Although many mommas out there may want to breastfeed their babies, breastfeeding is not always an option for all nursing moms. Hey, there is no shame in the formula game, but given the current baby formula shortage, moms who are currently breastfeeding (or who may want to try again) may be concerned about their milk supply. One way to increase your milk supply can be to make sure you’re getting certain nutrients in your diet. Here are some RDN-approved tips on breastfeeding and nutrition.
Nutrition for breastfeeding
Not many moms are familiar with the “fourth trimester.” But after giving birth, you still need to be aware of what foods you are eating. Your diet affects milk production, and what you eat gets passed on to your little one through breastfeeding.
Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, explains why nutrition is important for breastfeeding moms.
“Producing all that milk takes a lot of energy! For every ounce of breastmilk a mother makes, she is burning 20 calories in the process. By the time a baby is 3-4 months old, they are taking (on average) 25-30 ounces of milk per day, or 500-600 extra calories away from mom, so it is very important to ensure that she (mom) is getting a healthy amount of nutrition to feed herself and her body that is making all this milk for the baby.”
By focusing on eating certain foods, breast milk has the potential to be at its very best, providing your newborn with optimal nourishment for proper development and growth.
Foods to eat while breastfeeding
Here are a few of the best foods that can help increase milk supply.
Brewer’s yeast is naturally high in B Vitamins, which can help increase breastmilk supply. Although B vitamins cannot give you energy directly, as energy can only be obtained through food, B vitamins can help convert dietary energy into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the energy our body uses for fuel.
Although B vitamins cannot turn you into Wonder Woman overnight (wouldn’t that be nice?), they can help give your body more energy in the form of ATP. That’s essential when you’re a new mom. Brewer’s yeast is best added to homemade bars, cookies, or energy bites, and it can also be sprinkled into smoothies.
Fennel may help with better breastfeeding as numerous studies show that eating foods with fennel can increase milk supply, shares Hunnes. “It is a galactogen, meaning, it helps stimulate additional milk production.”
Fennel can be found most commonly in teas. You can also roast it with olive oil, salt, and pepper and enjoy it on its own. Or, slice it up and serve it with a homemade vegetable dip.
Fennel can also easily be added to a homemade salad or soup. Just make sure you enjoy the taste of licorice, as this vegetable closely resembles the flavor profile of that candy. If you are not a fan of fennel, try fenugreek instead.
Another galactogen, fenugreek and fenugreek tea have been used for decades to boost milk supply, says Hunnes. A common herb used in many breastfeeding supplements, fenugreek stimulates sweat production, which can also stimulate milk ducts.
Fenugreek’s flavor profile offers hints of celery and maple. It’s most commonly consumed in teas or in other supplemental forms. It can also help with menstrual cramps.
Flax seeds and flaxseed oil
Flax seeds are another natural remedy that can potentially boost milk production in lactating women. They’re also naturally high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to a healthy diet for both baby and mom. This in turn can lead to more milk production for breastfeeding moms. Other foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish like mackerel and salmon.
Not only does oatmeal taste delicious and is extremely satisfying, but it is also high in iron and can help new moms with maternal anemia raise their iron levels, which in turn increases milk supply.
Oatmeal is also another one of those foods that can be a galactogen for many women, states Hunnes. “It may have something to do with its anti-inflammatory properties, and/or soluble fiber, which helps keep more fluid in the body and potentially in the breast tissue where milk is produced. It may also be that there are beneficial plant nutrients in it that are also galactogens.”
Oatmeal has also been known to lower bad cholesterol (LDL), which can also increase milk supply. Talk about a win-win! Just be sure to opt for good old-fashioned rolled oats without any added sugars or artificial sweeteners.
Other foods to eat while breastfeeding
Some other foods that can help increase breastmilk supply include:
- Almonds (and other nuts and seeds)
- Dark leafy greens like spinach
- Fresh ginger root
- Nursing teas
- Sesame seeds
- Whole grains like brown rice, bulgur, corn, popcorn, quinoa, whole oats, and whole wheat
Another way to increase milk supply? Stay hydrated. Trista Best, RDN at Balance One Supplements says, “Hydration is one of the first areas to go by the wayside for the breastfeeding mom, but it should be one of the most important. Drinking at least half your body weight in ounces per day is a good place to start.”
What about foods to avoid? Are there any foods you should avoid while breastfeeding? Yes! Hunnes says to stay away from mint. “Do not drink mint or mint teas, that can drastically reduce your supply – I found out the hard way towards the end of my breastfeeding time.”
If you are a lactating mom or know someone who is, stock up on all of these delicious foods so your baby can enjoy a homemade milk supply made with a whole lot of love and nutrition.