Dietary Guidelines for Breastfeeding: The Best Nutrition for Nursing Moms

You are no longer pregnant, but as a nursing parent, you still desire foods that nourish you and your child. Following our Dietary Guidelines for Breastfeeding, you’ll discover a guide on the healthiest breastfeeding diet to support both you and your little one.

The good news for nursing moms is that a perfect diet is not required to produce nutrient-rich breast milk. But, it is still crucial to fuel your body with nutritious, varied foods after giving birth.

Making all that milk requires additional calories; breastfeeding parents require between 330-400 additional calories per day, the same amount as when pregnant. In addition, your still-healing body needs to be hydrated and well-nourished, so continue reading to learn more about the optimal nursing diet for parents and infants.

Diet While Breastfeeding

There is no “one-size-fits-all” breastfeeding diet. However there are some general guidelines to follow while choosing food.

Balance your diet by following MyPlate.

Following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate recommendations guarantees that you consume an adequate number of nutritious foods. MyPlate replaced the food pyramid, although it still includes foods from the five fundamental dietary groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and protein foods (such as meat, poultry, fish, nuts, eggs, and/or beans). Sweets and oils should be used sparingly.

Keep a regular mealtime routine.

Also, nursing parents should adhere to a regular eating schedule. Never skip meals, regardless of how busy your schedule is. Breakfast may appear to be the only meal for which you have no time, but there are a few quick and healthy options:

  • Add berries to your cereal or oatmeal.
  • Put chopped vegetables into a normal cream cheese bagel.
  • Add dried fruit and oats to fat-free yogurt.
  • As for dinner, consider preparing nutritious dishes in quantity and freezing the leftovers for later use (think vegetable lasagnas and soups).

Consume snacks throughout the day.

With a breastfeeding diet, snacks are just as vital as meals for maintaining energy levels. Including the following healthful, convenient, and prepared foods in your pantry:

  • Cereals with a high fiber content.
  • Low-sugar instant oatmeal.
  • Microwaveable vegetables
  • Sugar-free yogurt, bananas.
  • Low-calorie popcorn

Another smart tip is to keep smoothie ingredients on hand so you can whip up a nutritious and full snack. You may also choose to store food items in the nursery. Foods that don’t require two hands to eat include apples, granola or protein bars, and squeezable yogurt packets.

What to Eat While Breastfeeding

Like throughout pregnancy, a balanced diet should give you the essentials for fueling your body to produce breast milk. However, there are some nutrients you want to ensure you’re getting when breastfeeding as well.

Folic acid

This mineral is essential for preventing birth abnormalities during the first trimester of pregnancy, and its growth-promoting effects continue until infancy. Folic acid is also beneficial to the heart. Strive for 500 micrograms per day, marginally less than the 600 micrograms required during pregnancy. Try a fortified cereal; Special K and Kellogg’s All-Bran Original both include 400 mcg of folic acid per serving. Include spinach, black-eyed peas, or asparagus on your dinner plate.


Folic acid and other crucial nutrients for you and your unborn child can be obtained by taking a daily multivitamin, according to Willow Jarosh, R.D., co-owner of C&J Nutrition in New York City. Thanks to it, you won’t have to worry about what you’ll eat on a typical day. When you start trying to conceive or get a positive pregnancy test, switch back to a prenatal dose of folic acid if you intend to have more children. See your gynecologist for additional information.


If you don’t consume enough of this mineral, your body will “robbing” your bones to ensure that your breast milk contains enough calcium to nourish your baby’s bones and neurological system. Begin with breakfast to reach your daily goal of 1,000 milligrams: Pour skim milk over your cereal, and you’re good to go. Some examples of big hitters include orange juice, cheese, yogurt, and broccoli. Take a 500-milligram calcium supplement for protection (half your daily need).

Remain hydrated.

According to Nancy Hurst, Ph.D., R.N., director of lactation services in Houston, guzzling water does not increase your milk supply. But, staying hydrated is essential for sustaining your supply and avoiding issues such as mastitis. In addition, water helps the body recuperate from the physical stress of childbirth and provides additional vitality. Drink water whenever you breastfeed or pump; if your pee is clear, you’re drinking enough.

Omega-3 essential fatty acids

According to Camden, New Jersey physician and American Academy of Pediatrics spokesman Lori Feldman-Winter, M.D., omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for the growth of your child’s eyes and brain. Consuming these healthy fats is also beneficial for preventing heart disease and cancer.

