Maybe you’ve heard this old wive’s tale: Drink dark, hoppy beer while you’re breastfeeding and it’ll boost your milk supply. I’m not a fan of beer but I was curious if there was any weight to the claims that dark beer does a boobie good. Goodness, I cannot believe I just wrote that! Consider it your laugh for this particular article.
Does drinking beer boost your milk supply?
The theory is that the active yeast in a dark beer helps encourage milk supply. There’s a polysaccharide (the building blocks of starch and cellulose) in the barley used to make beer that stimulates prolactin. Stimulating prolactin is what aids in milk production. It’s that one powerful polysaccharide that does all of the milk producing. There’s a big “but” coming next, can you tell? Beer can boost milk supply but alcohol inhibits milk production. That’s right. While you can drink all the hoppy beer you want to boost your milk supply the truth is that the alcohol in the beer may actually work against producing that milk you’re trying to boost.
Now, if you love the taste of beer, there’s no harm in having a drink or two, so long as you wait a minimum of two hours before you nurse your baby or pump. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that alochol is present the same amount in breastmilk that it is in your bloodstream. According Medela, the AAP, states,
Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into milk. While it also rapidly clears from milk, research suggests its use can alter the taste of the milk and temporarily inhibit milk production. For these reasons, the AAP suggests that breastfeeding mothers avoid the use of alcoholic beverages. An occasional celebratory single, small alcoholic drink is acceptable, but the AAP and other experts suggest that mothers wait about 2 hours until resuming breastfeeding.
One of my favorite websites for breastfeeding, Kellymom.com, referred to this fascinating article on beer and breastfeeding. It explains why some of may believe that consuming beer boosts milk supply,
Alcohol is anti-galactagogue. Studies on animals and humans show that alcohol impairs the milk ejection reflex, slows the flow of milk, and leads to a reduced intake of milk by the baby during approximately four hours after drinking. Because of the back-up of milk, the breast feels fuller. Because the flow of the milk is slower, it requires more time for a baby to remove milk from the breast. Because the breast feels fuller and the baby drinks longer, researchers say the mother believes that her baby is drinking more milk.
So while you may feel like your breasts are fuller after consuming beer, the likelihood that it’s actually boosted your supply is slim to none. How can you boost your milk supply? There are a few different ways to do it naturally as well as some conventional medicines that can help. First things first, let’s talk about why you think you need to boost your milk supply. First answer these questions:
- Does your baby seem satisfied after a feeding?
- Is your baby eliminating frequently during the day? (6+ wet diapers a day starting when the baby is four days old and older/ 3-4+ dirty diapers a day starting at four days old)
- Does your breast(s) feel soft or are they hard and engorged?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, your baby is fine and your milk supply is fine. Leave well enough alone and remember to get plenty of sleep, keep hydrated and eat food that fuels your body.
Natural Ways to Boost Milk Supply
- Increase milk supply by increasing the frequency of feedings or pumping in between feedings. Try to nurse your baby 1.5 to 2 hours during the day and 3 hours at night. If your baby is older and isn’t experiencing problems gaining weight I wouldn’t disrupt their nighttime sleep since it’s the most important sleep they get.
- Fenugreek Seed – Fenugreek is the most popular herbal galactagogue (a substance that increases milk supply). Studies have shown that doses less than 3500 mg have no effect on milk production so you need to take more than 3500 mg. Most women see an increase in milk supply within 48/72 hours of taking the Fenugreek Seed. It may take longer though. If you want to go this route please consult either your physician, midwife, or lactation consultant for the proper dosage and instructions.
- Blessed thistle, fennel, and alfalfa are also natural galactagogues.
- Make sure to feed your baby on both sides of your breasts and make sure baby completely empties at least one side.
- Oatmeal – Eating a bowl of oatmeal is healthy and there’s nothing wrong with adding a little oatmeal into your diet. It also may help with milk supply. There’s no scientific evidence that oatmeal boost milk supply but some moms have said that it works for them and since there’s nothing negative in adding a little into your daily routine, we think this is a safe bet.
Helpful sites for you to reference:
Like I said earlier, I have always loved and actually used Kellymom.com. Here are some other websites that I found helpful when it comes to boosting milk supply.
Despite the old wives’ tales it looks like beer doesn’t have a positive role in boosting your milk supply. Drink responsibly and keep it to one to two drinks. Have you tried to drink beer as a means of boosting your milk supply?
Bert Anderson is a blogger and social media manager mom of three living outside of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. She’s the author behind the blog First Time Mom, where she honestly chronicles the peaks and valleys of parenting. Even though she has more than one child, Bert maintains that whether you have one child or 19, there’s a first time for everything. She’s a lover of coffee, conversations, pop culture, healthy living and fitness.