By Melody Moradi Ahadian, MS, RD
Breast milk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean, and contains antibodies which help protect against many common childhood illnesses. What’s more, it has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat — everything a baby needs to grow.
Many medical experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, strongly recommend breastfeeding exclusively (no formula, juice, or water) for 6 months. After the introduction of other foods, it recommends continuing to breastfeed through the baby’s first year of life.
So, what can we, as mothers, do to help improve the quantity and quality of our breastmilk for our newborn babies?
As a mother and Registered Dietitian, I scoured the internet in search of answers. When I had my first child I was determined to provide him with the best breastmilk for as long as I possibly could. Here is what I learned:
Water: Breast milk is more than 80% water! As such, a nursing mother needs about 16 cups per day of water, which can come from food, beverages and drinking water, to compensate for the extra water that is used to make milk. One way to help you get the fluids you need is to drink a large glass of water each time you breastfeed your baby.
Galactagogues: The word “galactagogues” comes from the Greek “galacta,” meaning milk. These are teas, herbs, and foods that are believed to increase breast milk. Many herbs and foods have been used traditionally for their lactogenic (milk-making) properties. In fact, the list is quite extensive, and specific foods thought to enhance a new mother’s milk supply vary by culture. Fenugreek, nettle, milk thistle, goats rue are some of the popular herbal galactogogues that can be supplemented in a nursing mothers’ diet. Oats (and other grains), legumes, nuts, seeds, and brewer’s or nutritional yeast may also assist in breastmilk production. According to La Leche League International (LLLI), an international organization that provides information and support to breastfeeding mothers, “if at all possible, using galactogenic foods along with effective breastfeeding management is the preferred way to help maintain and increase milk supply.”
A Healthy Diet: One that includes fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high-quality proteins, and good fats can play a huge role in breastmilk production.
Methods: Skin-to-skin contact, breast compression, comfortable positioning during breastfeeding, and frequent feedings or pumping sessions can also help improve milk production.
All in all, following a healthy diet along with breastfeeding your baby consistently seems like the best way to maintain and possibly increase your milk supply.
Melody Moradi Ahadian, MS, RD is the founder of Botanique Bundles.