I have blogged about Hilary Jacobson CH.HU.SI’s dietary guidelines for nursing mothers in my post Tips to Increase Breast Milk Supply. Being an expert in her field, Hilary has also highlighted the fact that mothers have individual needs when it comes to lactogenic foods and herbs.
In her book Mother Food for Breastfeeding Mothers, she has listed lactogenic foods and herbs that support lactation. Eating sufficient calories and getting an abundant supply of nutrients is helpful in itself for lactation, but these foods also contain substances that interact with and support the chemistry of lactation.
These substances include phytoestrogen, natural plant sedatives, plant sterols and saponins, and tryptophan, among others. In addition, a rich supply of minerals and a good balance of fats ensure that the mother’s cells and nerves are functioning at an optimal level.
The top lactogenic foods and herbs are as follow:
Fennel can be eaten raw or cooked, for instance, steamed, or sautéed in butter and then simmered in a bit of water. Fennel seed is well-known as an herb to increase milk production. The vegetable, containing the same pharmacologically active volatile oils, acts as a gentler support.
Carrot, Beet, Yam
These reddish vegetables are full of beta-carotene, needed in extra amounts during lactation. Carrot seed has been used as a galactagogue, and the vegetable, also containing the volatile oils and phytoestrogen, acts as a gentler support. The beet is a wonderful source of minerals and iron. Taking raw beet can help alleviate iron deficiency. These vegetables are naturally sweet, and they support the liver.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Dark green vegetables are a potent source of minerals, vitamins and enzymes, as well as phytoestrogen that support lactation. Dandelion and stinging nettle leaves are diuretic, and can help reduce edema during pregnancy and after birth. They can be plucked from your garden in early spring and eaten whole, chopped into salad, or used to make tea. Stinging nettle can be harvested for salad or cooked as spinach. In your market, you’ll find arugula, beet leaves, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, chicory, collard greens and others.
Grains and Legumes
Grains and legumes have a long history as galactagogues. The most commonly used grains include oats, millet, barley and rice. Oats are the most widely used lactogenic food in the US. Legumes to include in your diet are chickpea, mungbeans and lentils.
Nuts that support milk supply include almonds, cashews, and macadamia nuts. As much as possible, eat raw nuts, not roasted or salted. The taste of raw nuts will grow on you.
Oils and fats
Healthy fats play a vital role in cellular and neural metabolism. The kinds of fats a mother eats will influence the composition of fats in her milk.
The renowned expert in fats, Mary G. Enig, suggests that mothers get regular and substantial dosages of butter and coconut oil. In addition, use cold-pressed virgin olive oil, and take equal amounts of cold-pressed sesame oil and flaxseed oil in salads.
One way to balance the fats is to dribble a quarter teaspoon of olive oil, flaxseed oil, sesame oil, and a thin slab of butter over meals. Be sure to eliminate unhealthy fats such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and transfatty acids from your diet, as these will also enter your milk.
In addition, be sure to have a source for essential fatty acids. For more information, see “Dietary Tips.”
Lactogenic beverages include getting enough plain water to hydrate the body, drinking commercial lactation teas, non-alcoholic beer, ginger ale, Rivella, and natural herbal root-beers from your health food store. Check out coffee substitutes based on the lactogenic grain barley, such as CARO, Roma, Caffix, Pero or Dandy Blend. These imitation coffees usually also contain chicory or dandelion, plus malt—ingredients that are all lactogenic. A recipe for “Barley Water,” a potent lactogenic beverage can be found here.
Mothers that do not have low milk supply have to be caution when taking an abundance of lactogenic herbs and foods to increase their breastmilk supply further. This will eventually caused unnecessary difficulties for nursing moms, such as over-supply, engorgement, plugged ducts, or mastitis. Your baby may develop colic due to too much foremilk, or sucking difficulties due to an overly strong let-down reflex, both of which are common with over-supply.
Therefore, it is essential to use these foods and herbs wisely, and reduce or stop their use if you notice such problems.
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