Diet. It’s a four-letter word that often elicits loud, exasperated sighs from hungry people all over the world.
In society, we’ve come to view the word ‘diet’ as something negative because the act of dieting forces us to restrict ourselves in order to gain an outcome. At least, that’s what we usually think of when it comes to the word ‘diet.’ But in this instance, ‘diet’ means something different.
In our case, a breastfeeding diet doesn’t mean losing weight, but instead, establishing a breastfeeding diet allows us to incorporate good foods to increase breast milk supply and benefit your body and your baby’s health.
Before we get started, there are a few things you should know when it comes to breastfeeding.
Basic Breastfeeding Facts
- When you are breastfeeding, your body requires more calories and nutrients because of all the energy your body consumes when producing milk
- An ounce of breast milk is comprised of about 4% protein, 30% fat, and 30% carbs
- The composition and number of calories in your breast milk changes with each feeding
- Approximately 500 more calories are needed per day when you are nursing
- Restricting calories and having significant weight loss can decrease your supply of milk
What Should You Include in a Breastfeeding Diet?
Important Breastfeeding Nutrients
A deficiency in or lack of the following vitamins and minerals will affect the amount of nutrients your breast milk produces. Actively adding these nutrients (whether through your diet or supplements) will regulate the amount of healthy nutrients your baby will receiving when breastfeeding.
Vitamin AHelps form bones, teeth, and skin. Found in dark leafy greens, egg yolks, sweet potatoes, carrots.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)Allows the body to alter carbohydrates into energy and supports heart and nerve function. Found in fish, pork, peas, nuts, and bread.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)Assists in body and red blood cell development. Found in cheese, almonds, red meat, oily fish, and eggs.
Vitamin B6Forms red blood cells and aids in brain function. Found in avocado, poultry, bananas, seeds, and dried fruit.
Vitamin B12Creates new cells and DNA and protects nerve cells. Found in shellfish (shrimp, crab, oily fish), milk, and cheese.
CholineMetabolizes fats and helps brain and nerve functionality. Found in eggs, fish, peanuts, and beef liver.
Vitamin DThe ‘sunshine vitamin’ that helps the body better absorb and balance calcium. Found in cod liver oil, fish, mushrooms, and by going out in the sun.
SeleniumRegulates hormones in the thyroid and is an antioxidant. Found in walnuts, seafood, and whole wheat.
A healthy and well-balanced breastfeeding diet recommends the nursing mother to intake an extra 15 grams of protein per day. The general rule of thumb is to take your current weight, divide it in half, and add 15 to get the appropriate amount of protein your body needs while breastfeeding.
Obvious sources of protein are meats and fish, but if you’re not a meat-eater, you can get protein from beans and lentils, eggs, milk, peanut butter, or protein lactation bites.
Bring on the carbs! Carbohydrates, that is. While white carbs should be monitored, healthy carbohydrates are ideal to maintaining your energy levels while breastfeeding.
Whole grains like brown rice or pasta, fresh fruits and vegetables, or dairy such as Greek yogurt are all examples of healthy complex carbohydrates that can keep your energy levels up and help you feel fuller throughout the day.
It’s not unheard of for nursing mothers to become anemic. Anemia often stems from the amount of blood loss during delivery and the increased amount of nutrients needed to recover and lactate.
Fatigue and decreased levels of energy can be confused for symptoms of postpartum depression, but in some cases, these symptoms arise from low iron levels. This is why maintaining the proper amount of iron in your breastfeeding diet is so important. Iron can be found in shellfish such as clams, spinach, red meat, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, tofu, and (the best for last) dark chocolate.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Want your baby to be a brainiac? Incorporate omega-3 fatty acids into your breastfeeding diet in order to help your baby’s brain development. Omega-3 fatty acids are notoriously known for being in fish, but grass-fed beef, eggs, chia seeds, and walnuts all contain rich amounts of fatty acids.
One thing to remember though is that all fish are not created equal. Salmon is an excellent source of fatty acids, but fish that are high in mercury like king mackerel, tilefish, swordfish, and shark won’t do you any favors.
In fact, while low-mercury fish like salmon and tilapia can positively affect your little bud’s brain development, high-mercury fish can negatively stunt and impair your baby’s brain growth.
Decades in the past, food was often cooked using iodized salt. However, after the recent shift in food and health culture, use of iodized salt has been diminished and gourmet sea salts usage has increased. This shift has lowered the amount of iodine in foods we eat.
For nursing mothers, iodine aids in the thyroid function, allowing proper development of your newborn’s brain. To incorporate iodine into your well-balanced, breastfeeding diet, eating seaweed, cod, shellfish, and keeping the skin on baked potatoes can increase your daily recommended intake of iodine.
By now, most people have heard of folate or folic acid. What people may not be aware of is methylfolate, folate’s purest counterpart. Not everyone can process and absorb folate or folic acid because of its properties, however methylfolate in its true form is easier for the body to digest and absorb its benefits.
Including foods like squash, dark greens, lentils, corn, or finding a supplement that includes pure methylfolate like Majka’s Nourishing Lactation Protein Powder (perfect for nursing mothers) will help supplement healthy amounts of your daily suggested dosage.
