A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

Increase Milk Supply; Advice From a Holistic Nutritionist

Apple-1Nathalie Norris from Glow Nutritional Consulting joined us for a live Facebook chat. We gathered all of that information and put it here for you to enjoy at your convenience. As a holistic nutritionist, Nathalie brings a unique perspective to the conversation of milk supply. In this empowering Q&A Nathalie addresses the common concerns of new mothers about whether she has enough milk to nourish her baby (hint, hint… YES!) and gives overall health tips to help mothers reach their health and breastfeeding goals.

Featured Recipe

Adrenal Nourishing Chickpea Salad: Click here for the video.

Makes 8+ mini meals, feel free to adjust the recipe to make a smaller amount. Keeps 5-6 days in the fridge.

4 cups of chickpeas, soaked overnight, cooked (yields about 7-8 cups) OR
2-3 large BPA-free cans of chickpeas
2 red peppers, chopped
5 cups of crimini mushrooms, rinsed, quartered
2 cups sundried tomatoes, chopped
2-3 four-inch pieces of wakame, dulse or other sea vegetable
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil (first cold-pressed in a glass bottle preferred)
1/2 red onion, chopped (or 1 small red onion)
3-4 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1. Soak chickpeas overnight in at least 8 cups of water
2. Cook chickpeas (pressure cooker = 6 minutes with natural release, or bring up to a boil in a regular pot with twice the amount of water to chickpeas, and simmer for about 1 hour) and strain. Let cool while:
3. Add mushrooms and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan and grill the mushrooms for approximately 7 minutes. Add water as is necessary to prevent the oil from smoking (steaming may occur because of the water, that’s ok).
4. Add your seaweed and sundried tomatoes to a small bowl with some warm water and soak for 5-10 minutes. Take them out of the soak water, and chop into desired, bite-sized pieces. Keep the soak water and add by the tbsp. to the finished salad to bring out more of the flavours if desired.
4. Strain chickpeas, rinse in cold water, and add to a very large bowl or container
5. Add the (now grilled) mushrooms, and any “juice” from cooking the mushrooms into the bowl
6. Chop & add all other ingredients to bowl, and toss
7. Best served slightly chilled, and marinated overnight, but delicious when first made, too.


Q:  How to help Baby (which helps you make more milk):

Glow Nutritional Consulting: Finding a lactation consultant and/or breastfeeding clinic is your best bet. The following is from Dr. Jack Newman’s website:


1. Get the best latch possible. …A baby latched on well is on the breast asymmetrically, covering more of the areola with his lower lip than his upper lip, with his chin in the breast but not his nose, and his head is slightly tipped backwards compared to the rest of his body. When the baby is latched on well, the mother has no pain, and the baby gets milk well from the breast. See the information sheet, “When Latching,” and the video clips at the website nbci.ca. Get good “hands-on” help.

2. Know how to know a baby is getting milk. When a baby is getting milk, he will have an open mouth wide – pause – close mouth type of suck. He is not getting milk just because he has the breast in his mouth and is making sucking movements. When he is sucking and not getting milk his chin moves down and up rapidly with no pausing of the chin at the maximum opening—this means “I am not getting milk flow into my mouth”. If you wish to demonstrate this to yourself, put your index finger into your mouth and suck as if you were sucking on a straw. As you draw in, your chin drops and stays down as long as you are drawing in. When you stop drawing in, your chin will come back up. This pause that is visible at the baby’s chin represents a mouthful of milk when the baby does it at the breast. Actually the baby does this pause when he gets milk from finger feeding or a bottle too. The longer the pause, the more milk the baby got, so it is obvious that the frequently advised “feed the baby 20 minutes on each side” makes no sense. A baby who drinks very well (as opposed to sucking without drinking) for say, 20 minutes straight, will likely not take the other side. A baby who nibbles (doesn’t drink) for 20 hours will come off the breast hungry. You can see video clips of babies drinking… at the website nbci.ca.

Note that when baby stops sucking, “taking a break”, this is not the pause we are referring to. Note also that it is normal for babies not to suck continuously without a break. Just ensure that when he begins to suck again he is also drinking.

