Breastfeeding Nutrition: Tips for Moms

by Ella

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and essential aspect of motherhood, providing numerous health benefits to both the mother and the baby. As a breastfeeding mother, ensuring that you maintain a healthy and balanced diet is crucial for supporting your baby’s growth and development while replenishing your own nutrient stores. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on what to eat when breastfeeding, exploring the key nutrients needed, foods to focus on, and dietary considerations to support a successful breastfeeding journey.

The Importance of Proper Nutrition during Breastfeeding:

Breastfeeding requires extra energy and nutrients to support both the production of breast milk and the overall well-being of the mother. A well-balanced diet helps ensure that the breast milk is rich in essential nutrients, providing optimal nourishment for the baby’s growth and immune system. Additionally, maintaining proper nutrition can help the mother recover from childbirth, boost energy levels, and support emotional well-being.


Key Nutrients for Breastfeeding Mothers:

a. Protein: Protein is essential for the production of breast milk and is crucial for the baby’s growth and development. Include sources of lean protein such as poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds in your diet.


b. Calcium: Calcium is vital for bone health, and breastfeeding mothers need to maintain their calcium intake to support both their own and their baby’s bones. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified plant-based milk.


c. Iron: Iron is necessary for energy and blood production. Breastfeeding mothers should include iron-rich foods like lean red meat, fortified cereals, beans, and spinach in their diet.


d. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in the baby’s brain and eye development. Incorporate fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts into your diet to boost omega-3 intake.

e. Vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and bone health. Exposure to sunlight and consuming vitamin D-fortified foods, such as certain dairy products and cereals, can help meet the recommended intake.

f. Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is important for the baby’s brain development and is found in animal products such as meat, fish, and dairy.

What to eat while breastfeeding:

a. Whole Grains: Opt for whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole wheat bread to provide sustained energy and essential nutrients.

b. Fruits and Vegetables: Incorporate a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to obtain a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These can also add natural sweetness to your diet.

c. Healthy Fats: Include sources of healthy fats, such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts, to support brain development and overall health.

d. Lean Proteins: Choose lean protein sources like poultry, fish, legumes, and tofu to meet the increased protein needs during breastfeeding.

e. Dairy or Dairy Alternatives: Dairy products or fortified plant-based milk provide calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients.

What not to eat while breastfeeding:

While breastfeeding, it’s essential for mothers to maintain a healthy and balanced diet to provide optimal nutrition for themselves and their baby. Some foods and substances should be consumed in moderation or avoided altogether to ensure the well-being of both the mother and the breastfeeding baby. Here are some things to avoid or limit while breastfeeding:

a. Caffeine: High amounts of caffeine can pass into breast milk and may make the baby fussy or disrupt their sleep patterns. Limiting caffeine intake from coffee, tea, and other sources is advisable.

b. Alcohol: Alcohol can also pass into breast milk and may affect the baby’s development and sleep. It’s best to avoid alcohol while breastfeeding, or if consumed, wait a few hours before nursing.

c. Tobacco and Nicotine: Smoking or using tobacco products can pass harmful substances into breast milk and pose health risks to the baby. It’s best to quit smoking or avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.

d. Fish High in Mercury: Certain fish, such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish, are high in mercury, which can be harmful to the baby’s developing nervous system. Limit consumption of these fish and opt for low-mercury options like salmon and sardines.

e. Allergenic Foods: If the baby shows signs of sensitivity or allergy to certain foods through breast milk, the mother may need to avoid allergenic foods like nuts, dairy, soy, eggs, and wheat. However, consult with a healthcare professional before eliminating these foods from the diet.

f. Gas-Inducing Foods: Some babies may be sensitive to gas-producing foods in their mother’s diet, such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, and onions. Reducing the intake of these foods can help alleviate potential discomfort in the baby.

g. Spicy and Strongly Flavored Foods: Some babies may be sensitive to strong flavors or spices that pass into breast milk. It’s a good idea to avoid heavily spiced or strongly flavored foods if the baby shows signs of discomfort or fussiness after breastfeeding.

h. Excessive Sugar and Processed Foods: A diet high in sugary and processed foods may not provide adequate nutrition for the mother or the baby. Aim for a well-balanced diet rich in whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

i. Certain Herbal Supplements: Some herbal supplements and remedies may not be safe for breastfeeding. Always consult with a healthcare professional before taking any herbal supplements while breastfeeding.

j. Medications: Some medications may not be safe while breastfeeding, so it’s crucial for breastfeeding mothers to check with their healthcare provider before taking any medications, including over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements.

