If you are trying to boost your milk supply, you might have heard that you should try eating oatmeal. Does oatmeal increase milk supply? If so, how much oatmeal do you need to eat, and does it matter what kind of oatmeal? Here’s what you need to know.
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Does oatmeal increase milk supply?
Unfortunately, we don’t have an evidence-based answer for this, because sufficient research hasn’t been done on the topic.
However, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence for it. Many exclusive pumpers and people who pump at work notice that they pump more milk on the days that they have oatmeal for breakfast. Additionally, lactation consultants often recommend it to people struggling with supply.
The good news is that the downsides to trying oatmeal in order to try to increase your milk supply are very low. With the exception of people with a gluten intolerance, there are no side effects and no risks to trying it. Additionally, oatmeal is inexpensive, easily available in grocery stories, and eating it isn’t time consuming.
In short, oatmeal is a “can’t hurt, might help” solution to milk supply.
How does oatmeal increase milk supply?
Again, no one really knows for sure why oatmeal seems to increase milk supply. However, are a few theories.
- The first is that oatmeal is high in iron, and since low iron can result in decreased milk supply, the thinking is that a boost in iron could do the opposite, and help increase it.
- Another thought is that oatmeal lowers cholesterol, which is also a feature of other substances (for example, fenugreek) that may increase milk supply. Since multiple substances that lower cholesterol increase milk supply, the idea is that there is potentially a relationship.
How much oatmeal do you need to eat?
Most people eat about one full serving of oatmeal, usually in the morning.
(Since whether it works hasn’t been even been studied yet, we can’t say for sure what the optimal serving size is.)
What kind of oatmeal is good for breastfeeding/milk supply?
Any kind of oatmeal should work – rolled oats, old-fashioned oats, steel cut, instant, quick-cooking oats, etc.
If you really don’t like oatmeal, I’ve found that overnight oats are a great way to eat oatmeal that tastes better.
How long after eating oatmeal will milk supply increase?
I usually noticed the increase within an hour or two. If I ate it for breakfast, the pumping session after that would usually have a boost.
An oatmeal and milk supply experiment
When I was I pumping for my second baby, I decided to do my own, as-scientific-as-possible-given-I’m-one-person (and not actually a scientist) test: will eating oatmeal increase my supply?
My methodology was to use Monday as a baseline day where I did not eat oatmeal.
Then I had one bowl of oatmeal (I chose old fashioned oats) for breakfast Tuesday through Friday, and compared the total amount that was pumped on the baseline day with the oatmeal days to see whether or not there was an effect.
Caveat: Everyone is different, and just because my body reacted to oatmeal one way does not mean yours will or will not. Also, I was in the late stages of pumping (my baby had just turned one), which might have affected the results. (For example, I tried fenugreek when I was the in the later staging of pumping with for my first baby, and it did absolutely nothing for me, but I had success with it when my son was younger.)
Day 1: Baseline Day
- Pump #1 (6am): 7.5oz
- Pump #2 (8:30am): 5oz
- Pump #3 (2:30pm): 5oz
- Pump #4 (6:30pm): 3.5oz
TOTAL BASELINE OUTPUT: 21oz.
Day 2: First Day of Oatmeal!
I had a bit of a snafu with making the oatmeal. (Frankly, I hate oatmeal and hadn’t eaten it for years.) The container said to use a deep bowl when microwaving to allow room for the oats to expand while cooking.
I had been planning on making the oatmeal in a cup. I unwisely went ahead with this plan, and my oatmeal barfed all over the microwave.
After I cleaned it up, I had to go to a meeting and as a result, I didn’t get around to making a new batch and eating the oatmeal until 10am, so that may have made a difference in the results.
- Pump #1 (6:15am): 7.5oz
- Oatmeal eaten at 10am
- Pump #2 (11am): 5oz
- Pump #3 (3pm): 5oz
- Pump #4 (6:15pm): 3oz
TOTAL DAY 2: 20.5oz. Actually 0.5 oz less than baseline.
Day 3: Second Day of Oatmeal
I used a bigger bowl and had better luck with the oatmeal. Have I mentioned that I really don’t care for oatmeal? I added strawberries and some Truvia to it and found it barely edible.
- Pump #1 (6:15am): 7oz
- Oatmeal eaten at 8:30am
- Pump #2 (11am): 6oz
- Pump #3 (3:30pm): 6oz
- Pump #4 (6:30pm): 3.5oz
TOTAL DAY 3: 22.5oz. A 1.5oz increase – awesome!
Day 4: Third Day of Oatmeal
My output from my second session of the day was huge here – that’s about what I usually get all day at work. I’m not sure what happened between 6:15 and 10:30!
- Pump #1 (6:15am): 6 oz
- Oatmeal eaten at 8:30am
- Pump #2 (10:30am): 9 oz Holy crap!
- Pump #3 (3:30pm): 4 oz
- Pump #4 (6:30pm): 3.5 oz
TOTAL DAY 4: 22.5 oz. Another 1.5 oz increase!
Day 5: Fourth and Last Day of Oatmeal
- Pump #1 (6:15am): 8 oz
- Oatmeal eaten at 8:15am
- Pump #2 (10:00am): 6.5 oz
- Pump #3 (2:30pm): 3.5 oz
- Pump #4 (6:30pm): 4 oz
TOTAL DAY 5: 22 oz. A 1 oz increase.
Experiment Results and Thoughts
I’m really happy with these results – getting an extra ounce of milk on the days that I had oatmeal on time for breakfast almost makes it worth eating oatmeal for breakfast.
Because this is far from the most scientific experiment ever done, it’s hard to know if what happened on Day 2 was just a normal supply fluctuation, or because timing matters and I ate the oatmeal later, or for some other reason. But more milk on three out of four days isn’t bad!
My takeaway from this is that if you could use an extra ounce of two when you pump, oatmeal is definitely worth a shot. Feel free to share your experiences with oatmeal and milk supply in the comments!
- Binns, Colin. “Ethical Challenges in Infant Feeding Research.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5295103/
- Bonyata, Kelly, IBCLC. “Oatmeal for increasing milk supply.” https://kellymom.com/bf/got-milk/supply-worries/oatmeal/