Best Foods To Increase Breast Milk

Share this with a friend

Your Name
Recipient Email

7 Min Read

Best Foods To Increase Breast Milk

Are you experiencing poor lactation? Foods high in fiber like oats, barley, brown rice, beans, and calcium-rich leafy greens can increase breast milk. Fenugreek, ginger, palm dates, moringa, and alfalfa also boost milk flow. Aside from a balanced diet, Ayurveda also recommends medicinal preparations with sesame, garlic, and shatavari. Homeopathy uses preparations of stinging nettle, castor bean, and windflower. As always, check with your doctor before using herbal supplements or medications.

We all know that mother’s milk is best for the baby. In fact, it is recommended that babies are breastfed for the first six months of their life. After all, breast milk contains the right mix of crucial nutrients for your baby’s development. Some nutrients even protect your baby from illnesses and infections.1 Breastfeeding also strengthens the bond between you and your little one.

But what if you’re not producing enough milk? Start by checking if you’re breastfeeding frequently enough. Taking milk from your breasts tells your body to make more. Therefore, not breastfeeding is a common cause of poor milk supply.2 If that doesn’t work, we’ve got a few tips on natural remedies that improve milk flow.

Foods And Herbs That Improve Breast Milk Production

According to the International Lactation Consultation Association, foods high in fiber like non-instant oats, brown rice, barley, and beans can increase milk supply. Calcium-rich dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and bok choy can also help.3 Apart from these, here’s a look at some specific foods and herbs that have been found to improve breast milk production.

1. Fenugreek

Fenugreek has been used for ages to increase milk supply in lactating mothers. A study found that new mothers who consumed a cup of fenugreek tea (made with approximately 2 grams of fenugreek) thrice a day were able to effectively improve milk flow.4 It is thought that diosgenin, a compound found in fenugreek, could be responsible for this effect due to its properties that are similar to estrogen (female sex hormone). In fact, it is even used in the production of synthetic estrogen.5

Although this remedy is generally safe, fenugreek can cause stomach pain and irritation in some nursing mothers and their babies, so make sure it agrees with both of you. You can watch for signs like colic or gas in your baby.

2. Palm Dates

Palm dates are traditionally used in the Middle East to improve milk flow in mothers. According to one study, women who consumed 10 palm dates three times a day had significantly higher milk production within three days of delivery. Dates are a good source of sugar (mainly glucose and fructose), minerals (magnesium, potassium, copper, and selenium), vitamins (B complex and C), and dietary fiber. They are also rich in antioxidants. Needless to say, they’re a nutritious food.6 But do keep in mind that dates are extremely calorie dense – 100 gm of dates gives you 1159 kJ and half a cup of dates (75 g) is equivalent to one whole serving of fruit. So enjoy in moderation.7

3. Ginger

Ginger is popularly used by new mothers to increase the supply of milk. When a study compared the volume of breast milk between women who took 500 mg ginger capsules twice a day and women who took a placebo, it was found that the ginger group had more milk on the third day postpartum. However, on the seventh day, there was no significant difference between them. This indicates that ginger is effective in improving milk supply in the immediate postpartum period without any notable side effect.8 Some research also points to ginger’s ability to shorten the time necessary for a new mother to reach full lactation. Specifically, this result was achieved when ginger was used in a topical herbal compress alongside turmeric and camphor.9

4. Moringa

Moringa is traditionally used in Asian countries as a herbal galactagogue. Research also shows that it can significantly increase the volume of milk produced by the seventh day after delivery. It is thought that moringa increases milk flow by inducing the production of prolactin, the hormone that regulates milk production.10 According to one study, 250 mg of moringa leaves in capsule form every 12 hours had a positive impact on lactation.11 While you may need to check with your doctor about any moringa supplements, you can include moringa leaves in your daily diet of vegetables. Try a soup of moringa leaves or, if you’re feeling adventurous, check out one of the numerous recipes from Asia.

