This late in pregnancy, I have a lot to think about, as do all expectant moms gearing up for the big day. A barrage of thank-you notes for my baby shower. The best gear and decor for my nursery. And, oh yeah, giving birth (eek!). The last thing I want to worry about now is breastfeeding. So, to give myself a little peace of mind, I’ve researched foods that are said to help breast milk supply.
These eight foods have been used by women throughout the centuries to help support breastfeeding. And while there are no guarantees that they will work for me, too, I plan on stocking up. Because at the very least, snack time will be covered.
Top: Dark Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies | Saving Room for Dessert
A quick note: Please keep in mind that though these foods are part of a long tradition of using natural means to support breastfeeding, there are no scientific studies that we know of that prove their efficacy. In fact, while some of these have worked wonders for some women on staff, our own editor Stacie, had no luck with any of them — or anything else. We figure these are good to know about as support options for breastfeeding moms. Either way, be sure to consult with your doctor about dosage and if anything you eat doesn’t agree with you or your baby.
Spice Hunting: Fenugreek | Photo by Robyn Lee for Serious Eats
Don’t have fenugreek growing in your herb garden? Yea, neither do I. While it’s a little off the beaten path, this herb, popular with lactation consultants, can be found in capsules or as a tea at your local health food store and has been used for centuries to help increase the production of breast milk. While no one’s 100% sure how it increases breast milk, it’s thought to stimulate the sweat glands, which are related to the milk-producing glands in your breasts. However it works, I’m down to give it a try. If you are, too, just be sure to consult with your doctor before doing so.
Good news for people who like garlicky breadsticks! Garlic’s another food that’s been used throughout history to help women produce more milk. Some theorize it’s because babies like the slight flavor it adds to milk, although you might want to test out this hypothesis with your babe before going crazy on the Italian food. If you dislike garlic, you can always take it in pill form, which will give you a more potent dose too.
Eating dairy to promote breast milk might be intuitive, but make sure you stick with low-fat dairy. And no, not to lose those extra baby pounds (take your time with those!). Fat stores most of the toxins in dairy, so more fat equals more toxins, unless you buy organic. In which case, you might want to go with full fat after all. Because, yum.
Apple, Fennel and Walnut Salad with Orange Dressing | Yummy Addiction
You know those little licorice-tasting seeds you pick up on your way out of Indian restaurants? Not only are they a great palate cleanser, but it turns out that they may help in the production of breast milk as well. Fennel is thought to help adults digest their food more easily and, therefore, can help you more efficiently convert your food to milk. Plus, it may aid in baby’s digestion too.
In addition to fennel seeds, you can also roast fresh fennel or slice it thinly for a salad like this Apple, Fennel and Walnut Salad with Orange Dressing at Yummy Addiction. If you don’t like the taste of licorice, look for a fennel supplement at your local health food store instead.
Nursing moms need extra beta-carotene when producing breast milk, so carrots are a fantastic snack choice. Plus, you can eat them one-handed, which is great news for those of us who’ll have an infant attached to our person for the foreseeable future.
6. Leafy greens
Ah, leafy greens. Is there any healthy diet they’re not a part of? If you find one, let me know. In the meantime, I’ll be eating plenty of leafy greens for vitamins A and C, plus calcium and iron. Especially iron, since healthy levels of this mineral helps produce more breast milk.
If kale and spinach aren’t on the top of your craving list (as in, right under Oreos and cream cheese), try these kid-friendly green salad recipes, because it turns out that they work for tired new moms too.
Dark Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies | Saving Room for Dessert
Complex carbs are always a good idea to keep you energized, but it turns out that oats in particular may help stimulate the milk-producing hormone in breastfeeding moms. Plus, oats are known to contain anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties too. My recent go-to source has been steel cut oats made in an Instant Pot, but you can also bake up a batch of these divine-looking Dark Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies at Saving Room for Dessert.
Okay, technically fluids are not food, but my childbirth educator couldn’t stop talking about this one. Not only is staying hydrated crucial for the end stage of pregnancy (when dehydration can trigger early labor!), but it’s also essential for creating breast milk. Totally makes sense, right?
Try to get a full 80-100 ounces of liquid per day and limit your intake of caffeinated beverages, like Diet Coke or coffee, to two or three glasses a day, at most.