3. Compressions. Once the baby is sucking without drinking, use the technique of breast compression to increase the flow of milk to the baby. Babies react in two ways to slow flow. They either fall asleep at the breast or they pull at the breast. Some babies do one thing at one feeding and another at another feeding. Some will both fall asleep and pull at different times during a single feeding. When the baby is sucking without drinking, start compression, but be sure to do them while the baby is sucking but not drinking. Keep the baby on the first breast until he doesn’t drink even with compressions (so that there is no pausing-type of suck even when you compress). See the information sheet Breast Compression. (http://www.nbci.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8:breastcompression&catid=5information&Itemid=17) You can also see a mother using breast compression at the website nbci.ca.

4. Switch sides. When the baby no longer drinks even with compression, switch sides and repeat the process. Keep going back and forth as long as the baby gets reasonable amounts of milk. Of course once the baby has fed well, there is no harm in letting him “nibble” at the breast until he pulls off.


Q: I love reading about all this! However am so heartbroken that breastfeeding did not work for me due to extreme blood loss during C-section, causing lack of milk production. I tried what I thought was everything and now sit here 3 months later with some milk and a baby that refuses to nurse. Any thoughts on how and if I can get her to try and if I will be able to increase my milk supply at this point? I am desperate for help!

Glow Nutritional Consulting: I can’t imagine how difficult that must be for you. Sometimes I like to think about it from Baby’s perspective: I’ve used this bottle all my life and it’s easy. Now Mum’s trying to get me to get milk out of her body and it’s so much more frustrating because I have to work for it!!

Dr. Jack Newman recommends that skin-to-skin contact AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE can really help stimulate a positive breastfeeding relationship. So spend a few days in bed with your baby, him or her in their diaper and you without a shirt on if possible.

Then I’d suggest learning (if possible, seeking the advice of a lactation consultant or midwife who’s really great with it) how to cup-feed, finger-feed or switching to an SNS for a little bit. Anything to get Baby away from the physiology of sucking a bottle towards the work it’ll take him/her to get milk from your breast is a step in the right direction. Taking a moment to create a mantra for yourself (something you’ll repeat to keep you going) may help you out, “This may start out a bit rocky, but we WILL make it through”. Check out the “Tips to help feed baby successfully” post below for proper latching information and how to know your baby is getting milk. You CAN do it. I ABSOLUTELY believe you can make enough milk!


Q: What would a Holistic Nutritionist do to increase milk supply?

Glow Nutritional Consulting: First and foremost, a Holistic Nutritionist looks at her whole client. That could include a client’s stress level, diet, exercise regime, mental attitude, individual constitution through Ayurveda, and their physical environment. She’ll listen to concerns, symptoms and what the client has tried. Then she works behind-the-scenes to come up with a plan that will work for the client, and help them achieve their goals.

For The Badass Breastfeeder, I (Nathalie Norris, CNP) wanted to give out as much information as I could to help as many people as I can. While I may pick certain herbals that would work preferably under certain conditions of a client, for example, I will instead for The Badass Breastfeeder give a list of herbs that are safe galactagogues (herbs that increase milk). It is up to you and the practitioner that you trust with your health to decide which pieces out of my lists will work best with you.

I wish each and every one of you EXTREME success in the coming days, weeks, months and years with increasing your milk supplies. Keep in your head, Mama’s, “I CAN DO IT!!!!!”


Q: I had real problems nursing my first, seems breast tissue didn’t grow enough – but still going, now he’s 2. A new one is coming, I’m 4 months. I tried to pump in advance now, nothing, I mean NOTHING is coming. So 2 questions;  1) When is the best time to wean #1 considering there is no way I will have enough to tandem nurse and 2)  What can I do during pregnancy to build up milk supply for later? I know I will have to supplement.

Glow Nutritional Consulting: While you’re pregnant, your body is doing SO many different things, with great focus: to build a perfect baby. Trying to find time to relax at least once a day may be your best technique to be ready for your little one to nurse, even if it’s one minute in the bathroom where nobody can find you.

I would look at the food post (it will be re-posted with my answer in a few minutes) as a general guideline on the foods you could be eating now to really improve your milk supply. I wouldn’t focus on herbs while you’re pregnant, but I’d have somebody pick you up a box of mother’s milk tea, or some different herbs from the list below so that it’s ready for you once your baby is born.

