Best Foods to Eat While Breastfeeding

In this article:
  • What foods should you eat while breastfeeding?
  • A list of the best foods to eat while breastfeeding.
  • List of foods that you may want to avoid while breastfeeding.
  • The impact of caffeine and alcohol on your body and breast milk.

If you are like most breastfeeding moms, you’re probably worried about how the food you eat will affect the quality of your breast milk. You may also be wondering whether you need to avoid certain foods in order to prevent allergies in your little one. Or perhaps you’d like to know what foods you need to eat more of to boost your milk supply.

If these are some of the questions going through your mind right now, you have come to the right place. We’ll cover everything you need to know about what foods to eat while breastfeeding. We’ll also highlight some of the foods you might want to avoid until you are ready to wean your little one.

Let’s get started!

What foods should you eat while breastfeeding?

Your pregnancy diet was rather complicated, wasn’t it? Remember all those cravings and aversions? Well, now that your little one is here, how should your diet change? Should it even change at all?

As a breastfeeding mom, you want to ensure that your diet has all the major food groups. Here is a list of some important food items that you should eat every day:

  • Protein-rich foods like eggs, fish, meat, chicken, beans, dairy, nuts, beans, and seeds at least two to three times daily.
  • Dark green or yellow vegetables at least three times a day.
  • At least one serving of fruit daily
  • Whole grains such as pasta, oatmeal, cereal, and whole-wheat bread as part of your regular diet
  • Lots of water because you need to hydrate!

While you are breastfeeding, you are no longer subject to the same dietary restrictions that you had during your pregnancy. You can also eat a vegetarian diet as long as you prioritize iron and zinc-rich foods like nuts, seeds, dry beans, and dairy. If you are on a vegan diet, take a B12 supplement to prevent your baby from getting B12 deficiency.

A list of the best foods to eat while breastfeeding

Here are some of the foods that every mom should add to her diet while breastfeeding:

  • Avocados: Avocados are very nutritious foods. This makes them great for nursing mamas. They have a fat content of almost 80% which means they can help you meet your caloric demands. They require zero prep time, allowing you to focus less on meal prep and more on caring for your little one. Avocados are rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, potassium, and folate.
  • Nuts: Nuts are little nutrient powerhouses. They are loaded with essential minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium. They are also rich in B vitamins and vitamin K. Additionally, most nuts have a high healthy fat content. A lot of cultures also view nuts as lactogenic foods. Almonds are especially popular in this regard and they are viewed as some of the best lactogenic foods in the world.
  • Leafy green vegetables: Vegetables are good for your health. Eating more of them is also a great way to establish healthy eating habits for both you and your baby. Leafy greens contain phytoestrogens that boost your milk supply. This is why they are thought to be great lactogenic foods.
  • Water: Breast milk is 80% water. Drinking more of it will help your body recover from the stress of pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation. It is also a great way to boost your energy.
  • Legumes: Examples of legumes are beans, chickpeas, peanuts, soybeans, peas, lentils, and lupins. They are a rich source of protein, minerals, vitamins, and phytoestrogens.

How much food should you eat?

You will need to increase the number of calories you consume during your breastfeeding journey. You will quickly shed the extra weight you gained during your pregnancy as the extra calories get utilized in milk production. If you've lost all your baby weight, you may need to eat an extra 500-600 calories each day. After your baby starts eating solid foods at 6 months, your body will produce less milk and you can cut back on your calorie intake.

What shouldn’t you eat?

The good news is that apart from reducing how much oily fish you eat, there are no specific foods to avoid when nursing your child.

Certain foods have historically gotten a bad rap when it comes to breastfeeding diets. For example, caffeine and alcohol are actually OK in moderation. You just need to know how much you can take and when you can take it. We explain this more in the next section.

There is also no need to avoid foods like peanuts or peanut-based foods when nursing unless you are allergic to peanuts. In fact, a new study reveals that if you eat peanuts while nursing and introduce them to your baby's diet during the first year, they will be less likely to become allergic to them.

