I’ve been working with breastfeeding mothers and healthcare providers for years, and I thought I’d heard it all. Nope. Check out this question: “Marie, is it true that green Gatorade increases milk supply?” Within the last week, I’ve heard it from parents and professionals alike.
Before I answer, let me ask you: What speaks to you? Evidence? Expert opinion? Experience? Rumor? Logic? Think about this.
If it’s true, how does it work?
Take a look at the ingredients on the Gatorade label:
Water, sugar, dextrose, natural and artificial flavor, citric acid, salt, sodium citrate, malic acid, monopotassium phosphate, modified food starch, yellow 5, glycerol ester of rosin, blue 1.
I don’t see even one ingredient there that has ever been rumored to increase milk supply, do you?
What about water and electrolytes?
I might agree that if a mother has a serious fluid-electrolyte imbalance, there might be the tiniest shred of logic there. For anyone else, no. As early as the 1980s, Dusdieker and colleagues showed that there is no relationship between increased fluid intake and milk supply, and later studies have confirmed this. (See this and this, to begin with.)
For healthy women, an overabundance of fluid may actually inhibit milk production. That’s because antidiruretic hormone (ADH, also called vasopressin) is in the business of balancing body fluid. It’s a negative feedback loop: If you overconsume fluids, the body says, “we’re already overloaded, let’s shut down the milk-making apparatus.”
But if you’ve heard that “many” mothers who have seen an increase in milk supply after drinking the green Gatorade and still think there must be something to this … Well, if you’ve been following me long enough, you know what I’m going to say to that!
Why do some moms say Gatorade causes “more milk”?
One likely explanation is: placebo effect. If you believe a substance will cause an effect, it can! The medical community has recognized it for years. In fact, the word placebo was first recorded in 1785 as “a medicine given more to please than to benefit the patient.”
Unquestionably, placebos work. Entire books have been written on the effectiveness of the placebo. (One of my favorites is Dr. Joe Dispenza’s You Are the Placebo.)
What’s a parent to do?
If a healthcare professional suggests you drink the Gatorade to increase your milk supply, run — do not walk — to the nearest exit. That “professional” has just shown that she doesn’t know the basics of milk production and is grasping at straws in her “advice” to you. You’re getting fiction, rather than fact.
Skip the chemicals, dyes and sugar in any sports drink. And by the way, what green Gatorade CAN do is turn your milk green! Now that is an observable fact! Do you seriously want to put that into your body, or your baby’s body? Think about it.
What’s a professional to do?
If you are speaking out to debunk this myth, be prepared to defend yourself against your Gatorade-believing colleagues. I suggest you formulate a comeback based on two points:
Stick to your professional role
First, work within your scope of practice. IBLCE’s Scope of Practice is very clear that the job of the IBCLC is to give evidence-based information; Gatorade advice doesn’t meet that standard. There’s no evidence for it.
Challenge others to think for themselves
Second, challenge others to show credible evidence that such a thing is true. A response based on stories, opinions, editorials, or “online sources,” doesn’t meet this standard! It’s just proof positive that they don’t know the difference between evidence, and non-evidence. Stand your ground.
I’ve said all there is to say about the Gatorade claim. But I’m sure I will have endless opportunities to address the next fad du jour about milk supply. It’s a sure thing I haven’t heard everything yet!
Consider the evidence
Professionals who say they are committed to “evidence-based practice” but encourage their clients to drink the Gatorade have flunked the real-life test. There is no evidence showing any relationship between Gatorade — green, or any other color — and increased milk supply. Zero, zip, none, nada, neiente, nil. So if you’re spreading this nonsense, cut it out! Instead, help the mother to use some proven strategies to increase her milk supply.
What have you heard about or experienced with sports drinks such as Gatorade while breastfeeding? Do you believe in the placebo effect?