Foods and Remedies to Support Lactation
In this article we will consider some foods and home remedies that can be used by nursing mothers to support lactation.
Urad dal is heavy, sweet in post-digestive effect, demulcent, cherishable, reduces vata, laxative, nutritive, promoter of semen and very nourishing. It enhances defecation and acts as a diuretic and galactagogue.1 Here we offer a specially adapted urad dal recipe, including fennel and fenugreek, which support lactation as well as yam for extra beta carotene.
- 1 cup Urad dal (split, with husks removed)
- 3 cups water (use more if not using pressure cooker)
- Salt to taste (1-1 1/2 teaspoon)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 Tablespoons dry fenugreek (methi) leaves, if available
- 1 golden sweet potato, cubed
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 2 Tablespoons ghee or sunflower oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and shredded
Wash dal well and soak in water for half an hour. Drain this water off before cooking.
Place the dal, water, sweet potato and turmeric in a pressure cooker and cook for an hour.
Allow pressure cooker to cool before opening. Open the lid and check water. If too thick, add a little boiling water, until it reaches the consistency you desire.
Basic tarka or tempering: Heat ghee or oil in a small frying pan. Add cumin, fennel and fenugreek seeds and and let the seeds start to splutter. Add chopped ginger, stir quickly with a small spoon, add to the cooked dal and cover with a lid. This will infuse the flavors into the dal and stop the dal splashing out during tempering.
Cow Pea (Black-eye Pea)
Cow pea is heavy to digest, sweet and astringent in taste, nutritive, laxative, drying, increases vata, promotes taste and breast milk and provides maximum physical strength.” 2
The humble blackeye pea is a nutritious food for nursing mothers and can be prepared using not only Indian recipes but also down-home Southern recipes too. Here’s my own version of blackeye peas and mustard greens. This recipe includes yam for extra beta carotene and mustard greens for minerals and phytoestrogens. You could also use collard greens.
Black-eye Peas and Mustard Greens
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 can blackeye peas
- 1 small winter squash or one yam, peeled and cubed
- 1/2 red cabbage, chopped
- 1 zucchini, cubed
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- 1 bunch mustard greens, washed and chopped
- Salt to taste
- Cayenne to taste (omit for pitta or mothers of younger babies)
Heat olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan. Add garlic and shallot and fry until shallots are translucent. Add the cabbage, zucchini and squash or yam. Stir-fry briefly, then add blackeye peas and boiling hot vegetable broth. Since I didn't plan this recipe ahead, I used canned black-eye peas but of course, made from scratch is ideal. Add the mustard greens, salt and cayenne and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Serve with cornbread.
Sesame seeds are pungent, bitter, sweet and astringent in taste, pungent in post-digestive effect, heavy, hot in potency, cures kapha and pitta diseases, acts as a general tonic…promotes breast milk.3 A handful of unhulled sesame seeds can be chewed in the morning. Additionally, sesame chutney can be prepared as a calcium-rich condiment.
Dry Sesame Chutney
- 1 cup unhulled sesame
- 2 teaspoons Chili powder
- ¼ cup dry coconut
- ½ teaspoon tamarind paste
- Salt to taste
Dry roast sesame in cast iron pan, stirring continuously until it sputters. Roast coconut on medium until fragrant and golden, add chili powder and take off heat. Continue stirring and as you do so add tamarind, and salt to the above mixture. When cooled dry grind in Vitamix or food processor to a medium coarse consistency.
Wet Sesame Chutney
Yields: 1 cup
- 3 Tablespoons sesame seeds
- 3 Tablespoons fresh coconut, freshly grated
- 4 dried red chilies, stemmed
- 2 teaspoons tamarind concentrate
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon sunflower oil
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon urad dal
- 1 fresh curry leaf, halved
- 1 teaspoon jaggery (palm sugar), shredded
To enhance the flavors, dry toast the sesame seeds and coconut separately in a small pan over medium heat for about 1-2 minutes before the ingredients start changing color. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool completely Grind the sesame seeds in spice grinder or Vitamix. The sesame seeds should turn into a fine mill, but make sure you stop before it becomes nut butter. In a blender or food processor combine the shredded coconut, sesame paste, ground cumin, ground coriander, tamarind concentrate and jaggery. Add ¼ to ½ cup water for a smoother flow (Depending on how thick you like the consistency of the chutney, you can add more water.) Season with salt. In a small saucepan, heat the sunflower oil. Add the urad dal and curry leaf. Cook until deep golden brown. Turn off the heat. Add the red chilies and pour the hot mixture over the contents from the blender. Stir well. Let cool completely to room temperature. Serve at room temperature with kitcheri.
