Many new moms have real challenges producing enough breast milk to feed their new babies.  There are a variety of factors that can affect a woman’s ability to produce enough breastmilk to feed her baby:

  • Infertility issues can also lead to being unable to make plenty of breastmilk. 
  • Breast reduction surgery and breast augmentation surgery can also have a negative effect on milk production. 
  • If your breasts did not change size during your pregnancy, this can be an indication that you may have difficulty producing breast milk. 
  • Hormonal imbalances or thyroid issues can negatively affect breast milk production.
  • Some women may have insufficient glandular tissue that just did not develop.  They are unable to produce milk.

There can be many other factors not discussed here. This post is for the generally healthy mom and baby who can overcome the common challenges breastfeeding mothers face.

Don’t Hesitate to See a Lactation Consultant (ICBLC)

Don’t wait to ask for help!  There are many techniques and tips you can learn by seeing a lactation consultant. Sometimes a one-on-one appointment can make a huge difference for a mother’s breastfeeding success.
If you’re not sure if you need help, ask your OB or pediatrician for a referral. 

Though it seems absurd, many physicians know little to nothing about breastfeeding! So it’s usually better to get a referral to see a lactation consultant.  Chances are pretty good that your insurance will pay for a session with a certified lactation consultant. 

If you’re on WIC, they have certified lactation education counselors you can see or speak to.  As I write this, we are in the midst of a pandemic and there are no in-person breastfeeding support groups.  But, when things eventually go back to normal (praying they do), going to a breastfeeding support group is so beneficial.  You get to be around other moms who are having the same challenges you are.   It makes you feel less alone.  You learn from and support each other, while getting help from a professional, knowledgeable about all things breastfeeding. 

Most hospitals have a lactation services phone number so you can speak to a lactation specialist who can guide you through whatever issue you are having.

What You Eat Can Affect Your Milk Supply

Start with your nutrition and your daily diet.  The foods you eat can have a pretty dramatic effect on your milk production.  The nutrients in your breast milk come from your blood stream.  What you eat affects your baby. 

The best foods to help increase breast milk supply are known as galactogogues…that is pronounced ga-lact-o-gog.  It’s a big word for powerful food sources that consist of drinks, foods, or herbs, all of which help some, but not all, mothers’ bodies respond by making more breast milk.   There are also medications that increase milk supply.  For those, you have to be seen by a doctor and get a prescription.

Some Things Negatively Affect Your Milk Supply

There are many common conditions and situations that can cause mothers  to make inadequate milk supply. These things can negatively affect your ability to produce breast milk for your baby.  They are:

  • Stress
  • Not enough sleep
  • Separation of mother and baby
  • Not enough calories consumed by the mother
  • Supplementing with formula
  • Hormonal birth control
  • Alcohol

In general, plenty of rest, stress reduction, uninterrupted time with baby, skin-to-skin, a deep latch, use of a breast pump, and frequent feeds, and galactogogues, can help increase milk production.

The Magic of Galactogogues

Below is a list of galactogogues. Galactogogues can consist of herbs, supplements, foods, and medications.  Most of these foods can easily be added to your diet:

  • Oatmeal– instant won’t cut it.  You’ll need steel cut oatmeal cooked on the stove and not in the microwave. Other whole grains work well too.
  • Dark, leafy greens (alfalfa, kale, spinach, dandelion leaves, all of which can be added to smoothies)
  • Fennel and fennel seeds are full of phytoestrogen, which is similar to estrogen produced in the female body. You can add fennel to a salad or a smoothie.
  • Garlic may change the flavor of the breast milk and has been shown to increase milk production because babies like the flavor and nurse more frequently.
  • Chickpeas are high in protein and have plant phytoestrogens. These natural estrogens aid in milk production.

  • Nuts and seeds, especially almonds because the amino acids help build serotonin.  Mothers are happier and more relaxed from the serotonin and more likely to produce more milk.

  • Ginger, like garlic, can change the taste of breast milk and encourage babies to feed more often.

  • Green Papaya is known to increase the production of oxytocin the hormone that causes the milk let down reflex. Put it in a salad, a smoothie, or just eat a bowl of it sprinkled with fresh lime juice.

  • Spices like cumin seeds, anise seeds, fennel seeds, turmeric. Look for recipes containing any of these spices or seeds. 

There are a wide variety of herbs like red raspberry, fenugreek, goats’ rue, coriander, and many others.  But there are a couple of companies that make tinctures and supplements that combine the right amount of herbs and other compounds to give mothers the best chances of increasing milk production.  These can be added to foods, smoothies, and drinks.

Supplements that increase breast milk supply:

There are certain spices and herbs which can inhibit milk production.  You’d have to eat a lot of them or use them regularly to have them affect your milk supply.

Herbs and Spices to Avoid are:

  • peppermint
  • sage
  • parsley
  • oregano
  • Drinking too much caffeine
  • Drinking too much alcohol can have a dehydrating effect.
  • Birth control affects hormones and can lower milk production.
  • See the affiliate links below for products that can help increase milk supply

. . . . .

Following these general guidelines, below,  can help new mothers establish  breast milk supply.  But never hesitate to consult a certified lactation counselor or consultant.  You’ll be so glad you did.

  1. Feed your baby often.  That means offer the breast a MINIMUM of 8 times/day and up to 12 times OR MORE in a 24 hour period.
  2. When possible do not offer formula.  If supplementing, first try to pump breastmilk and offer that.
  3. Do not offer pacifiers or bottles.  Babies suck for comfort but mainly for nutrition.  Until regular breastfeeding is well-established in the first 5-6 weeks, avoid bottles and pacifiers.
  4. Feed baby whenever he/she shows hunger signs.  Don’t wait.  Follow your baby’s lead.
  5. Don’t wait to ask for help!  Sometimes the solution is simple but most of the time, you need a professional to get you through whatever difficulties you are experiencing.