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Foods to Increase Breast Milk

by Juniper Russo

About Juniper Russo



Throughout history, women have turned to specialized diets and medicinal herbs to increase breast milk supply during lactation. These products, known clinically as galactagogues, may help to stimulate milk production enhancing levels of the hormones progesterone and prolactin. Alternatively, some galactagogues imrprove breast milk production by flavoring a mother's milk and thereby encouraging a baby to nurse more frequently. Consult your health care provider or a board-certified lactation consultant before using a specialized diet to increase your breast milk production.


Used extensively in Indian cuisine and Ayurvedic medicine, fenugreek may help to increase a mother's breast milk production. According to Kelly Bonyata, a board-certfied lactation consultant, fenugreek causes an increase in breast milk production within one to fourteen days of use. This sweet-smelling plant is a common ingredient in curry, chutney and other Indian foods.


The fennel plant, used as both a seasoning and a table-vegetable, is traditionally regarded as a galactagogue. According to a report published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, fennel is rich in the hormone-altering compounds anethole, dianethole and photoanethole. These medicinal compounds can stimulate the body's production of estrogen and prolactin, which are necessary for proper breast milk production. According to Kelly Bonyata, fennel does little to enhance the volume of milk. Instead, it works by enabling the let-down reflex.


As a close botanical relative of the fennel plant, dill may trigger subtle hormonal changes that enable healthy breast milk production. A diet containing dill weed may help to improve the let-down reflex in nursing mothers, but no studies have evaluated its efficacy.


Many women unnecessarily avoid garlic because they fear that its pungent odor will flavor the milk and deter babies from the breast. A study published in the medical journal "Pediatric Research" disproved this common misconception. The babies in the study spent significantly more time nursing after their mothers ingested garlic. A diet rich in garlic can improve breast milk production by encouraging a baby to nurse more frequently. Related plants like onion and leek may offer similar benefits.


Juice, pilaf and soup made with barley can all help to promote lactation. While no studies have evaluated barley's effectiveness as a galactagogue, its use is supported by centuries of tradition. Barley soup is widely available and affordable; juices made from the grass are available in some health food stores. Kelly Bonyata recommends a barley-fennel combination pioneered by herbalist Susun Weed. This preparation combines one cup of barley water with one teaspoon of fennel seeds.

Photo Credits:

  • kräuter de provence, kakao und fenugreek image by Lucky Dragon from Fotolia.com

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.