You’ve just spent months considering what foods to eat while pregnant. Now onto the next phase: what is the best breastfeeding diet? Read on.
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.
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.
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.
In this article: 📝
- How can I make my breast milk more nutritious?
- What should I include in my breastfeeding diet?
- What foods to avoid while breastfeeding?
- How to lose weight while breastfeeding
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:
1. 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.
2. Eat enough
Add another 450 to 500 calories of healthy food per day to your pre-pregnancy diet.
3. Eat a balanced diet
Keep things colorful by ticking off healthy options from all the food groups.
What should I include in my breastfeeding diet?
Here’s a list of what to include:
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.
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 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.
Opt for whole grains rather than refined grains.
Think whole wheat breads, cereals, and pastas.
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?
What foods to avoid while breastfeeding?
While some foods are worth avoiding, you don’t have to follow a very strict diet for breastfeeding.
The good news is, the foods you had to stay away from during pregnancy are now back on the table.
Welcome news for sushi fans.
So what is on the no-go list? Let’s take a look:
Any food you suspect is causing an allergy
How do you know? Well, often by your baby’s poop.
If you suspect you know what kind of food is having this effect, cut it out and see if things get better.
It’s also a good idea to consult with your healthcare practitioner or a lactation specialist.
They may refer you to a dietician to help you get to the bottom of it.
Be aware though, true food allergies aren’t as common as the internet might have you think.
Many infants go through fussy phases, which some mamas mistakenly attribute to allergies.
Okay, so this one’s nuanced.
You can now drink a little more alcohol than you could while pregnant—one drink a day max—provided it’s out of your system by the time you breastfeed.
So wait at least two hours after that drink before your next feed.
Small amounts of caffeine can pass into your breast milk.
That doesn’t mean you have to stay away from caffeine completely, but definitely moderate your intake.
Stick to a limit of about two cups of coffee a day.
Foods that contain refined sugar and processed fat are often high in calories and low in nutrients.
They’re not a total no-go—it just may mean that you’re not getting the optimal nutrition you’re after.
How to lose weight while breastfeeding
Breastfeeding and weight loss have a complex relationship.
On the one hand, as you may have heard, breastfeeding appears to naturally aid weight loss.
But that effect may not be as large as is often advertised.
As this study tells us, exclusive breastfeeding for at least three months has a small impact on weight loss—about 3.2 pounds measured twelve months after your baby is born.
So does that mean a special weight-loss diet while breastfeeding can help you drop some extra pregnancy pounds?
That’s not ideal because you need the extra calories right now.
The best thing to do is eat a balanced diet full of foods you love and get some moderate exercise.
The bottom line? Different cultures, different preferences, different bodies.
There’s no one-size-fits-all here.
The best diet for breastfeeding is the one that leaves you feeling strong enough to take on the task of motherhood.