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The right food can boost breast milk production
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The right food can boost breast milk production

Mothers can experience lactation issues due to many reasons. Experts suggest nutritious food to increase breast milk supply

Natural ways to boost breastmilk production with food

The joy of a mother multiplies when she nurses her bundle of joy soon after birth. Breast milk creation normally happens within 48 hours of delivery. Oftentimes, breast milk production will be minimal initially and gradually increases over time.

However, some women have issues with lactation altogether.

Anjana B Nair, consultant dietitian at Motherhood Hospitals, Bengaluru, says that there are three reasons why mothers experience low breast milk supply. “Low breast milk supply can occur due to physiological, psychological or hormonal issues.”

However, experts say that it’s natural for mothers to experience this and point out that consuming natural sources of food can increase breast milk substantially.

Increase your calorie and protein intake

While breastfeeding, the body tends to use more protein. Thus, it is important to include high-protein and high-calorie food to increase breast milk supply. “Proteins like lean meat are advisable,” says Nair. “If you are a vegetarian, you must get your proteins from pulses, grains etc.”

According to the Centres For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breastfeeding mothers need to consume an additional 330 to 400 kilocalories per day, compared to the calories they were consuming before their pregnancy. This is because breastfeeding tends to burn calories.

“Make sure you don’t eat junk food during breastfeeding. Ensure you get your calories from proteins instead,” says Dr Varini, senior consultant, obstetrics and gynecologist, Milann Fertility and Birthing Hospital, Bengaluru.

Fenugreek and garlic increase breast milk supply

Experts say that fenugreek seeds are a good source of fibre and can be added to your food to increase breast milk supply.

Garlic is a galactagogue (food that promotes breast milk production) that experts advise to consume to stimulate breast milk supply. “It is perfectly safe for the baby and will not affect the taste of the breast milk at all,” says Dr Varini.

Nair adds that oats and barley can also help with breast milk production.

Consume calcium-rich food 

Calcium consumption is necessary during breastfeeding because the mothers lose bone density during the process. Consuming calcium-rich food is helpful for both the mother and the infant, and it especially aids in the infant’s bone development. “Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale are good sources of calcium,” says Dr Varini. “Raggi and millets are also good to increase breast milk supply,” she adds.

Rely on supplements only when required 

Supplements are only suggested if the mother is deficient in nutrients that can cause low milk production. “I would only recommend supplements with a doctor’s approval. Otherwise, consuming natural sources such as dry fruits, fruits and vegetables will suffice,” Nair says.

“We usually prescribe iron and calcium supplements because those are the nutrients mothers lose the most while feeding the baby,” adds Dr Varini.

Food to avoid while breastfeeding 

Experts say that there is no specific food one must avoid while breastfeeding. “It’s a myth that mothers should avoid foods that can pose a risk to the baby’s health,” Dr Varini explains. “However, mothers must ensure that they consume a nutritious and balanced diet to increase breast milk supply. Food sources can only change the quantity of the breast milk, not the quality.”

Nair, however, advises cutting down on caffeine-infused drinks as they can sometimes hinder the breast milk supply. “I suggest minimising the amount of tea and coffee consumed during the day. You could also consume these drinks in less concentration,” she explains.

The same goes for spicy and fried food. “Spicy and fried food will not alter the taste of the breast milk for the baby; however, it will cause discomfort in the mother’s digestive system due to the hormonal changes that are taking place in her body,” says Nair. She also stresses avoiding alcohol during breastfeeding as it will further decrease the supply of breast milk and may cause health risks to the baby.

Takeaways 

  • Breast milk supply could decline owing to psychological, physiological and hormonal changes in the mother.
  • Consuming a high-calorie diet rich in proteins and calcium can naturally increase breast milk supply.
  • Some natural sources that can increase breast milk supply are fenugreek seeds, garlic, barley and ragi.
  • Doctors recommend limiting the consumption of tea, coffee and alcohol.

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