Thursday, January 19, 2012

Black Pepper and Milk Production

Your breast milk production is influenced by several factors, including the frequency of milk removal through nursing or pumping and the adequate intake of calories and nutrients. Although most nursing mothers produce sufficient amounts of milk, it can sometimes be difficult to discern whether your baby is getting enough at each feeding. Consequently, most pediatricians use a baby’s growth rate to gauge nursing success or the adequacy of breast milk production. While excessive consumption of certain herbs and spices can adversely affect your milk supply, black pepper is one of many spices that supports breast milk production, according to Mother Food author Hilary Jacobson.

Black Pepper

Certain foods are lactogenic, meaning they’re beneficial when included in a nursing mother’s diet because they support breast milk production. Fennel, dark leafy greens, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, almonds, olive oil, lentils and oats are lactogenic foods, as are garlic, ginger, turmeric, basil, marjoram, dill and, in moderate amounts, black pepper. Although the composition of breast milk tends to be fairly consistent, its flavor is reflective of your dietary choices. When you eat a meal that incorporates garlic, for example, your milk may temporarily have a garlicky flavor. Similarly, spicy dishes — including those seasoned with black pepper — can flavor your breast milk accordingly.

Breast Milk Production

Breast milk production is most affected by how frequently and effectively your baby nurses, according to La Leche League International. Your milk production is stimulated by your baby’s ability to latch on correctly and nurse each side sufficiently. More importantly, your milk supply increases when your baby nurses often. In the past, health-care providers and lactation consultants advised mothers to nurse their babies every four hours to allow their breasts to “fill up” with milk between feedings. It’s now understood that breast milk is produced almost continuously, and greater demand results in an increased supply. Using a breast pump to express milk between feedings also boosts production.

Diet and Breast Milk

Lactation experts universally recommend that women who breast feed eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and foods high in calcium. If your diet typically incorporates black pepper, it’s not likely that your baby will react to its flavor in your milk, especially if you consumed it while pregnant. During pregnancy, your diet's dominant flavors are imparted to your amniotic fluid, according to the website BabyCenter. As such, your baby is accustomed to the main flavors in your diet before nursing begins. It's possible, however, for something in your diet to cause your baby to be fussy or gassy after nursing. Common culprits include chocolate, citrus fruits, garlic, onions and spices such as cinnamon, chili pepper and curry.


When consumed in large quantities, some herbs may decrease breast milk production, according to the Motherlove Herbal Company. These include sage, parsley, thyme and peppermint. Further, vitamin B6 supplements can also suppress lactation, as can decongestants and hormonal birth control medications. While some lactation experts suggest that the occasional alcoholic drink poses little risk of harm to your baby, drinking alcohol can interfere with the milk ejection reflex, and therefore compromise the amount of milk your baby can get from your breasts, according to the National Institutes of Health. If you’re concerned that you’re not producing enough milk for your baby, a lactation consultant can help pinpoint and address any issues.

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