To increase milk supply, whole grains such as oats and barley are often recommended. Oats are commonly used in “lactation cookie” recipes. It is thought that whole grains like barley can increase the hormone prolactin, which is responsible for milk production. While whole grains contain many vital nutrients, there is no evidence showing that whole grains alone increase milk supply.
Brewer’s yeast contains nutrients like B vitamins and chromium, which may play a role in different mechanisms that influence milk production and milk ejection. However, much of the research on brewer’s yeast during lactation has been done on animals, not humans. Different products containing brewer’s yeast have different nutrient compositions, making it difficult to determine what size dose would affect milk supply.
Flaxseed has phytoestrogens, and omega-3 fatty acids thought to increase milk supply. While available scientific evidence doesn’t support the claim that flaxseed can increase milk supply, the types of fatty acids that breastfeeding mothers consume in their diets can affect the fat in their breast milk. Therefore, it’s possible that flaxseed could help increase the concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk.
Fenugreek is a frequently recommended herb for increasing milk supply and is a common ingredient in mother’s milk teas. Despite numerous studies on fenugreek and lactation, results on its efficacy are mixed. Herbs and supplements should be used cautiously as some may have unintended side effects, make certain medications less effective, and cause allergic reactions. For example, someone with a peanut allergy may also be allergic to fenugreek. Consult a medical provider before taking herbs or supplements.
Beer is thought to increase milk supply for different reasons, including its hops and barley content. However, there is no evidence to suggest that drinking beer actually increases milk supply. Moreover, breastfeeding mothers should be mindful of their alcohol intake during breastfeeding, as excessive intake may impair milk production.
A quick Google search shows a wide variety of foods and supplements that claim to increase milk supply. While there is limited evidence to support such claims, many of these foods are nutrient-dense and can have other health benefits outside of their impact on lactation. A balanced diet with enough calories and fluids is the most important dietary factor for ensuring a sufficient milk supply.
If you’d like to learn more, please consider making an appointment with our registered dietitian and board-certified lactation consultant!