Remember, too, that pumping isn’t a really great indicator of breast milk supply. I know you’re getting nothing, but that doesn’t mean your son isn’t. Have you tried pumping while he’s suckling on the other breast? Sometimes this helps because he’s already activated the let-down reflex. Some women have no luck with one pump, and then switch and have great luck with another, or hand pumping.

Also compressing can be helpful while pumping and feeding (if baby is sucking but not drinking) to increase the amount of milk.

Weaning is up to you and your abilities and your son’s personal choices. Is his personality more of an “all or nothing” or an “I need things to come slow with plenty of warning, no surprises”? This may help decide if you should start weaning now or closer to your due date.

Lastly, I wanted to remind you that when your breasts are medium-full, that’s when your body starts to produce more milk at a very fast rate. So theoretically your son could even help out his little brother or sister by continuing to nurse and continuing to help you make more milk.

Dr. Jack Newman’s, “Guide to Breastfeeding,” talks a little bit about tandem nursing, and definitely how to get a good start with breastfeeding. It’s a REALLY great book to have if you don’t already.

I’m wishing you the best of luck and the most abundant milk supply!!!


Q: My milk came in just fine after birth, actually I had way too much (as I did with my first baby), my body figured it out and we got the latch down. Everything was great and my son was exclusively breastfed until 10 months or so, my milk just tanked. I did every food and herb that has been discussed (and still do in rotation), I take iron supplements, I take fish oils, I supplement Vitamin D, my thyroid has been checked and still my supply is very low; maybe an ounce out of one breast, much less out of the other. My son refuses formula, raw cow’s milk, goat’s milk, almond milk coconut milk, etc…He only wants my milk. It has been almost a year and we are in much the same place and I am still trying. It is exhausting and heartbreaking. My son will do some solids, but mostly just wants my milk, which is still unexplained and mostly gone…

Glow Nutritional Consulting: I would have to know a TON more about you to figure out any number of possibilities. I’d start by asking if you feel drained or exhausted all the time. Fuzzy head? Easily frustrated? If anything happened to you or your child at ten months? How’s your focus? What does your diet look like? Any medications? I would really need to get to the root issue, and I would have to know your health before I recommended anything to you, which would be a whole protocol and client-meeting.

For now, I would recommend having really health-promoting foods around the house, and snack whenever you start to feel hungry. I’d make sure you’d keep your water intake up, though it sounds like you’ve tried all of the obvious things. I’d also try drinking seaweed in warm water, it won’t taste great, but without more information from you, that’s the best I can do.
If you find you’re really struggling still, and feel like I might be a helpful practitioner for you, you can find out prices and the contact forms to get started on www.nathalienorris.com

I’m really, really wishing you a wonderful milk supply.


Q: I think first she needs to determine if her milk supply is truly low and go from there… 

Glow Nutritional Consulting: I totally agree. I had so many e-mails from mothers saying that they’d tried fenugreek, they’d eaten oats for days, etc., and their child was still not gaining weight, or still hungry, or was only content after the supplemented formula. I think that so many women would absolutely benefit from knowing and learning that their bodies can TOTALLY do it, and that some peace of mind can come from eating some great breast-milk supportive foods and herbs.


Q: What foods can increase my milk supply?

Glow Nutritional Consulting: This is a hard question to address when my audience is so large.

For some, the root cause of their low milk supply may be stress, for others, it may be PCOS, severe blood sugar imbalances or other hormonal imbalances. For others, the root cause may be dehydration, low-grade infections or medications, and the list could go on.

Before I touch on foods, I want to really push the importance of drinking WATER!

A good rule of thumb is to make sure your urine comes out clear two or more times a day. Yellow or orange are indicators that you should increase the amount of water you’re getting. Neon yellow or other colored urine may be a result of B vitamins from supplements (even nutritional yeasts) or other medications, so this method isn’t foolproof, but it’s a really great place to start, and much more individual than “drink ___ amount of water each day”.

Next up? Let’s balance hormones. When you’re extremely stressed, you may produce less milk. Low thyroid function can slow everything down. Blood sugar imbalances are hormonally regulated, and can definitely have an effect on stress and milk production. The let-down reflex and production of milk are also both governed by hormones.

