The Best Foods to Eat While Breastfeeding

Although you are no longer pregnant, you should still focus on eating nutritious foods that will help to nourish both you and your little one. Here are the best foods to include in your diet while breastfeeding.

As a breastfeeding mom, it is normal to be concerned about whether or not your baby is getting all of the proper nutrients they need for a healthy development. However, there is no need to stress! Your breast milk will naturally contain almost all of the vitamins and nutrients your little one needs to be healthy and grow. While you are no longer pregnant, your baby is still relying on you as their source of nutrition. So although you can wave goodbye to your strict pregnancy diet, you should still aim to eat as much nutrient-dense foods as possible. Here is everything you need to know about how to properly fuel your body while breastfeeding.

The decision to breastfeed is a personal choice with a lot of elements to consider. There are many known benefits to breastfeeding your baby, both for you and your baby’s health. A few of the key benefits include:

  • Forming a connecting between you and your baby
  • Breast milk is usually easier for your baby to digest
  • Lowers the risk of asthma
  • Boosts their immunity system from the shared antibodies
  • Reduces the risk of developing diseases such as ear infections or diabetes
  • Reduces the risk of developing postpartum depression

Ultimately, you should decide what is best for you and your baby. To learn more about formula-feeding for your baby, visit our blog post here.

The Breastfeeding Diet

The breastfeeding diet will be very similar to your pregnancy diet. Except, the good news is, you will finally be able to welcome back mostly all of the foods you had to avoid during your pregnancy. When switching over to your breastfeeding diet, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you will need to provide your body with an excess amount of vitamins and nutrients. In a way, you are still eating for two, so make sure you are giving your body what it needs for the health of you and your baby.

According to the NIH, breast milk is made up of 87% water, 3.8% fat, 1.0% protein, 7.0% carbohydrates. However, unlike with formula, the exact composition of your breast milk will vary. Breast milk is very dynamic and your body will adapt to produce what your baby needs for a healthy development. When you first start to breastfeed, the milk, also known as “foremilk” that you are feeding your baby will be more watery and lower in fat content. The “hindmilk” that follows after is thicker and higher in fat content. The transition from foremilk to hindmilk will happen naturally and gradually. There is no need to be concerned whether or not your baby is getting the right balance of milk. By continuing to breastfeed, your body will naturally adapt to give your baby exactly what they need.

Best Foods to Eat

The key to a successful breastfeeding diet is eating nutrient-dense foods to help replenish your body and keep you and your baby healthy. The best thing you can do for your little one is to focus on prioritizing your health through food and balanced nutrition. Here is a list of foods to include in your diet as you breastfeed.

  • Fish and Seafood: salmon, seaweed, shellfish, sardines
  • Meat and Poultry: chicken, beef, lamb, pork, liver
  • Fruits and Veggies: berries, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, kale, garlic
  • Nuts and Seeds: almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax
  • Healthy Fats: avocado, olive oil, coconut, eggs, yogurt
  • Fiber-Rich Starches: potatoes, butternut squash, quinoa, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils
  • Other: tofu, dark chocolate, kimchi, sauerkraut

Just from breastfeeding alone, your body will burn an additional 300-500 calories. While you should not concern yourself with tracking calories or macronutrients, you should be mindful of your body's extra nutritional needs at this time. Nursing mothers should try to maintain a regular eating schedule to ensure that you are getting enough food to support your body during this time. Keeping quick, healthy snacks and meals around the house will make it easier for you to eat the right food as you manage your new busy schedule. Some ideas for foods to have in your kitchen include:

  • Oatmeal topped with berries and nut butter
  • Veggies and dip (hummus or cottage cheese)
  • Low-fat yogurt and granola
  • Trail mix
  • Dark chocolate

Although your body will naturally produce milk that contains everything your little one needs to have a healthy development, you will want to make sure that you are not depleting your body of the vitamins you personally need. Consider taking supplements for vitamins A, C, D, and E, vitamin B-12, Selenium, and Zinc but be cautious of which brand of supplement you choose to take as some may contain chemicals or additives that may not be safe to consume while breastfeeding. If you are considering taking supplements to help boost your body’s vitamin supply, you should consult with your doctor for their specific recommendation.

