Sushi and wine! Those were the items requested my first night out after having our first baby. Words can't express how much I was looking forward to it. What I wasn't fully aware of was the diet plan of the fourth trimester. You know, the fact that you still have to be aware of what you eat when breastfeeding your little one because he or she gets some of everything you eat through your breast milk? That one. So I had my albacore tuna roll and vino and enjoyed everything, in moderation.
Learning the proper nutrition for optimal breast milk production is key to creating a solid milk supply. With my first child, I lost my supply at six weeks because of stress, birth control, and nursing complications. However, with my second I studied hard and nourished my body with the foods that support and increase breast milk production. I also made sure I got sleep, eliminated inflammatory foods like processed foods, dairy, and soy, and ate whole, living ones so that the milk I produced was as good as I could make it.
I learned from reading the works of Karen & Gale Pryor, authors of Nursing Your Baby original and revised versions, and tried going "by the book" but also picked up these tips from my own experience with two kids between four to five different lactation consultants, mom talk, breastfeeding class, and volunteering for the San Francisco Breastfeeding Coalition. Here's what I've learned actually works!
Eating breakfast is important to give your body a healthy start each day. Aside from being very satisfying, oatmeal has other nutritional benefits as well. It's high in iron, which can help moms with maternal anemia raise their iron levels and in turn, increase milk supply. Oatmeal is also known to lower bad cholesterol, which can simultaneously increase milk supply. It's a two-for-one! Opt for the good old-fashioned oats as opposed to the quick instant kind.
All kinds of folklore says that babies like the flavor in the breast milk (what?), but it has been known for decades that garlic helps to increase your milk supply. If you can't stand the taste, find a high-quality supplement from your local health food store.
3. Roasted fennel
Delicious when roasted in the oven with sea salt, olive oil, and pepper, fennel is known to increase milk supply. You can also simply sauté, stew, or toss in your favorite soup salad and voilà!
It's one of the easiest snacks to grab and go on the run or with your infant in one arm. Cashews, almonds, and macadamia nuts are the best for lactation. An added bonus is that they are packed with protein, which is essential while breastfeeding. It is suggested that breastfeeding moms get an extra 20 grams of protein per day (one cup of dry beans has about 16g of protein).
5. Water, water, water
Obviously it's not a food but one of the most vital contributors to a healthy, plentiful milk supply is drinking enough water; at least eight glasses a day is ideal. It's essential to our health and well-being and plays an integral part in keeping the body lubricated to help your organs all function properly, including those that are responsible for your breast milk production. If you don't have one already, buy a large glass or stainless-steel water bottle and keep it next to you at all times to sip on throughout the day. It helps keep track of how much you've actually had (vs. how much you thought you had).
It's amazing what the body can do if you properly nourish it to function at its best. However, even then, having an adequate or any supply at all can be a challenge for some moms as it was for me with my first. So if you still need a boost in your supply after incorporating these foods and some self-care into your routine, there are also many types of lactation cookies to try, fenugreek supplements, and mother's milk tea. Regardless, from one mom to another, kudos to you for making the effort to breastfeed! It is not something that is always easy to do, and I'm glad you're taking the time and energy for you and your little one.