Dietary Considerations for Breastfeeding:

a. Caloric Intake: Breastfeeding requires additional calories to support milk production, usually around 300-500 extra calories per day. However, individual calorie needs may vary, so listen to your body’s hunger cues.

b. Avoid Restrictive Diets: While breastfeeding, avoid strict diets or extreme calorie restrictions, as they may negatively impact milk production and your overall health.

c. Caffeine and Alcohol: Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption while breastfeeding. Excessive caffeine intake can lead to fussiness in the baby, and alcohol can pass into breast milk and affect the baby’s development.

d. Food Allergens: If you suspect that certain foods may be causing discomfort or allergies in your baby, speak with a healthcare professional or a lactation consultant to identify potential triggers.

Caffeine and breastfeeding

Caffeine can reach your baby through your breast milk. Caffeine is a stimulant, so if you have a lot, it may make your baby restless and keep them awake.

Caffeine occurs naturally in lots of foods and drinks, including coffee, tea and chocolate. It’s also added to some soft drinks and energy drinks, as well as some cold and flu remedies.

There’s not enough information to say how much caffeine is too much, and babies respond to caffeine differently. But it’s a good idea to reduce how much caffeine you drink, especially when your baby is less than 6 months old.

If you’re breastfeeding, it’s recommended that you have no more than 200mg a day. This may include 1 mug, 1 can or 1 bar of:

a. instant coffee (100mg)

b. filter coffee (140mg)

c. tea (including green tea, which can have the same amount of caffeine as regular tea) (75mg)

d. cola (40mg)

e. energy drink (a 250ml can is 80mg)

f. plain dark chocolate (a 50g bar is less than 25mg)

g. plain milk chocolate (a 50g bar is less than 10mg)

h. You could also try herbal teas, 100% fruit juice (but no more than one 150ml glass per day) or mineral water.

Healthy snack ideas for breastfeeding mums

The following snacks are quick and simple to make, and will give you energy and strength:

fresh fruit

a. sandwiches filled with salad, grated cheese, mashed salmon or cold meat

b. yoghurts and fromage frais

c. hummus with bread or vegetable sticks

d. ready-to-eat dried apricots, figs or prunes

e. vegetable and bean soups

f. fortified unsweetened breakfast cereals, muesli and other wholegrain cereals with milk

g. milky drinks or a 150ml glass of 100% unsweetened fruit juice

h. baked beans on toast or a baked potato

Allergies in baby

In rare cases a breastfeeding baby may develop a food allergy to foods the mother is eating. The most common symptoms are green, mucus-like and blood-specked stools. Colic and reflux are not usually caused by food allergies.

The most common foods that cause allergies are dairy products, soy products, wheat and eggs. Less common foods that cause allergies include fish, nuts, peanuts or corn. A baby could develop an allergy to any food you eat.

Keeping a food diary of symptoms along with what you eat might help you know which foods are causing the problem. As long as your baby is gaining weight and not anemic, the allergy is not going to cause any long-term problems. You do not need to stop breastfeeding.

Removing the suspected foods from your diet by carefully reading all food labels should solve the problem but it may take 4-6 weeks for the infant’s symptoms to resolve. A visit with a registered dietitian experienced with food allergies may help you plan your diet.

Breastfeeding and weight loss

You might be tempted to lose weight quickly after delivery, but weight loss takes time and it’s important to be kind to your body during this transition.

With the many hormonal changes that take place during breastfeeding and the calorie demands of making breast milk, you may have a bigger appetite during breastfeeding.

Restricting calories too much, especially during the first few months of breastfeeding, may decrease your milk supply and much-needed energy levels.

Fortunately, breastfeeding alone has been shownTrusted Source to promote weight loss, especially when continued for 6 months or longer. (That said, losing weight during breastfeeding doesn’t happen for everyone!)

Losing approximately 1.1 pounds (0.5 kilograms) per weekTrusted Source through a combination of a healthy diet and exercise should not affect your milk supply or milk composition, assuming that you are not undernourished to begin with.

