Breast milk is the sole food of a newborn baby, and it contains all the nutrients required for adequate growth. According to the World Health Organization, breast milk is the primary and exclusive source of nutrients for the first six months of life, so it’s crucial to take steps to increase breast milk if you’ve low milk supply.
However, low milk supply is uncommon—most mothers worry at childbirth if their milk supply is adequate. And thankfully, there are several ways to increase breast milk—including the use of some African foods that are ideal for breast milk supply.
This article is centered on African foods that increase breast milk, but first – let’s take a closer look at factors that result in low milk supply and other related questions people ask about breast milk increase.
Why is My Milk Supply Low?
One of the following can be the cause of your low milk supply:
This is the most common cause of low milk supply. If your baby isn’t latching correctly to the breast, the milk won’t flow adequately. This situation results in low milk supply because the removal of breast milk is what triggers the body to produce more, and since little milk is leaving your breasts, the oxytocin is fooled that there is still a lot available and sees no reason to increase breast milk.
If you’re a member of a breastfeeding group, you can have them evaluate the breastfeeding technique. Better still, you can visit a specialist or check out this simple guide on how to latch correctly.
For certain reasons, some nursing mothers do decide to set up a timetable for breastfeeding their babies. While this may benefit you based on your work or other activities, chances are—you risk having low milk supply. This is because you need to regularly breastfeed your child anytime he demands—by doing so, the body produces more breast milk to respond to the removal of the milk. So, you may want to drop the idea of scheduling your breastfeeding session and do it whenever the baby demands.
Medications and herbs
Some medications and herbs can harm your milk supply. A large amount of peppermint, sage, and parsley will affect milk supply. Medications with methergine, pseudoephedrine, and bromocriptine can also reduce your milk supply. Always check with your doctor for advice.
Insufficient glandular tissue
Your milk supply may reduce if your milk-making ducts aren’t enough. You should visit a doctor to guide you on the next steps to take.
10 African Foods that Increase Breast Milk
So, what African foods can increase breast milk?
The following are 10 African foods that can help increase your breast milk supply:
1. Corn Pap
This food is rich in carbohydrates. Besides, breastfeeding moms are prone to fatigue due to lack of sleep, especially if the baby is not much of a sleeper. And fatigue can reduce breast milk supply. Corn pap could provide you with the energy to keep producing enough breast milk to feed your baby correctly.
2. Sweet Potato
This food has a high beta carotene, which is vital for fetal development. It is also rich in vitamins, especially vitamin A and C. These vitamins help in increasing breast milk until the flow is steady, and your baby has enough milk to feed on.
3. Bitter Leaf Soup
It contains high protein, calcium, iron, and folate, which are necessary for the baby’s development and healthy state of the mother. The body uses the protein found in this food to increase breast milk. And the nutrients in this food, when passed to the baby, help in growing tissues and new cells.
This food is nutrient-packed. It contains folate, which is a B vitamin that prevents spine and brain defects, plus the several vitamins present, makes it an essential food to opt for if you want to increase your breast milk, and also pass crucial nutrients to your child. You can consume it alone or with other foods.
5. Local Rice (Brown Rice)
The presence of high fiber helps increases breast milk production. Moreover, it keeps blood sugar levels steady and helps with digestion. It is also a great source of fatty acids that lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and increases HDL (good cholesterol).
Beans are an excellent source of protein with nutrients; folic acid, potassium, iron, magnesium, and fatty acid. It has the vital nutrients a pregnant and nursing woman needs. And the presence of protein in beans helps improve breast milk production.
7. Mushroom Soup
This soup contains Vitamin B, Vitamin D, Protein, Fibers, Iron, and Antioxidants. Just like sweet potatoes, this vitamin-rich food also helps increase breast milk. You should avoid eating raw as it can lead to health complications.
8. Meat Sauce
Meat contains high protein, and it’s one of the highly recommended foods that increase breast milk. Just like beans and bitter leaf soup, meat sauce also work wonders in increasing breast milk supply.
