For nine months you’ve been focusing on nourishing your little one while it grew inside you. Did you know that good nutrition while breastfeeding is equally as important as nutrition while you are pregnant? Especially for the first few months when baby is getting 100% of its nutrition from your breastmilk, your breastfeeding diet is of the utmost importance!
Why Nutrition Matters While Breastfeeding
There are a ton of reasons why what you eat while nursing your babe is so important! Let's take a closer look at each.
You've also probably spent the last nine months on high alert when it comes to what foods you could eat and which ones you had to avoid. Like steering clear of fish with a high mercury content, staying away from caffeine, and being sure to get enough folic acid.
Many moms don't realize that what they eat while breastfeeding is equally as important as their pregnancy diet. You are still 100% responsible for growing and nourishing your baby through the postpartum period too.
Breastfeeding consumes a lot of a mamas energy! While pregnancy is touted for the time you’ll be “eating for two,” during pregnancy you only need an additional 200-300 calories to meet your additional energy requirements.
During breastfeeding you need to increase your calorie intake even more than when you were pregnant! On average, you should be consuming an additional 500 calories a day while breastfeeding.
Don't be too worried, this is only equal to about two additional snacks per day. Some tasty ideas to incorporate those additional 500 calories while breastfeeding are:
- Nut butter (yum!) on whole wheat toast and a protein packed lactation smoothie.
- You could try an additional greek yogurt topped with chia seeds and carrots dipped in hummus.
- Another healthy option is a handful of nuts and dried fruit for one snack and an apple dipped in nut butter as another.
Be sure that the extra calories you are adding into your diet are nutritionally dense. That means, in relation to the amount of calories that the food contains, it has a high level of vitamins and minerals. This book is an awesome resource for a wide variety of nourishing meals for breastfeeding moms.
By avoiding processed foods, unhealthy fats (such as vegetable oil, palm oil, and canola oil), sugar, and white flour, you can be sure that the 500 extra calories you need are really giving you and your little one the best health and nutrition while breastfeeding. Creating a weekly meal plan is also super helpful because it allows you to plan out all of your meals and snacks. This will definitely help save you from reaching for a not-so-nutritious snack when you're in a time crunch.
Many Vitamins in Breast Milk Come From Your Diet Alone
Many of the vitamins in your breastmilk are directly linked to what you are eating! Some nutrients will pass into your breast milk regardless of what you eat. But according to Healthline, the following vitamins are fully dependent on your dietary intake.
Consuming a healthy well rounded diet rich in whole foods is the best way to be sure all of these nutrients are included in your diet every day. Some delicious foods that are rich in many of these vitamins are:
Improper Nutrition Can Lower Your Milk Supply and Affect its Nutritional Density
Let's be real, new motherhood is exhausting. It sometimes feels like walking through a fog or putting your keys into the refrigerator kind of exhausting. No shame, we've been there!
Your personal diet and nutrition may feel unimportant or overwhelming to focus on right now. Perhaps you are so exhausted that you completely forget to eat!
But I assure you that focusing on your nutrition while breastfeeding is vitally important! What you eat can directly affect your milk supply.
If you do not consume enough calories per day, your milk supply may decrease. Your milk may also not contain all of the vitamins and high amounts of healthy fats that your baby thrives on.
Focusing on nutritionally dense foods, eating when you’re hungry, and getting enough fluids ensures the best chance of keeping a high milk supply for your growing baby.
Your baby’s growth is 100% reliant on your breast milk for approximately the first six months.
Eating nutritionally dense whole foods, and a balanced diet consisting of lots of protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, will help you create nutritionally dense milk for your babe.
There are also a lot of foods called galactagogues, that you can add into your diet! These are well known to increase breast milk supply. Some common galactagogues that you can add into protein packed lactation smoothies or overnight oats are:
Postpartum Recovery is Easier if You are Focusing on Nutrition
Your body has just undergone one of the most difficult things it may ever endure! Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back, mama, because you deserve it.
Your hormones have been surging and changing for almost a year, your body has been stretched and almost every major organ has been drastically moved. You grew a tiny (adorable) human being and then proceeded to push it out through your lady bits.
You deserve the biggest award mama. You have given a lot of yourself, more than you ever could before to another human being. And now you still are giving to this little person every second of every day (and night).
But you need to acknowledge how much your body has been through. Right now, try to focus on your own healing and repair postpartum as much as you can.
You are exhausted and right now every free hand and every free moment is busy keeping that precious tiny person alive and happy. But without taking some time and energy for your own healing and repair, you might not have the strength to be the best mom that you can be.
One macronutrient in particular is essential in your postpartum recovery.
Focus on Protein for Postpartum Recovery
Protein is the key macronutrient for muscle and tissue repair and growth. During postpartum, it is essential that you consume enough protein! Protein can help to repair your own tissues and muscles, as well as aiding them in continuing to grow. Protein also helps grow and develop major organs like your baby's brain.
Protein will help your body repair.
Eating fish is highly recommended while breastfeeding, though you should continue to refrain from eating fish high in mercury just as you did during pregnancy. Fish and seafood harbor many of the nutrients that are transferred to breast milk solely through your dietary intake.
