering milk production.
- Pumping between feeds. Same rules apply here. Not sure how to pump milk? We’ve got you.
- Breastfeed from each side. Keeping ‘em both stimulated is the goal here.
What can I eat to increase my breast milk fast?
Again, no silver bullets exist here but there is hope—and it comes in the form of galactagogues.
These are methods, medications, and foods that increase breast milk supply.
(From the Greek, galacta = milk, ogogue = supply.)
While the research around the use of these methods is pretty new, as this study suggests, it’s worth further investigation.
What foods help produce breast milk?
Eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet is always a great idea—and particularly beneficial when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Here are the lactation foods (AKA lactogenic foods) that might be beneficial to you at this time (remembering that the research around galactagogues is very, very young):
- Whole oats. Low levels of iron may get in the way of your milk flow. Enter oats. From oat milk to oatmeal, oats are an excellent source of iron.
- Barley. If you have Irish heritage, you may have heard that there are benefits to drinking Guinness while breastfeeding. While we’re not so sure about that one, we do know that the reason for this is the barley content. Maybe a delicious non-alcoholic breakfast bowl is the best way to get some in your system?
- Fenugreek. These seeds have been used as a galactagogue for centuries in various parts of the world. While fenugreek seeds are generally considered safe to use by the US Food and Drug Administration, it’s worth going slowly as, in some cases, they can produce side effects like vomiting and diarrhea.
- Garlic. There is evidence to suggest that garlic is safe to eat when breastfeeding and may even help out with supply. Be warned though—it may change the taste of your milk and might even influence your baby’s food choices in the future.
- Leafy greens. Yep, these tend to make themselves onto the list of recommended foods for most occasions—and breastfeeding is no different. Packed with vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, and folate, adding a little extra spinach and kale to your diet can go a long way.
- Papaya. Used as a galactagogue in a number of places in the world, papaya may help to increase your supply. The benefits still need some scientific backing—but if this is a favorite of yours, permission to munch away.
- Beans and legumes. Rich in protein and iron, beans and legumes also contain something called phytochemicals that can boost your immune system and help keep infections at bay.
- Yogurt. A great source of protein, yogurt also helps you up your calcium intake. (The suggested calcium intake is 1,300 mg when you’re breastfeeding.)
- Avocados. Boasting healthy fats, a huge collection of vitamins (B, K, C, E), and fiber, avocados make a very welcome addition to your breastfeeding diet.
- Nuts. Used as a galactagogue throughout the world, nuts contain a bunch of vitamins (K, B) and minerals (iron, zinc, calcium) that can support your body through this time. Cashews, almonds, and walnuts are great options.
Good luck on your journey. We’re rooting for you.
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