Health Check

Breastfeeding Diet: Foods To Eat And Avoid While Breastfeeding!

Breastfeeding Diet: Foods To Eat And Avoid While Breastfeeding!

Written By Vaishali Thapa - December 14, 2023
Read Time - 5 min read

Did you just welcome your little bundle of joy? Congratulations on the new beginnings! We bet you’re receiving a ton of advice from your close ones on “what to eat?” and “what not to eat?” to enrich the  breast milk for your little one. Don’t worry, as a new mother, it’s normal to feel a bit confused and maybe even miss a few things, but guess what? You’ve got this, and we’re here to lend a helping hand! In this blog, we’ll dive into the breastfeeding diet, what delicious food you can enjoy, and what to keep at bay! So, let’s start.

World Breastfeeding Week: Spreading The Word!

According to the WHO, breastfeeding “exclusively” stands out as one of the most powerful methods to safeguard an infant’s growth and health. Moreover, it’s recommended that a baby must be exclusively  breastfed for first 6 months continued upto 2 years of age.1

But surprisingly, a mere 40% of newborns (under the age of six months) receive this vital nourishment.2

In response to this pressing concern, the World Breastfeeding Day is celebrated every year from 1st to 7th August. This global initiative aims to raise awareness and promote the significance of breastfeeding, empowering mothers to provide the best possible care and nourishment for their precious little ones. Let’s join hands in celebrating World Breastfeeding Day and ensure a healthier future for our babies!3 

It is usually assumed that breastfeeding benefits a baby only until s/he starts weaning, however in reality it has much longer lasting effects on a baby’s health and development. 

Yes, there have been studies that shows breastfed children tend to have a higher IQ and a healthier BMI when they grow-up in comparison to those who were bottle-fed during infancy.4 

Now that we’ve established the significance of breastfeeding and the need to raise awareness about it, let’s delve into the details of the “breastfeeding diet.”

What Is A Breastfeeding Diet?

A breastfeeding diet should include a variety of foods that are high in carbohydrates, healthy fats, fiber, protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and vitamin C.5,6 As a nursing mommy, you may be concerned about the dramatic changes in your body. However, taking good care of yourself and consuming a fulfilling diet will make your postpartum journey easy while boosting your breast milk supply to keep your newborn nourished!

Why Do You Need A Breastfeeding Diet?

A nutrient rich breastfeeding diet compensates for the extra calories that the mothers burn each day. Yes, nursing mothers may need about 330-400 calories extra per day to sustain energy in their bodies and produce milk.5

Beyond the typical carbs, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, there’s one mighty nutrient every breastfeeding mother should know about- the superhero known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)! 

This omega-3 DHA is like brain food for both you and your little one, helping maintain brain, retina, and skin’ health. And that’s not all - it's also a key player in your child’ brain and eye development during infancy and beyond.7,8  So, if you’re curious to dive deeper into DHA’s superpowers, be sure to 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 8 foods to eat while breastfeeding in the following: 

Foods To Eat While Breastfeeding

1. High Protein Foods

Aiming for 2-3 servings of high-protein foods each day should be a top priority in your breastfeeding diet. Protein-rich foods include eggs, chicken, tofu, dairy products and green vegetables like beans.9 Moreover, if you’re a seafood lover, you can also relish on low mercury fishes such as catfish, butterfish and cod to accommodate the daily protein demand in your breastfeeding diet!10

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 breastfeeding per week had babies with better cognitive developement. 11

If you are a breastfeeding mom, and don’t prefer to eat meat, then you can also consider having DHA through omega-3 DHA supplementations or plant-based food sources such as nuts, flaxseed, spirulina, cow milk and seaweed*.12,13,14

*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.

3. Folate-Rich Foods

Folate is a naturally occurring vitamin B, while folic acid is its synthetic counterpart. Breastfeeding moms are encouraged to eat folate-rich foods to prevent anemia.15,16 Some good sources of folate include green leafy vegetables, asparagus, whole grains and nuts, citrus fruits, avocado, sunflower seeds, and beans.15

4. Calcium And Vitamin D-Rich Foods

Did you know that when you breastfeed, you also give away calcium from your bones to nurture your little one? 17

But your body is amazing as it replenishes the calcium in your bones as your baby grows, on its own.

So don’t worry, it won’t harm you.

Just make sure you’re getting enough calcium in your diet.

A nourishing and calcium-rich diet plays a vital role in maintaining optimal calcium levels for the well-being of both you and your baby. During this precious time, it is recommended that breastfeeding mothers aim for approximately 1,300 milligrams of daily calcium intake. You can easily boost your calcium levels by incorporating milk, cheese, calcium-fortified tofu, and yogurt into your diet.9 

Vitamin D is such an important nutrient for bone formation, and it’s a must-have if you want to boost your calcium intake. Apart from dairy products, you’ve got some tasty alternatives like eggs, mushrooms, soy milk, almond milk, and even fatty fish (fish liver oils) to top-up your body’s calcium needs. And hey, don’t forget the power of nature’s free vitamin D dispenser - the sun! A relaxing morning or evening walk under the gentle rays of dawn or dusk sunlight can promote vitamin D production in your body. So, let’s soak up some sunshine and keep those bones happy and strong!18

