Fenugreek and 7 Other Natural Ways to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply
Breastfeeding moms have been talking about the many fenugreek benefits on milk supply for generations, but it's not just fenugreek seeds and plants that can help improve lactation. We spoke to the experts to find other ways to increase mom's milk supply.
If you’re expecting, you’re probably getting a little tired of people chiming in with advice. To commiserate, check out the 10 things never to say to a pregnant woman. At the risk of annoying you further, we’ve got some useful tips for when the baby arrives: There’s a natural way to keep your breast milk supply topped up. Some studies suggest fenugreek can help with breast milk production. The jury is out on whether milk increases thanks to hormone-mimicking chemicals in the plant itself, or if there’s another element that encourages milk supply altogether, but either way, it seems to work both anecdotally and scientifically. (Find out how fenugreek may help treat diabetes, too.)
Fill up on fresh produce
There are a lot of compelling reasons to eat more fruits and veggies—check out these up-and-coming superfoods. “Produce contains large amounts of water, so you can increase your water intake while you’re eating,” shares Margaret Buxton, CNM DNP at Baby and Company, a network of women’s health and wellness centers. “They are also a perfect source of the nutrients your body needs to make milk.” You can even try adding fresh fenugreek leaves into your salads, snacks, and especially South East Asian recipes.
Drink water, even if you’re not feeling thirsty
“Drink water! Breastfeeding takes a lot of mom’s water supply,” explains Buxton. “Quenching your thirst with water instead of sugary juices or soda is a great start to breastfeeding. Make it a habit to drink a large glass of water every time you breastfeed.” She stresses that you’ll never reap the rewards of fenugreek if you’re not adequately hydrated to begin with. It turns out drinking water is also great for stress relief, too.
Try a nursing tea
“Herbal teas have been around forever, the original medicine, and steeping a cup of herbal tea can also help increase milk production and increase energy levels,” shares Pam Pinto of Act Natural Health and Wellness. “Stinging nettle is an herb that’s high in iron, a fatigue fighter, and it can also help improve breast milk production. Fenugreek is one of the main herbs in nursing tea blends. This herb stimulates fluid production, and smells a little like maple syrup.” She warns that both Mom and baby might produce maple syrup-smelling urine. Could be worse, right? (Learn how fenugreek seeds can benefit hair growth.)
Load up on fennel
Fennel salads, fennel seeds, fennel soups, fennel recipes of all kinds—you name it, fennel is great for lactation. “Add a little raw fennel to your salad or saute some with veggies,” suggests Pam. “A cup of fennel seed tea is another way to incorporate the benefits of this flavorful herb.”
Cook with garam masala
If you’ve ever had Indian food, you’ve had garam masala (it’s great in this egg recipe). One of the most popular Indian spice blends, it’s absolutely loaded with flavor and health benefits thanks to ingredients like peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, and you guessed it—breast milk-supply helpers like fenugreek. “It may act like estrogen in the body,” shares Ryan Neinstein, MD, of NYC Surgical Associates. “Recently, it was found that this herb induces a significant increase in milk production in women.”
While it may seem counter-productive when it comes to dropping baby weight, near-constant snacking can actually help increase your milk supply and keep your baby’s belly fuller, especially if you stick to the good stuff like these healthy snacks. “I have found in 25 years of practice that the new moms who eat and snack throughout the day as they did when pregnant have the best increase in milk supply,” explains Risa Klein, CNM, OBGYN.
Not only could it help with breastfeeding, acupuncture could help you shed that baby weight—an added bonus. Some doctors think needles may be the answer for your nipples. “Acupuncture works exceptionally well and a point called Small Intestine 11 can improve prolactin levels in women after pregnancy,” says Ralph Esposito, ND, a naturopathic physician.