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Galactagogues and Breast Milk Supply
Like many newly minted mothers, I worried about boosting my milk supply, especially once I returned to work and pumped daily. Enter the galactagogue, which sounds like the word for an alien spacecraft, but actually refers to foods, beverages, or supplements that can aid you in maintaining or increasing your milk supply.
I tried a lot of galactagogue foods and drinks with relatively limited levels of success. As you’ll see below, the common denominator in what did help boost my production was brewer’s yeast. However, over the time I spent pumping, I realized the best way to maintain my milk production was to eat enough. In stressful weeks if I skipped meals or ate too little, my milk production suffered significantly!
What are Some Common Galactagogues?
A galactagogue is a food that can help maintain or even increase a lactating woman’s breast milk supply. This infographic highlights some of the most common foods to boost breast milk supply. Herbal supplements to aid in breast milk production are also available – the most common being fenugreek capsules.
Galactagogues – A Warning
One other note – while most of these foods didn’t have a noticeable impact on my milk production, the brewer’s yeast items did, but not in the most desirable way. Let’s say I had a lactation smoothie for breakfast and a lactation cookie after dinner. I would wake up the next morning uncomfortably engorged, despite feeding my little one 1-3 times at night. I learned the hard way that I needed to take care not to create a temporary (and very uncomfortable) over supply, so use galactogogues with caution!
It is also important to remember that the vast majority of nursing mothers have enough milk for their babies. I chose to eat some lactation-boosting foods because I found it really difficult to keep my supply up when pumping, even if I pumped as often as my baby nursed. Breast milk production works based on supply and demand. You need to breastfeed directly or pump to maintain your milk supply – galactagogue foods help give a boost to your milk production, but it will not last without regular feeding and/or pumping.
Galactagogue foods that boosted my milk production (measured by what I pumped at work)
- Lactation breakfast smoothie (with rolled oats and brewer’s yeast)
- Lactation granola bars (with rolled oats, brewer’s yeast, flaxseed meal, and wheat germ)
- Lactation energy bites (with rolled oats, brewer’s yeast, and flaxseed meal)
- Lactation Berry cake (with rolled oats and brewer’s yeast)
- Oatmeal (made from rolled oats) with brewer’s yeast, nuts, and raisins
- Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and a bit of brewer’s yeast mixed in
- Spinach quiche with brewer’s yeast in the crust
- Lactation cookies (with brewer’s yeast and wheat germ)
Galactagogue foods that did not impact my milk production (measured by what I pumped at work)
- Oatmeal (I only saw a boost from oatmeal if I mixed in brewer’s yeast)
- Almonds (Rich in calcium, but didn’t impact how much I pumped)
- Spirulina (High in protein and anti-oxidants)
- Gatorade (not even the blue one!)
- Quinoa (High in protein)
- Calcium supplements
- Oatmeal cookies (delicious, but not helpful without brewer’s yeast)
- Ginger tea (Soothing and hydrating, but didn’t impact supply)
- Barley water (Nourishing, but no help to how much I pumped)
- Chia seeds (I love chia seeds, but never saw a supply boost)
How much extra milk did I produce with galactagogues?
On an average day I would pump about 350ml at work. When I ate or drank foods with brewer’s yeast, I’d usually pump an additional 50-60ml, which doesn’t sound like much but is quite a lot relative to how much I was normally pumping.
I found that I usually had more milk on Monday and Tuesday each week, I assume because I had been nursing my son directly all weekend. So, I would try a galactogogue on Wednesday or Thursday to help keep up my supply through to the weekend.
Experiment to see what works for you
As you can see, a lot of foods known to be galactagogues didn’t impact my milk supply. Take oatmeal, for example. A girlfriend of mine tells me that each time she has a bowl she wakes up leaking milk in the middle of the night. However, I don’t see any change from oatmeal!
If you feel your supply needs a boost, you may need to experiment with different foods to see which will work for you. But remember, milk supply is based on supply and demand. If your supply is dwindling, check that you are nursing and pumping frequently enough. Also, check your diet. I would pump less than 300ml on stressful days when I hadn’t eaten enough. And finally, remember to stay hydrated.
Let me know in the comments which galactagogues work for you!
You might be interested in these lactation recipes: