It’s a common concern: At some point almost all new moms wonder if they’re producing enough milk for their baby. It’s understandable, say the experts at La Leche League International, because of normal changes in both Mom and baby in the first few months. La Leche League’s “Is My Baby Getting Enough” guide and a nursing coach can help you figure out if you might need to increase your milk supply. Here are a few suggestions for natural ways to increase milk production.
Go for Galactagogues
Herbs that help increase a mom’s milk supply are known as galactagogues. “These herbs help increase prolactin, which is a major milk-stimulating hormone,” explains Boulder herbalist Julie McGinnis. She recommends Motherlove’s More Milk Plus, a tincture of organic herbs including fenugreek, blessed thistle, nettle and fennel, as a safe and effective source of galactagogues. WishGarden Herbs’ Milk Rich with Goat’s Rue, made of herbs like goat’s rue and raspberry, is also known for supporting milk production. “These tinctures are great because the dosage can be customized based on a mom’s needs. Another good choice for those wanting pure, organic fenugreek is Pharmaca brand Fenugreek Vegetarian Capsules, says Julie.
Lactating moms should make sure to stay hydrated with at least 8 glasses of water a day; experts recommend a glass each time you nurse. To increase milk supply and stay hydrated at the same time, try an herbal tea with galactagogues. Gaia Herbs’ Lactation Support Herbal Tea blends fennel, fenugreek and goat’s rue to boost milk production, along with lemon balm to help calm your stomach and ease digestion.
Note: Contrary to popular folklore, drinking a beer before breastfeeding doesn’t increase milk supply. In fact, the La Leche League reports that babies consume about 23 percent less milk after moms have a beer, probably because the smell and taste of the milk has changed.
Nursing moms need a well-balanced diet with anywhere from 200-500 extra calories a day. Experts say 2 to 3 servings of protein and 1,300 mg of calcium are required each day. Many moms say they’re able to increase milk production by adding extra protein to their diets.
Nursing coaches often advise moms to use the same relaxation and visualization techniques they learned in childbirth classes to help increase milk flow, especially in the first month of breastfeeding. Visualizing a calm and happy breastfeeding experience or picturing a generously streaming milk flow can be very successful.
Have a Cookie
Some creative moms have found a way to support milk production, and enjoy a tasty snack. Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies add mild galactagogue oats, brewer’s yeast and flaxseed to a delicious cookie recipe.
Being a lactating mom can be stressful if you don’t feel like you are producing enough for your baby. But remember, breastfeeding isn’t an all-or-nothing endeavor and you may need to try a few different things before you find the best solution for you and your newborn. And don’t forget–it’s ok to supplement your baby’s diet with a bottle of formula if you need to.