Lactating and creating milk supplies for our growing little ones takes a lot of energy. Think about it, not only do we have to consume energy for ourselves but we also need to have enough energy to make energy/food for someone else.
Studies suggest exclusively breastfeeding women require approximately 500 extra calories per day - more than we even needed in pregnancy! With that being said, its important to remember women have been lactating and breastfeeding for CENTURIES, long before anyone did any tests on calorie intake/expenditure, and long before formula was ever created so yes calories and energy consumption are important but they shouldn't be stressed over. Instead, focus on listening to your body and hunger cues and answer them with food - please don't intentionally restrict or diet, answer with nutrient-dense foods that keep you feeling full, and longer, and always make room for fun foods that feel enjoyable and satisfying to you.
On top of ensuring you’re eating enough for your energy requirements, requirements for energy creation (breast milk), there are some nutrients that can be consumed to support breastmilk:
A galactagogue is a food or drug that promotes or increases the flow of a mother's milk. While a galactagogue won’t boost your milk supply on its own (pumping techniques and feeding regularly is still important) some women find them extremely helpful.
Try to include these foods regularly, at least once a day - Yams, Beets, Carrots, Kale, Arugula, Spinach, Collard Greens, Swiss Chard, Whole Grains, Oats, Barley, Millet, Brown Rice, Kamut, Steel Cut Oats, Lentils, Beans, Chick Peas, Lentil/Bean Pasta, Fennel, Fennel Seeds, Almonds, Cashews, Walnuts, Brewer's Yeast, Beer/Stout, Sesame Seeds, Tahini, Nettle, Fenugreek
Studies have shown low iron can impact milk supply, and as women we are MORE likely to be iron deficient, especially during our period and while we are healing (like from having a child)
Include foods like: seafood & shellfish, sardines, beef, game meat, organ meat, pumpkin seeds, beans & legumes, fortified cereals, eggs, molasses, spinach and dark leafy greens.
Brewer’s yeast is predominantly used in the brewing of alcoholic beverages and is popularly used as a nutritional supplement and had been used as a breast milk stimulant for decades.
While some think it’s an "old wives tales" and a placebo effect included in eating enough overall, there is scientific evidence to suggest that it works for all women trying to improve their milk supply due to the nutrient content. You can consume brewers yeast through beer or stout (Irish doctors used to recommend a Guinness a day for this exact reason), or by adding brewer’s yeast to baking or other dishes.
A big thank you to Kelsey Beamish, Registered Holistic Nutritionist for providing these! Give her a follow on Instagram @kootenaynutrition