This is a question that occurred to me during my third pregnancy. By this time, I was determined to make as much as milk as possible, not just so that I could ensure an adequate stash for when I went back to work, but also so that I would have leeway for a supply drop in case I got sick or had to take milk-reducing medication. I had also gotten used to donating excess milk to needy babies since my first child, and I was hopeful that I could do it again.
The reason why the issue even came up is because I heard from OB-GYN and Pediatrician friends that they sometimes recommended giving malunggay (Moringa) capsules to their pregnant patients BEFORE they gave birth, as this could lead to a more robust milk production. I didn’t even know that this was possible, so I started taking the supplement from my 35th week onward. I was also curious to know what else I could do to give my supply a head start, and although I could find little hard evidence in the internet beyond the anecdotal, I came up with the following recommendations, which are at least logical and sensible:
- Check beforehand if you have any conditions that can predispose you to a low milk supply, such as hormonal imbalances, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), previous breast surgery, or minimal breast growth during pregnancy. If you are aware of a problem, then you can at least search for a solution preemptively.
- Drink lots of water. This is particularly relevant in the Philippines, where the weather is notoriously hot and humid. Breastmilk is 88% water, so you can’t make a lot if you are not properly hydrated in the first place.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables and traditionally lactogenic foods such as oatmeal, barley, almonds, leafy greens, flaxseed, avocadoes, etc.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking may be linked to lower milk production, lower levels of prolactin (the milk-making hormone), and inhibition of the letdown reflex.
- Don’t drink alcohol. If you are pregnant, you should not be drinking in the first place; however, for those who are, alcohol has also been linked to decreased milk production and inhibited letdown.
- Limit caffeine to no more than 200 mg/day (one 12-oz cup of coffee). Caffeine is a known diuretic, and thus can dehydrate you, eventually leading to a decreased milk supply. However, there is no evidence that caffeine can directly lead to decreased production. In fact, there is even one study (Nehlig & Debry, 1994) that suggests that caffeine can INCREASE milk production. However, caffeine should be moderated during pregnancy.
- Take 2 malunggay capsules 3x/day every day starting 3-4 weeks before your due date. There was a small study study done on near-term (35 weeks AOG or more) and nursing patients in the Ospital of Makati that showed that those who took malunggay supplements produced a greater volume of milk earlier compared to the control (placebo) group. Just check with your OB-GYN first to make sure that she approves.
- Attend a few prenatal breastfeeding classes! An informed Mom is an empowered Mom!
This was me 1 day before giving birth at 40 weeks AOG.
What other advice do you know of to increase your milk supply before delivery?