Eating Ginger Could Actually Help New Mothers Increase Their Milk Supply

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Ginger.
Ginger.Photo: maria_esau/Getty Images

Increasing how much breast milk your body makes is one of the primary concerns for many new mothers, and a new study has found that eating a lot of ginger can bolster that supply.

Studies suggest that only about 5 percent of women suffer from chronic low milk supply, but many more suffer from secondary supply issues and breast-feeding difficulties. Once we start pumping milk (usually because we have gone back to work), this again tinkers with our body’s natural sensibilities about supply and demand, so it’s crucial we find ways to up milk production.

The ginger study certainly is encouraging: Thirty women were given capsules of dried ginger in the immediate postpartum period, compared with 33 women who were given placebos. At three days postpartum, the women given the ginger had a higher volume of milk supply versus those given placebo; at seven days postpartum, no difference was found. The researchers consider the results — even with a small difference — encouraging enough to warrant further study of ginger as a natural galactagogue.

Natural galactagogues have a long, anecdotal history, and stories of their successes abound on the internet. Recent studies indicate, well, that further study is needed, as scientists have mostly failed to corroborate women’s stories of an increased milk supply after the ingestion of specific herbs or foods. A 2012 review of the available literature on the topic found some most likely candidates: Fenugreek, torbangun, and milk thistle were all acknowledged to have possible affect on supply issues. Beer, garlic, sesame seeds, cucumber, fennel, nuts, and hundreds of other foods are also thought by some to increase supply.

Of course, none of these have been scientifically proven as natural galactagogues, as researchers haven’t really prioritized finding herbs and foods to help women struggling with supply issues. Until then, women will have to rely on the communities and groups they’ve formed all over the internet, and in real life, to figure out what increases supply best of all.

And eat lots of ginger, too.