Galactogogues are powerful herbs or foods that increase the production of breast milk supply. A breastfeeding diet that integrates healthy amounts of nutrients and vitamins while also adding galactogogues into the mix will better the health of you and your baby. Some of the best galactogogues to add into your breastfeeding diet?
- Oatmeal: Known to boost milk supply, oatmeal also contains high amounts of fiber and can keep you fuller longer. Overnight oats can be jazzed up with fruit or honey, but be wary of pre-packaged oatmeal. Although convenient, pre-packaged oatmeal often contains higher amounts of sugar and salt.
- Chickpeas: Not only do chickpeas have high amounts of protein, they also are a natural galactagogue and are rich in fiber, folate, thiamin, and zinc. Add chickpeas to your salad or buy organic hummus and use it as a veggie dip.
- Papaya: If you can’t go to the tropics, you can at least eat like you are by adding papaya into your breastfeeding diet. In addition to boosting breast milk supply, papayas are a good source of fiber, potassium, and improve immunity against infections and illnesses.
Breastfeeding diets shouldn’t be thought of as restrictive, but should be thought of as a way to get the nutrients your body needs to heal so you can provide the best nutrition and milk supply for your baby’s development.
By incorporating these foods, vitamins, and nutrients into your breastfeeding diet, you’ll be at your healthiest, allowing you to enjoy the little moments with your baby. Like our mantra says: when you love yourself, you love motherhood even more.
Want more diet tips? Click here to download our Breastfeeding Diet Plan.
A Day In The Life Of A Breastfeeding Mother
So what does a typical day in the life look like on a breastfeeding diet? Here are a few meal ideas from our One-Week Breastfeeding Diet Recipe Guide:
Breakfast: Sunrise Smoothie
- 1 scoop Majka Nourishing Lactation Powder
- ¼ cup almond milk
- ½ cup spinach
- ¼ avocado
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 1 tsp flax seeds
- 1 tsp chia seeds
Directions: Blend all ingredients together for immediate (and tasty!) consumption.
Snack: Garlic Smashed Sweet Potatoes
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- Light spray of olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1. Preheat your oven to high heat broil (or grill) settings.
2. Cut sweet potatoes by trimming off ends and then cutting into quarters (or 11⁄2 inch pieces).
Sweet Potato Cooking Options
1. Boil Method: Place sweet potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil. Cook covered for 20-25 minutes or until fork tender. Drain well.
2. Roast Method: Bake sweet potato pieces for 25-30 minutes, or until they are fork tender. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
Notes: Boiling method is preferred, but either method works.
Smash Sweet Potatoes
1. Lightly grease a large baking sheet with cooking oil spray. Arrange sweet potatoes onto the sheet and use a fork to LIGHTLY flatten each piece (they will be soft, so try not to press too hard or they will end up breaking and become mashed).
2. Mix together the butter, garlic, and parsley. Pour the mixture over each sweet potato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and lightly spray with olive oil spray.
3. Broil or grill until they are golden and crispy (about 15 minutes). Remove from oven, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and return to the oven until cheese is melted.
1. Season with a sprinkle of salt and parsley and serve.
Lunch: Thai Veggie Quinoa Bowl
- ½ cup cooked quinoa
- ¼ cup grated carrots
- 1 handful chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup chopped green onions
- 2 tbsp chopped peanuts
- Dressing: juice from 1 lime, 1 tsp sesame seeds, 1 tbsp gluten free tamari, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, 2 cloves garlic (minced), 1-inch piece of minced ginger
- Cook quinoa according to package instructions.
- In a large bowl, toss cooked quinoa, broccoli, red onion, carrots, cilantro, green onions and peanuts together. Mix until combined.
- In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients.
- Pour dressing over quinoa and mix until combined.
Dinner: Skillet Seared Salmon
- 1 6 oz salmon fillet
- Salt and freshly ground pepper & garlic powder
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- ½ tsp honey
- ¼ lb asparagus
- Remove salmon fillet from refrigerator and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the garlic lemon olive oil sauce. Add oil and garlic to a pan and sauté until lightly golden brown (about 1-2 minutes). Pour in chicken broth and lemon juice. Let sauce simmer until it has reduced by half. Set sauce aside.
- Dab both sides of salmon dry with paper towels, season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil simmers, add salmon and cook about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through.
- In a medium heat pan, add olive oil and place asparagus (trim bottom of asparagus before cooking, if desired). Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Add salt and garlic powder.
- Plate salmon and asparagus.
To download the full guide of 22+ recipes, click below!
Frequently asked questions about breastfeeding diet:
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. What vegetables can I eat while breastfeeding?
Luckily, most breastfeeding moms can eat a variety of veggies! The more veggies, the better. Veggies are a great source of nutrients especially for nursing mamas who need all of the extra nutrition they can get!
We recommend consuming veggies like; sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens, avocados, mushrooms, pumpkin, tomatoes, and spinach.
4. Can I have a glass of wine while breastfeeding?
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. So you can definitely enjoy a glass of wine every once in a while, but make sure to wait 1-3 hours before nursing your baby.
While it’s okay to have a glass of wine or just alcohol here and there, it becomes an issue while nursing if it turns into a habit.
5. Can I eat eggs while breastfeeding?
Eggs are typically completely 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.