Water chestnut is sweet and astringent in taste, heavy, absorbent and promotes semen, vata, kapha and breast milk.4 In India, water chestnut flour is used as gluten free flour and made into sweet puddings, which would be ideal for nursing mothers. In Chinese cuisine they are often marinated in soy sauce and used in stir-fries. You can also add water chestnuts to a side salad. They are delicious with toasted almonds and mung sprouts.
Almonds are an Ayurvedic superfood that promotes ojas, shukra and lactation.5 Ten soaked peeled almonds can be eaten daily. Here is a gluten free, cow dairy free almond pudding recipe. Lactation time is a great time to enjoy superfood desserts!
Creamy Almond Pudding
Allow two hours almond soaking time!
- 2/3 cup slivered almonds
- 1 cup boiling water
- 6 cups coconut milk
- 2 Tablespoon cream of rice
- ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
- ½ teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds
- ½ cup turbinado sugar
- 2 Tablespoon toasted slivered almonds for garnishing
Place almonds in a bowl, add the boiling water, and soak for 2 hours. Pour nuts and soak water into food processor and process until smooth. Slowly add one cup of coconut milk and process again until smooth.
Put the rest of the coconut milk into a heavy bottomed pan and bring to a boil. While stirring constantly, sprinkle in the cream of rice, then pour the blended almond mixture in. Turn down the heat; add the saffron, cardamom and sugar. Simmer, stirring attentively, until the pudding is reduced to one third of its original volume. Remove from the heat and beat with a whisk to smooth the texture. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with toasted almonds.
Harira: A traditional food for nursing mothers
- 2 Tablespoons ghee
- 1 teaspoon grated almonds
- 1 teaspoon grated pistachios
- 1 teaspoon grated walnuts
- 1 teaspoon grated cashews
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ¼ cup jaggery (gur) or Sucanat
- ½ teaspoon powdered cardamom seeds
- ¼ teaspoon Ginger powder
- ½ teaspoon pippali powder
- 8 oz water
Heat the ghee in a pan and add grated nuts. Roast the mixture until it turns light brown. Next, add turmeric powder to the mixture and stir well. Add water and grated jaggery or Sucanat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Let the mixture cook on a low flame for a few minutes, until the ghee starts separating from the mixture. The mixture should now resemble thick syrup. Remove from the stove and garnish with cardamom powder. Pour the mixture in a bowl, and serve it as a soup.
Fennel and Fenugreek
Fennel and fenugreek are traditionally used in Ayurveda as galactogogues. A cup of fennel tea or fennel and fenugreek tea can be drunk after meals to support both digestion and milk production. Fenugreek can be sprouted and eaten as salad. Fennel bulb can be eaten as a vegetable. Soups and warm foods with a high fluid content are excellent for nursing mothers. Here is a recipe for fennel soup.
Fennel and Potato Soup
- 1 Tablespoon ghee
- 2 cups fennel bulb, chopped
- 2 cups leek, thinly sliced
- 1 and a half cups baking potato, cubed
- 1 and a half cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1-2 quarts vegetable broth
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 8 ounces plain yoghurt
Melt the ghee in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add fennel bulb and leek; sauté 4 minutes. Add potato, water, salt, fennel seeds, pepper, and broth, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender. Process in a blender until smooth. Return pureed soup to pan; simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thick. Garnish with cilantro and serve with a spoon of yoghurt.
- Bhavprakash, chapter on Cereals, pulses and millets, v 42-43
- Ibid v 44-45
- Ibid v 63-64
- Ibid, chapter on potherbs v 112-113
- Mother Food for Breastfeeding Mothers By Hilary Jacobson Page Free Publishing, Inc., May 28, 2004