It seems that a breastfeeding mother’s main concern and worry is, “will I make enough milk for my baby?” Fortunately, our bodies are designed to make copious amounts of milk even if we’re not really trying. If babies and breasts are left to their own devices, things tend to work out. There are, however, situations in which mothers struggle to make enough milk for baby. Perhaps you are one of those mothers…
If you’ve struggled with milk production, you know that a mother with low milk-supply issues will try just about anything to increase supply. You probably also know that certain foods and herbs can increase milk supply. Oatmeal, fenugreek* and blessed thistle* and many others all have a reputation for helping mothers overflow with milk.
But did you know that some foods can actually decrease milk production? There is no need to worry about small amounts of any of the following foods, but if you’re struggling with low milk supply already, avoid ingesting large quantities of the following. On the other hand, if you are one of those mothers with an over-abundance of milk, or if you are in the process of weaning, you may find the following foods helpful!
- Parsley is a diuretic. Nibbling on a sprig of parsley after a meal tastes refreshing and will not harm your milk supply. You may wish to avoid dishes with large amounts of parsley, however, if you are breastfeeding and you are concerned about milk production. One dish to avoid in the immediate postpartum period is tabbouleh. Once your supply is established and everything is going well, an occasional plate of tabbouleh is probably okay.
- Peppermint and spearmint can adversely affect milk supply. Drinking an occasional cup of peppermint tea should not be a problem. You’d have to drink very large amounts daily (think quarts!) to decrease your supply. Altoids and other candies made from peppermint oil are a different story. Mothers who enjoy many of these candies each day have noticed a drop in milk production.
- Sage and oregano can negatively impact milk production. Sage tea is a common remedy for over-production.
- The topical application of cabbage leaves: cabbage can work wonders to relieve breast engorgement, but don’t over-do it! Applying cabbage more than once or twice a day can decrease your milk supply. Topical creams made from cabbage extract can have the same effect.
- Beer and other alcoholic beverages are often touted as milk-supply boosters. Have you ever heard this? “Have a beer! It will help you relax and make your milk come in.” It is absolutely false! In fact, alcohol inhibits your milk ejection (let down) reflex. This makes it harder for baby to get your milk. Over time, this can decrease your milk supply. Is an occasional drink okay? Yes! Just be sure to have that drink after you have fed your baby.
*Please seek the advice of a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), naturopath or certified herbalist before experimenting with ANY herbs to help with milk supply issues. Herbs are medicines, and many have potential side effects and can even cause severe allergic reactions. In addition, it is important to understand the history and underlying cause of your particular situation in order for any treatment to be effective.