Many breastfeeding mothers become concerned that their babies are not getting enough breast milk, and they worry that their milk supply is low. Breast milk supply is generally based on supply and demand; however, there is some evidence that diet can play a role in breast milk production. Following a few simple guidelines can help breast-feeding moms ensure they have enough milk.
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Like pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers must eat more than the typical woman to have enough energy for breast milk production. Breast-feeding women need around 500 extra calories every day. Breast-feeding women should eat a variety of foods, in addition to taking a vitamin supplement, to get the array of nutrients their babies require. Breast-feeding women should get at least three proteins and five calcium servings daily, and eat plenty of iron-rich foods. Some top choices include leafy green vegetables, whole grains, fresh fruits, oily fish and low-fat dairy products.
In addition to eating a healthy variety of foods, women who are breast-feeding need to drink plenty of fluids. While water is the preferred choice, 100 percent juices and low-fat milk are also appropriate hydration choices to help boost breast milk supply. Breast-feeding mothers should get at least 8 cups of liquids daily, preferably without caffeine. While coffee and tea are OK in moderation, the majority of a breast-feeding mother’s liquids should come from other sources. In addition to these beverages, breast-feeding moms can try herbal teas designed for milk stimulation. While much of the evidence is anecdotal, for some women such teas seem to increase milk supply.
Even when not eating well, most women can produce enough breast milk for their babies; however, a poor diet may affect the quality of their breast milk, depleting it of the nutrients that babies need for optimal health. In addition to eating well, some particular foods may increase breast milk supply. These include oatmeal, garlic and ginger. If your supply is low, try eating oatmeal for breakfast every day, and adding more of these spices to your meals.
In addition to diet, there are several dietary supplements marketed for nursing mothers that claim to increase breast milk supply. While there is little scientific research regarding their effectiveness, many breastfeeding moms report success using such herbal remedies. The Newman Breastfeeding Clinic and Institute recommends 3 capsules of either fenugreek or blessed thistle three times daily, though they also report combining the two may be more effective than taking one or the other. Other recommended herbs for boosting milk supply include raspberry leaf, alfalfa and stinging nettle. Before taking an herbal remedy while breast-feeding, be sure to check with your doctor or your child’s pediatrician.