If you are breastfeeding or are preparing to breastfeed it is important that you stay hydrated so that your milk supply is not affected.
Drinking water will not necessarily increase your milk supply but if your body comes dehydrated you will see a decrease in milk supply.
If you are staying hydrated but are still struggling to produce enough milk, there are drinks that you can use to help with the production of milk.
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The importance of staying hydrated when breastfeeding
Not only will you want to drink more when breastfeeding, as you will naturally feel more thirsty, you also need to increase the amount you drink to keep your supply up.
Even if you regularly drink a lot of water it is important to drink more whilst breastfeeding. As a guide, if you usually drink the recommended 2 litres of water a day increase it to 3 litres. This is because your body will process more water as it produces milk and feeds your baby.
As well as aiding you to breastfeed comfortably, drinking water will also help with the following
- Keep you from feeling too tired
- You will have better skin
- Feel energized
- Better digestion
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Am I dehydrated?
Staying hydrated is essential for your health and your baby’s health. If you notice any of the following signs you may be dehydrated:
- Dry lips and mouth
- Dry skin
- Mood swings
- Muscle pain
If you begin to experience any of these symptoms try to drink more water throughout the day, taking small sips at a time if you need to. A good indicator of being dehydrated is feeling thirsty so, if whenever you are feeling thirsty drink. This will mean keeping a glass of water beside you while feeding or taking a bottle out with you when you are out and about.
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Alternatives to water
If you struggle to drink plain water you can replace it with any of the following
- Fruit juice
- Fruit with high water content, for example, oranges and watermelon
- Vegetables with a high water content such as cucumbers and tomatoes
- Milk/plant-based milk
- Decaffeinated tea or coffee (caffeinated drinks will dehydrate you and can also stimulate your baby, preventing them from sleeping easily. It would be ok to drink one or two small cups a day)
Again, drinking and eating these water-rich foods will not help to increase your milk supply but will stop you from becoming dehydrated. Try to avoid drinks, such as soda, that are high in sugar as this can cause dehydration too.
In addition to drinking water to prevent dehydration, many breastfeeders will find that lactation drinks can help to increase their milk supply. If you want to boost your milk production there are many different types of lactation milk, including store-bought and homemade drinks.
When you look up lactation drinks on the packing or online you are lily to see the world galactagogue. Galactagogues are the drugs or ingredients that promote milk production.
You can find teabags and ready-made drinks in most grocery stores or pharmacies but you may need to go to a specialist parenting store or look online.
The best drinks to increase milk supply can be found below.
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Herbal Lactation Drinks
Lactation teas are popular among the breastfeeding community as they taste great and are full of ingredients that are galactagogue-rich. There are various brands that are popular among breastfeeding moms, including Pink Stork Lactation Herbal Mint Tea, Earth Mama Milkmaid Tea and UpSpring Milk Flow Chocolate which contain ingredients such as fenugreek, aniseed, stinging nettle, mint and caraway. Many come with additional flavors such as mint, fruit or cinnamon and can be consumed at any time of the day.
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Homemade Lactation Drinks
There are lots of lactogenic foods ingredients that you can find at the grocery stores and that can be added to smoothies and shakers for a quick breastfeeding-friendly drink. Ingredients that are good for milk production include:
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale
- Chia seeds
- Brewer’s yeast
- Dried fruits
- Garlic (you may want to leave this one out of your drinks but great to add to your meals)
- Protein-rich foods including almond and peanuts
- Lactation cookies (usually made up of the list of ingredients above
If you like the idea of making homemade lactation drinks here are some recipes that you can create easily.
This list is not exhaustive and you will find that you will get lots of recommendations from friends and family as to how they helped to increase their milk supply.
Keep in mind, however, that there are many ‘old wives tales when it comes to recipes for location! It was once believed that drinking beer would increase lactation but there is no scientific evidence of this. In fact, research has shown that consuming more than 2 bottles of beer decreases lactation.
In addition, drinking more than the recommended daily amount of alcohol when breastfeeding can lead to slow milk production and can affect how much your baby can feed.
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Electrolytes help your body to function and levels can become low when you are dehydrated. To replace electrolytes quickly drinks containing coconut water and salt are perfect. This easy 4 ingredient recipe will give you the boost that you need.
- 4oz coconut water
- 4oz fruit juice (any variety)
- A pinch of sea salt
Simply add all of the ingredients to a blender/shaker to mix together and your drink is ready
Chocolate and Peanut Butter Smoothie
This is a great treat as well as being nutritious. This protein-rich smoothie can help support good breastmilk production.
- 1 frozen banana
- 2 tbsp peanut butter (smooth is best)
- 1/4 oats
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 cup of ice
- 1 tsp flaxseeds
- 1 tsp chia seeds
Mix all of the ingredients in your smoothie maker or blender and serve fresh that day. This can be left in the fridge in the morning so you can easily grab it as you settle down for a feed.
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If you like the sound of lactation herbal teas but would prefer a homemade version you can try this delicious recipe. You will need a supply of herbs so be sure to have them in before making a start. You may even be able to grow some of the most common herbs yourself.
- 1/2 dried nettle leaf
- 1/2 fenugreek seeds (dried leave do not work as well)
- 1/4 fennel seeds
- 1/2 dried raspberry leaf
- 1/4 cup dried blessed thistle
- 1/2 cup lemon verbena
You will need to mix all of the ingredients together in an airtight container to be used as and when needed. You will need one teaspoon of the mixture for every sup of water. If you have a teapot with a strainer you can make up the tea in that or you can use a cup-sized tea strainer/ball to infuse the cup of boiled water.
Other ways to increase your milk supply
In addition to great drinks for lactation, there are other ways in which you can increase your milk supply. These include:
Although there is no scientific evidence that eating oatmeal will increase your milk supply there is anecdotal evidence that it works for some people.
It is possible that the iron-rich oats can help boost energy levels and help with anemia, which will in turn help with lactation. It is also a very comforting meal for many so when mom is relaxed her milk production will increase.
In general, a healthy and balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and protein will ensure that you keep your body healthy and produce enough breastmilk for your baby.
If you have tried a lot of natural remedies and you are still struggling with your milk supply it is important to speak to your family physician, midwife or doula for support. In some circumstances as a doctor will prescribe drugs that can boost your milk supply.
How to cope when your breastfed baby is going through a growth spurt
Whilst a low milk supply is a concern for many moms, it is relatively rare. If you prevent your body from dehydrating and you look after your physical and emotional wellbeing in general, you should have few problems with letting down milk.
Try to schedule some time into your schedule to do something relaxing for you, whether it is taking a bath or reading a book on the sofa while a family member takes your baby for a walk. The happier mum is the more your breastfeeding journey will thrive.