A galacta-what! The low-down on milk-making foods.
If you are a breastfeeding mother, you may have heard Lactation Consultants or natural health practitioners mention, “galactogouges”. An unfamiliar word, based on the Greek word for milk, gala or galaktos, galactogouges are substances that help increase milk flow in breastfeeding mothers. Galactogouges can be milk making foods, herbs or medications.
While galactogouges can be very helpful, as a Lactation Consultant, I do caution mothers not use them as a band aid solution. If low milk supply is an issue then the first step should be to speak with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) to assess the latch, how the baby transfers milk and other considerations that may be affecting the mother-baby dyad.
However, to boost supply during a growth spurt, in the late afternoon in anticipation of cluster feeding, or in cases where milk supply has been compromised, galactogouges can be helpful.
In my Toronto-based practice, I am fortunate to service clients of many nationalities. Each culture has their own recommendation for milk-making foods. Many of my Chinese clients consume a fish and papaya soup broth that they find very helpful. My Peruvian clients swear by eating quinoa and drinking the water that they boil that quinoa in. My Indian clients will often have Fenugreek seed, Fenugreek leaf and Fennel tea.
Some of the more common food based galactogogues are oatmeal, nutritional yeast and flax seeds. All of these are found in Booby Boons lactation cookies. Here is why they work:
Oatmeal- Anecdotally many mothers report that they can pump more or their baby feeds better when a bowl of oatmeal has been consumed. It may be that oatmeal helps increase supply as it is a good source of iron. It may also help lower cholesterol, similar to the herbs that have been shown to increase supply, which also may contribute to increased flow or supply. It is also an incredibly nutritious and satisfying meal.
Nutritional Yeast – Nutritional yeast, also known as savory yeast, is an inactive yeast made from sugarcane and beet molasses, and is highly nutritious. It contains iron, protein, B vitamins, chromium, selenium and other trace minerals. Once again, the iron may help increase supply. Nutritional yeast is also helpful to prevent fatigue and fight off the baby blues.
Flax seeds – Flax seeds, like sesame seeds, contain phytoestrogens that may influence breast milk production. Adding flax seeds to the diet may also reduce cholesterol levels. They also improve digestive health and are very high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids which are extremely helpful for a mother’s physical and mental well being.
The reality is that breastfeeding mothers require an additional 500 calories per day. Adding highly nutritious foods, including lactation cookies, can only be helpful to a mother’s supply especially when they are easy (and delicious) to consume.
Above all, the key, if you feel that you are concerned about your milk supply, is to seek out the help of a Lactation Consultant that you trust. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask!
Taya Griffin is a Lactation Consultant, Yoga and Pilates Instructor and a Mother. She teaches prenatal breastfeeding classes and runs a private practice in Toronto helping mothers reach their breastfeeding goals. You can connect with her at tayagriffin.com