Did you welcome your little bundle of joy recently? Congratulations to the new beginnings! We know that you must be receiving a lot of advice from your close ones, on “what to eat?” and “how to eat?” so that you can enrich your breast milk for your little one. As a new mother, you may become confused at times and maybe miss a few things, but don't panic! You can do it, and we're here to help. In this blog, we’ll discuss the top 5 foods to eat while breastfeeding. 

According to the WHO, Breastfeeding is one of the most effective techniques for ensuring children's health and survival. However, barely 40% of all newborns (under the age of six months) are breastfed!1

You may assume that nursing benefits your baby only in infancy, but it actually has long-term benefits as well. Yes, a study found that breastfed children have a higher IQ and a healthier BMI than the bottle-fed ones.2 Now that we have understood the importance of breastfeeding, let's further discuss "Breastfeeding diet."

What Is A Breastfeeding Diet?

A breastfeeding diet includes a variety of foods that are high in carbohydrates, healthy fats, fiber, protein, iron, calcium, and all of the vitamins.3,4 As a soon-to-be mommy, you may be concerned about the dramatic changes in your body. However, taking good care of yourself by consuming a fulfilling diet will make your postpartum journey easy while nourishing your newborn!4

A nutrient rich breastfeeding diet compensates for the extra calories that the mothers burn each day. Yes, nursing mothers may need about 300-400 calories extra per day to sustain energy in their bodies and produce milk.3

Aside from the previously listed nutrients, there is one additional primary nutrient that is critical for a breastfeeding mother. It's called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). It is also known as omega-3 fatty acid, it helps to maintain the structural components of the human brain, retina, and skin. As a result, it is crucial for a child's brain and eye development during infancy and later years.5,6 If you wish to learn more about DHA’s benefits, you can check out- “Importance Of Omega-3 DHA In Fetal Growth & Development.''

Having said that, a breastfeeding mom has plenty of diet options comprising the right portions of nutrients. Let’s explore the top 5 foods to eat while breastfeeding, in the following:  

1. High Protein Foods

Aiming for 2-3 servings of high-protein foods each day will aid in milk production. Protein-rich foods include eggs, lean meats, lentils, legumes, tofu, dairy products and green vegetables like beans.7 All seafood lovers can rejoice because low mercury fishes such as catfish, butterfish and cod, can be enjoyed to satisfy this protein need!8

2. Omega-3 DHA Enriched Foods

When you consume seafood to meet your protein requirements, you are also providing your body with yet another nutrient. Can you tell what it is? Yes, you guessed correctly! It's omega-3 DHA. According to studies, women who consumed at least 200 grams of DHA-rich seafood during pregnancy and breastfeeding each week had healthy babies.9

If you are a breastfeeding mom, consider consuming DHA through omega-3 DHA supplements or natural food sources* such as low- mercury fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds.10 You can also learn more about the benefits of DHA and its vegetarian and non-vegetarian food sources from our blog- “Benefits Of DHA-Rich Diet During Pregnancy”.

*Note: Some foods may cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Therefore, it’s always advisable to talk to your doctor first before planning a new diet.

And because some women may have lower DHA levels, this may impact their baby's poor health.11 As a precaution, new mothers are suggested to have their breast milk examined! A simple, at-home, self-collection like OmegaScore N test can enlighten new moms about the DHA content of their breast milk. This information could assist them in meeting their DHA requirements, benefiting both mother and the child.

3. Folate-Rich Foods

Folate is a naturally occurring vitamin B, whereas Folic acid is a "synthetic" version of folate. Mothers are encouraged to have folate-rich foods to maintain their body’s hemoglobin levels; thus preventing them from becoming anemic.12,13

Breastfeeding women can accomplish their folate needs by consuming green leafy vegetables, asparagus, whole grains and nuts, citrus fruits, avocado, sunflower seeds, and beans.12

Moreover, taking folic acid as a supplement before and during pregnancy has also proven to lower the risks of certain birth defects in babies.12 

 4. Calcium And Vitamin D-Rich Foods

Surprisingly, breastfeeding mothers have calcium saved in their bones to nurture their babies!14 

A healthy calcium-rich diet is crucial for maintaining enough calcium levels in the body for the health of both mother and infant.14 Breastfeeding reduces a nursing mother's bone mass by 3–5%, implying that the baby's calcium needs have increased and that the baby is compensating by taking the nutrient from his/her mother.14 

Having said that, Breastfeeding mothers are recommended to have 1,300 milligrams of calcium per day. This need could be met by consuming milk, cheese, calcium fortified tofu, and yogurt.7 

Vitamin D is yet another major nutrient that helps in bone formation and is highly necessary for the body to help absorb calcium. Eggs, mushrooms, soy milk, almond milk and fatty fish (fish liver oils) are rich in Vitamin D. Besides, exposure to morning and evening sunlight UV(Ultraviolet) rays also induces vitamin D production in the body.15 

 5. Vitamin B12- Rich Foods

Vitamin B12 is required for the formation of red blood cells and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), as well as for the development of the brain and nerve cells.16 

This nutrient is passed on to the fetus through the placenta during pregnancy and through breast milk after birth.17 It’s critical for a breastfeeding mom to have adequate B12 in her diet, as a shortage of it can result in B12 insufficiency in the baby.17 

Although vitamin B12 can be obtained through animal products such as milk, eggs, dairy products, fish, and meat, vegetarian mothers may struggle to obtain it from plant-based foods.17 In such a case, one can take doctor's advice before taking a suitable supplement to help maintain the required levels of vitamin. 

Summing Up!

Hope the list of top 5 foods to eat while breastfeeding came handy in your hunt on what food to consume to improve your breast milk production! As mentioned earlier, Breast milk protects your baby against any kind of sickness, allergies and infections in the initial years, while also significantly building the baby’s immunity.18 Moreover, mothers who breastfeed have reduced risks of developing breast cancer and diabetes.19,20 

Given the benefits of breast milk to both you and your baby, we can say that it’s indeed a SUPERFOOD!

As a breastfeeding mother, however, you need to always be conscious of whether you are appropriately nourishing yourself in order to deliver critical nutrients to your baby! Also, taking care of your food habits, which help your health in the long run, is a must. You can choose LifeCell’s at-home self-collection OmegaScore N test kit to measure your breast milk's superfood nutrient, omega-3 DHA levels! It’s a safe, non-invasive, easy-to-use postnatal test that can be done from the comfort and privacy of your home. 

So moms, what are you waiting for? Your baby’s good health is just a TEST away!