Breastfeeding Diet: 10 Food & Drink Tips for Breastfeeding Moms
At Diana Health we encourage you to breastfeed if it is right for you; however, we realize that sometimes circumstances do not allow a woman to breastfeed her baby. Whether you breastfeed your baby regularly, pump to give your baby breastmilk, or feed your baby with formula, remember that babies can be nourished in a variety of ways. Reach out to your healthcare provider, to us at Diana Health, or a lactation expert if you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding.
Many new moms just starting to breastfeed, often wonder: “What food and drinks can I have while breastfeeding? How will they impact my milk?”. Check out our 10 tips for breastfeeding moms on the food and beverages that will support your health and the health of your new baby while you breastfeed.
1. Stay hydrated
Adequate hydration is important for your milk supply! In fact, you may find that you’re thirstier than normal, so listen to your body as your level of thirst will guide you in knowing how much to drink. It’s always good to have a water bottle nearby when you’re breastfeeding. If your urine is light yellow, you’re probably getting enough fluid, but if it becomes darker yellow, it’s time to fill up your water bottle and enjoy a cool drink! If water feels boring to you, consider livening it up with a slice of lemon, cut strawberries or cucumbers, or try seltzer water. It’s important to avoid reaching for soda, juice, or other sugar-sweetened beverages, as frequent intake of these sugary beverages while you’re breastfeeding may negatively impact your baby’s brain development.
2. It’s okay to drink alcohol occasionally
You likely avoided alcohol while pregnant and may be eager to enjoy a glass of wine as a breastfeeding mom. Alcohol does pass into your breast milk, though, so it’s important to avoid drinking alcohol while breastfeeding and to wait at least 2 hours after you’ve finished an alcoholic drink to nurse your baby. Alcohol can also decrease your milk supply if consumed regularly. If you decide to drink alcohol while breastfeeding, limit your intake to a standard drink (5 oz of wine or 12 oz of beer) just a few times a week.
3. Enjoy your coffee
If you’re like many new moms, you enjoy a cup or two of caffeinated coffee to start your morning, especially if you were up during the night with your baby. While drinking beverages with caffeine while breastfeeding is fine for your baby, you should keep your intake to no more than 2 cups of coffee (about 200 mg of caffeine) each day. Excessive caffeine may cause your baby to be irritable or fussy.
4. Enjoy a variety of foods
Although there is no guarantee that your toddler won’t be “picky” with what they eat, you can give your child the best chance at being open to trying various foods if you eat a variety of foods while breastfeeding. What you eat impacts breastmilk taste and may influence your child’s taste preferences once they start eating solid foods.
5. Get enough calories
Now is not the time to go on a crash diet! As a breastfeeding mom, you likely need about 330-400 additional calories daily – though the specific number can vary greatly based upon the amount of breastmilk you’re producing, your weight, and your activity. Visit the USDA’s Dietary Reference Intakes for Healthcare Professionals to get a better estimate, and then talk to your midwife or physician if you have questions.
6. Nourish yourself with high-quality food
Nutritious foods not only give you vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and energy that support your physical health during this important time, but your baby will also receive these vitamins and minerals through your breastmilk. Try to choose whole foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans) or minimally processed foods and avoid ultra-processed foods such as candy, chips, pastries, and foods with a lot of added sugar. It’s also good to snack on whole foods! You may want to keep a fruit bowl filled with delicious fruits and some pre-cut vegetables in clear containers in your refrigerator at eye level, which will encourage you to choose these over junk food when you need a quick snack. It’s easy to reach for foods with added sugar, salt, and fat when you’re hungry, especially if you’re stressed or tired from being up during the night with your baby. Having healthy options handy can be just what you need to snack healthfully.
7. Consume foods & beverages that can help increase your milk supply, if needed
Drinking fenugreek tea or eating fenugreek seeds may increase your milk supply as they contain compounds that are similar to estrogen. Some women enjoy fenugreek tea while others prefer it as an ingredient in a snack. Fennel (vegetable, seeds, or tea) may also increase milk supply as it has estrogen-like compounds similar to fenugreek. Fennel and fenugreek are usually safe for breastfeeding women when used in moderation, as well as for most babies who drink breastmilk from moms using these. However, there are some potential risks that should be discussed with your healthcare provider before using them to increase milk supply. Pumpkin, brewer’s yeast, oatmeal, oat milk, sesame seeds, and garlic have been used by many breastfeeding moms to try to increase milk supply, though there is not strong evidence to support their use.
8. Prioritize protein
You need sustained energy throughout the day as a breastfeeding mom. Eating ultra-processed foods and refined carbohydrates (candy, chips, white rice, pastries, white bread) can lead to your blood sugar spiking, which means later it will come crashing down. Eating healthy sources of protein such as nuts, seeds, tofu, poultry, and seafood while avoiding ultra-processed foods, provides the energy you need while breastfeeding. Insufficient protein intake may also decrease milk production.
9. Eat healthy but don’t skip your vitamins
Although healthy eating is important, your midwife or OB-GYN will probably recommend continuing a prenatal vitamin or other vitamins such as iodine, choline, and/or vitamin B12 while you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding moms need more iodine and choline than moms who are not breastfeeding. Vitamin B12 supplements are especially important for women who are vegetarian or vegan. Iron deficiency is also associated with decreased milk supply and can be addressed with your healthcare provider. Talk to your healthcare provider to see what supplement regimen is best for you.
10. Continue to mindfully eat fish and seafood
If you are someone who enjoys fish and seafood, you were likely told to be especially mindful about the types and amounts of seafood you ate during pregnancy, due to mercury. Continued attention to the types and amounts you eat while breastfeeding is still important, as mercury can pass from you to your baby through breastmilk, and too much mercury harms the nervous system. The Centers for Disease Control has information on mercury that is helpful for breastfeeding moms.