Hearing “Prepare and freeze as many meals as you can, ahead of the baby being born” at one of our NCT classes, must have sparked off some primeval ‘hunter-gather’ instinct in my husband. He took it to an extreme, organising us into a few marathon cooking and freezing sessions and we ended up with around 50 meal portions, lasting us months!
It’s hilarious, and makes me giggle every time I remember back to our freezer at that time. This was his way to prepare for our little arrival in the best way he could. And I love him (and laugh at him) for it.
But I shouldn’t laugh too much - those meals were invaluable for us. We could have nutritious, home cooked food every night, simply by turning on the oven and heating it up. They were absolute bliss - especially in our over-tired, shell-shocked, new-parent state.
Thinking about our mammoth cooking and freezing session, and wondering if those meals could have been made from lactogenic ingredients, was how The Contented Calf Cookbook started life.
After her son spent much of his first week in the hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit, and only being able to pump rather than breast feed directly, one of my mummy friends was trying to improve her milk supply.
She found out about lactogenic foods and herbs, which can help promote milk production. When her husband went away for a week, I googled recipes using ingredients from this list of foods. I made her a couple of dishes she could put in the fridge or freezer and just heat up when she needed, just like my husband and I had. But with some added ‘oomph’ to help her with her breast milk supply.
Inspired by her discovery of these foods, I began researching in a lot more detail, in particular drawing from the great wealth of information about lactogenic foods and herbs in “Mother Food”, along with the book “Making More Milk” – both of which I recommend.
Breast milk production and breastfeeding is a complex process as you can see in this ‘Milk Supply Equation’ from “Making More Milk”
1) Sufficient glandular tissue
2) Intact nerve pathways AND ducts
3) Adequate hormones AND hormone receptors
4) Adequately frequent, effective milk removal and stimulation
= GOOD MILK PRODUCTION
When looking at the above, we can’t do much about points one and two - it’s down to your physiology. To address the last point, an effective latch and frequent feeding is key. Please make sure you get support from lactation consultants to make sure this is going as effectively as possible for you.
It’s in the third point that diet can play a supportive role in Lactogenesis (the process of making milk).
There are two hormones involved in Lactogenesis – Prolactin and Oxytocin. Prolactin stimulates milk production and Oxytocin promotes the ‘milk-ejection’ or ‘let-down reflex’.
Certain foods and herbs increase the level of Prolactin in our bloodstream, helping our bodies to produce more milk. And with regards to Oxytocin, eating meals and snacks throughout the day can help reduce stress levels (hunger can induce stress), which actually suppress Oxytocin production. There are also foods thought to help remedy problems with let-down or flow, listed in Hilary Jacobson’s book “Mother Food”.
Of course, foods and herbs only play part of a successful breastfeeding experience, as you can see from the equation above. But every little helps, and you may find a lactogenic diet helps. You can find out much more about breast milk production and diet at www.contentedcalf.com/breastmilk, including a list of lactogenic (and anti-lactogenic) foods.