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Mother's elixir for the child - When it is not enough.

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

Galactagogues and Breastmilk

As we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week 1st – 7th August 2020, it is extremely important to understand the beneficial effects of breastfeeding for the mother and the baby.

It is an emotional time for the mother and a beautiful phase for the baby-mom bonding. Additionally, it being the sole feed for the baby, it is crucial that the baby is able to derive all the nutrition it can from the feeds. This would determine how well the baby is growing as well as how well it will be able to defend against infections.

Breastfeeding is a unique happy phase in life, but sometimes, women face difficulty to produce enough milk, due to a variety of reasons. At this time a number of interventions may be needed, one such being using galactagogues in the diet of the mother.

Much has been said time and again regarding the importance of breastfeeding and aptly stressed. In this write up I would be talking about galactagogues – foods which have been traditionally known to boost milk production which provides comfort to the baby as well as the mother. The word is derived from two Greek terms "galact-" meaning milk, and "-ogogue" meaning leading to or promoting.

Traditionally galactagogues are extremely popular and heirloom recipes are passed on through generations in households. This is despite the fact that there is insufficient scientific data to substantiate these claims. Nevertheless, they are known to promote breastmilk and help a number of women.

Having said that, it has been observed that galactagogues only work when breastmilk is being removed frequently and effectively from a mother's breasts. When all factors contributing to a low supply have been identified and addressed, then galactagogues may help to speed up the process.

Some known galactagogues are

  • Fennel seeds

  • Fenugreek seeds

  • Garlic

  • Almonds

  • Whole grains

  • Green leafy vegetables

  • Coconut

  • Oats

  • Barley

  • Ginger

  • Chickpeas

They are incorporated in the mother’s diet and help the breastmilk production. Some common recipes could be:

1. Incorporating leafy greens in pulses, mixed with chilla or idli batters, raita, sauted with mustard seeds and coconut flakes etc

2. Fennel can be used to flavour laddos, kheer, curries etc

3. Fenugreek seeds can be sprouted and used in sprout salads or mixed in subji. Additionally, they can be added as tempering agents to pulses.

4. Garlic could be used as a tempering agent in legumes, pulses and curries. It can also be swallowed whole in the morning.

5. Coconut can be used as beverage (coconut water), coconut milk in curries or desserts, coconut cream as a spread.

6. Oats can be made into a nice oatmeal – salty or sweet- and had a with a variety of vegetables or nuts-raisins.

7. Barley can be used as a soup topping or sprouted in salads. It can also be ground and used as dalia or kneaded in the flour to make rotis.

8. Ginger can be added to normal home-made lunch or dinner.

9. It is important to include good quality proteins and good fats in the diet of the mother.

10. Chickpeas are wonderful when boiled and used in a warm cumin salad or made into hummus and used as a spread.

A caring and supportive environment for the mother helps in breastmilk production and memorable phase of lactation.

Below is a recipe which includes some galactagogues and good fats in fair measure to help the mother.

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