I’m so happy you’re interested in eating the right things while nursing your baby!! I’m so happy you’re interested in the ULTIMATE breastfeeding diet.
Full disclosure…. I may have mislead you (I definitely mislead you) because really there isn’t an ultimate breastfeeding diet. No step by step guide on what to eat, how much and how often to eat it. Whoever works that out will be a billionaire and probably deserves some sort of award for public health because they would be making all of our lives a lot easier/ healthier.
An ultimate breastfeeding diet is unlikely to ever exist. We’re too different from one another, we live completely different lives and we have very different goals and concerns. THAT’S OKAY.
If you are completely freaking out about your diet please just remember there is one certainty in all of this… regardless of diet your body will (almost) always create the perfect superfood the your baby needs in the form of your breastmilk.
So why bother with diet at all?
You’ve just spent your entire pregnancy thinking before every meal, avoiding your favorite deli or sushi place, gazing longingly at all the smelly cheeses you love and miss dearly.
Do you really have to keep thinking about everything you want to eat?!
Look at it this way, if your body can always make the perfect superfood for your baby where do you think it’s pulling the nutrients from?
Think of eating the ‘right’ way while breastfeeding as topping up yourself with all the nutrients that you lose while nursing. If you’re eating right it’s easier for your body to produce milk that’s jam packed with good stuff for your baby.
Below is a list of general rules to follow in order to get off to the best start with your breastfeeding diet!
The best one, and easiest to start with. You need approximately 500 extra calories per day while breastfeeding (even more if you’re nursing multiples!).
In an ideal world these calories will come from nutrient dense foods such as fish, seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds or eggs. So aim to do this most of time time! Now and again if you’ve had a particularly long day…. cake may do. Everything in moderation right?
Eat a balanced diet
Now is not the time to start any new or restrictive diets. While nursing you should still be above your pre pregnancy weight so don’t worry if the lb’s don’t just drop off like they do for celebrities!
Lots of vegetables, plenty of protein and healthy carbs + fats are all needed to build and then maintain a healthy supply.
Fish, lean meats, whole grains, nuts, seeds and all the green things you can get your hands on are a great place to start!
Just like before, foods that are high in sugar, high in saturated fat or processed should be avoided.
If you are eating a well balanced diet supplements are not necessarily recommended but certainly won’t hurt. Many mom’s continue with a prenatal vitamin.
Seems simple, but because drinking plenty is considered easy we often forget it.
A common problem I see as a lactation consultant is mothers who don’t drink enough fluids to support their breastfeeding diet.
You produce a lot of oxytocin while breastfeeding, this increases thirst which should encourage you to drink more. Always have water close by when nursing.
Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue and muscle cramps.
Breast milk is 90% water so even being a little dehydrated can affect your supply. If this is ongoing it can take a lot of hard work to build supply back up.
Know which foods can boost supply
Since I just mentioned supply here are a few foods which are considered lactogenic – that just means they contain properties which are known to help facilitate the chemistry of lactation.
- Fennel – seeds work better but the vegetable is effective also!
- Nuts – cashews, macadamia nuts + almonds are all known to help
- Green leafy vegetables – these contain phytoestrogens which are known to improve breast tissue health and aid lactation
- Nutritional or brewers yeast – like vegetables these types of yeast contain phytoestrogens, there are many different types of lactation cookies out there which typically contain one of these yeasts!
- Other spices – ginger, basil, anise, dill and caraway
Want to know more on boosting supply? I wrote about it here.
Limit your caffeine
It is still safe to drink caffeine whilst breastfeeding and with all those sleepless nights often desperately needed.
Approximately 1% of the caffeine you drink will be found in your breast milk and go to your baby. Although its only 1% if you drink more than 2-3 cups of coffee per day this can be too much for you baby and as a result they can act a little restless.
In my experience I’ve found 2 cups to be the sweet spot!
Just remember some teas and many soft drinks also contain caffeine so be mindful and try and consider ALL the caffeine you’re consuming.
Listen to your baby
Although your baby is new to the world they will tell you exactly what they don’t like right from birth. You just need to know what to look out for.
Babies that are gassy, spit up more, suddenly reject the breast or become fussy for several hours after a feed can be showing us they did not like something you’ve eaten!
It takes between 2-6 hours for something we have consumed to be present in the breast milk so you can work your way back.
It could be anything but common foods that upset babies include; dairy, citrus, chocolate, garlic, pepper, cinnamon, chilli, gas producing vegetables, soy, wheat and corn.
Take home message…
A lot of what you read here is logical, some things, like foods which boost supply are just really useful to know!
The ultimate breastfeeding diet really just starts with making the right choices.
If there’s a take home message I like to leave families with it’s that our bodies are clever and they will find a way to get what they need to feed our babies. This said, breastfeeding is hard work, tiring and in many ways a little like a full time job! So wouldn’t you like to give yourself the best chance to feel as good as possible throughout?
If you feel better and have a healthy diet your nursing becomes more efficient, your supply is easier to build and maintain, you have all the nutrients you need to support you AND to support your baby.
You’re not pregnant anymore so you can relax a bit, but being mindful about diet is not just good practice for now it’s good practice for ALWAYS. It’s also good practice for introducing food to your new baby when the time is right.
If you simply start with these 3 things:
- Try to make healthy choices MOST of the time
- Remember to have your extra calorie
- Always drink plenty of water
You’re already 80% of the way there!
My name is Marie I’m a midwife (CPM) and board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) living in Phoenix, Arizona! You can read more about me here. If you’re a new mom, soon to be new mom or know someone who could benefit from some friendly help or advice please see my services or send them my article about getting the most out of your lactation consultant!