All breastfeeding women, no matter their weight, should consume adequate calories. But if you’re underweight, it’s likely that you’ll be more sensitive to calorie restriction.

For this reason, it’s essential that women with less body weight consume more calories to avoid a reduction in milk supply.

All in all, remember that losing weight after delivery is a marathon, not a sprint. It took months to put on the weight for a healthy pregnancy for both you and your baby, and it may take you months to lose it — and that’s okay.

The most important thing to remember when trying to lose pregnancy weight is that restrictive diets are not good for overall health and don’t work for long-term weight loss.

Following a nutritious diet, adding exercise into your daily routine, and getting enough sleep are the best ways to promote healthy weight loss.

FAQs About Breastfeeding

Q1. Do I need extra calories while breastfeeding?

Yes, you might need to eat a little more — about an additional 330 to 400 calories a day — to give you the energy and nutrition to produce milk.

To get these extra calories, opt for nutrient-rich choices, such as a slice of whole-grain bread with a tablespoon (about 16 grams) of peanut butter, a medium banana or apple, and 8 ounces (about 227 grams) of yogurt.

Q2. How much fluid do I need while breastfeeding?

Drink when you are thirsty, and drink more if your urine appears dark yellow. You might drink a glass of water or another beverage every time you breastfeed.

Be wary of juices and sugary drinks, however. Too much sugar can contribute to weight gain — or sabotage your efforts to lose pregnancy weight. Too much caffeine can be troublesome, too. Limit yourself to no more than 2 to 3 cups (16 to 24 ounces) of caffeinated drinks a day. Caffeine in your breast milk might agitate your baby or interfere with your baby’s sleep.

Q3. What about a vegetarian diet and breastfeeding?

If you follow a vegetarian diet, it’s especially important to choose foods that’ll give you the nutrients you need. For example:

Choose foods rich in iron, protein and calcium. Good sources of iron include lentils, enriched cereals, leafy green vegetables, peas, and dried fruit, such as raisins. To help your body absorb iron, eat iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits.

For protein, consider plant sources, such as soy products and meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Eggs and dairy are other options.

Good sources of calcium include dairy products and dark green vegetables. Other options include calcium-enriched and -fortified products, such as juices, cereals, soy milk, soy yogurt and tofu.

Consider supplements. Your health care provider will likely recommend a daily vitamin B-12 supplement. Vitamin B-12 is found almost exclusively in animal products, so it’s difficult to get enough in vegetarian diets. If you don’t eat fish, you might consider talking to your health care provider about taking an omega-3 supplement.

If you don’t eat enough vitamin D-fortified foods — such as cow’s milk and some cereals — and you have limited sun exposure, you might need vitamin D supplements. Your baby needs vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorus. Too little vitamin D can cause rickets, a softening and weakening of bones. Tell your doctor and your baby’s doctor if you’re also giving your baby a vitamin D supplement.

Q4. Could my diet cause my baby to be fussy or have an allergic reaction?

Certain foods or drinks in your diet could cause your baby to become irritable or have an allergic reaction. If your baby becomes fussy or develops a rash, diarrhea or wheezing soon after nursing, consult your baby’s health care provider.

If you suspect that something in your diet might be affecting your baby, avoid the food or drink for up to a week to see if it makes a difference in your baby’s behavior. Avoiding certain foods, such as garlic, onions or cabbage, might help.

Q5. Can I diet during breastfeeding?

It’s not a good idea to try to lose lots of weight while breastfeeding – you need to make sure you’re getting the nutrients that you and your baby need. The fat you gain in pregnancy is used to make breast milk, so breastfeeding will help you to lose any weight you’ve put on.

If you notice your weight creeping up or dropping by more than around 1 kg (2.2 lb) a week, ask yourself if you’re getting a healthy, balanced diet, adjust it if you need to, and talk to your healthcare professional if you want more advice.


Proper nutrition plays a pivotal role in supporting breastfeeding mothers and their babies. A well-balanced diet that includes essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins is crucial for optimal breast milk production and the baby’s growth and development. Focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods, stay well-hydrated, and avoid restrictive diets. Listen to your body’s hunger cues and adapt your diet as needed. If you have any dietary concerns or questions, consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian who specializes in maternal nutrition and breastfeeding support. By prioritizing your nutrition and well-being, you can provide the best possible start for your baby and ensure a successful and fulfilling breastfeeding journey.



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