The hows, the whens, and the what ifs of breastfeeding can be a lot to get your head around. Finding the perfect breastfeeding diet to keep you and your baby healthy is part of this beautiful (sometimes daunting) ride.
Both the WHO and the CDC recommend you breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of your baby’s life. Breastfeeding helps your baby avoid illness and gives them the nutrition they need, and it lowers your risk of various cancers, diabetes and blood pressure conditions. All around, it’s highly beneficial for everyone.
(Of course, there are so many reasons why breastfeeding might not be an option—such as health conditions and supply challenges. If you are having trouble breastfeeding, chat with your healthcare provider. There’s also a supportive community on Peanut that can help you navigate this time.)
With all that in mind, let’s jump into what to eat (and not eat) while breastfeeding.
What to eat while breastfeeding FAQs
First things first, there’s no one breastfeeding diet plan. Provided you get the nutrition you need and avoid foods that might make you sick, you can decorate your plate in whatever way you wish.
Let’s dive in.
How can I make my breast milk more nutritious?
Here’s the miracle of all of it—you really don’t need to eat a special breastfeeding diet. Your body is really good at providing nutrition for your baby without you doing very much at all. The best foods to eat while breastfeeding are the ones that keep your nutrients up so that you don’t feel depleted.
These are some golden rules:
- Eat regularly. This is not the time to skip meals—which may be easier said than done when you’re juggling an overflowing calendar. Having pre-packed snacks ready to go when you need them can really help.
- Eat enough. Add another 450 to 500 calories of healthy food per day to your pre-pregnancy diet.
- Eat a balanced diet. Keep things colorful by ticking off healthy options from all the food groups.
Here’s a list of what to include:
Protein: Think about two to three servings a day. Lean meat, poultry, and eggs are all good options. As are dairy products, nuts, beans and legumes, and certain vegetables like brussel sprouts, potatoes, corn and asparagus.
Fish deserves a special mention because it contains omega-3 fatty acids that are vital for your baby’s brain development.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, there are many ways to keep up your protein intake. The vitamins and minerals to focus on are iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. Talk to your doctor about whether supplements may benefit you.
Vegetables: Load your plate with leafy greens like spinach, kale, and swiss chard. They’re filled with vitamins A, B, C and K and minerals like calcium, iron and potassium—all of which are vital for keeping you in good health.
Yellow vegetables are also particularly beneficial—corn, squash, yellow peppers, and golden beets all pack a mighty nutrient punch.
One thing to be careful of? Gas. It’s real. And can be caused by vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.
Fruit: Fruit has all sorts of benefits. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals—and the fiber you need to help you keep regular at this challenging time for your bowels. Aim for about two servings a day.
Whole grains: Opt for whole grains rather than refined grains. Think whole wheat breads, cereals, and pastas.
Water: Some mamas find they are extra thirsty when breastfeeding, so keep the water bottle filled and nearby. One thing to be aware of though—drinking lots of fluids won’t make you produce more milk. Regardless, it’s good to keep hydrated.
And then, what food should you stay away from?
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