If you’re a breastfeeding mother, what you eat determines how much breast milk you produce and how good your breast milk is. Certain foods, called galactagogues, encourage the body to produce more breast milk. Conversely, there are also foods that do the opposite and decrease breast milk production.
The most common question breastfeeding mums ask: What should I eat or avoid eating to maximise my breast milk supply? These five mums offer their tried-and-tested tips in their journey to becoming breastfeeding warriors.
Do remember that the tips are based on each woman’s experience – they may work differently for you. Always seek advice from your healthcare provider or lactation consultant prior to changing your diet.
The most important advice, however, is this: Fed – in any way – is best for your baby. So there’s no shame in not being to breastfeed, or choosing not to.
“MCDONALD’S BREAKFAST WOULD GIVE ME SO MUCH MILK”
Didi Lau, 33. Mum to Riley, five (breast-fed for 18 months), Rie, three (breast-fed for 15 months), and Ryo, two (breast-fed for 18 months)
WHAT SHE ATE
“I drank up to six litres of liquids a day because I was constantly thirsty; there would be soup at every meal. I ate salmon, beef and oats; and lecithin, which is said to prevent clogged milk ducts.
WHAT EXPERTS SAY
What should breastfeeding mums eat or avoid eating, in order to keep up a healthy milk supply? Lactation consultants spill the beans (or oats).
1. Take galactagogues. These are foods or herbs that help to improve milk supply. Yvon Bock, founder of Singapore breastfeeding products company Hegen and certified lactation consultant, said some common ones for increasing milk flow include: Fenugreek, oats, blessed thistle, brewer’s yeast and moringa leaves.
2. Avoid these herbs and this veggie: According to Bock, who breastfed her four kids over 10 years, breastfeeding mothers might want to avoid peppermint, sage, parsley, mint and cabbage – common culprits that decrease your breast milk supply.
3. Be mindful of other food issues: Abie Chow, a certified lactation consultant, highlighted that breastfeeding mums should also be mindful of their food allergies and avoid these trigger foods.Also, watch your alcohol and caffeine intake, as well as avoid fish with high levels of mercury, such as king mackerel, shark, swordfish and tuna. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that mercury can pass from a mother to her baby through the placenta when she is pregnant, and through her breast milk. Exposure to mercury can affect the infant’s brain and nervous system development.
“I UPPED MY WATER INTAKE AND CONSUMED A LOT OF SOUP”
Fann Sim, 33. Mum to Mae, three (breast-fed for two years) and Ingo, one (still breastfeeding)
WHAT SHE ATE
“I eat normally but getting enough liquids is very important. I up my water intake and consume a lot of soups. I tried prenatal/nursing vitamins but I’m not very good at keeping up with them. I saw no change in terms of the quantity of breast milk produced.
“The biggest impact on quantity is nursing frequency. I’m naturally an over-supplier and pumping makes the over-supply worse – I rarely pump and nurse on demand instead.
“I was very lucky that when I had my first child, we were living in Germany. We could hire a postpartum midwife which our insurer paid for. Even though she couldn’t come over because of the COVID-19 lockdown, she troubleshooted with me patiently over WhatApp call.
“She taught me how to care for my breasts to manage the pain, how to hold the baby to promote a deeper latch, and how to work out a breastfeeding schedule so that breastfeeding was sustainable for us.
“She gave me the tools I needed to enjoy my breastfeeding journey despite the painful, rocky start. So, having the right guidance is important.”
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“I ATE LACTATION COOKIES, LACTATION JELLY AND A LACTATION SHAKE”
Poh Xin Yi, 28. Mum to Maxine, four (breastfed for 18 months), and Mason, 16 months (breast-fed for 14 months)
WHAT SHE ATE
“I also supplemented my diet with lactation cookies and granola from Milk For Bubs. I pair the sweet treats with oat milk for the perfect boost.”
WHAT SHE AVOIDED
“My milk happens to be very, very fatty. Any food that’s too oily is the death of me. So, all my favourites, like char siew, roast pork, duck, fish maw pig stomach soup, char kuay teow, cheese and durian, are a big no for me.”
HER ADVICE FOR BREASTFEEDING MUMS
“Investing in a hospital-grade breast pump, which is key to establishing a steady milk flow, especially for first-time mums. Using a pump with a weaker motor means the breasts are not emptied.
“A few rounds of ineffective clearing caused plugged milk ducts and affected my overall yield. Worse, after suffering from mastitis (a breast infection caused by blocked milk ducts) and taking antibiotics, my yield plummeted by a good 50 per cent.”
“Engage a lactation consultant as early as possible to establish a good latch. It takes a lot of trial and error as you and your baby are both learning to feed and be fed. If your concern is to increase your milk supply, figure out what your milk booster is.
“Also, having your partner’s support in your breastfeeding journey is so important and their behind-the-scenes involvement is so underrated.”
Read other stories in CNA Women’s breastfeeding series
I’m a breastfeeding mother. Stop judging me on how much breast milk I’m producing and how I breastfeed my baby
Hard work, time, money, worry: Breastfeeding may be best for baby but it’s the mothers who make the sacrifices
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