Best Foods To Increase Breast Milk Supply

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Mercier, ND, PhD
By Shaheen Naser

You can increase breast milk supply naturally, so put your worries of not making enough for your child to rest.
Breast milk is vital, especially for the first few months of an infant’s life, as it contains all the essential nutrients and some protection for the baby. Ideally, to promote healthy growth and development, immune system function, and bonding, babies should only ingest breast milk for the first several months of their lives. However, if you think that your baby is still hungry after feeds or concerned with your supply, you can consume certain foods and follow certain guidelines to keep up and increase your milk supply.

 

Causes Of Low Breast Milk Supply

If you are wondering why you don’t have enough breast milk supply to satisfy your little one, here are some possible reasons:

  • You don’t drink enough water.
  • You have started breastfeeding late and not on the day of delivery.
  • You are not breastfeeding often enough.
  • You are taking certain medications.
  • You have had previous breast surgery.
  • Other factors include premature birth, high blood pressure (induced by pregnancy), maternal obesity, and diabetes.

But, why is breastfeeding so important? These facts will tell you why.

Facts About Breastfeeding – Why Is It Important?

  • Human milk has the ability to boost a baby’s immunity big time.
  • Breastfeeding reduces your infant’s risk of contracting diseases later in life.
  • It is also beneficial to the mother and reduces her risk of developing breast cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
  • Breastfeeding speeds up the postpartum recovery of the mother.
  • New mothers can more easily return to their pre-pregnancy weight by breastfeeding more often.
  • About 75% of new moms produce more milk in their right breast as compared to their left.
  • Breastfeeding lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • It can also reduce your infant’s risk of developing cavities or getting braces later in life.
  • Breast milk contains certain substances that promote sleep in babies and calmness in mothers.

Breastfeeding is of great significance in the early years for your baby. If you feel that your breast milk supply is not up to par, all you need to do is start consuming more of the following foods.

Best Foods To Increase Breast Milk Supply

    1. Fenugreek Seeds
    2. Torbangun
    3. Drumsticks
    4. Fennel
    5. Milk Thistle
    6. Goat’s Rue
    7. Garlic
    8. Herbal Tea
    9. Salmon
    10. Oats
    11. Whole Grains
    12. Almond Milk
    13. Carom (Caraway) Seeds

How To Increase Your Breast Milk Supply Naturally

1. Fenugreek Seeds

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
  • 1 cup of water
  • Honey
What You Have To Do
  1. Boil a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds with a cup of water in a saucepan.
  2. Simmer for 5 minutes and strain.
  3. When the tea is warm enough to drink, add a little honey.
  4. Consume fenugreek tea about 3 times daily to increase your breast milk supply.
Why This Works

Fenugreek seeds are one of the best ingredients that can increase breast milk supply. They are good sources of phytoestrogen and also exhibit galactagogue properties in nursing mothers (1). (Galactagogue is just a fancy word for foods or drugs that increase the production of breast milk.)

2. Torbangun

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You Will Need

Torbangun leaves

What You Have To Do

Drink torbangun tea or soup. You can also add it to other foods and consume daily.

Why This Works

Torbangun is widely used in Bataknese traditional cuisine, and it’s gradually becoming known in the West. This is another herb that has proven to increase the production of breast milk (2).

3. Drumsticks

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You Will Need

1/2 cup of freshly extracted drumstick juice

What You Have To Do

Consume half a cup of freshly extracted drumstick juice once daily.

Why This Works

Drumsticks are a rich source of many nutrients that help in stimulating the mammary glands to produce more milk. Consuming drumstick juice also improves blood circulation, which, in turn, increases your breast milk supply (3).

4. Fennel Seeds

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • Honey
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of fennel seeds to a cup of hot water.
  2. Steep for 5 to 10 minutes and strain.
  3. Allow the tea to cool a little before adding some honey.
  4. Consume fennel tea 2 to 3 times daily.
  5. Alternatively, you can also chew on some fennel seeds.
Why This Works

Fennel is another herb that is used as a galactagogue for nursing mothers. The seeds are phytoestrogens, i.e., they mimic estrogen, a hormone that is known to increase the production of breast milk (4).

5. Milk Thistle

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You Will Need

Milk thistle supplements

What You Have To Do

Take 2 to 3 milk thistle capsules daily.

Why This Works

Milk thistle is a flowering plant that was used in the ancient times to increase the production of breast milk. As a phytoestrogen, it displays estrogenic activity, which helps in increasing the breast milk supply (5).

6. Goat’s Rue

Shutterstock

You Will Need

Goat’s rue supplements

What You Have To Do

Take goat’s rue supplements daily to increase your breast milk supply.

Why This Works

Goat’s rue is a popular galactagogue in France and other European countries. It not only stimulates the development of mammary duct tissue but also has lactogenic properties, i.e., it promotes breast milk production (6).

Caution

Goat’s rue might cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Hence, consult your doctor before using these supplements and don’t skip meals if you decide to take it.

