Leading health organizations agree that breastmilk represents the nutritional gold standard for infant nutrition and provides infants the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. It is recommended that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, with continued breastfeeding, alongside the introduction of appropriate complementary foods, for 1 year or longer1.
If you’re a breastfeeding and/or pumping mom, you’re probably familiar with this; but let’s be honest, for some, breastfeeding can be really hard, and these recommendations can seem daunting! The fact is that many families struggle to meet these targets2. Moms stop for a variety of reasons. The most commonly cited reasons for stopping breastfeeding in the first two months were concerns about lactation and nutrition, and specifically not having enough breast milk supply for baby3. If you are a mom who can relate, you are not alone!
The foods you eat during lactation are incredibly important to ensure your little one is getting the essential nutrients they need; but are there things you can do with your diet to maintain breast milk supply?
Believe it or not, the answer is yes! By following these 4 tips, you can help to maintain your breast milk supply through diet.
1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet:
You may have heard that your nutrient needs increase while you are breastfeeding and pumping, and this is true. Your caloric needs can increase anywhere from 300 to 400 calories each day. Try to get those extra calories from nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole-grains. In doing so, you are ensuring not only optimal nutrients in your breast milk supply for your baby, but also for yourself. Your body will naturally prioritize providing nutrients to your baby, even at the expense of your own nutrition, so it’s important to eat healthy to stay healthy. This will help you continue to breast feed. It is also a good idea to continue taking your prenatal supplement while breastfeeding and pumping. Some companies even offer breastfeeding specific supplements, which may have a slightly different nutrient profile that is more appropriately suited to lactation. Check with your doctor, dietitian/nutritionist, or lactation specialist if you have questions.
2. Stay hydrated:
Staying adequately hydrated is important while breastfeeding and pumping. Becoming severely dehydrated may affect your milk supply, however, don’t be concerned if you miss a glass or two of water a day. Listen to and trust what your body is telling you about how much water you need. Over-hydration can also negatively affect milk supply so it’s important to listen to your body. Water is the best option – try to stay away from sugary beverages and check with your doctor on how much caffeine is okay to consume. Keep in mind that caffeine acts as a diuretic, so it can have a dehydrating effect. Have a water bottle or glass of water around you all day and take a few sips when you see it, when you feel thirsty, and if you notice that your urine is dark or if you aren’t going as much or as frequently as usual.
3. Consider adding herbs that may act as galactagogues:
Galactagogues are substances that may increase milk supply. Some common herbs used as galactagogues include oats, fenugreek, shatavari, and fennel; the question is, do they work? Currently, the clinical evidence to support the effect these herbs have on increasing milk supply is limited, variable, and insufficient to draw specific conclusions. However, a review of existing studies found that mothers who consumed a fenugreek tea produced significantly more milk than their placebo counterparts4. While this is promising, before beginning an herbal galactagogue, check with an herbalist, pharmacist, or doctor regarding their recommendation on what and how much you should take, and to check if the herb could potentially react with any other pharmaceuticals or supplements you might be taking.
4. Find your tribe:
You don’t have to go the road alone. Surround yourself with friends, family, and trusted healthcare experts who can walk with you in your breastfeeding and pumping journey, be your cheerleader, and offer support when you need it most.Breastfeeding can be incredibly beautiful and rewarding for you and your baby. Have confidence in yourself, make healthy food choices, stay hydrated, listen to your body, check with the experts, and rely on your tribe. You got this!
1Eidelman, A. I., & Schanler, R. J. (2012). Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 129 (3), e827-e841. DOI:10.1542/peds.2011-3552
2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Breastfeeding: Facts. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/facts.html
3Ruowei, L., Fein, S. B., Chen, J., & Grummer-Strawn, L. M. (2008). Why Mothers Stop Breastfeeding: Mother’s Self-reported Reasons for Stopping During the First Year. Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 122 (2), S69-S76. DOI:10.1542/peds.2008-1315i
4Bazzano, A. N., Hofer, R., Thibeau, S., Gillispie, V., Jacobs, M., & Theall, K. P. (2016). A Review of Herbal and Pharmaceutical Galactagogues for Breast-Feeding. The Ochsner journal, 16(4), 511–524.
All content found on the Lansinoh.com website, including: text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
Laura King, RDN, LDN, is a registered and licensed Dietitian Nutritionist in Maryland. She has spent the last 16 years working in healthcare and the nutrition industry, where she most recently used evidenced-based research to create innovative solutions in early life nutrition. Laura believes that breast milk represents the nutritional gold standard for infant feeding, and that supporting moms' nutrition through their breastfeeding journeys is paramount.
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