So, what can you eat to help my endocrine system?

Fiber – takes wastes out of the body, reducing internal stress. Also, some fibers bind with detoxified hormones and bring them out of the body. Really great sources of these types of fiber include: beans, fresh ground flax seeds, whole or ground chia seeds, apples, pears, berries.

Female Sex Hormone Balancing Foods – yep, these nutritional rock-stars will help get rid of excess estrogen in the body (from things like plastics, hormones in meat or dairy, tap water, your own estrogens, etc.). Helping to get these out is an essential part of preventing and healing PCOS, fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids, endometriosis and breast cancer. Foods that do this are: broccoli sprouts, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, rapini, cauliflower and mustard seeds. Broccoli sprouts have the most phytonutrients and phytochemicals that act in this way, but should always be safely sprouted at home. The rest seem to be most easily digested (while maintaining the health benefits and antioxidants) when steamed for just under 5 minutes.

Adrenal Hormone Balancing Foods – whoa. You’ve got a new baby, you’re trying to figure stuff out, you’re being told that you’re doing things a different way, you’re just trying to do what’s right, and your mind still wants to think about 65,000 other things at the same time. You can feel control gently slipping away from you and YOU’RE ABOUT TO… eat really fantastic adrenal-supporting foods. These are: kale, spinach, chard (think DARK greens!), red pepper (with the white pith), seaweed, cantaloupe and sundried black olives.


Q: I have recently had a decrease in appetite which is obviously effecting my supply….what can I do to help get back to normal!? I was told today by the pediatrician to feed my lo (who’s 6 months old) cereal mixed with olive oil and baby foods to get his weight up! Also, to bring him back monthly for a weight check! I feel inadequate for my son….I need help!!!! 

Glow Nutritional Consulting: There’s LOADS you can do to be more than adequate for your son! In fact, there’s so much that you’ll regain rockstar status for your son!!
I would look at drinking warm water with 1-2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice added to it, and maybe some cayenne or a little maple syrup to stimulate appetite. Or 2 tsp. raw, organic apple cider vinegar added to 8 oz. water with 1-2 tsp. maple syrup can be a really great drink to “start up” your digestive fire.
It may also help to drink a light herbal tea like chamomile that is slightly bitter in quality to stimulate digestion and appetite, and has the added bonus of being a slight relaxant (stress can also cause low appetite).


Q: What herbs can I use to increase my milk supply?

Glow Nutritional Consulting:

Aviva Romm, midwife, herbalist and MD lists:

-Marshmallow (althea officinalis)

-Milky Oats (avena sativa)

-Fennel (foeniculum vulgare)

-Chamomile (matricaria recutita)

-Anise Seed (pimpinella anisum)

-Fenugreek (trigonella foenum graceum)

-Chaste Berry (vitex agnes-castus)

as great galactagogues (herbs that increase milk production).

Generally, I have seen great results when women drink teas with a galactagogue (like fenugreek) along with something very nutritive like nettles, and something relaxing like lavender or chamomile.

Note: some herbs can interact with medications. Please discuss your herbal options with your trusted healthcare practitioner prior to use.


Q: What emotional implications could there be to my milk supply?

Glow Nutritional Consulting: When I first heard about affirmations, I was skeptical. Eventually, I wanted health badly enough that I figured, “Oh, what the heck”. Now, I would never turn back. Telling yourself positive things, allowing those things to cross over into your subconscious mind, being your own cheerleader is empowering, inspiring and exciting. If you’ve struggled with low supply issues, I definitely recommend telling yourself a few of these per day:

I lovingly nourish myself.

My body is able to nurture a new life.

I allow my body to fill my breasts with nourishing milk.

I happily feed my newborn child.

I have endless patience.

I will succeed at breastfeeding.

My child and I will succeed as a team at breastfeeding.

I can breastfeed.

My body is open in all ways to support breastfeeding.


Q: My let-down is slow, and sometimes takes several minutes. What can I do?

Glow Nutritional Consulting: Stress has a MASSIVE effect on the let-down reflex. Then the stress you already had is coupled with a frustrated baby, and soon enough, you feel ready to pull out your own hair. Midwives, Mum’s that are supportive, and lactation consultants may have some wonderful tips to help calm you down while nursing.