As a general guide, you should try to include these macronutrient food groups into your diet on a daily basis. This way, you can ensure that you are eating a well-balanced, healthy variety of food.

  • Protein: 2-3 servings
  • Calcium: 5 servings; breastfeeding will draw from your body’s personal calcium reserves the most so it is important to increase the amount of calcium you are feeding your body when breastfeeding
  • Vegetables: 3 servings
  • Fruit: 2 servings
  • Whole Grains: 2-3 servings

Other Things to Consider for the Breastfeeding Diet

Drink Water

Although it will not help to increase your supply of milk, you may find that when breastfeeding you become extra thirsty. Make sure to stay well-hydrated by drinking an average of 128 oz. of water per day.

Speciality Diets

If you follow a special diet, such as vegetarian or vegan, try to still get enough protein, iron, and zinc into your diet with foods like beans, nuts, and seeds. You may want to consider taking extra vitamin B-12 supplements to help support your body with this vitamin intake.

Organic Foods

When possible, you should try to buy and eat organic foods - especially when consuming meat and dairy products. A lot of non-organic meat and dairy products can include antibiotics and growth hormones that you should try to avoid while breastfeeding your baby.

Processed Foods

As a breastfeeding mom, you deserve to enjoy some of your favorite treats! However, you should try to avoid eating too many processed foods and stick to eating a majority of nutrient-dense foods that will boost you and your baby’s health. But do not stress about being perfect with your diet and trust that your body will naturally take care of itself and your little one.

Lactation Foods

The best way to boost your milk production is by eating a high number of calories throughout your day. However, there are some specific foods that are said to help increase your lactation. Oatmeal, fennel, or fenugreek seeds are just a few examples of foods known to help with milk production levels. There are also many yummy foods you can make yourself like these lactation chocolate chip cookies that are packed full of ingredients to help increase your lactation level (while also being a delicious treat!)

Foods to Avoid

For over nine months, you have avoided deli meat, sushi, and unpasteurized cheese to keep your baby safe and healthy. It is normal to think that there is a long list of foods you will have to continue avoiding during breastfeeding but good news! There really is not any food you cannot eat. The key is to eat everything in moderation for a well-balanced diet. However, there are a few foods you may consider cutting back on to help keep milk production levels up and to ensure your baby is as happy and healthy as can be.

  • High Mercury Fish

DHA (DocosaHexaenoic Acid) is an important omega 3 fatty acid needed for your baby’s brain development. You can boost the levels of DHA in your milk with fish like salmon, bluefish, bass, tuna, flounder, and trout. However, you should avoid tilefish, swordfish, shark, and king mackerel as they contain high levels of mercury which can be dangerous for both you and your baby.

  • Alcohol

After drinking 1 standard serving of alcohol, you should wait at least 2-3 hours after drinking before you breastfeed or pump. The alcohol content will not stay in your milk as it naturally removes itself when it leaves your bloodstream. However, if you are feeling the effects of the alcohol, but your breasts are full, you may need to “pump and dump.”

  • Caffeine

Unlike alcohol, caffeine does not leave your milk after consuming it. However, babies are likely to be unaffected by it. If you find that your baby is irritable or not sleeping well, you may need to consider cutting back the amount of caffeine you are drinking. It is recommended to drink no more than 300 milligrams per day (this equals about three 8 oz. cups of coffee.) Newborns are more sensitive to caffeine so as your little one grows older, you should be able to increase the amount of caffeine you have per day.

  • Peppermint, Parsley, and Sage

These three herbs are known as “antigalactagogues” meaning they can decrease your breast milk production if eaten in large doses. A cup of peppermint tea or sage-roasted chicken will not be enough to have much of an effect on your breast milk production levels. However, if you do notice a significant decrease in milk production, you might consider avoiding these three herbs until you are done breastfeeding.

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All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  If your infant has severe eczema, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.