There is NO “magic” food or drink that will increase your supply. Your breasts make milk based on supply and demand-the more milk removed, the more you make. Most mothers can and should trust breastfeeding and watch for the cues that baby is getting enough (for more information see this post). That said, there are mothers that struggle from hormonal issues, PCOS, diabetes, Insufficient Glandular Tissue, and some other issues that can cause low milk supply. If after you have read the post linked and baby is not gaining weight sufficiently and/or isn’t having 6-8 wet diapers and 3 poopy diapers each day (24 hours) in the first 6 weeks (may have less poopy diapers after 6 weeks possibly) this would be a good time to:
- Call an IBCLC and have a thorough assessment of baby’s anatomy and your breasts. Issues can be ruled out and pre-feeding and post-feeding weights can be taken to get a glimpse of how much milk your baby is taking at that particular feeding. This is just a glimpse and shouldn’t be used to determine absolutely how much milk your baby is removing from your breasts over a full day. An IBCLC can also check on any possible positioning issues that may be going on-I’ve found with many of my clients very tiny changes can make a huge difference!
- Pick up Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk before making any decisions about any extra foods/supplements to take.
- You may also want to contact your doctor to have prolactin levels checked through some blood work.
- Finding a cause of the issue is more preferable option because if you’re treating the symptoms rather than the cause you’re just putting a bandage on the problem.
A wise lactation consultant (Christy Jo Hendricks at the GOLD 2016 Lactation Conference) shared a story that really stuck in my mind that I will relay to you now. We all have that one pair of shoes in our closet. You know the ones I’m talking about-those ADORABLE pumps that you had to have. They were a little more than we usually pay for shoes but they were just cute and you had to have them. You got them home and tried them out for a date or an evening out. OUCH! Those adorable pumps aren’t as comfy as you thought there were in the store. You get home that night and find a blister. They’re so cute though and a little expensive so you put a bandage on and wear them again the next day to work. You realize they’re a little too small and they really just don’t feel great on. Every time you wear them you know you need to wear a bandage.
Ultimately, the problem is the fit of the shoes. Instead of tossing them out and getting a different pair you put a bandage on and keep going though. Galactagogues work much the same often.
Some mothers do find that certain foods or drinks have boosted their supply. Some of these work because they’re acting on some type of discrepancy or some mechanism in your body that may need a little extra boost or they’re just helping mama limp along a little (like a bandage). These are all very individual-Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk AND working with a knowledgeable IBCLC can help you figure out the possible problem together. Taking the wrong supplement can actually reduce your supply or cause some serious medical issues (remember that herbs are medicines and just like taking the wrong prescription they can cause some major problems or possibly interfere with medications you are already taking).
A few “lactation boosters” that I have seen throw out a lot online:
- Blue Gatorade (MUST be blue for some reason)-my guess is that this helps if mom is slightly dehydrated or has imbalanced electrolytes. Oddly enough, I had issues as a child with “fainting spells” and a neurologist said I had issues keeping my electrolytes balanced. I wonder if this is somewhat common and this is why it may work for some women, especially a new mom that isn’t able to take as good of care of herself as women in other cultures with laying in periods and lots of help from friends and family from their village. Other options you could try are coconut water or homemade “laborade” drinks that have less sugar and less sodium.
- Lactation cookies/bars/smoothies-these often contain oatmeal, flax seed, and can even have some nuts, brewer’s yeast, and fenugreek (from imitation maple syrup). Some of these ingredients work on the digestive system or just give a calorie boost. They are often high in sugar though and can really upset a mom’s system with pre-diabetes (many mothers don’t know that they’re pre-diabetic). Fenugreek also is known to interfere with some medications as well as cause issues with blood sugar. If you want to eat a cookie-eat a cookie! It probably isn’t a good idea for many mothers to eat the 3+ cookies each and every day that many cookie makers recommend. Instead, try eating oatmeal in the morning or try some of the other digestive system aids mentioned in Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk.
- Lactation Teas-often contain some or all of the following: fenugreek, marshmallow root, nettle leaf, alfalfa leaf, fennel seed, red raspberry leaf, milk thistle, anise seed, or others. Most of these are considered safe for breastfeeding depending on the source (it’s a good idea to use trusted brands if you chose to use herbal supplements or teas) according to Nursing Mother’s Herbal. Many of these aren’t in sufficient quantities to really make a difference though or some are contraindicated long term (more than a few weeks)
Some of these may give you a little boost to help you get through a growth spurt along with nursing frequently and following baby’s cues. They may also help if you need a little extra boost on occasion when you’re pumping if you notice a little supply dip. They aren’t necessary though, and are just an extra expense that most mother’s can avoid. Ultimately though, the best way to increase milk supply is to remove milk more frequently. If you want to eat a cookie or drink a smoothie go for it! It’s probably not a good idea to have some of these every day without finding a cause for low supply though. If you genuinely have low supply issues, working with an IBCLC is the first and best thing to do. If you don’t find the answers you’re seeking, just like with a doctor or other professional you can always seek out a second opinion.
What “lactation boosters” have you heard about or tried?