As a Holistic Nutritionist, I would recommend the adrenal-loving foods in the question “what can I eat to increase milk supply”. But I would also recommend finding anything that you LOVE to do that calms your nerves. Whether it’s a cup of warm tea, skin-to-skin with your baby, a beautiful song played on your phone speakers or a CD player or docking station, a glass of water, aromatherapy oils, affirmations, whatever helps YOU feel the most relaxed, try to find a way to incorporate that into your day, and especially at as many feedings as you can manage.

When I get stressed out, I find myself singing more often than not, and that simple focus on one calm thing is able to clear my mind or help me get through whatever it is I’m doing. When I’m playing with my nieces, I’ll occasionally find myself singing, “we’re going on the swings, la-dee-dah, so excited” and so on if I start to feel overwhelmed that they both want different things and I’m trying my best to achieve their independent goals. So even by singing or saying to your child, “We’re going to do this so peacefully, I love you, I know you love me, I’m learning too, let’s do this together”, little words of encouragement to yourself and your child could go a long way in reducing stress and increasing breastfeeding success.


Q: I’m going back to work, and I want to breastfeed but I only get so many breaks to pump. What do you suggest?

Glow Nutritional Consulting: First and foremost, you’re amazing. Keep that in mind. If negotiation is not possible (i.e.: can I eat lunch at my desk, and instead take three 20-minute pumping breaks?), then make (and remind yourself of) a pact with yourself that you expect the first few weeks to be crazy, but that you will try to find patience and you WILL succeed.

Pump whenever you can. The breasts produce more milk upon consumption of milk. The breasts are never “empty”; they get to halfway and start producing more milk very quickly at that point. Pumping more often can be better for some women than pumping for one extended period of time, but see which works best for your body. Pumping on one breast once you’re home while Baby is feeding on the other breast may give you better milk flow, since Baby stimulated your let-down.

I’d really work with some of the herbal teas above; if you’ve decided that it’s safe for you to do so. I’d make sure I was drinking a few cups during the working day.

Before you pump, if you’re at a desk, or even on your walk to the room where you’ll pump, think of your baby and what it feels like to have him/her suckle. This can help with the let-down reflex, which could help the breast milk flow easier by the pump.

When you get home, spend as much time as you can skin-to-skin with your child. You may even find that your child for the first few weeks of a new schedule wants to nurse more in the middle of the night. This is the baby wanting more time with Mama, and will likely pass, but will keep up your milk supply.

In his book, Dr. Jack Newman explains that even shift workers who work incredibly long hours for 4 days in a row, followed by 3 days off have a tough start with much determination required, but that the female body adapts to the new routine. You WILL get there.


Q: Did you freeze lots of your milk that you pumped prior to going back to work?

Glow Nutritional Consulting: I found that information from Dr. Jack Newman in his book Guide to Breastfeeding as one way that could help, if Mum was having troubles pumping.
The let-down reflex can also be stimulated by a breast massage, smelling your child’s clothing and/or thinking of your child. The recommendation was made as an option when you couldn’t get the pump to work for you. Which could also be the type of pump you’re using, the suction it has, the rate at which it’s pumping, etc.
I’d ask why I shouldn’t do that, just to clarify whether they have doubts in your supply, whether they think your child won’t have enough milk, etc. and decide for yourself if that were true for you.
Then for the actual storage part (I’m not sure if that was part of your question) always in the freezer until ready to be used, and then defrosted in the fridge, or counter for faster use.


Q: How effective is acupuncture for low milk?

Glow Nutritional Consulting: Acupuncture can be extremely effective for a number of conditions. Some people find it very effective, and others struggle to notice the changes. I think that it could absolutely be combined with the nutritional strategies above, and you could find out for yourself if the acupuncture helped you personally.


Q: Can you increase how fatty your milk is?