Caffeine and Alcohol

Caffeine gets passed to your breast milk but most newborns are unaffected by it. If you notice that your little one is having trouble sleeping or is cranky, they may be sensitive to it. Therefore, consider restricting or avoiding coffee for a few months, Newborns are more sensitive to caffeine in breast milk than older babies.

Caffeine limits are officially recommended differently in each country, however, most advocate no more than 200 to 300 mg (0.007 to 0.01 ounce) of caffeine per day (300 mg is equivalent to two mugs of filtered coffee or four mugs of tea). Consult your healthcare provider about what is best for you. Caffeine may also be found in colas and energy drinks, and a tiny bar of plain chocolate can contain up to 50 mg (0.002 oz).

If you want to consume alcohol, wait 2-3 hours between servings (12 oz. beer, 6 oz. wine, 1.5 oz. liquor) before nursing or pumping. Studies show that alcohol does not stay in breast milk for long. It is removed as your blood alcohol level goes down. When you are sober, the alcohol in your milk is gone. If you're feeling tipsy and your breasts are full, you may need to “pump and dump.”

That said, many nursing mothers prefer to abstain from alcohol completely while breastfeeding. While studies have not found any negative impact of occasional mild drinking during nursing on newborns, it may be smart to simply avoid alcohol until your baby is at least 3 months old. Even then, only consume it as a treat, such as a modest (125 ml/4.2 fl oz) glass of wine.

Again, if you do consume alcohol, wait at least a couple of hours before your next breastfeeding session to allow the alcohol to pass through your system. Also, note that alcohol can temporarily lower your milk yield, so if you take a drink, your baby may appear hungry and want to nurse more.

List of foods that you may want to avoid while breastfeeding

Apart from caffeine and alcohol, here is a list of other foods that you may have to eat in moderation as you breastfeed your little one. Keep in mind that none of these foods are outright bad for you or your little one. You just need to understand how best to consume them so they do not have a negative effect on your little one.

  • Fish. Fish is a rich source of protein. Some, such as salmon and tuna, also have omega-3 fatty acids. You can have cooked seafood twice per week while breastfeeding. Each serving can be up to 6 ounces. Go for fish types that are lower in mercury such as salmon, tilapia, and trout. Avoid high-mercury seafood such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.
  • Eggs, peanuts, and nuts. What if you aren't allergic and wish to prevent your little one from developing those allergies? Well, there is no evidence that you can do so by avoiding certain meals. Eliminating some items from your diet may only reduce the likelihood of your child developing eczema. Consult your doctor or a pediatrician for guidance.
  • Spicy foods. Do you enjoy spicy foods? Most babies can handle a bit of spice in their breast milk. However, if your child gets gassy or colicky or gets diarrhea every time you get a little adventurous with your spices, reduce the heat for a few weeks to see if it helps.
  • Gassy foods. Beans, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are common gassy foods. You may notice your little one burping more, bloating, and passing gas after you eat these foods. These are all common reactions. However, if your baby is too gassy or has colic, you should avoid these foods for a few weeks to see whether they ease the symptoms.
  • Tea. As delightful as a cup of tea may seem, it does have some drawbacks. It contains caffeine, which in large amounts might interfere with your sleep and that of your baby. It may also make it more difficult for your body to absorb iron, which it needs for energy. Also, if you drink hot or iced tea, avoid sipping it while eating iron-rich foods like lean meat, dark, leafy greens, and fortified morning cereals.

Final Thoughts

As a nursing mother, there isn't a single time when your body isn't actively producing milk for your child. Many nursing mothers describe feeling continually hungry, which is due to the number of calories necessary to produce each ounce of milk. It's critical to eat nutrient-dense meals that help your body replenish these calories.

That said, there are certain foods that are better for you than others. With the guide above, we hope adding these beneficial foods to your diet will be easy for you. Be sure to also listen to our podcast on food and cooking tips for breastfeeding moms. Good luck!