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THE HOLIDAY FOODS THAT DECREASE MILK SUPPLY WHILE BREASTFEEDING
I get calls from frantic breastfeeding moms every holiday season. They are worried because, all of a sudden, they are making less milk than they normally do. They want to know what tips I have to help them increase their milk supply fast.
Don’t be that mom. Being forewarned is being forearmed. It’s easier to prevent the decrease in milk supply in the first place.
Many nursing moms are surprised to learn that what they eat can result in lowered milk production.
FOODS THAT DECREASE MILK SUPPLY
A popular topic on Pinterest is foods, drinks and recipes that can increase milk supply in nursing mothers. Knowing what not to eat is just as important.
Did you know that what you are eating can be one of the causes of decreased milk supply?
Fortunately, there are not a lot of foods to avoid while breastfeeding. However, a couple of them are very popular around the holidays.
Peppermint is a flowering perennial and an ingredient in many common holiday foods.
- Candy canes
- Peppermint bark
- Peppermint creams
- Peppermint tea
- Peppermint lattes are also very popular this time of year.
Peppermint is commonly used when women want to decrease their milk supply. A mom may want to make less milk if she has an overabundant milk supply. Too much milk can make babies fussy. It can also cause problems for mom such as repeated plugged ducts or even mastitis.
Another reason a mom might want to decrease her supply is when she wants to wean rapidly.
Peppermint is used in many natural health remedies (Source).
- Digestive problems
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Muscle aches
Breastfeeding moms will have different responses to peppermint. Not every mom will see a noticeable reduction in their milk production. There are two reasons for that.
- Some of the peppermint treats I mentioned will contain more actual peppermint in them than others.
- A mom may have an abundant milk supply and not notice a decrease in her milk supply.
On the other hand, a mom who makes just enough milk will be more aware of even a slight decrease.
The other thing that can affect how much peppermint affects your milk supply is whether it is eaten around the same time as another food that can decrease milk supply.
Sage is an herb. Around the holidays it is often found in stuffing and soups. It is used either dried or fresh.
It has been used effectively to decrease milk supply (Source). Typically, it is taken as a tincture or as a tea. It is also sold in capsules.
This is another common herb that has been used to decrease milk supply. It is added to many recipes.
The amounts of herbs like sage and parsley that are commonly found in holiday foods are probably not enough to decrease milk supply in a single serving. Caution should be exercised when multiple foods that have a history of inhibiting milk production are consumed at the same time.
OTHER CAUSES OF DECREASED MILK SUPPLY
There are other things that happen during the holiday season that can have an impact on how much milk you make.
CAN ALCOHOL DECREASE MILK SUPPLY?
Holidays are typically a time of parties and gatherings that involve alcoholic beverages. I worked with a nurse who swore that dark beer helped increase her milk supply. However, research contradicts this popular belief. You can file it in the urban myth or old wives tale category.
Alcohol can actually have a negative effect on breastfeeding (Source).
- Alcohol interferes with the milk let-down reflex.
- Babies drink less milk when their moms have consumed alcoholic beverages. This may be due to the fact that the taste of breast milk can change when a mom has been drinking.
- Some studies have shown alcohol can actually decrease milk production.
Does this mean you can’t have any adult beverages at all? Having a drink that contains a moderate amount of alcohol is considered “ok” by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). They recommend moms wait four hours to breastfeed after they have had a drink containing alcohol (Source).
The AAP defines one drink as:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 1 ounce of hard liquor
- 4 ounces of wine
MEDICATIONS AND MILK PRODUCTION
The winter holidays can also mean more colds and flu.
Be careful with the medications that you take for these types of illnesses.
- Pseudophedrine is known to decrease a woman’s milk production significantly.
- Menthol, which is found in many cough drops has also been reported to result is less milk being made by breastfeeding moms.
FOODS TO MAKE MORE BREAST MILK
If you notice a drop in your milk supply and realize you ate one of these foods, chances are good that it is temporary. Most of the time a decrease in milk supply can be rectified with a few extra breastfeeding or pumping sessions. You can also eat foods to help increase milk supply while breastfeeding
- Brewer’s Yeast
Herbs that increase milk production
You can also try to counteract the effects of foods that have caused you to make less milk by taking some herbs that are good for your supply.
FINAL THOUGHT ON FOODS THAT DECREASE MILK SUPPLY WHILE BREASTFEEDING
Many factors affect milk supply. In addition to what has already been mentioned the business of the holidays can play a factor. If feedings or pumping sessions are delayed or skipped altogether that will tell your breasts to make less milk. Make sure you are getting in enough feedings or pumpings.
Now that you know what to watch out for, enjoy the holidays!
Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC
Andrea has been working with new families as an RN for over 35 years and a Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.
She has her MA in Health and Wellness with a focus in Lactation.