Other meat sources are phenomenal for protein. However, preparing meat in a meal every day can be overwhelming for new mamas. While the nutrients in red meat, pork, poultry, and fish are wonderful to consume while breastfeeding, preparing that type of meal each day may not always be realistic. Unless you are a pro at using a slow cooker. (Big tip mama, learn how to use a slow cooker!)
How much protein do you need a day while breastfeeding?
There are many studies with varying estimates for precisely how many grams of protein a day a lactating mother needs. However, according to the most current recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 65 grams of protein a day is suggested.This is about 20 additional grams of protein you should be consuming a day while breastfeeding.
Real talk, it’s difficult to get in 65 grams of protein a day as a new mom. Your life is so busy, it may feel like you don't even have a second to yourself. Protein in high amounts typically comes from meats… and who has the chance to prepare and cook meat every day with a newborn?
How to Get Proper Protein Intake and Nutrition While Breastfeeding
This is where amazing products and recipes from moms who have been there and are here to help you come into play!
Focusing on having healthy protein filled snacks on hand at all times is the best way to:
- Heal your body postpartum
- Increase your breast milk supply
- Sustain a nutrient dense diet with zero time
Add in amazing protein filled, nutrient dense snacks and meals throughout the day. Keep protein-filled easy-to-access snacks on hand at all times.
- My personal favorite way to nourish postpartum is with protein shakes. They are easy to put together, literally take under a minute, and when you add a single scoop of a nutrient dense protein powder like Majka into a protein shake, you have nothing left to worry about when considering your nutrition while breastfeeding. Majka has moms covered in the nutrition department! Majka’s Nourishing Lactation Protein Powder is chalked full of greens, probiotics, fruit, and digestive enzymes to save you time and truly nourish your body with a single scoop!
- Majka also has super-addictive lactation energy bites that you can purchase as well to increase breast milk supply and fill your body with protein and additional nutrients. You can even make your own lactation bites if you prefer! Lactation bites (also known as energy balls) are a tasty snack that lactating moms should keep on hand at all times!
- Another idea is to fill jars with oats and additional nutrient dense foods such as fruit, chia seeds, and flax meal. Then, top it all off with your favorite type of milk and keep in the fridge. Now you have another nutrient-dense and milk boosting meal on hand at all times.
Wrapping it Up
Your personal nutrition while breastfeeding is key to healing postpartum and building up a healthy nutrient dense milk supply.
The best way to do so, is to have snacks and meals on hand at all times that are ridiculously easy to prepare.
- Focus on whole foods and a well rounded diet.
- To supplement for any nutritional gaps, always have a stellar protein powder, lactation bites, eggs, nuts, seeds, greek yogurt, and overnight oats on hand.
Frequently asked questions about nutrition while breastfeeding:
1. What foods to avoid while breastfeeding?
There are two main foods that nursing women should limit or remove from their diets completely: alcohol and fish.There is no level of alcohol that’s safe for a baby to consume through breast milk, so be sure that alcohol is completely out of your system before feeding your little one. If you choose to incorporate fish in your breastfeeding diet, be sure to eat fish with low levels of mercury and stay up-to-date on local water advisories. You can learn more about it on this blog post!
2. What snacks can I eat while breastfeeding?
Snacks are essential for breastfeeding moms and can help boost milk supply depending on the snacks you are consuming! A few of our favorites use our Nourishing Lactation Protein Powder. Some of our snack ideas include; Lactation Fat Bombs, Majka Lactation Spread, Chickpea Lactation Crackers, smoothies and Lactation Bites. Check out this post for the full recipes and find more ideas here!
3. Can I eat yogurt while breastfeeding?
Yes, yogurt is very beneficial for nursing mothers! Yogurt contains good-for-you ingredients like calcium, probiotics and protein. All of these make yogurt a very nutritious snack for breastfeeding mamas. We like to put fruits, granola, chia seeds, and crumble up our Lactation Bites into yogurt to give it an extra boost of nutrition.
4. Can I have bananas while breastfeeding?
Bananas are a great way to possibly boost the nutrients in a nursing mother’s breast milk. They are good-sources of potassium and vitamin B-6. While eating a banana by itself is an easy grab and go snack, we like to add a frozen banana to our smoothies to add even more nutrients and add a smooth texture to our smoothies. Check out one of our favorite smoothie recipes here!
5. Can I eat eggs while breastfeeding?
Eggs are typically fine to eat while breastfeeding. They actually are a good source of choline which is necessary to metabolize fats and help brain and nerve functionality. Having hard boiled eggs on hand are a great option for a healthy grab and go snack!
You got this mama! We are always here to help guide you on this journey we call motherhood! #lovemajka #fuelingmotherhood
Allie Edwards is a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer, founder of Vigor it Out and certified in child nutrition and cooking from Standford University of Medicine. She is also a mama of two beautiful little girls and loves helping others reach their health and fitness goals and specialize in nutrition and fitness in all stages of this beautiful, exhausting journey we call motherhood.