What are galactagogues, and do they really help increase milk supply? What are some galactagogue foods you can choose from? Find out here.
You may have heard of galactagogues, or foods that promote breastfeeding. But how do galactagogues work, and are they really effective for increasing milk supply? What are some common galactagogue foods, and what are some ways to incorporate these ingredients into your diet when breastfeeding? We've got you covered.
What are galactagogues, and what do they do?
Galactagogues are foods that may help promote a higher milk supply, as they encourage lactation (more active breastmilk production). Even though research hasn’t fully proven that galactagogues boost milk supply, countless moms have shared that galactagogues have helped them produce more breastmilk. So, if you need help maintaining or increasing your supply, and you’ve tried other methods and best practices first, eating foods with galactagogues certainly won’t hurt.
The exact nutrients in galactagogue foods that are thought to promote breastmilk production vary. But all are integral to a healthy diet, so they'll help your body in other ways.
If your supply is low, be sure that you're nursing or pumping regularly. If you're nursing, check that baby has a good latch, and that baby is effectively removing milk from your breasts. Check all this before trying galactagogues.
Proper latch and positioning, and consistent removal of milk from the breasts, are vital for promoting a good supply. You'll produce more milk as more milk is removed from your breasts. For more on these and other ways to increase milk supply, please read our complete list of tips.
Where to find galactagogues?
There are many store-bought lactation cookies, bars, and even teas that contain galactagogues, but these can be expensive. You can also make lactation cookies or lactation bars at home at a much lower cost, with mixtures that contain multiple galactagogues.
Another option, though, is to eat any food with galactagogue ingredients – you don't need to make or find a recipe that's designed for lactation. A bonus is that you can incorporate most galactagogue foods into recipes that other family members can also enjoy. They’ll reap the other nutritional benefits along with you!
Here are some of our favorite galactagogues:
Oats are packed with countless nutrients, including selenium, carbohydrates, calcium, copper, healthy fats, and zinc. But in particular, they're high in iron, B vitamins, and magnesium, which are thought to increase milk supply. Oats feature in many lactation cookie and bar recipes, but you can also just eat a yummy bowl of oatmeal and add your favorite toppings, like fruit, cinnamon, or yogurt. Overnight oats are another awesome choice – and so are oat smoothies.
Brewer's yeast contains iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins. It also contains phytoestrogens, which mimic your body's natural estrogen hormones. All of these nutrients may help your body produce breastmilk.
Keep in mind that brewer's yeast is totally different from baking yeast. Only the brewer's yeast is a galactagogue that helps promote milk production. (Baking yeast won't help increase milk supply at all.)
Some moms don't like the bitter taste of brewer's yeast, though. If you don't like the taste, you can purchase debittered brewer's yeast, which has some of the bitterness removed. Or, you can choose a recipe that masks the taste of the brewer's yeast. Of course, there are many other galactagogues available, so you don't have to choose brewer's yeast at all if you don't like it.
Usually, moms will eat the seeds of the fennel as a galactagogue, but the bulb may also help with lactation. The fennel bulb is a good source of vitamin C, while both the bulb and seeds supply potassium, manganese, calcium and magnesium.
Some ways to use fennel seeds include as a spice, a crust on meat, or toasted and paired with veggies. Or, try making pasta with both the fennel seed and the fennel bulb. There are also fennel teas available if you enjoy tea (you don't have to choose a tea marketed for lactation).
Chia seeds contain iron and omega-3 fatty acids, which may help promote your supply. They are also a great source of fiber and calcium, plus several minerals.
Chia seeds are a great addition to overnight oats (for a double dose of galactagogues) or a delicious smoothie. Or, try a yogurt and chia seed pudding.
Flaxseed contains omega-3s and phytoestrogens (compounds that mimic your body’s natural estrogen hormones and that may promote lactation). It's great in granola or a smoothie, or mixed into your yogurt or oatmeal. You can even use flaxseed instead of eggs, or instead of breading.
Surprise – pumpkin's another ingredient that may help pump up your milk supply. So, if you love fall flavors, you're in luck. You can opt for toasted pumpkin seeds, try a lactation bar recipe with pumpkin, or bake pumpkin cookies. You can even make a pumpkin soup or pumpkin pancakes, which can both have flaxseed included as well.
Fenugreek is one of the most well-known galactagogues. It's often used to flavor Indian dishes. It's in the legume family, and is a great source of iron. Plus, it supplies calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
The leaves of fenugreek are considered an herb, and the seeds are ground up and used as a spice. Since fenugreek is an herb, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor before adding it to your diet while breastfeeding. If they give the OK, you can add fenugreek to flavor a stew, curry, or stir fry.
Spinach is a nutrient powerhouse – it's packed with vitamins A and K, iron, calcium, and folate. Folate, in particular, is essential when you're breastfeeding. It also contains phytoestrogens, which mimic the estrogen in your body and which may help with lactation. Spinach is a great veggie option to pair with meat.
Apricots are calcium-rich and a natural source of phytoestrogens. They are also high in potassium, vitamins A and C, and fiber. Many moms who use apricot as a galactagogue say that dried apricots are the best option for milk production.
Carrots are known for their beta-carotene and Vitamin A, but they also contain the phytoestrogens that may help your supply. Try roasted carrots, fresh carrots as a snack, carrot juice, carrot soup, or even a carrot smoothie.
Papayas are a favorite galactagogue in Asia. The phytochemicals (natural chemicals produced by the plant) and enzymes are believed to both promote lactation and breast tissue. And since papaya has properties that help you relax, it may also help promote milk let-down. Try roasted papaya, papaya salad, papaya in a smoothie, or papaya salsa with your favorite taco or fajita recipe.
The fiber, folic acid, and phytoestrogens in asparagus make it a galactagogue, and the tryptophan amino acid may stimulate prolactin, which is needed for you to produce breastmilk. And the benefits of asparagus don't stop there, as it's also high in vitamins A, E, and K. Serve asparagus as the veggie with lunch or dinner – possibly combined with carrots or spinach.
Chickpeas are protein-packed, and the fiber inside them might help with lactation. They're also a great source of calcium and B vitamins.
Hummus made with chickpeas and garlic (yet another possible galactagogue) is an awesome snack when you're breastfeeding. Add carrots for dipping, and that's a powerhouse combo.
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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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