Breast milk is chock-full of nourishing nutrients and, protective compounds that are essential for your baby’s development but breastfeeding doesn’t only benefit your little one, it also brings a tonne of benefits to your health. Breastfeeding may help reduce your risk of developing certain medical conditions later in life, including heart diseases and diabetes. It may also relieve stress and help you feel more connected to your new baby. As a nursing mother, it’s important to choose nutrient-dense, nourishing foods to support your breast milk production and on a side note, eating healthy foods postpartum can help you feel better both mentally and physically. We’ve got the lowdown on breastfeeding superfoods that will nourish both you and your bundle of joy.
Avocados are a nutritional powerhouse for nursing moms. A common complaint of nursing mothers is that they are often very hungry due to the increased caloric demands of nursing and have very little time to prep and eat meals. Avocados are nearly 80 percent fat and help maintain a feeling of fullness in addition to providing your body with heart-healthy fats. Avocados are also a good source of B vitamins, vitamin K, folate, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
Another powerhouse of nutrition, nuts are high in essential minerals such as iron, calcium, and zinc as well as vitamin K and B vitamins. They are also a healthy source of essential fatty acids and protein. Beyond their phenomenal nutritional makeup, nuts are also regarded as lactogenic foods in many parts of the world. While there’s little clinical evidence to substantiate the use of nuts as a galactagogue, they have been used in traditional ayurvedic medicine for generations, especially almonds, which are not only written about extensively in ayurvedic literature but are one of the most widely used lactogenic foods in the world.
Mushrooms aren’t typically regarded as lactogenic foods, but certain types of mushrooms are good sources of the polysaccharide beta-glucan, thought to be the principle lactogenic agent responsible for the galactagogue properties of both barley and oats. Because barley and oats have proven lactogenic power, it’s not a stretch to deduce that other foods high in beta-glucans such as mushrooms would have the same lactogenic effects. It’ been deduced that women who increase their intake of beta-glucan rich foods such as oats, barley, certain types of mushrooms, yeast, and algae/seaweed have seen an increase in milk production. Reishi, shiitake, maitake, shimeji, and oyster mushrooms have the highest beta-glucan content in the mushroom family.
Although turmeric is used throughout the world by breastfeeding mothers as a galactagogue, there’s no clinical evidence to support that the herb has any effect on the volume of breast milk a mother produces. However, the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric have been demonstrated in clinical studies to be important to the health and well-being of breastfeeding mothers for the prevention and treatment of mastitis as well as to ease the symptoms associated with breast engorgement. In several communities throughout Asia, turmeric is also believed to help boost the immune system of not only mom but baby, to ward off coughs and colds.
While chia seeds might seem like a new phenomenon, they have been widely consumed for centuries and were a staple food of the Aztecs and Mayans. Chia seeds are not only a rich source of fiber, protein, calcium, and magnesium but also have a high omega-3 fatty acid content. Due to their high fiber and protein content as well as their favorable fatty acid concentration, chia seeds help you feel more satisfied and fuller longer after a meal. Chia oil is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and has a neutral and pleasant flavor.
Red & Orange Root Vegetables
While red and orange vegetables have yet to be studied specifically for their galactagogue properties, they have been used as lactogenic foods in many cultures around the world for hundreds of years. Red and orange root vegetables such as carrots and yams have also been used for generations in the traditional Chinese zuoyuezi diet (zuoyuezi means “sit the month” and is a time of resting for new mothers) with the belief that they not only nourish the mother, but help her nourish the child by increasing the quality and quantity of her breast milk. Any lactogenic properties that red and orange root vegetables might have are likely similar to those of green leafy vegetables. The phytoestrogens in these plants in addition to their high-nutrient density may play a role in improving breast milk.
Green Leafy Vegetables
In Thailand, a mother’s first line of defense against low milk supply is the consumption of vegetables. While there’s no current published research on the lactogenic properties of green leafy vegetables, consuming more vegetables will only benefit your health while also establishing good eating habits for your baby to follow when she begins consuming solids around six months of age. Green leafy vegetables contain phytoestrogens, which have been shown to have a positive effect on milk production. This may be the key to understanding their lactogenic power. Many mothers worry that consuming green leafy vegetables such as broccoli or cabbage will increase gassiness and fussiness in their infant. However, this is not true: The carbohydrate portion of these vegetables, which is what can cause gas, cannot transfer into the breast milk.
Beans & Legumes
Beans and legumes are good sources of protein, vitamins, minerals, and phytoestrogens. Chickpeas have been used as a galactagogue since the time of ancient Egypt and are a staple food in North African, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisine, making them one of the most highly accessible galactagogues. Although chickpeas are the most traditionally used lactogenic legume, there’s no need to limit yourself to one type of bean or legume for its lactogenic properties. For instance, soybeans have the highest phytoestrogen content of all beans. Eating a variety of beans and legumes is good not only for your general health, but also for helping to ensure that you have a healthy milk supply.