August is National Breastfeeding Month, and is bringing awareness to myriad issues that affect breastfeeding women. Breastfeeding isn’t easy, and for many new moms, breast milk production is a major issue. While there are very few hard-and-fast solutions when it comes to breast feeding (or any parenting issue, for that matter), eating the right foods can often help replenish new moms’ energy and potentially even increase her milk supply. If you or someone you love is currently breast feeding, here are give foods to try to include in your diet.
Oats are often recommended for new moms with the idea that they may increase milk supply. Unfortunately, there isn’t a ton of evidence to support this claim, but many mothers out there swear by it. According to Parents.com, one of the reasons experts think anecdotal evidence for oats is so strong is because oats are rich in iron.
Iron is important for breastfeeding moms, particularly because studies have shown low iron levels to be linked with low milk supply.
“It’s one of those things where it seems to help enough people consistently enough that it’s a common suggestion,” Sedjenane Chang, IBCLC, a lactation consultant from San Jose, told Parents. “[But] there’s not enough research to tell us why oats might help with milk supply.”
Spinach is another nutritional powerhouse. It, too, is important for new moms because of its high levels of iron. Women who suffered from postpartum hemorrhage or who lost a lot of blood during their delivery are even more likely to benefit from replenishing their iron levels.
Fenugreek is a type of seed that’s commonly used to support breast milk production. In fact, it’s used for this purpose all over the world.
“It has been theorized that fenugreek stimulates sweat production, and because the breast is a modified sweat gland, milk ducts and milk ejection are stimulated,” Ginger Carney, IBCLC, also a lactation consultant, told Parents. “Most women who consume fenugreek report an increase in milk production within 24 to 72 hours after beginning oral consumption.”
However, according to the parenting website Belly Belly, fenugreek is to be used with caution. Women who take blood thinners, have thyroid problems or who suffer from asthma and allergies should be cautious about consuming it.
Belly Belly also reports that garlic may help stimulate breast milk production, and for a surprising reason: Because babies love garlic!
According to the website, babies enjoy the taste of breast milk even more after their mother has consumed garlic, leading them to drink more and therefore draw out more milk.
Sesame seeds are another major winner. Because they are high in calcium, they’re great for milk supply. However, you don’t want to eat them whole.
“Eating the seeds crushed is important, as seeds still in their husk simply pass through the digestive tract. Try tahini — a sesame seed paste– in hummus or salad dressing, or as a spread on crackers or vegetables,” Belly Belly states.