Have you ever wondered if there was a way to increase your breast milk supply through the food you eat?
While there is no magic pill or potion that can guarantee complete success with increased breast milk production, there are a lot of foods and supplements that have purported benefits.
Here, we have compiled this list of some of the foods and supplements that you can add to your breastfeeding diet that may help to increase your milk supply.
Most of these foods have featured in clinical trials, so we’ve also cited the study or source where possible.
Bear in mind that many trials are small scale and not conclusive, but there’s certainly some interesting evidence out there for certain foods having a positive effect on postpartum milk production.
As always, you should contact your healthcare provider before starting any type of new diet or supplement.
The seeds of this plant have been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine for hundreds of years and is one of the most common alternative therapies for stimulating milk production in lactating women.
It has not only been used to help stimulate milk production but also to help ease the pain that comes with childbirth and menstrual pain.
There are some theories as to the method of action, including the fact that Fenugreek might help to increase perspiration, thus increasing blood flow to breast tissue, promoting milk production.
There are several studies that found enhanced milk production within 1-2 days of use.
Five randomized control trials conducted all over the world (Egypt, Iran, the USA, Turkey, and Indonesia) showed that Fenugreek supplementation was more effective for stimulating milk production when compared to placebo. (Source: Journal of Clinical Lactation)
Fenugreek can be consumed as a powder, pill, seed, or in a tea.
There is no standard dosage for Fenugreek; because it’s a supplement, it is not regulated by the FDA.
Intake in the five studies ranged from ~1700mg to 7500mg per day, consumed anywhere from the first day after birth through the first week of delivery.
One interesting fact is that consuming this supplement might make your sweat, tears, and urine (and your baby) smell like maple syrup; it’s traditionally used for artificial maple syrup flavoring!
Wondering how to incorporate fenugreek into your diet? There are thousands of recipes including this fragrant spice.
Most of the dishes take an Indian spin, as it’s a common ingredient in Garam Masala.
A few delicious dishes include biryani (a popular rice and meat dish) or Tikka Masala (a creamy, tomato-y, super addicting dish that can be made with or without meat). It’s also excellent with Indian spiced Bombay potatoes.
Fennel is a fragrant, bulbous plant that has become more mainstream; previously only found in the Mediterranean, it’s now common in most grocery stores and farmers markets.
The seeds, main bulb, leaves, and flowers are all edible and common in culinary and medicinal use.
The mechanism of action on breast milk production is still a little hazy, but it’s been theorized that the phytoestrogens found in fennel can promote breast tissue growth, allowing more opportunity for breast milk to be produced (source: Arabian Journal of Chemistry).
This is one of the reasons, in fact, why it shouldn’t be eaten in large amounts during pregnancy (as we discuss in our fennel article), but it’s perfectly fine to eat in moderation too when you’re breastfeeding.
Fennel can be sauteed, fermented, or shaved and eaten raw in a salad.
There is no standard dosage for consuming fennel for breast milk production, but it’s ok to eat in culinary amounts.
High amounts, such as those found in supplements and fennel essential oils aren’t recommended, either during pregnancy or breastfeeding (Source: WebMD).
More of a supplement than a food, Milk Thistle is another popular galactagogue used in complementary and even mainstream medicine.
The mechanism of action is unknown, but it’s been proven effective as a way to increase milk supply. Limited research is available, but one interesting study of 50 women revealed a 63% increase in milk production when taking milk thistle (in the form of silymarin) over 30 days.
By the two month mark, milk production increased by 86%. Minimal side effects were noted, and silymarin was not found in breast milk, meaning that it is likely safe for lactating mothers.
Silymarin is the active compound of milk thistle, and is readily available as a supplement or as a tea.
There is no standard dosage for milk thistle, but supplements have about 150mg. The previously discussed study provided women with around 420mg of silymarin.
A few cups of milk thistle tea would likely be beneficial, but it would be best to discuss incorporating this supplement into your daily regimen, just to be safe (source: Drugs During Pregnancy and Lactation, Third Edition, 2015).
First and foremost, it’s important to note that there are no proven scientific trials for alfalfa and its role in increasing milk production, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that it does work.
The American Pregnancy Association does consider it a galactagogue and does recommend it for increasing milk supply (source: APA).
Alfalfa contains phytoestrogens (plant components that are similar to estrogen) which can attach to estrogen receptors.
Alfalfa is a member of the pea family, and is one of the oldest cultivated crops in history.
The sprouts can be eaten raw (although for several years raw sprouts have been implicated in foodborne illness outbreaks), or the plant can be consumed as a tea or in a tablet or capsule.
It can add a nice crunch to a sandwich or salad, or can even be added to a smoothie.
Alfalfa does contain Vitamin K, so anyone taking a blood thinner should not consume large amounts at one time.
Additionally, alfalfa may cause diarrhea for you and your baby, as it does enter breastmilk.
There have also been reports that it can make lupus symptoms worse.
Before adding large amounts of alfalfa to your breastfeeding diet, it would be important to talk with your medical provider to make sure it’s safe (Source: NIH)
Also known as Kyuki-chouketsu-in, this is a blend of 13 herbs:
- Japanese angelica root
- Cnidium rhizome
- Rehmannia root
- Atractylodes rhizome
- Citrus unshiu peel
- Cyperus rhizome
- Moutan bark
- Lindera root
- Jujube fruit
- Siberian motherwort herb
- Ginger rhizome
- Glycyrrhiza root
This herb mix has long been used in traditional Japanese and Chinese medicine and often appears in traditional Chinese medicine textbooks for its efficacy in postpartum women.