5. Vitamin B12- Rich Foods

Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in the formation of red blood cells and DNA, as well as in the development of the brain and nerve cells.19 During pregnancy, this essential nutrient is transferred to the fetus through the placenta, and after birth, it continues to be passed on through your breast milk.20 Ensuring an adequate intake of B12 in your breastfeeding diet is critical, as a deficiency can be detrimental to your baby’s health.20

While vitamin B12 is easily obtained from animal products like milk, eggs, dairy, fish, and meat, vegetarian mothers may face challenges getting it from plant-based foods. Curd/ fat-free yoghourt is also a rich source of Vitamin B12. In such cases, seeking advice from a doctor before taking suitable supplementation can help maintain the required levels of this essential vitamin.20,21

 6. Iron-Rich Foods

Just like all the other minerals, iron is an essential nutrient that breastfeeding mothers must have!

Nursing your little one can drain your body’s iron levels, so it’s crucial to stock up on iron-rich foods like legumes, red meat, whole grain bread, and cereals. But don’t worry, mama! You can iron out your iron deficiency with a few simple dietary changes.22

7. Carbohydrate-Rich Foods

Carbohydrates are ever so more important, just like any other nutrient. Your breast milk is made up of about 7% carbs, so you need to carb-load!23 Complex carbs are the way to go, as they will give you that extra punch of energy you need to keep up with your little one.24,25 Some good sources of complex carbs include brown rice, oatmeal, and whole grain pastas.26

8. High-In Fiber Foods

You may be surprised to learn that eating fiber not only helps you in keeping your bowels moving; but it also enhances the breast milk quality and supports the development of your baby.27,28 Additionally, adding high-in fiber foods to your diet will also promote your digestion and will help keep your blood sugar levels in check!26 Therefore, nursing mothers are encouraged to have a balanced diet consisting of whole-wheat flour, grains, wheat bran, rice, beans, vegetables, and greens.29 

Now that you’ve learned about the foods you may need to enrich your breastfeeding diet with, let’s take a look at the foods you must avoid!

Foods & Drinks To Avoid While Breastfeeding: A Strict “No-No”

1. Chocolate

It may come as a surprise to many breastfeeding moms but eating too much chocolate can be detrimental to your baby. As chocolate contains hints of caffeine and theobromine, consuming it in excess isn’t a healthy choice!30 

2. Caffeine

For new moms, coffee might seem like a saviour for shaking off morning blues or getting through sleepless nights attending to your baby. But here’s a gentle warning: consuming high levels of caffeine could lead to fussiness, lack of sleep, and jitteriness in your little one. So, it might be worth considering alternative ways to stay energized without affecting your baby’s health. Or you can simply cut down your daily coffee intake to recommended levels of 200 mg per day.31 

Moreover, it’s also important to be aware of the effects of sugary-fizzy drinks on infants. These drinks can also cause fussiness, lack of sleep, and jitteriness. So, it’s best to limit your intake of these drinks as well.31

 3. Junk Food

It may be alright to munch on your favourite junk food once in a while. However, making it a habit especially when you’re breastfeeding could not only negatively affect you but also your baby. As junk food is made “extra tasty” by adding additives, sugars, and fat; it often fails to meet your body’s nutritional needs on a daily basis. As a result, it is best to avoid junk food while breastfeeding. However, if you do find yourself craving it, you can talk to your doctor or a dietitian on healthy alternatives to  satisfy your cravings.32 

4. Raw, Undercooked, Cold Meat And Seafood

Just as your doctor cautioned you during pregnancy about raw, cold, and undercooked meats and seafood, we’re here to remind you of the same wisdom. While pregnant, the risk of contracting Salmonella and E. coli is real, and guess what? It still lingers while you’re breastfeeding your baby! Now, you might wonder how a bacterial infection could possibly harm your little one? Well, studies have shown that babies can get these pesky bacteria from their breastfeeding moms. So, if you’re looking to keep your little one safe, it’s best to steer clear of these foods!33 

5. Alcoholic Beverages

Having one alcoholic beverage once in a while might not necessarily harm the baby. However, it’s best to abstain from alcohol altogether while breastfeeding. This precaution is crucial because even unintentional exposure to high levels of alcohol could significantly impact the baby’s development, growth, and sleep patterns.34

Summing Up!

Hope the list we curated for must-have foods to add in your breastfeeding diet may help you unlock the superhero powers of your breast milk! As mentioned earlier, breast milk is the ultimate shield, protecting your little one from all sorts of illnesses, allergies, and infections in those precious early years, while also boosting their immunity. 

And guess what? It’s not just your baby benefiting from this liquid gold - you, the amazing breastfeeding momma, are also reducing your risks of developing breast cancer and diabetes.35,36  

Talk about a win-win for both mommy and the baby!

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

But hey, breastfeeding moms, don’t forget to nourish yourselves too! You’re the source of all this fantastic goodness, after all. Taking care of your own food habits is a must for your long-term health. And if you want to measure your breast milk’s superfood nutrient, omega-3 DHA levels, we’ve got you covered! As with LifeCell’s at-home self-collection OmegaScore-N Test kit you can measure your breast milk’s DHA levels in just a few steps! It’s safe, easy, and 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! This breastfeeding week, let’s spread the word and show the world the true power of a breastfeeding mom.



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