You were so careful about what you ate (or didn’t eat) while you were pregnant. If you’re breastfeeding your baby, it’s not time to relax your vigilance yet. What you eat is what your baby eats, so it’s important that you’re putting good nutrition into your body and supports both of you. So let’s talk about the Breastfeeding diet.
No, I don’t mean diet as in losing weight. While breastfeeding can definitely help you lose that baby weight, I don’t think this is the time to be going on a big diet. It’s just SO important to get all the nutrients you and your baby need right now. So diet in this case is simply the foods and drinks you need (or don’t need) to support healthy milk production.
When I was breastfeeding, I had a low milk supply and I got really serious about what I was eating. Thankfully, I was able to increase my supply by changing my diet. For example, did you know that oatmeal is great for increasing milk? Well, at least it was for me!
So let’s talk about what you can eat to support your breastfeeding experience and quality milk production.
Your Breastfeeding Diet: What to Eat
It is very important for a breastfeeding mother to have a healthy and balanced diet. A variety of foods are required during this period including:
- Lots of vegetables and fruits. Aim for five veggie/fruit portions a day. And, let’s be honest, this is what we’re supposed to be eating whether or not we’re breastfeeding. Avocados are a breastfeeding superfood, loaded with potassium, fiber, and antioxidants. A lot of fruits can cause milk supply issues, but good ones are apples, bananas, blueberries, and pears.
- Carbs are okay. Starch-rich foods such as bread, pasta, potatoes, pulses and rice will provide energy. Go for complex carbohydrates whenever possible. I particularly recommend oatmeal — it’ll help you produce milk, provides iron and fiber, and it’ll keep the hungries at bay.
- Foods such as whole wheat bread, vegetables, cereals, and pastas will provide fiber. New moms occasionally experience bowel problems after childbirth, so daily fiber can help a lot. I recommend quinoa, as it is a great source of protein, fiber, and it has a low-glycemic index to boot!
- Proteins such as lean meat, fish, and poultry. Need a meet alternative? Try beans! Lots of protein, fiber, and no, it won’t give your baby gas.
- Try and get two portions of fish per week (including some oily fish). Do not exceed two portions of oily fish per week. I think salmon is a great fish for breastfeeding moms thanks to its high protein, Omega 3 and Vitamin D, and low fat.
- Dairies such as cheese, milk and yogurt are an excellent source of calcium and should be included in a breastfeeding mother’s diet. Yogurt in particularly will give you extra protein and probiotics.
- Be sure to get eggs into your breastfeeding diet. They are a quick protein boost, filled with good fats, and that all important folic acid.
- Some doctors advise taking vitamin supplements such as Vitamin D (10 mcg per day). Your doctor will be able to advise which supplements will be right for you. And keep taking that prenatal vitamin daily.
- Water, water, water! You need lots of water to produce lots of breastmilk Aim for eight glasses of water a day.
Your Breastfeeding Diet: What to Avoid
In addition to the foods that you should eat above there are certain food types that you should steer clear of at this time. As above you should restrict your intake of oily fish to two portions per week but you should also avoid eating more than one portion of swordfish, marlin, or shark per week as these fish contain high levels of mercury.
You should also be careful with your intake of caffeine and alcohol. I left these out altogether, though I think this is a personal choice and there’s some debate on how much caffeine and alcohol is passed on via breastmilk. One thing to note is both will reduce your hydration level, and that in itself is a good reason to pass on them while nursing. If you’re ready for that glass of wine, nurse first, then drink afterward.
Some doctors believe that it is wise to avoid peanuts during this stage as well. Approximately 2% of the population is allergic to peanuts, and you don’t yet know if your baby is among them. That said, your baby may have a higher chance of being allergic if the mother/father/brothers/sisters have problems such as asthma, eczema, or hayfever. If you believe your baby may be at risk due to these factors it is worth consulting your doctor.
Some foods can deplete your milk supply or just cause discomfort in those early weeks of breastfeeding. Generally, you’ll want to avoid apricots, berries, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, garlic, grapes, lemon juice, lentils, lettuce, mangoes, melons, nectarines, oranges, pineapple, peaches, peas, peppers, plums, radishes, raw onion, stone fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, and turnips.
I also recommend you avoid Sweet ‘n Low, also known as saccharine. If you need a sugar substitute, try stevia, Splenda, Nutrasweet, or agave.
And there we go! Good food for you and your baby’s bodies.
Hugs and kisses,