What is lactogenic food?
Lactogenic food or medically known as galactagogues, is the kind of food, herb or spices that is said can be used to improve breastmilk production. Lactogenic comes from Latin word where ‘lacto’ means milk and ‘genic’ means production. Example of food that can increase breastmilk is almond, garlic, dark green vegetables, oat and many more.
How does it work?
There is actually no specific study that has confirmed whether foods that have these lactogenic properties are able to increase milk production. However, usually foods that are suggested to be consumed in order to increase milk production are food that is rich in specific ingredients which can stimulate hormones used for milk production.
Factors influencing breastmilk production.
Breastmilk production is based on supply-demand system. The more the baby needs the more milk will be produced. However, this is also depending on the many factors as well such as hydration, stress level, separation between mother and child, new pregnancy and many more.
Mechanism of action of breastmilk production
Production of milk is directly influence by two types of hormones, oxytocin and prolactin. There are other hormones which influence production of milk indirectly such as oestrogen and progesterone. When a baby suckles at the breast, sensory impulse pass from the nipple to the brain. In response, part of brain will then secrete prolactin and another part will produce oxytocin.
Prolactin is important for the secretion of milk by the cells. The level of prolactin hormone in blood increases markedly during pregnancy and stimulates the growth and development of the mammary tissue, in preparation of the production of milk. However, milk is not secreted then because progesterone and oestrogen, these hormones of pregnancy, block action of prolactin. After delivery, the levels of progesterone and oestrogen will fall rapidly, thus prolactin is no longer blocked, and milk secretion begins.
Oxytocin hormone is the one who control the reflex in the breast for breastfeeding which call the “let-down reflex” or the “milk ejection reflex.” Oxytocin is produced more quickly than prolactin. It makes milk that is already in the breast flow and helps the baby to get the milk easily. Oxytocin starts working when a mother expects a feed as well as when the baby is suckling. The reflex becomes conditioned to the mother’s sensations and feelings, such as touching, smelling, or seeing her baby, or hearing her baby cry, or thinking lovingly about him or her. If a mother is in severe pain or emotionally upset, the oxytocin reflex may become inhibited, and her milk may suddenly stop flowing well. If she receives support, is helped to feel comfortable and lets the baby continue to breastfeed, the milk will flow again. It is important to understand the oxytocin reflex, because it explains why the mother and baby should be kept together and why they should have skin-to-skin contact. Oxytocin makes a mother’s uterus contract after delivery and helps to reduce bleeding. The contractions can cause severe uterine pain when a baby suckles during the first few days.
Lactogenic foods and breastmilk production
Thus far, there is no study established that lactogenic foods or galactagogues foods can increase breastmilk production. Since production of breastmilk is based on ‘demand-supply’ system. Thus, the frequent the breast is emptied the more milk will then be produced. However, eating healthy food, helps in transferring all the good nutrients to the baby. Food that is high with vitamins and minerals can help baby in their development as well, thus breastfeeding mother is suggest to eat healthily and increase her calorie intake to 2300 to 2500kcal per day as compared to moderately active women which is about 1800 to 2000 kcal. Breastfeeding mother also need to need avoid certain food such as caffeinated drinks.
Mother is suggested to consume protein-rich foods, such as lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils and seafood low in mercury. Choose a variety of whole grains as well as fruits and vegetables.
Eating a variety of foods while breast-feeding will change the flavor of your breast milk. This will expose your baby to different tastes, which might help him or her more easily accept solid foods down the road.
To make sure both mother and baby are getting all of the vitamins you need, it is recommended to continue take daily multivitamin such as vitamin B12 if you are vegetarian or if you are underweight, you may try to achieve the 2500 kcal diet, or you may use oral nutrition supplement to top up, your daily nutrient intake.
If you find that, certain food has that lactogenic properties on your body, you may continue consume it as it can increase your milk supply, but what works for you might not works for others. It can also be said that, eating food that you like can make you happy thus less stress and make you produce more milk, but again do not over consume it!
- Centre of Disease Prevention (CDC). Maternal Diet during Breastfeeding. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html#:~:text=An%20additional%20450%20to%20500,per%20day%20for%20moderately%20active (Accessed on July 20, 2020)
- Breastfeeding Diet 101. What to eat while breastfeeding. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/breastfeeding-diet-101 (Accessed on July 20, 2020).
- Mayo Clinic. Breastfeeding Nutrition: Tips for Moms. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/breastfeeding-nutrition/art-20046912 (Accessed on July 20, 2020).
- Health Engine. Nutrition During Breastfeeding. https://healthengine.com.au/info/nutrition-during-breastfeeding (Accessed on July 20, 2020).
- Making Breastfeeding the Decision. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/breastfeeding-advantages#1 (Accessed on July, 2020).