A lot is said about the act of breastfeeding.
It has been promoted, glorified, attacked, discussed and debated at length. While we all agree that it’s the most natural way of feeding a baby, we tend to forget that each and every mother’s breastfeeding journey is different, as are the challenges she faces.
And one of the biggest breastfeeding challenges a new mother faces is a dip in her supply of milk.
Breast milk production begins while the baby is in the womb itself, and once the baby is born, the hormones in the body signal the production of colostrum, the first milk. It takes a few days for the hormones to settle down and for the body to set up a demand-supply system for breast milk.
And this is where most Moms hit a wall. The baby is crying, she is not peeing enough, and relatives are commenting on her weight.
The demand is there, so where is the supply?
This is the point when most Moms give up on breastfeeding altogether and resort to formula feeds.
So what’s the solution?
There are many natural ways to do this, and the most effective way is through diet. Here are some of the top foods that help to increase breast milk production in new Moms.
Fenugreek Seeds (Methi)
If you look into any home that’s just welcomed a baby, you’re likely to hear someone recommend fenugreek seeds for the new mom.
For centuries, fenugreek has been the prime ingredient to help new mothers increase lactation. Experts suggest that fenugreek stimulates the milk glands, encouraging increased milk production in as short as 24 hours within consumption.
Fenugreek is a common part of Indian dishes, but breastfeeding moms may need to take it in a higher quantity for it to be effective in increasing milk supply. One of the best ways is through lactation tea, the recipe of which is below.
Like fenugreek, fennel is also a popular herb used for lactation, both in whole format and as seeds. Similar to fenugreek, it is understood that fennel seeds contain phytoestrogens, which have properties similar to estrogen in the human body.
Besides lactation, another advantage of fennel is better digestion. Consuming fennel can increase your milk and soothe an upset stomach at the same time. This lactation tea recipe is a great way for Moms to include fenugreek and fennel in their diet.
Lactation Tea Recipe
- Mix two parts of fennels seeds with one part of fenugreek seeds.
- Add half a teaspoon of this mix to a litre of boiling water.
- Strain and store in a hot flask.
- Sip this through out the day.
Oats are one of the most easily accepted foods for increasing milk production, probably because they are easy to include in the diet. One of the reasons for this is the high iron content in oats, a mineral which is very important for postpartum women.
Lack of iron can decrease milk supply, which is why it’s important to have enough iron in the diet. Oats also have a high concentration of beta-glucan, which also contributes to the production of breast milk.
Oatmeal is very easy to prepare, which is a boon for mothers who also have other children to deal with. It’s also warm, comforting and easy to eat. Oats can also be used in other recipes to replace flour, as well as in smoothies.
Nuts are an easy way to get in loads of nutrients in a quick and easy way. Packed with minerals and vitamins, nuts have an special place in Ayurveda for increasing milk supply.
Almonds and cashew nuts are the most popular nuts for breastfeeding mothers, since they also contain healthy fats and can be easily added to the diet. It’s best to go for unsalted versions to keep it healthy.
It is believed that nuts also increase serotonin production which boost milk supply.
Nuts can be added to most sweet and savoury dishes, or they can be ground and added to soups and smoothies.
- In a blender, add one cup of milk, half a frozen banana, 1/3rd cup of oats and 2 tbsp of almond butter.
- Blend well till it is the consistency of smoothie.
- Drink it up!
Many cultures in Asia use green papaya as a milk boosting food for new mothers. While raw papayas are discouraged during pregnancy, postpartum they turn into a super food for Mom and baby.
Besides containing antioxidants that fight free radical damage, raw papayas also boost the hormone oxytocin which goes on to increase the production of milk. They are also very low in calories so your post baby weight loss efforts are not derailed.
Green papaya can be added to curries, salads or soups. Check below for a lactation soup featuring green papaya.
Garlic is a spice that has innumerable health benefits.
One of them is increasing milk supply in breastfeeding mothers.
Several studies have shown that when Moms eat more garlic, babies suckle more, therefore stimulating more milk production.
One reason could be that the strong flavour of garlic changes the taste of breast milk causing babies to feed more. Some studies also show that garlic in breast milk may help babies with colic.
Garlic is a common ingredient in Indian food and is consumed almost every day. You can have more of it by making this lactation soup recipe.
- Fry crushed garlic and ginger with some finely chopped shallots.
- Add 200 grams of grated raw papaya to this.
- Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Add 1.5 litre of vegetable stock to this.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Simmer on low flame for about an hour.
- Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves before you serve.
Sesame seed is an ingredient that is particularly popular during festivals and for making traditional desserts, but they’re also excellent for increasing milk production.
Sesame seeds contain a lot of calcium which is an important nutrient for new mothers. As mothers produce more milk, they need more calcium too.
Sesame seeds can be sprinkled on salads and oatmeal or eaten in the form of tahini or hummus. Another way to have sesame seeds is through these lactation laddus.
Lactation Ladoo Recipe
Dry roast sesame seeds and peanuts separately. Grind the peanuts separately to a coarse powder. Grind the sesame seeds with jaggery powder. Mix them together to roll into ladoos.
Besides these foods, it is important to have a diet rich in whole grains and vegetables like carrots and spinach. And most importantly, have lots and lots of water and lots of rest.
Remember that stress can completely ruin all your efforts, so take time to relax!
(Pratibha Pal spent her childhood in idyllic places only fauji kids would have heard of. When she's not rooting for eco-living or whipping up some DIY recipes to share with her readers, Pratibha is creating magic with social media. You can view her blog at www.pratsmusings.com or reach to her on Twitter at @myepica.)
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