Diet for Breastfeeding Mothers

Diet for Breastfeeding Mothers-Eating Plan for Breastfeeding Women

On the days when a woman is breastfeeding, her body burns more calories than usual (about 400–500 extra calories). It is important that you eat enough calories by consuming a variety of healthy foods.

You do not need to follow a special diet while breastfeeding your baby. Focus on making healthy choices to help support and maintain your milk production.

What are tips for following this plan?

Medicines, vitamins, and supplements

  • Talk with your health care provider about all medicines that you are taking. Medicines can pass to your baby through your breast milk. Certain medicines may slow, delay, or lessen your milk production and may be harmful to your baby.
  • Continue to take your prenatal vitamins and any other supplements as told by your health care provider.
  • If you follow a special diet (such as a vegan diet) or you have certain health conditions, you may need additional supplements. Talk with your health care provider about this.

Amount and variety

  • Consume enough calories each day to maintain your milk supply.
  • Drink plenty of water to help maintain your milk supply and stay nourished yourself. Aim for 64 oz (2 L) or more a day, or as much as told by your health care provider. Your urine should be pale yellow in color. If you notice that your urine is dark yellow, drink more water.
  • Continue to follow a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes healthy snacks. The taste of your milk will be affected by what you eat. Eating different foods will expose your baby to different tastes, which may help your baby to accept solid foods more easily later on.

What to limit or avoid in the Diet for Breastfeeding Mothers

  • Limit your overall intake of foods that have “empty calories.” These are foods that have little nutritional value, such as sweets, desserts, candies, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Avoid drinking more than 16–24 oz (473–710 mL) of caffeinated drinks in a day. Caffeine is dehydrating. It will also enter your breast milk, and this might bother your baby or interfere with his or her sleep.
  • Avoid drinking more than one alcoholic drink per day. Examples of one drink are a 5-oz glass of wine, a 12-oz beer, or 1.5 fluid oz of 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol). It is better for your baby if:
    • You wait to have your first alcoholic drink until your breastfeeding has been well established, which is usually after 2–3 months.
    • You wait 4 hours or longer to breastfeed after you have an alcoholic drink. As an alternative, you may pump your breast milk before you drink alcohol. You can store that milk to feed to your baby at a later time.
  • You may notice that certain foods cause you or your baby to have increased gas and may cause fussiness in your baby. If you notice increased gas or fussiness in your baby when you eat these foods, consider avoiding them while breastfeeding.

Food safety

  • To prevent food-borne illnesses, practice good food safety and cleanliness, such as washing your hands before you eat and after you prepare raw meat.

What foods can I eat?

Grains

All grains. Try to choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, or brown rice.

Vegetables

All vegetables. Try to eat a variety of colors and types of vegetables to get a full range of vitamins and minerals. Remember to wash your vegetables well before eating.

Fruits

All fruits. Try to eat a variety of colors and types of fruits to get a full range of vitamins and minerals. Remember to wash your fruits well before eating.

Meats and other protein foods

Lean meats. Try to eat chicken, turkey, fish, and lean cuts of beef, veal, or pork. If you eat fish or seafood, choose options that are low in mercury, such as salmon, canned light tuna, catfish, shrimp, crab, and lobster. Other good protein sources include tofu, tempeh, beans, eggs, peanut butter, and other nut butters.

Dairy

Dairy is okay to eat. Continue to drink milk and milk alternatives (such as almond milk), or eat yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, or sour cream.

Beverages

Most beverages are okay.

Fats and oils

All fats and oils are okay.

Sweets and desserts

All sweets and desserts are okay.

Seasoning and other foods

All seasonings are okay.

What foods are not recommended in the Diet for Breastfeeding Mothers?

Meats and other protein foods

Avoid eating fish that have high mercury content, such as tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel. To learn more about mercury in fish, talk with your health care provider or look for online resources, such as:

Beverages

Avoid drinking sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas, teas, or energy drinks. Limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol that you drink.

The items listed above may not be a complete list of foods and beverages to avoid. Contact your dietitian for more information.

Where to find more information

You can talk with your health care provider or use an online calorie calculator to determine how many calories you need to eat each day while breastfeeding, such as:

Summary

  • Focus on making healthy choices to help support and maintain your milk production. To maintain a good milk supply and stay nourished yourself, it is also important that you drink plenty of water.
  • Talk with your health care provider about all medicines that you are taking. Continue to take your prenatal vitamins and any other supplements as told by your health care provider.
  • Avoid drinking large amounts of caffeine or alcohol.
  • Continue to follow a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes healthy snacks. The taste of your milk will be affected by what you eat. Eating different foods will expose your baby to different tastes, which may help your baby to accept solid foods more easily later on.
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