Not sure what to eat or avoid while breastfeeding? These tips can help.
Not sure what to eat or avoid while breastfeeding? The good news is, there isn’t much! Your body does a great job of putting all your baby needs into your milk whether you pull into a drive through or create a meal from scratch.
After having a baby, you may be anxious to get back to your pre-baby weight. But if you’re breastfeeding, eating healthy and getting enough nutrients should be your primary focus.
It’s estimated that breastfeeding increases your energy needs by about 500 calories a day. You may not initially lose weight while breastfeeding if you eat as much as is recommended, but the good news is that after a few months, you’re likely to lose weight at a faster pace than mothers who don’t breastfeed even though you’re eating more.
“Moms often worry so much about what they eat and what to avoid while breastfeeding, but they should take comfort in how amazing their bodies are! When I counsel women on diet, I usually encourage them to eat well for themselves, as their body prioritizes the milk production first. Drink to thirst, choose whole foods as much as you can, and enjoy that morning cup of coffee or afternoon bar of chocolate.”
– Emily Hannaman, CLC, IBCLC, Baton Rouge Clinic Lactation Consultant
Keep the needs of your baby first by following these tips from our Lactation Consultant, Emily Hannaman, for healthier eating while breastfeeding:
- Choose whole over processed foods. You need more nutrients when breastfeeding for both you and your baby so eat mostly nutrient-dense whole foods instead of processed foods, which tend to contain empty calories. Good options include lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, dark leafy greens, whole grains (barley, oats, quinoa), healthy fats (avocados, eggs, cheese, olive oil, yogurt), nuts and seeds.
- Get enough of these nutrients. The amount of some nutrients in breast milk depends on what you eat – even moms with very poor diets will produce breastmilk with all the nutrients needed (the mother is the one that actually suffers before the baby). Some moms choose not to breastfeed because they never eat healthy, and therefore think formula is better than any milk they could make. I try to reassure moms their milk is almost always enough. To ensure your baby gets what he or she needs, consume enough of these vitamins and minerals: B vitamins (B1, B2, B6 and B12), vitamin A, vitamin D, choline, selenium and iodine. Continuing to take your pre-natal with a Vitamin D and Calcium supplement can help.
- Don’t skimp on these either. Your baby will get enough calcium, folate, iron, copper and zinc from your breast milk whether you consume enough of these nutrients or not. But if you don’t get enough from your diet, you will be deficient in these nutrients.
- Drink enough water. Your body needs more water than usual to meet the demands of milk production. If your milk production decreases or you feel thirsty, tired or faint, drink more water. The Office on Women’s Health recommends that breastfeeding women drink approximately 13 cups of fluid per day. Water intake is not correlated to milk production – in fact some women who over hydrate see a decrease in supply. I usually tell moms to drink to thirst.
- Don’t severely limit calories. Even though you may want to lose weight, your body needs the extra energy to meet the demands of breastfeeding. If you limit calories too much, it may affect your milk supply. In general, the average woman who is breastfeeding needs to consume an additional 450-500 calories per day on top of their normal daily intake.
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Date Last Reviewed: May 3, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN