L is for lactogenic – breastfeeding and diet

Talking to other Mums about their experiences of feeding their babies, one thing I often hear is ‘I just haven’t got / didn’t have enough milk’.

This may often not be the case. After the early days of leaky and full feeling breasts, it can sometimes come as a bit of a surprise (or a relief in my case, not to need an everlasting supply of breastpads) when your milk supply settles down and you no longer feel like you’ve got two large rocks attached to your chest.

If you are in the situation where you need to increase your milk supply, then nursing your baby more often is the best way to do this. The increase in stimulation will tell your body that it needs to produce more milk. Mixing formula and breastfeeding can also cause problems with milk supply, so you may want to consider removing formula feeds if you are currently combination feeding. Making sure that you drink enough is also important – and as all the health experts always say, water is best! But if you still feel that your milk supply is not as good as you would like, you may like to take a look at your diet.

A lot of mums are aware that there are certain foods that might have undesirable effects for the baby (and the Mum!) whilst breastfeeding – I’ve known mums who have avoided onions, garlic, tomatoes, cabbage, citrus and dairy foods because they believe these may be causing colic or fussiness for their little one. However, not many seem to know that there are actually foods that are beneficial for breastfeeding, and can help boost milk supply.

These foods are known as lactogenic foods, or galactagogues, and some will work better than others for different mothers – but hey, they’re all pretty tasty and nutritious so well worth giving a go!

Examples of lactogenic foods include:

Vegetables – fennel, beetroot, carrot, dark green leafy vegetables, grains such as oat, millet, barley and rice; and legumes such as chickpeas, mung beans and lentils.

Nuts – almonds, cashews and macadamia nuts. I love cashew nuts so I’m sure I could force myself to eat a giant bag or two of those…

Herbs and spices – Garlic, ginger, turmeric, sesame seeds, marjoram and basil are all noted as having lactogenic effects.

If you want to find out more about all this, then may I recommend reading Mother Food by Hilary Jacobson – she goes into a lot more detail about why all this is a good idea and how it all works.

In the meantime, you may be thinking ‘well that’s all well and good, but I don’t fancy eating fennel, beetroot, carrot and cashew nut casserole with garlic and tumeric on the side’. (Did I mention you could eat bagfuls of cashews…?)

Fear not! I have found the answer to this dilemma in the form of a brilliant book by Contented Calf – its called ‘Nourishing recipes for breastfeeding mums’. I came across it whilst looking at the exhibitor list for the Baby Show, and was hugely excited to see it in the flesh (it was at the top of my ‘things to buy’ list) as I love getting new recipe inspiration and it’s useful for my training as a breastfeeding counsellor too. The title says it all really – the idea of the book is to provide mums and mums-to-be with lots of tasty, healthy recipes that are easy to make, and generally freezable so that you can make them and stockpile them (assuming you have a giant freezer – unfortunately my poor freezer is already bulging at the seams so I just have to eat everything straight away which is actually just a great excuse to stuff my face).

Mmm tasty muffins about to get baked

Going along with our family favourite of muffin making, I can seriously say that the sweet potato and pecan muffins are amazingly tasty and even though I claimed the greatest need for them as I am the lactating member of the household, I had a hard time eating any myself because the Wee Man, Bubby D and the Other Half were all after them too.

I can also recommend the chickpea and couscous salad and the sesame beef stir fry, and I’m hugely looking forward to trying the spinach and mushroom pasta bake. In fact if I hadn’t just eaten my dinner I might give that a go right now!

So basically, stuff your face with tasty food and boost your milk supply. Sounds like a win – win situation to me!


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