Research shows that it may help to reduce postpartum depression and postpartum anemia, and also increase breastmilk production.
One older study showed that consuming 2 grams of the powder dissolved in hot water (as a tea), three times per day for six days increased milk production by increasing prolactin levels (source: The American Journal of Chinese Medicine).
There were no adverse effects noted, meaning that this could be a beneficial supplement to incorporate into your breastfeeding diet.
It is available to purchase online, but one should be cautious, and purchase high-quality supplements whenever possible.
Finding an alternative medicine specialist in your area might be a safe way to find the highest quality form of this herbal galactagogue.
This is a species of asparagus (also called Shatavari) that traditionally grows in India and the Himalayas, and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for its multiple medicinal properties.
Not only can it potentially increase the production of breast milk as a galactagogue, but it can also be used as a diuretic and even as protection against dysentery.
A double-blind randomized clinical trial showed that consuming 60mg per kilogram of body weight over 30 days increased prolactin levels by over 30%. Prolactin is the primary hormone responsible for breast milk production (source: Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research).
At the end of the trial, the babies that had been fed by the mothers receiving the powdered asparagus root gained more weight than the control group.
This suggests that the increase in breast milk production likely provided the necessary nutrients that the babies needed to thrive during infancy.
Asparagus Racemosus can be consumed as a supplement, in a pill or powdered form. It could be added to a morning smoothie for a nutritious, breast milk boost.
A member of the coleus family, Torbangun has been used as a galactagogue in Indonesia for hundreds of years.
There are many forms of torbangun that can be purchased, most commonly in tincture form, to be consumed orally as a drop.
Because this is a supplement, there is no regulation by the FDA on ingredients, so you should always check with your doctor before adding Torbangun to your breastfeeding diet.
There are no significant side effects from consuming Torgbangun, and it’s high in antioxidants.
A study conducted in Indonesia found that women who consumed Torbangun leaf soup for one month postpartum produced more breast milk than women who consumed fenugreek or the group who consumed a B12 supplement (the control group for research purposes).
In fact, the women who consumed Torbangun soup had a 65% increase in milk production between days 14 and 28, when compared to 10% from the control group and 20% from the fenugreek group (source: Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition).
However, the nutritional analysis of the breast milk showed a decrease in protein and water content, but an increase in fat when compared to the other two groups.
Animal studies show that Torbangun intake seems to increase mammary cells, thus potentially increasing the number of cells that can produce milk.
Anise is a member of the Apiaceae (parsley) family, and is grown all over the world.
The seeds contain phytoestrogens, and it’s commonly found in supplements that promote increased milk supply, including teas and capsules.
There are, unfortunately, no clinical human trials that support its use for increased breast milk production, and some women who drink “Mother’s Milk Tea” experience increased liver enzyme production.
Excessive use may also lead to anethole toxicity in babies, as anise can cross over into breastmilk.
It’s noted that drinking more than 2 liters of tea per day led to the hospitalization of infants, which is probably more than most people would consume (source: Drugs.com)
Consuming anise in food amounts, rather than supplement or medical amounts is still an option.
Anise can be a wonderful addition to cookies, biscotti, or biscuits, and consuming it this way will likely not cause harm to you or your baby.
Goat’s Rue (Galega)
Popular in European countries, the dried leaves of this plant have been widely used as a galactagogue.
There are mostly animal clinical studies that have determined efficacy, and the human clinical trials are mostly surrounding Goat’s Rue for diabetes and blood sugar management.
That being said, Goat’s Rue has been clinically indicated to stimulate breast tissue growth, increase sweat production (which can increase breast milk production), and increase milk production without dilution.
One doctor and IBCLC recommended dosage of 1 teaspoon of Goat’s Rue extract three times per day in water, milk, or tea (source: Professional Ethical Considerations of Herbal Galactagogues).
This is another instance where consulting your physician or medical professional would be best, as there is no standard dose or recommendation for amounts to consume.
Additionally, with the potential for lowering blood sugar, anyone who is on medication for diabetes or blood sugar management should be wary of potential side effects, including hypoglycemia (Source: Placer Conference)
In the Philippines, Moringa leaves are common.
They are used in soups and are also taken in a capsule form, and have purported benefits for increasing milk production in lactating mothers, by increasing prolactin levels.
A systematic review of literature found five studies that all resulted in higher prolactin levels and greater amounts of breastmilk production in women who took Moringa, either in the form of leaves or supplements (Source: The Philippine Journal of Pediatrics).
There are no adverse effects that were reported during the clinical trials, but it would be beneficial to talk to your doctor before incorporating Moringa, to make sure it doesn’t interfere with any other medications.
Moringa is high in Vitamin K, which could interact with blood thinning medications.
As with other supplements, there is no dosage or recommended amount to be ingested.
A good way to include Moringa would be to consume in capsule form, or mix (powder form) into smoothies, green juice, or coconut water.
Overall, there are other foods that have been considered for increased breast milk production, including things like oatmeal (the warmth of the oats are theorized to relax the body and stimulate production) and a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and protein.
However, if you are looking to increase breast milk production and want to use something that has been clinically trialed, one of the previously mentioned supplements might help.
As always, check with a medical professional before adding a supplement into your dietary regimen.