5. Alfalfa

Alfalfa is considered to have estrogen–like effects. As a result, this food can improve milk production.12 A handful of sprouts in your salad, pasta, or sandwich should work well. However, avoid taking alfalfa supplements. Having amounts greater than is usually consumed as food might not be safe during breastfeeding.13

6. Apricots And Figs

Experts also suggest that calcium–rich fruits like apricots and figs can help improve milk flow.14 Eat them fresh or dried in a salad, parfait, cereal, or oatmeal. They can also be used to sweeten up smoothies.

The Ayurvedic Way

Ayurveda considers both diet (aahara) and lifestyle factors (vihara) to be important influences on lactation in new mothers. A study found that following a diet that adhered to Ayurvedic principles improved inadequate lactation. It also helped boost the frequency of breastfeeding over the course of three months. The dietary regimen consisted of milk, sprouted green gram, wheat pudding, whole wheat flat bread, rice, lentils, green leafy vegetables with meat, onion and garlic chutneys, and fruits. The participants also had a glass of milk with dry ginger and pepper each day. Proper rest, a happy state of mind, and avoidance of strenuous work were also advocated during the study.15

Ayurveda also uses medicinal formulations to increase milk flow (stanyajanan dravya). Decoctions of roots such as ekshuvalika (Saccharum officinarum), kusha (Desmostachya bipinnata), darbha (Imperata cylindrical), Kasha (Saccharum spontaneum) find a place here. Tila (Sesamum indicum), lashuna (Allium sativum), and shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) are also used for increasing lactation.16 As always, check with an Ayurvedic doctor before taking herbal supplements or Ayurvedic medications.

The Homeopathic Way

Homeopathy uses medicines prepared from windflower (Pulsatilla), castor bean (Ricinus communis), and stinging nettle (Urtica urens) to treat poor lactation. However, keep in mind that a homeopathic doctor needs to assess your condition to determine the medication and dosage that will be appropriate for you.17

References   [ + ]

1. Breastfeeding. National Institutes of Health.
2, 3. Marasco, Lisa. “Increasing your milk supply with galactogogues.” Journal of Human Lactation 24, no. 4 (2008): 455–456.
4, 6. El Sakka, Abeer, Mostafa Salama, and Kareem Salama. “The effect of fenugreek herbal tea and palm dates on breast milk production and infant weight.” J Pediatr Sci 6 (2014): e202.
5, 12. Duke, James A. The green pharmacy: New discoveries in herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions from the world’s foremost authority on healing herbs. Rodale, 1997.
7. Date. Department of Health & Human Services.
8. Paritakul, Panwara, Kasem Ruangrongmorakot, Wipada Laosooksathit, Maysita Suksamarnwong, and Pawin Puapornpong. “The Effect of Ginger on Breast Milk Volume in the Early Postpartum Period: A Randomized, Double-Blind Controlled Trial.” Breastfeeding Medicine 11, no. 7 (2016): 361–365.
9. Dhippayom, Teerapon, Chuenjid Kongkaew, Nathorn Chaiyakunapruk, Piyameth Dilokthornsakul, Rosarin Sruamsiri, Surasak Saokaew, and Anchalee Chuthaputti. “Clinical effects of Thai herbal compress: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2015 (2015).
10. Raguindin, Peter Francis N., Leonila F. Dans, and Jacelie F. King. “Moringa oleifera as a Galactagogue.” Breastfeeding Medicine 9, no. 6 (2014): 323–324.
11. Estrella, Ma Corazon P., V. Jacinto Bias III, Grace Z. David, and Michelle A. Taup. “A double-blind, randomized controlled trial on the use of malunggay (Moringa oleifera) for augmentation of the volume of breastmilk among non-nursing mothers of preterm infants.” (2000).
13. Alfalfa. National Institutes of Health.
14. Marasco, Lisa. “Increasing your milk supply with galactogogues.” Journal of Human Lactation 24, no. 4 (2008): 455-456.
16. Singh, Karam, and Bhavna Verma. “Breast Feeding–An Ayurveda Perceptive.” Journal of Homeopathy & Ayurvedic Medicine 2012 (2013).
17. Breastfeding. National Center For Homeopathy.