7. Garlic

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You Will Need

Peeled garlic cloves

What You Have To Do
  1. Mince the garlic cloves and add the paste to your dishes.
  2. You can also chew on a few garlic cloves throughout the day, preferably when you don’t have to breathe garlic breath on anyone!
Why This Works

Garlic has lactogenic properties that help increase breast milk supply in mothers. It’s an antifungal and it is reported to strengthen the bond between the mother and infant (7), (8).

8. Herbal Tea

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You Will Need

Herbal teas like anise tea or caraway tea

What You Have To Do

Drink 2 to 3 cups of anise or caraway tea daily.

Why This Works

Herbs like anise and caraway are phytoestrogens that exhibit estrogenic properties. They act as galactagogues and also clear clogged milk ducts, thus increasing breast milk supply (9).

9. Salmon

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You Will Need

Wild-caught cooked salmon

What You Have To Do

Consume a portion of cooked salmon 2 to 3 times every week.

Why This Works

Salmon is a rich source of omega-3s and many essential fatty acids, which make it a great option to increase your breast milk production naturally. It is also rich in DHA, one of the most important components of breast milk, which aids brain development of your child (10).

Caution

Eat wild-caught salmon, which is lower in mercury and other toxins than commercially raised salmon.

10. Oats

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You Will Need

A bowl of cooked oats

What You Have To Do

Consume a bowl of cooked oats daily.

Why This Works

Oats are rich in fiber and iron, which reduce cholesterol and increase breast milk production. They also induce relaxation, which, in turn, helps increase lactation. These properties make oats one of the best options to increase the supply of breast milk (11).

11. Whole Grains

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You Will Need

Whole grains like corn, quinoa, and wheat

What You Have To Do

Increase your intake of whole grains like wheat, quinoa, and corn.

Why This Works

The intake of whole grains not just helps increase the production of breast milk but also ensures that your infant is getting all the necessary nutrients for its growth and development (12).

Note: Many people are avoiding gluten grains these days, so you may want to limit your intake of wheat.

12. Almond Milk

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You Will Need

Almond milk (unsweetened)

What You Have To Do

Consume a cup of almond milk 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

Almond milk is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids that help increase breast milk production. Hence, nursing mothers consume almond milk regularly to improve both the quantity and quality of their milk (13).

13. Carom (Caraway) Seeds

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You Will Need
What You Have To Do
  1. Soak a teaspoon or two of carom seeds in water overnight.
  2. The next morning, strain the mixture and consume the solution.
  3. Drink this daily to boost your breast milk supply.
Why This Works

Carom seeds are another excellent traditional remedy that can help in naturally increasing the supply of breast milk (14).

Now that you have an idea about what to eat for increasing breast milk supply, let’s look at the foods that you need to avoid as they may decrease breast milk production.

What Foods Can Decrease Milk Supply?

For centuries, midwives have given women advice on what to consume when they are ready to stop breastfeeding and allow their breast milk to dry up. But don’t use these foods in any quantity if you are still breastfeeding. The following foods can decrease breast milk supply:

  • Parsley
  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Alcohol

In addition to avoiding these foods, follow the tips mentioned below.

Preventive Tips

  • Closely observe your baby for signs of hunger, especially in the first few weeks.
  • Let your baby sleep close to you, at least for the first 6 months.
  • Try and avoid using pacifiers.
  • Follow a healthy diet.
  • Drink plenty of fluids ,avoiding sugar and aspartame sweetened sodas.
  • Get enough rest.
  • Try massaging your breasts for increased supply of breast milk.
  • Avoid wearing tight bras and tops. Opt for loose clothing

In some cases, breast milk supply may be lower than expected. Some possible causes include pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, premature delivery, delayed latching, history of breast surgery, inadequate hydration, etc. However, it is not a cause for concern as you can increase breast milk in most cases by following certain simple home remedies. For instance, you can incorporate foods like drumsticks, fennel, oats, whole grains, fenugreek seeds, garlic, torbangun, and milk thistle to boost milk production. Avoid consuming certain foods like alcohol, parsley, oregano, thyme, and mint, as these may reduce milk production.

Frequently Asked Questions

How will I know if I am producing enough breast milk?

You will learn to recognize the sigh of contentment when your baby has taken enough milk. Feeding should be at least 6 to 8 times daily with no signs of pain or discomfort after the first few swallows. At the beginning of feeding, your breast will feel tense and engorged, even leaking. After a good session, they will be soft and feel like your baby has emptied them properly. If they don’t feel completely empty, try pumping them with a breast pump and hold that milk for a future feeding.

Can breast massage help with milk production?

Yes, massaging your breasts can improve milk production. A breast massage clears the milk ducts and causes the milk to flow more freely. And this triggers your milk glands to produce more milk. Some women are advised to begin pumping their breasts even before delivery to stimulate milk production.

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author
Shaheen holds a postgraduate degree in Human Genetics and Molecular Biology. She is a Geneticist with proficiency in Biotechnology, Immunology,... more

Dr. Jennifer Mercier

(ND, PhD)
Jennifer Mercier has been in the practice of women's health since 1999. Her practice started with Massage Therapy and Midwifery... more

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