Galactagogues have been around practically since the dawn of time — and no, they aren't a newly discovered species of dinosaur. If you're currently breastfeeding, galactagogues may become your new BFFs. They're foods that just might help you increase your milk production.
You probably already knew that eating healthy is huge when you're nursing, but you can take things a step further by focusing on a couple of key foods and herbs approved by doctors and lactation consultants alike. Staying hydrated and snacking on a few delicious items (like that yummy toasted sesame seed bagel that's maybe been on your mind all day) can make all the difference in how much milk comes out of that pesky pump.
Here are foods that increase milk supply according to lactation experts.
Warm, nourishing soups can help encourage milk production as they heal postpartum bodies according to Amy Mager, a lactation consultant, acupuncturist and practitioner of Chinese medicine. "You want to first be eating warming foods that build [chi], life force and blood," she says. "Chicken soup is queen for postpartum mamas to nourish, warm, heal and make milk. For vegetarians, lentil soup is a good substitute for chicken soup — especially with some miso used in the broth."
Many lactation consultants suggest eating a bowl of oatmeal every day to boost milk supply or even a batch of oatmeal cookies. Some connect this to the high levels of iron in oatmeal.
3. Sesame seeds
Sesame seeds are high in calcium, which is great for increasing your milk supply. While they work best when crushed, you can still enjoy that sesame seed bagel. For an added bonus, top it with some tahini spread (it's made with sesame seeds, so you're doubling up).
Much has been said about this herb, which can be found in many teas that specialize in boosting milk supply. While it's said to help increase milk production in as little as a few days, there are some who should avoid it. If you have asthma or allergies, use caution if using fenugreek. Those with thyroid issues, who are hypoglycemic or who take blood thinners will want to avoid it altogether.
Dates support and nourish the blood, according to Mager, which helps with milk production. "You can eat them in soup, by themselves or pour hot water on them." You can even add them to that batch of oatmeal cookies for double the milk power.
Alfalfa is technically a type of pea and has a mild yet positive effect on milk supply according to the American Pregnancy Association. You can make a tea from alfalfa leaves or take it in pill form, but the easiest (and tastiest) way to consume it is probably by adding some alfalfa sprouts to that sesame seed bagel you're having. Sorry to be so pushy about your lunch plans.
We know what you're thinking: Duh. Yes, fruits and veggies are always a good idea, but when you're breastfeeding, you should focus on dark leafy greens and red veggies in particular. Greens like spinach, kale, broccoli and lettuce are full of minerals, vitamins, enzymes and phytoestrogens, which are known to positively influence breast milk production according to the blog Babydotdot. Red veggies — including sweet potatoes, carrots and red cabbage — are rich in beta-carotene, which improves the immune system for both you and your baby.
While most of these are merely tried-and-true home remedies rather than hard science, and they may not work for everyone, there's no harm in eating an extra oatmeal cookie now and then if it might possibly help with breast milk production. If you are truly concerned about your milk supply, make an appointment with your doctor or a local lactation consultant.
Originally published October 2015. Updated November 2017.