Does beer increase milk supply?

Nursing mothers have been told for centuries that drinking beer increases breast milk production. 

Even patron saint of healthy mothering Gwyneth Paltrow took to beer as a new mother - sparking controversy when she was spotted sipping a Guinness while still breastfeeding her son Moses.

Here we lay out the truth about beer and breastfeeding, once and for all.

Yes, the polysaccharides found in barley (a key ingredient of beer) are known to stimulate prolactin secretion in nursing mothers, which increases breast milk production. 

But the alcohol present in beer actually decreases milk production, cancelling out the boosting effects of the barley.

Studies have also shown that babies fed from mothers drinking alcoholic beer consume about 20 percent less milk in a nursing session, but research is yet to confirm why.

It's been suggested that perhaps babies become too sleepy to continue feeding from the small amount of alcohol in the milk, or that the alcohol alters the taste of the milk.

For a mother with low supply, a baby extracting less milk for any reason hinders the most effective supply booster - as much time feeding as possible!

Here's the good news: Non-alcoholic beer still provides the polysaccharides to stimulate prolactin secretion.  The best choices are non-alcoholic stout or non-alcoholic milk stout, a type of dark beer with higher nutritional content that was traditionally given to mothers not producing enough milk.

Not buying the idea of non-alcoholic beer? Neither are we. Thankfully there is some evidence that barley consumed in soup or as a morning porridge is also beneficial for supply.

Ultimately, the most effective way to ensure a strong milk supply is frequent and effective removal of milk.

So keep on nursing as much as possible, and whip up a warming barley soup or comforting bowl of barley porridge if the mood strikes you.