Foods to eat while breastfeeding

Following a healthy diet whilst breastfeeding needn’t be daunting. It’s just common sense! Lactation Consultant, Rebecca Agi, of Best Milk LA, explains.


Everyone and their mother probably has an opinion about what you should eat or not eat when you’re nursing: “Stay away from anything spicy, don’t eat garlic, eat garlic, avoid gassy foods, drink more water…” So to get to the bottom of it all, here is some useful information to help answer the age-old question: what foods are best for a nursing mother?

The best foods to eat while breastfeeding

The good news is that you don’t need to follow a special diet to provide quality milk for your tot. Nutrient-dense foods are key to maintaining overall good health, which is the goal. These foods help to ensure that you get enough folic acid, omega-3’s, calcium and iron. Now is not the time to stay away from flavorful foods – in fact, enjoying a variety of flavors exposes your tot to different tastes and may even help them accept a wider variety of foods later on.

  • dark leafy green vegetables
  • fresh fruit
  • lean protein
  • low-fat dairy
  • whole grains

Keep well hydrated when breastfeeding

There is also so much information out there about how much water you should be consuming. Drinking to satisfy thirst is generally enough for most women and contrary to popular belief, drinking more water does not increase milk supply and may even cause discomfort. However, many mothers report feeling extra thirsty when they nurse (due to the oxytocin release), so keeping a water bottle within arm’s reach is a good idea.

Calorie intake

And now the question you’ve all been waiting for: how many calories should a nursing mother consume? Many mothers are told to increase their caloric intake by 300-500 calories per day, especially since breastfeeding burns about 500 calories per day. However, these numbers vary from woman to woman depending on how often she’s breastfeeding, what her activity level is, and her nutritional status. For some women an additional 300-500 calories may be too much, while for others, it may not be enough. Healthy mothers who gain adequate weight throughout pregnancy typically need fewer extra calories since they are able to utilize body fat and other stores acquired during pregnancy.

Studies have shown that nursing mothers who consume between 1800-2200 calories per day consistently maintain an abundant milk supply. However, if you eat a variety of foods to satisfy your hunger and drink enough water to quench your thirst, counting calories is rarely necessary at this time. If you insist on counting calories, do not to go below 1800 per day.

There are no specific foods that a nursing mother must eat or avoid, but caffeine and alcohol intake should definitely be limited. An occasional cup of coffee is fine, but heavy caffeine consumption is not, because it can reduce the amount of iron in breastmilk and/or cause irritability in a newborn. The American Academy of Paediatrics discourages regular alcohol consumption but states that, “an occasional celebratory single, small alcoholic drink is acceptable, but breastfeeding should be avoided for 2 hours after the drink”, in order to minimize the alcohol concentration in the milk. There is no need to pump and dump after drinking alcohol; it does not speed up the elimination of alcohol from milk. Instead, time your celebratory drink carefully and breastfeed right before to maximize the time to the next feed.

Remember, there are no secrets here — good nutrition is important to help you maintain good health and provide you with the energy you need to produce milk and care for your newborn.


See more from Rebecca Agi @bestmilkla

Image by @jennymustard