9. Beetroot Soup
Before the birth of a child, the folic acids present in this plant-based food helps in lowering birth anomalies. It also helps in developing the baby’s spinal cord. When you start breastfeeding, this food also helps in increasing breast milk due to the vitamin C it contains.
It contains beta-carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body. This nutrient helps in improving the baby’s bones, organs, eyes, and skin. It’s a good source of fiber, Vitamin B6 and C. Carrots are usually added to meals. Nevertheless, if you consume it alone, it can increase your breast milk significantly. And if you add it to other foods on this list, it can also boost your breast milk.
How Can I Know If My Milk Supply is Low?
- After feeding, if your baby still shows signs of discomfort, then this can indicate that your milk supply is low, and the baby isn’t getting enough of it. A well-fed baby is blissful and relaxed after breastfeeding.
- The weight of your baby also matters. During the first few days of giving birth, the baby will lose 8-12 ounces, but afterwards (around day six) will gain 4-7 ounces a week. Find a scale and place your baby on it to determine the weight gained.
- Your baby pee can also be determinant. Your baby should pee at least 5-8 times a day. And the urine should be bright or light yellow. If you notice the urine is dark yellow, then it might be an issue of low milk supply. You can try to increase breast milk, but if there aren’t any changes, visit your doctor.
- Dehydration in your baby can also signal that your baby isn’t taking enough breast milk. Signs of dehydration include dark-colored urine, dry mouth, etc. However, dehydration can also be caused by diarrhea, fever, overheating, etc. You should seek medical advice.
- How often your baby poos or wees per day also tells whether he’s getting enough milk or not. Here is an article that explains more about this.
How Can I Increase My Breast Milk Naturally?
If you feel your breast milk supply is low or proven to be low, follow these tips to increase your milk naturally:
- Stay hydrated – In a day, you should try drinking at least eight glasses of water. Depending on your liquid intake, you can drink more.
- Pumping and hand expression – This is a suitable way to increase breast milk if the baby isn’t latching correctly. If done well, it can increase the milk supply. During the pumping session, massage the breast. After the pumping session, try hand expressing to remove the remaining milk.
- Skin to skin – Physical contact with your baby can also help in increasing breast milk because oxytocin and Prolactin are stimulated, and these help in the making and releasing of breast milk. This can be triggered by pulling your baby closer to your chest, either while you’re breastfeeding or not.
- Comfortable environment – Breast milk flows better when you’re feeling relaxed during breastfeeding sessions. Try to avoid the distraction of any kind. Getting enough rest also helps tremendously.
- Diet – Eating a balanced and nutritious diet, such as protein-rich foods, provides you with energy, which is essential in the production of milk. We have highlighted 10 African foods that help you increase your breast milk above.
Does Massaging Breasts Increase Milk Production?
You may have heard that a massage can help in breast milk increase. Yes, massaging the breasts can help increase breast milk by improving clogged ducts or by triggering the flow of milk during pumping. Reports from a study conducted in 2004 maintained that breast massage increases the quality of breast milk significantly when performed in the first year after delivery.
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However, note that the massaging should be comfortable without pain or red marks. Also, try to massage gently to avoid minor tissue damage.
Follow these steps for a seamless breast massage:
- Start with a breast at a time. Place four fingers of your left or right hand on the top of the breast. The other four fingers should be placed at the bottom. Massage in a circular pattern.
- Move your fingers to the sides of the breast and keep massaging in a circular pattern. You can clench your fist and gently roll it on your breast.
- Use your fingertips to tap and massage every section of your breast.
- You can hand express if you want (removing of milk from your breast). Just position two of your fingers at the base of the nipple and clasp them on it. Then apply pressure on the breast with your other hand. This pushes the milk to the nipple, and it will pour out. Try squeezing it in rhythm with your heartbeat.
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If you’ve been wondering how to increase breast milk naturally, this article presents African foods that can help you improve your milk supply as well as others tips such as staying hydrated, pumping and hand expression, amongst others.
However, the best thing to do when you notice any signs of low breast milk supply is to seek medical help. Get diagnosed and follow your physician instructions on the best way to get your problem solved.