If you’re nursing, you’ve likely heard over and over again how important your health and diet are to ensure your baby gets enough nutrients to grow and thrive. This can open up a whole litany of questions that can be anything from irksome to incredibly anxiety-inducing: Should I be taking supplements? Which ones? How many? Is it okay that I’m eating or drinking x, y, or z?
Just by thinking about these things, you are already doing a great job! You recognize and care about the connection between your actions and your baby’s health. That’s awesome. Now we want to help you navigate the breast milk production world so that you can rest easier. We’ve collected a few tips about how to support breast milk production from our Medical Advisory Board which includes experts across Western Medicine, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Holistic Nutrition, and Herbalism. These are a few things you can focus on that will have an outsized impact on what matters most: you and your baby’s health.
1) Eat 1 TBS of seeds per day. Micronutrients play a huge role in the quantity and quality of breastmilk you produce. An easy way to boost micronutrients in your diet is to add seeds to what you’re already eating, because they’re so rich in a variety of micronutrients. Pumpkin, flax, sesame, sunflower, and chia are a few delicious options. We love getting our daily dose of seeds via our Seed Cycle Seasonings: Sesame Nori Seasoning and Cinnamon Maca Seasoning.
2) Get to know your galactagogues. The word galactagogue comes from the Ancient Greek words 'gálaktos' meaning milk and 'agōgós' meaning guide. It refers to agents (e.g. foods, herbs, drugs) that promote the production of breast milk. Oats, flax seeds, brewer’s yeast, fenugreek, milk thistle, and nettle are a few galactagogues you may want to consider incorporating into your daily diet that will help you keep the milk flowing. Perhaps you make a tea with galactagogue herbs each morning, eat oatmeal topped with seeds for breakfast, or make a daily ritual of our Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies that pack three galactagogues (oats, flax seeds, and gluten-free brewer’s yeast) into one tasty treat! Note that it can take several days to notice a difference in milk supply, and different galactagogues may or may not work for your body, so it’s worth exploring a few. Conveniently, many galactagogues have a number of other healing benefits beyond their ability to increase your breast milk supply!
3) Hydrate! Research shows that nursing women need to increase fluid intake by 12-16% in order to keep up with milk production. Hydration is so important for all processes in the body — flushing out waste material, ensuring nutrients flow quickly and easily to your hardworking organs, and producing breast milk. The quantity and quality of your milk will improve as you’re more hydrated. However, this doesn’t just mean to drink more water. Our Medical Advisor, Gina Bria, wrote a whole (brilliant) book, Quench, about the science of hydration, why it’s so important, and the many factors that contribute to hydration. Below are a few ways she recommends for you to stay better hydrated while breastfeeding:
- Take in lots of fluids with electrolytes. Lemon water, fruit and vegetable juices (as fresh as possible), smoothies, and warm or cool herbal teas are all great things to sip on throughout the day.
- Consume lots of structured or ‘gel’ water. This can be in the form of watery plants, like celery and lettuce, or in the form of chia seeds, which create structured water (the gelatinous that occurs after soaking chia seeds in water).
- Do gentle mobility exercises daily. This helps you stay hydrated by smoothing out the fascia along which water travels throughout your body.
At Agni, we expand our definition of ‘food’ to include nourishment of other kinds, such as experiences, habits, and thought patterns. According to the many disciplines we study, these impact our health just as much as the literal molecules we ingest. Here is one more tip to support breast milk production that we absolutely love:
4) Do something that you love doing every day. Why? Because your happiness and experiences directly impact your breast milk quality and supply through hormones, such as prolactin and cortisol. Prolactin, one of the hormones that regulates breast milk production, is regulated by dopamine, a hormone associated with happiness. When we are stressed, the hormone cortisol increases and tells our body, ‘Yikes! There’s scarcity or a threat, you probably shouldn’t stop to breastfeed, just try to survive!’ Our Medical Advisor, Dr. Manisha Kshirsagar, gave us a simple, yet powerful, recommendation to create a habit of positive emotions to keep our hormones balanced: “Write down two lists: One of things that you like doing and another of things that you dislike doing. Do at least one thing on the list of likes every day while minimizing the dislikes whenever possible.” Now this sounds like something we can do!
As always, these tips work best in conjunction with eating high-quality, whole, fresh foods that you enjoy at regular times of day. Gut health (aka agni) is critical for all forms of health and recovery, because it enables us to properly absorb and incorporate the nutrients our bodies need to heal. For more about Agni’s food philosophy, check out What to eat to fuel your agni and visit www.agniforall.com.