What Snacks and Foods Help Produce Breast Milk?

  • Medical Reviewer: Mahammad Juber, MD
Medically Reviewed on 9/9/2022

Lactation foods and snacks to increase milk supply

Breastfeeding mothers want to ensure they provide their babies with the best possible nutrition. Snacks and foods that help produce breast milk include pumpkin, fennel, fenugreek, and protein-rich foods.
Breastfeeding mothers want to ensure they provide their babies with the best possible nutrition. Snacks and foods that help produce breast milk include pumpkin, fennel, fenugreek, and protein-rich foods.

Breastfeeding mothers want to ensure they provide their babies with the best possible nutrition. A central part of that hoped-for ideal is to produce enough breast milk. Eating a well-balanced and nutrition-rich diet is essential for maintaining a good milk supply. Plus, breastfeeding mothers have many snacks to enhance lactation (milk production).

You should eat from all five major food groups: protein, dairy, vegetables, fruits, and grains. It's best if half your plate contains veggies and fruits. Meanwhile, whole-grain products should make up half or more of your grain intake.

When eating dairy, opt for fat-free or low-fat choices. Cheese and yogurt are good for breastfeeding mothers. Some foods are particularly beneficial for breastfeeding mothers and can help increase milk production.

Before you start eating any of these foods to increase milk supply, you should know that most evidence in favor of these foods is anecdotal. Meanwhile, some scientific studies have supported the claims that these foods can help lactation.


Pumpkin spice lattes are not just a popular fall drink but are also said to help with lactation. A small study examined the connection of traditional Galactagogue foods with human milk volume in breastfeeding mothers.

Galactagogue foods refer to foods that can help with milk production. The study included 36 Thai mothers and their infants who have breastfed exclusively. Since it was a self-reported survey, the mothers were asked to complete a questionnaire to report their food intake and breast milk volume over a set period.

The results showed that some Galactagogue foods were correlated to the volume of human milk. These included:

  • Lemon basil
  • Pumpkin
  • Thai basil
  • Bottle gourd
  • Banana flower

The study also found a correlation between other foods and breast milk volume, including seafood, fish, chicken, and egg tofu. While the study hints at the relationship of these foods with milk production, future research on the active ingredients of the Galactagogues is essential to understand how they work.


Fennel is known to have galactogenic properties. It means that it can help milk production in nursing mothers.

Studies have shown that fennel increases milk production in mammals, including humans. The research found that fennel increased milk production and fat content in goat milk.

Humans have also used fennel as a galactagogue traditionally. No side effects or risks of fennel have been reported yet.

Fennel is also an estrogenic agent, which means it can help balance the hormones, especially in women going through menopause. Along with increasing milk secretion, fennel also facilitates birth, improves the cyclicity of reproduction, and increases libido.

It contains molecules called estragole and anethole. These molecules can act like phytoestrogens: plant-derived substances with a structure similar to the human hormone estrogen.

You can use fennel in different ways to increase milk production. For instance, you can drink fennel tea or take fennel supplements after consulting your healthcare provider.


Fenugreek is a seed used in Middle Eastern and Asian recipes. You may use fenugreek to increase milk production during breastfeeding as it forms the main ingredients in drinks and food that promote lactation (milk production).

While fenugreek is relatively safe to consume, you should check with your doctor if you're allergic to chickpeas or peanuts. Likewise, if you take medication for hypertension or diabetes, consult with your doctor, as fenugreek may affect these medications.

The simplest way to consume fenugreek is to make tea.

  • Rinse fenugreek seeds in a strainer. Take a teaspoon of seeds per cup of water.
  • Boil the water and add the fenugreek seeds.
  • Steep for three to five minutes. The longer you steep, the more concentrated the tea will be.
  • Strain the fenugreek seeds from the water. Then, you can drink it hot or cold, whichever way you prefer.

If you don't like the taste of fenugreek, you can flavor the tea with stevia, lemon, sugar, or honey. When you store the tea, it will develop a syrupy consistency. You can thin it by adding water.

The tea will taste stronger if you boil the seeds in water for a long time. However, you don't need a high concentration for the tea to be effective.

Protein-rich foods 

Studies show that protein-rich foods, such as seafood, tofu, eggs, and chicken, are linked to a higher milk volume in nursing mothers. Therefore, you should eat a lot of proteins while breastfeeding your baby.

You can increase your consumption of proteins by including more seafood, eggs, and chicken in your diet. For example, substitute soy milk for cow's milk in your cereal.

Or add an egg to your morning omelet. Then, eat grilled chicken or fish for lunch or dinner. Likewise, snack on nuts and seeds throughout the day.

Lactating foods for vegetarian mothers 

Nursing mothers who follow a vegetarian diet should choose foods that give them the nutrients they need for healthy milk production. For instance, you should eat foods rich in calcium, protein, and iron.

Some good iron sources include peas, fried fruit, leafy green vegetables, and enriched cereals. Eat iron-rich foods with Vitamin C-containing foods to increase iron absorption in your body.

You should also eat protein-rich foods like lentils, nuts, whole grains, and seeds. Calcium is another essential nutrient for nursing mothers. Some sources of calcium include low-fat or nonfat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, and tofu.

You can also talk to your healthcare provider about supplements, especially for Vitamin B12. Since the vitamin is almost exclusively present in animal products, people following a vegetarian diet risk developing a B12 deficiency.

Likewise, you can consult your healthcare provider about using an omega-3 supplement if you don't eat seafood.

Is your baby getting enough milk?

Many mothers worry that their baby is not getting enough milk. However, it is essential to remember that every baby is different. Often, societal pressures and social media amplify the concern of insufficient milk production.

You'll see the following signs if your child is getting enough milk:

  • Weight gain
  • At least six wet diapers a day
  • Seeing or hearing your child swallowing milk
  • Emptier and softer breasts after feeding

If you have concerns, it is always best to speak with your baby's pediatrician. Similarly, if you're allergic to any foods mentioned above, speak to your doctor to find out what you can eat while breastfeeding.


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Medically Reviewed on 9/9/2022

Cleveland Clinic: "Are There Breastfeeding Superfoods That Help Increase Milk Production?."

Journal of Human Lactation: "Traditional Galactagogue Foods and Their Connection to Human Milk Volume in Thai Breastfeeding Mothers."

Mayo Clinic: "Breastfeeding nutrition: Tips for moms."

Veterinary Medicine International: "Pharmacological Overview of Galactogogues."

UT Southwestern Medical Center: "How can I use fenugreek to increase my breast milk supply?."