Glow Nutritional Consulting: Your body is managing the fat content of your breast milk in order to give your child the most nourishing, necessary fats and other nutrients in their required, perfected amounts. Think of how damaging it could be if you decided consciously that you wanted to give your baby more fat and your body agreed. Each nutrient is in a perfect amount for your child. If you wanted more fat in your breast milk, you’d have to choose what to take out: protein builds the immune system and growing muscles. Carbohydrates fuel your child’s developing brain. Vitamins and minerals are essential to life, muscle function, brain function, oxygenating the tissues, and illness prevention and they have MANY other uses.

Your milk is being made by your INCREDIBLY smart body to give the BEST start to your child. Increasing your supply as well as the amount of feedings (offered or received) will help your child gain weight, if that is your concern.

If your goal is to lose weight, breast feed for as long as you possibly can to help your body lose the weight that it gained for the purpose of having stores to nourish your child if a famine came, and start making a gradual switch over to really nutrient-dense foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, wild fish and properly-prepared grains).


 Q: (I have heard) full fat dairy and fatty meats, along with avocado, nuts etc.

Glow Nutritional Consulting: While those are all FANTASTIC fats, studies seem to show that breast milk doesn’t vary too much, even if the diets of different Mums are vastly different. The body is so smart that it will pull whatever it needs from your body to give it to your baby. And then it’s up to you to replenish yourself (and, of course, if you have nothing of something left, then your milk will be deficient). So while these are great fats to keep in your diet to replenish your fat stores, it will likely not dramatically increase the amount of fat in your breast milk.


Q: I’ve breastfed my baby girl for 10 months. For the first 6 months we were doing amazing and she was a little fatty, for the last 4 months she hasn’t been gaining any weight?? What is it that I’m lacking?

Glow Nutritional Consulting: I would look at urine and bowel movements, and if your baby seems content. Dr. Jack Newman explains that “slow or no weight gain can often be improved if breastfeeding techniques are improved”. So I’d look back on the latching post, and look for the signs to know your baby is getting milk. She may also have gained weight really quickly, and now is leveling out. Four months seems a little long, so if you’re feeling concerned, it’s always best to have blood tests run, just to rule out things like hyperthyroidism.

If you’ve started solids, I’d recommend some more avocado, yams, and butternut squash as really great foods that could help her weight.


Q: Is there a negative effect of exercise and calorie cutting when you already have low milk?

Glow Nutritional Consulting: There definitely can be. Exercise can be fantastic for overall health, but overdoing it can be detrimental to milk supply. Generally, I would look to keep exercise routines down to 30 minutes or less, unless your body is used to much more.

Cutting calories is something I never advise my clients to do – breastfeeding or not. We all want a quick answer to weight-loss. I completely get that. But calories don’t take into account how much fat you’re getting, what the quality of the fat is that you’re getting, how many complex carbohydrates there are versus how many quickly-absorbing sugars there are. It doesn’t take into account how processed a food is, how many chemicals or additives are added to a food, or how chocked full of vitamins and minerals a food is.

A calorie is simply a measurement of the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius. If you’re looking to lose weight, the best thing you can do is continue to breastfeed, which helps work through the stores your body brilliantly held onto in order to be able to nourish your baby if a famine came, and focus on eating really health-promoting foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, wild fish and properly prepared grains in addition to seeking help from a really great practitioner that may be able to address underlying causes if the weight gain is excessive, and/or finding friends or fellow Mama’s that embrace their new baby-supportive body, knowing that the time-span in which they’ll have it is short, and has an end.


 Q: My question is along similar lines, but how can I gain weight while breast feeding? I have high metabolism and I was told by lactation consultant that I tend to graze eat a lot and that helps to increase metabolism. I’ve always been that way but I haven’t always been this small. My dir. says I’m at a healthy weight but I feel more comfortable with some extra weight.

Glow Nutritional Consulting: Nuts, beans and meats are “build-up” foods, while vegetables, seeds and fruits are “break-down” foods. If you’ve been on a super healthy diet eating loads of the break-down items, you may want to balance it back out with more from the first list. Following Traditional Chinese Medicine, you’d want to increase yin (female energy). This can be done by adding a little seaweed to soups, and trying to cut back on really spicy things, as much as possible. Looking more through Ayurveda, you might try and increase some of your fats (like nuts or meat if you eat it), try not to eat too much raw food at once, and enjoy some fruits.


You can find more nutritional information by Nathalie Norris at Glow Nutritional Consulting.