I like to eat and drink. I’m guessing that you like to eat and drink, too. If you’re breastfeeding, you’ve probably heard about foods and drinks that can affect your milk. Here’s a quick overview.
Some sources insist that fennel will increase milk supply. Most of us know fennel as a vegetable we’ll find at the local grocery market or in the crisper drawer of our fridge.
I like fennel. I use it in my homemade pasta sauce on a regular basis. I roast the bulbs in the oven and serve it with Israeli couscous for an unusual and very tasty side. I put the leaves into a fresh salad. I can’t say I’ve used the seeds, but many people love them.
I’d encourage people to eat fennel because of its delicious taste, but also because it’s packed with nutrients. But I don’t suggest it to increase milk supply. Why so?
I don’t know of a scrap or research that even addresses this, much less anything showing its effectiveness.
Gatorade is rumored to improve milk supply. But before you even consider this idea, read the ingredients on the 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.
Do you see anything there that looks like a galactagogue?
There can be other effects from Gatorade, however. There are plenty of chemicals, dyes, and sugar in many sports drinks. Green Gatorade has been known to cause milk to turn green!
To my knowledge, there’s no evidence to support the claim for increased milk supply.
The old myth is that beer increases milk supply. There’s very little research that even addresses the effects of beer on milk production.
I will tell you, however, that if an anxious mother has trouble with her let-down, having a glass of beer might help her to relax. Hence, she may have a better let-down, and a better let-down could help her feedback inhibitor of lactation mechanism.
But the idea that beer increases milk production just hasn’t been proven.
I’ve had much more to say about the effects of beer on milk supply.
As you think about foods and drinks that can affect your milk, consider 50 foods with chocolate. Everything from candies to chocolate chip cookies to mugs of hot chocolate … you name it, we’ve got it.
Me? I think chocolate is entirely overrated. I eat some now and again, but seldom. (But every Christmas, I make a from-scratch chocolate cake in a slightly updated version of my mother’s recipe from 1940!)
The question is, does chocolate make breastfed babies irritable and fussy? Maybe.
My friend Jeanne said she could eat half the box of chocolates while breastfeeding and her kids had no fussiness or irritability whatsoever. Other mothers can sniff just one candy and seemingly bring on a chorus of crying!
I’m also eager to say that in some South American cultures, chocolate is considered a galactagogue!
I admit I’m out of my depth here. I don’t know much about this, and there are no studies to give substantial guidance.
Kombucha is a fermented tea. It contains probiotics and a small amount of caffeine. Typically, it’s unpasteurized.
You’ve heard me talk about caffeine. As far as I’m concerned, the bigger question relates to how much total caffeine the mother is consuming. Meaning, not just from one source, but from all the sources she might have in a day.
The lack of pasteurization? I’d need to explore that a LOT more before I could address that in even a small way.
In the 1990s, one study showed that infants took more milk when the mother had eaten plenty of garlic. But that study was a descriptive study that wasn’t all that compelling.
I’d be quick to say, however, that in clinical practice, I’ve noticed that when a mother has consumed her favorite foods during pregnancy, she tends to eat them while lactating, too. Does the baby recognize the taste of something familiar? I think it’s very likely.
And I’ve seen that babies who have been frequently exposed to those favorite foods during pregnancy and lactation tend to easily accept them as table food in later infancy.
In the recent past, oats have been touted as improving milk supply. I’m not convinced.
On the other hand, I would not discourage a mother from eating oats. First, oats are a whole grain; they are a relatively low-calorie and high-fiber food. And unlike most boxed cereals, they contain no added sugar (unless you buy the pre-sugared ones).
Second, many cultures revere some type of whole grain as a galactagogue for lactating mothers.
For more information on foods and drinks that can affect your milk, be sure to hear my podcast with Philip O. Anderson, PharmD, FASHP, FCSHP, the author of the National Library of Medicine’s LactMed database. We talked about the effects of coffee, tea, colas, chocolate, alcohol, garlic, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, and more!
Are there foods you have personally found that affect breastfeeding? What about any of the items on this list? Share your experiences in the comments below!