Date: 9/13/2016 5:38 PM EDT
I can't say how many times a week I receive a phone call from a worried mother who wants to know how to increase her milk supply and if I think the Herbal Tea's or Fenugreek will help her.
Well, my answer is this... It can help, but lets take a look at WHY your milk supply might not seem adequate. There are so many factors that go into your milk supply from how often you nurse or pump to your genetics. But sometimes when I discuss with a mother her current dietary intake I can get to the bottom of her concern pretty quickly.
Here is the simple, very basic truth. Your body cannot make large quantities of milk without the necessary calories on board to do so. Those mammary glands of yours take a huge portion of your calories when you're breastfeeding and since your body is never going to deplete itself it will just begin to reduce extra curricular activities, like making milk. Simply put, if you don't eat enough, you will have a hard time making enough.
So will that herbal tea help? Well...Probably no. Not if you aren't getting what your body needs.
So what do I need? You need between 1800-2500 calories a day depending on your activity level and around 80 grams of protein a day. That may seem like a lot, but it's basically a meal plan for two! (mothers of multiples will need more)
Lets talk Protein! Protein sustains a newborn's rapid growth for the first year of life. Think of your body as a tall building. Well, the protein would be all the bricks that make up your structure. Your baby has some pretty impressive growth plans for the first few years, so he needs a lot of bricks to grow. It isn't difficult to find sources of protein as it's in vast varieties of food from meats, fish, dairy and nuts. Even vegan moms can easily get in their necessary protein from foods like peas, beans, quinoa, tofu and even unsweetened cocoa. (Side note for our vegan momma's: Make sure you are getting in enough B12, calcium and zinc)
What foods to eat? Well our answer is always the same, "Eat what you like". You don't need any special diet to make perfect milk and here is a little fun fact. Every single mother on this planet makes the exact same breastmilk. The only two things that vary from woman to woman are how much fat is in her milk and how much milk she makes. So a mom in China eating a diet high in fish and rice will make the exact same perfect milk a mom in Italy will make. So eat a varied diet that you enjoy!
Foods to not eat? There are very few foods I would recommend staying away from with one exception. Seafood high in mercury should be limited in quantity the same as it was during your pregnancy.
But I heard if you eat broccoli... Believe me when I say, I have heard it all. Your baby is probably not gassy because you ate broccoli for dinner last night. Yes, "gassy" foods are fine to eat. Spicy foods, too. There are actually NO studies that show any of these foods to cause issues in breastfeeding babies around the globe. It is possible a baby can be sensitive to a specific food, but that would be a question to ask your IBCLC if you think that is happening (this is not an allergy). Your breastmilk is formulated by what is in your blood, not your belly!
Water, water, water. Around here, we like to say, "Drink when you're thirsty" because believe me, your body may not tell you when it's hungry all the time, but it will definitely tell you when it's thirsty. Many nursing mothers feel a need to drink while breastfeeding but if you are the mom who doesn't love the idea of getting in 12 huge bottles of water a day, I can tell you there is water in pretty much everything you drink, so again...Drink but don't limit yourself to only water if you don't enjoy it. Odds are if you don't like it, you won't continue to do it. Excessive water does NOT mean more breastmilk.
* Eat 1800-2500 calories everyday of foods you enjoy
* Drink when you are thirsty and it doesn't have to just be water
* Get in 80 grams of protein a day to make those bricks!
Seems pretty easy right? Well, It isn't meant to be difficult! We like simple.
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"Mothers don't sleep, we just worry with our eyes closed"
Lillian M Davis, IBCLC