Nutritionist Louise Pyne finds out how to make the most of your milk supply
You need all the energy you can muster to cope with the changes that come with newborn territory, so focusing on a nutritious diet will help. And if you’re breastfeeding, upgrading your plate could also come with some super-important benefits. There’s a secret substance found in certain kitchen staples that could supercharge your supply – called galactagogues, these lactation enhancers are thought to work by increasing levels of prolactin, the hormone involved with milk production. These are my dietary picks:
Starting your day with a bowl of oats might just be the easiest way to ensure a good flow. Oats contain an amino acid called glutamine which naturally has a calming effect on the body, and this is also thought to encourage let down.
If you lost a lot of blood during labour, your iron levels may be low. Deficiency signs include fatigue, low immunity and a pale complexion. Since studies link low iron levels with lactation issues, it makes sense to load up on iron-rich foods. Swiss chard is the veggie of choice, as 200g of the dark green leaf contains more than 5g of iron – one third of the RDA.
Fatty acids are one of the key components in breast milk so loading up on foods containing fats called EPA and DHA is extremely important when you’re nursing. These fats also ensure proper brain and eye health in newborns. In addition to salmon, nuts, seeds and fortified foods are all good options.
You might think garlic would automatically put your baby off feeding, but research shows that newborns nurse more frequently from mothers who have consumed large amounts of garlic. The more baby latches on, the greater your supply, so flavouring meals with the cloves could help to ensure a steady flow.
Don’t just eat it – drink it!
Best known as a remedy for morning sickness, ginger may also be a potent galactagogue. One study showed that mothers who consumed ginger had a higher milk volume in the first few days postpartum than those who received a placebo. Ginger tea is an easy way to get your fix, or include the root in soups and stir-fries.
Fennel is packed with hormone-like compounds called phytoestrogens, and these are thought to have a positive effect on postpartum prolactin levels. Enjoy fennel in tea form, or shred the bulb into salads.
OK, so it’s technically not a galactagogue food, but staying hydrated is one of the best ways to help your body to make milk. You’ll naturally crave more water when you’re feeding but pay extra attention to thirst cues. Sip on a large glass with each feed and if you get bored of regular water, add some lemon slices and a few sprigs of mint for a flavour boost.
Louise Pyne is a nutritionist. For more information, visit louisepynenutrition.com