Nourishing Your Breastfeeding Journey: Foods That Support Lactation and Milk Supply

Jun 17, 2024 | Breastfeeding

Lactating mother holding a feeding bottle and breast pump for her milk supply

Breastfeeding can be a beautiful and natural way to nourish your baby, but it can also be physically demanding for mothers. Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting lactation and ensuring an adequate milk supply. In addition to ensuring that baby is having frequent and effective breastfeeding sessions, incorporating foods rich in specific nutrients and compounds known to enhance milk production can help breastfeeding mothers thrive. In this article, we explore a variety of foods that support lactation and milk supply.

Foods That Support Milk Supply

Whole Grains: Whole grains, including oats, are a nutritional powerhouse for breastfeeding mothers. They are rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and iron, which can help boost energy levels and replenish maternal stores postpartum. Oats also contain saponins, compounds believed to stimulate milk production. Enjoy oatmeal for breakfast, add oats to smoothies, or snack on oat-based cookies or bars for a lactation-friendly boost. When it comes to snacks, homemade is best, to avoid high amounts of sugars.

Dark Leafy Greens: Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are rich in nutrients like calcium, iron, and vitamin A, which are essential for breastfeeding mothers. They also contain phytoestrogens and antioxidants that may support lactation. Incorporate leafy greens into salads, soups, stir-fries, or smoothies to reap their nutritional benefits and promote milk production.

Fatty Fish: Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for brain development in infants. Omega-3s may also help reduce inflammation and support overall maternal health. Aim to include fatty fish in your diet 2-3 times per week to enhance both your and your baby’s nutritional intake.

Legumes: Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and black beans are rich in protein, fiber, and essential nutrients like folate and iron. They also contain phytoestrogens and galactagogues, substances believed to promote milk production. Incorporate legumes into soups, salads, curries, or grain bowls for a nourishing and lactation-friendly meal option.

Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are nutrient-dense snacks that can provide a wealth of health benefits for breastfeeding mothers. Almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, and sesame seeds are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and essential minerals like calcium and magnesium. Enjoy a handful of nuts or seeds as a snack, sprinkle them on yogurt or oatmeal, or blend them into smoothies for added nutrition and lactation support.

Fruits and Vegetables: Colorful fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that are essential for maternal and infant health. Berries, citrus fruits, carrots, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes are especially beneficial due to their high vitamin C, beta-carotene, and antioxidant content. Aim to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet to support overall health and lactation.

Water and Hydration: Staying hydrated is crucial for milk production and overall well-being. Breastfeeding mothers should aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day to maintain optimal hydration levels. Drink to thirst- over-hydrating with excessive amounts of water can be counterproductive to milk production.  Herbal teas, coconut water, and lactation-friendly beverages can also help support hydration and milk supply.

In conclusion, in addition to nursing or pumping frequently enough, incorporating nutrient-rich foods into your diet can help support lactation and ensure an adequate milk supply for breastfeeding mothers. Whole grains, dark leafy greens, fatty fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and staying hydrated are all valuable dietary strategies for promoting milk production and enhancing maternal and infant health. By nourishing your body with wholesome and lactation-friendly foods, you can thrive on your breastfeeding journey and provide the best possible nutrition for your baby.

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Sarah Early - MSN, APRN-FNP-C, IBCLC

Sarah Early, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, IBCLC, is a clinically trained Integrative and Functional Health Family Nurse Practitioner who specializes in women's health and is the owner of Peony Women's Integrative Health and Lactation Room. She graduated with a Master's in Nursing and Family Nurse Practitioner with high distinction and is a member of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. Sarah has been a practicing International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) since 2011 and opened Lactation Room in 2014. Lactation Room specializes in supporting parent/baby dyads who are struggling with infant oral dysfunction, feeding difficulties, and tongue-and-lip ties. They earned the prestigious IBCLE Care Award from the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners® (IBLCE®) and International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) have recognized Lactation Room for excellence in lactation care. She is a member of ILCA, USLCA, MBC, AANP, IATP, and MBC.