A 6-ounce salmon filet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury. Furthermore rich in omega-3 fatty acids, tuna is a healthy food choice for nursing mothers. Compared to tuna steak, the canned variety has lower mercury levels (which you should limit to 6 ounces a week). Not a fan of fish? Munch on a handful of walnuts, add flaxseed to your cereal and prepare your morning scramble with omega-3-enriched eggs.

Lactation-friendly foods.

Despite contradictory research, oats, fennel, brewer’s yeast, and fenugreek (a common herb used in lactation supplements) are thought to improve breast milk production. Consider preparing a batch of lactation cookies, including a few of these items. At a minimum, the cookies will be a delectable treat!

Alternatively, you might purchase lactation tea, a herbal supplement marketed to nursing mothers and fathers. Several lactation teas contain fenugreek or fennel and are widely available at drugstores. Before adding supplements to your diet, especially if you take medicines, consult your doctor.

Common Concerns About a Breastfeeding Diet

Can I consume things I avoided while pregnant?

You may now consume soft cheeses, cold cuts, rare meat, and other potentially contaminating foods that you avoided throughout pregnancy. Even if you become ill, you will not transmit it to your infant through breast milk.

Can I nurse as a vegetarian?

Vegetarian parents who are breastfeeding are safe to continue their vegetarian diet. Foods derived from animals, such as dairy products, are rich in calcium and protein. Those who avoid milk derivatives are advised to take a vitamin B-12 supplement, but as with any supplements, they should first visit their physician.

Should I avoid eating spicy foods?

Paula Meier, Ph.D., director of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and former president of the International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation, advises nursing parents not to fear spicy foods. Dr. Meier believes that by the time a baby begins breastfeeding, they are acclimated to the flavors their mother has had during pregnancy. “If a [parent] has consumed a wide variety of foods throughout pregnancy, this alters the taste and odor of amniotic fluid that the fetus is exposed to and tasting in utero,” she explains. Furthermore, breastfeeding is essentially the transition from amniotic fluid to breast milk.

Can I drink coffee while nursing?

Caffeine is safe when consumed in moderation. A few cups of coffee, tea, or soda won’t impact your baby, but more than five caffeinated beverages a day may make you agitated.

Can I have alcohol while nursing?

Absolutely, although not on a regular basis, and one drink is often advised as the maximum. Alcohol is transmitted to the infant through breast milk. And there is no benefit; the myth that drinking beer can increase your milk supply is untrue, and alcohol will not necessarily help your infant sleep. Your best bet for reducing the amount of milk your baby will receive is one drink (a 12-ounce beer, 4-ounce glass of wine, or one ounce of hard liquor) two hours or more before your subsequent nursing session. If you have the option, you can always pump and dump in times of uncertainty.

Does my infant suffer from allergies or sensitivity?

Everything you consume is conveyed through breast milk, however, some infants are more sensitive than others to a breastfeeding mother’s diet. Some nursing mothers report that their infants become fussy when they consume cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts or broccoli, or other foods, such as onions, chocolate, or dairy. Due to the fact that many infants become gassy from swallowing air during feedings and screaming, it is difficult to determine how much of a role diet plays, and there is limited evidence that certain dietary sensitivities exist.

But, a cow’s milk protein allergy could be to fault if your infant has bloody stools, rashes, or severe abdominal pain. This condition is more dangerous and should be evaluated by a pediatrician. If you find that your infant is reacting to a food you are consuming, you should avoid it immediately. Ensure that you are still consuming the necessary nutrients through other means.

If you have a really gassy infant, you should probably abstain from any suspect foods for a week. If that helps, avoid that food until your kid is two months old (when gas and crying tend to peak) or has begun to cry less, and then try it again. If the symptoms reoccur, you will have your own data and will be able to determine the current value of your baby’s “fuss food.” Being gassy is unpleasant, but it is not hazardous to your child. As your baby’s immune and digestive systems strengthen, the majority of these food sensitivities resolve within a few months.

Being responsible for your child’s diet is crucial, but you must first take care of yourself. If you are experiencing problems fulfilling your nutritional needs, it may be beneficial to consult a physician. Some services, such as registered dietitians (RDs) or nutritionists, may assist you in developing a personalized nutrition plan; in certain situations, these resources are even funded by insurance. Like with other aspects of parenting, there are times when you need assistance, and taking care of your child always begins with taking care of yourself.

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