While there’s no evidence that any foods can increase milk production, there are many things to eat that can reduce postpartum stress and make breastfeeding easier. Territory’s Senior Manager of Nutrition, Danielle McAvoy explains why nursing moms may want to stock up on chocolate, fresh berries, and guacamole.
As wonderful as breastfeeding can be, it’s a common source of anxiety for many new moms. It’s clear how much the baby is getting from a bottle, but it can be hard to tell if you’re making enough milk when breastfeeding. Generally, if a baby is healthy and gaining weight, it’s getting enough milk. But many moms want to know what they can do to ensure a steady supply.
Research has shown that the best way to boost milk supply is to nurse or pump often since demand regulates supply, eat a balanced diet of nutritious foods, and drink lots of water. You might have heard that some foods like brewer’s yeast or fenugreek can increase milk production, but there’s not much evidence to support those claims.
The best way to boost milk supply is to reduce stress, which can trigger an inflammatory response that affects breast milk. The key is to interrupt the stress cycle by calming the system with an anti-inflammatory diet. Foods rich in magnesium are also helpful because they help relax the body and mind, and promote restful sleep.
Here are some top anti-inflammatory foods that can curb stress and help your body get the rest it needs to produce a healthy supply of milk.
Pass the Guacamole
Avocados are an excellent source of healthy fats that can help reduce inflammation. They are also packed with vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and adrenal-supporting B vitamins.
Give Legumes Some Love
High in fiber, which can lower high blood sugar levels caused by stress, and a great source of magnesium, beans are a breastfeeding mom’s best friend. Fiber also feeds the gut bacteria that are responsible for regulating hormones like serotonin, a mood stabilizer that can help you feel less stressed.
The pigment that gives berries their color also happens to be a powerful antioxidant. Called anthocyanin, it helps protect cells from damage caused by stress and environmental factors like too much sun. Blueberries are among the best sources of anthocyanin, but it's found in blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries, too. Berries are also a good source of fiber that helps fuel healthy gut bacteria.
Embrace Your Inner-Chocoholic
If you’ve been looking for an excuse to eat chocolate, you’re in luck. Dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) is high in flavonoids and polyphenols that may also blunt the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Chocolate is also a great source of magnesium, which helps lower stress and anxiety.
Be a Culture Seeker
Kombucha, yogurt and kimchi and other fermented foods contain live bacteria cultures that can help restore balance between good and bad gut bacteria after it’s been disrupted by stress. It’s always best to eat real foods, but probiotic supplements can be useful too.
Salmon, tuna, and other fatty fish are powerful anti-inflammatories due to their high omega-3 content. Studies have shown that omega-3s increase stress resilience, which means your body is better able to cope with difficult events. Salmon is also a good source of vitamin D, which can slow the production of cortisol, and vitamin B12, which helps adrenal glands regulate the stress response.
You should also limit foods that negatively affect milk supply, trigger inflammation and raise cortisol levels. Caffeine and alcohol can hinder the release of milk and should be avoided if you’re having trouble breastfeeding. They can also be inflammatory and raise cortisol levels when consumed in excess. Refined sugar, like that found in soda, white bread, and baked goods, is another inflammatory food that can cause major spikes in cortisol. Naturally sweet foods like fruit are non-inflammatory because they have fiber and additional nutrients. Processed foods that contain preservatives can be inflammatory and limiting them will help ensure a steady milk supply.
Overall, reducing postpartum stress is the most important thing you can do to make breastfeeding easier. Calming foods like avocado, berries, and chocolate lower inflammation and disrupt the stress cycle. Limiting stress and allowing your body to rest is the best way to ensure a steady milk supply.
To all the new parents: we see you. Territory offers the nutrition support you need. Built on a foundation of non-inflammatory and nutrient-dense foods, our meals are 100% free of dairy, gluten, processed oils and sugars, and anything artificial. Whether you are learning how to eat dairy-free for the first time or simply don’t have two hands for cooking, you deserve expert support. When you need a chef to make delicious food you can trust to fuel you to be the best mom you can be, Territory’s got you.