It is officially World Breastfeeding Week – as part of National Breastfeeding Awareness Month – and since I am going on a cumulative of 7+ years of either being pregnant or nursing, wanted to share some of my own story.
First off, I know [first-hand] that breastfeeding is not always easy! In fact, it can be downright dreadful and cause both emotional and physical agony – ohhhh, I’ve been there! From swollen and leaky breasts, multiple bouts of mastitis, teeth-marks that cause bleeding, and everything in between, I have literally felt all of your pain! Yet I also think it is the most beautiful and satisfying thing that I have ever done (besides giving birth of course!), and the benefits far outweigh any of the pain, suffering or negative attributes that go along with it (in my humble opinion).
MY OWN STORY
I never thought I was going to be one to produce much milk. From always having an irregular menstrual cycle to having a hard time getting pregnant in the first place (until I had the help of herbs and/or acupuncture), I just assumed that this too was going to be a challenge. However, I quickly realized – from the quick weight-gain of my firstborn to the copious amounts of frozen milk in my two freezers – that this wasn’t the case. I was an overproducer.
And while such a blessing, I truly attribute this to the way I have eaten, drink and take care of my body, and know that with a little bit of help, other mommas can do the same! I also know that making this much milk also takes a lot of time, energy, and again pain, since I am pumping 5-7 times/day – besides what I feed my baby – and literally have to concoct my daily schedule around when/where I’m going to pump. Fortunately, the amounts of extra milk I have made throughout my breastfeeding years has literally fed over 10 babies and is such a blessing to them, their families, and myself that I wouldn’t trade it for anything! But again, it’s a huge commitment and, at times, has been something I want to give up at.
TIPS TO PRODUCE MORE MILK
We are all different and I do believe that some of us are just genetically geared to produce more milk. However, neither my mom or my grandma was able to produce very much, so I don’t have personal proof of this. On the other hand, I do believe that this can be manipulated and if you stick with it, attend to your diet, get plenty of rest and take the time to pump and/or feed on a very regular basis, that you too can produce more! And while I have created multiple meal plans for various clients to do just that (which you can learn more about HERE), I wanted to give you several tips that [anyone] can use starting today. And hey, even if you’re not a nursing mom, you can benefit from this list too – so keep reading to learn more!
- Drink LOTS of water. Yes, every mom knows that nursing a baby can make you feel dehydrated. But did you realize that by the time you feel parched it’s already too late! You should drink water before you start to feel thirsty! Ideally, as a nursing mom, you should drink at least the # of ounces that you weigh (in pounds). I know this seems like a lot (because it is!), but there is a direct correlation between the amount of water you drink and milk you produce – so drink up!
- Eat lots of fats. Ok, I know as a new mom we want to lose the baby weight and get our bodies back to our pre-pregnancy weight as soon as possible! However, milk is made up mostly of fat so you need to eat plenty of it so that your baby will get his/her proper nutrients as well. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat (I actually have a whole blog post about Eating Fat for Weightloss as well as a blog on 7 Reasons to Eat More Fat), but if you eat it in the right amounts, you body will actually allow you to burn it as energy. Hello keto diet, I’m talking to you!
- Eat lactogenic foods. From garlic to almonds to brewer’s yeast and oats, there are tons of foods that will help you produce more milk – and tons of companies who sell products who claim to do this as well! However, be aware that many of these products – cookies, in particular – are actually filled with lots of ingredients you shouldn’t be eating a lot of (ie, sugar), so making your own or simply eating the whole foods here is the best way to go. Here is a quick list of the top 10 though to get you headed in the right direction. And if you want to delve deeper into them, you can learn more HERE and HERE.
10 FOODS TO INCREASE MILK PRODUCTION:
- Oats: Oats are one of the most commonly recommended lactogenic foods. That’s because they are comprised of three major lactogenic substances. They contain both tryptophan (one of the 10 essential amino acids our bodies need, and that increases milk production), and polysaccharides. They also have saponins—a substance that is a precursor for making hormones in the body. Since lactation is a hormone-based event, this is especially important.
- Barley: Many suggest drinking a beer while breastfeeding to boost milk production, but research shows that beer can hamper supply, and it’s actually the barley in the beer that is lactogenic. Barley is rich in beta-glucan that has been found to increase the hormone Prolactin. Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates the breasts to make milk. You can add whole barley to stews, rice, soups, and homemade bread.
- Brewer’s Yeast: Brewer’s yeast can help increase milk supply as well as introduce essential nutrients into the breast milk, it is high in iron, chromium, selenium and B vitamins.
- Raw Almonds: Did you know that a daily dose of calcium and magnesium during a woman’s period is often recommended to prevent a drop in milk supply?! Just 100g of almonds contains 67% magnesium and 26% calcium of a person’s recommended requirements for one day, which can greatly help milk production. Furthermore, almonds also contain Tryptophan, which promotes serotonin production, which, as mentioned above, is also known to increase milk supply.
- Leafy Green Vegetables: Any food that reduces water retention is considered lactogenic, and leafy greens are natural diuretics. Some even offer the added benefit of tryptophan, such as watercress and spinach. Others to include in your lactogenic diet are dandelion leaves, kale, lettuce, rocket, seaweed, spinach, and watercress. Leafy greens are also nutrient powerhouses and will help to boost your immune system too!
- Fennel: These tiny, but mighty, seeds have been used to improve lactation for centuries. Both the seeds and the plants have plenty of tryptophan, so both will help increase breastmilk production. You can eat fennel cooked or raw, as well as drink it as fennel tea.
- Fenugreek: Fenugreek contains phytoestrogens. In my experience, boiling the seeds and drinking the water as a tea, is much more effective than using the Fenugreek supplements. Boil 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds in 1 quart (1 liter) of water for 10 minutes. Strain and drink up to 4 cups per day. Enjoy with added honey and lemon juice to taste.
- Flaxseed: Flaxseed contains estrogenic properties that help a mother produce more milk. They also improve the quality of breast milk by increasing the healthy fat content in your milk; this promotes healthy brain development.
- Moringa: Moringa is a popular supplement for good reason. It contains an array of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Many clinical studies have proven a significant increase in milk production when Moringa is used. It has even been proven to promote the early onset of milk production, as well as increased production when taken before delivery.
- Spirulina: This is a common supplement that is taken for many other purposes too, but a breastfeeding mother can use it for not only increasing breast milk production but also for increasing the fat content of her milk. Take two to three capsules daily.
3 Bonus Foods:
- Apricots: Apricots are loaded with tryptophan and are easy to add to your diet. You can eat them whole, add them to your oatmeal, eat them dried, or even bake them in cookies.
- Dates: Dates are filled with tryptophan, and are a wonderful way to “eat sweets” without eating unhealthy desserts. They are also a great way to sweeten smoothies, cookies, and practically anything else you want a bit sweeter.
- Legumes: Not only are legumes full of fiber and protein, both of which are important to nursing moms, they also have essential fatty acids in the form of Omega 3, which are super important for brain development (in developing babies). Because our bodies can’t manufacture them, we must get Omega 3’s in our foods. Ensuring baby gets what they need means us moms must get plenty of these essential fatty acids in our diet. One delicious way to do that is by eating a nice variety of legumes, including lentils, peas, mung beans, chickpeas and black, kidney, lima, and string beans.
If you’re a nursing mom, I hope this list helps inspire you to keep at it even if it’s not always “pretty”! And if you’re not a nursing mom, but either hope to become one someday or know someone who is – or even just want to incorporate some healthier foods into your diet – will take this list with you and put it into action! Because it’s those small steps that make healthy living a lifestyle, so why not take one today?!
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