Breastfeeding Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid

Pregnant moms know that there are certain foods they need to avoid, as it may harm the unborn child. Once the baby is born, some moms think they can go around eating anything they want. Sure, there are some foods that they may eat now after the nine months of abstinence. 

However, breastfeeding moms have to note that they still have to be careful about what they eat. Registered and licensed dietitian and advanced lactation consultant, Michelle Ross, RD, LD, ALC, explained the reason why. She said that the breastfeeding diet of mothers has to include nutritious foods. 

She said that breastfeeding moms have to stay hydrated and well-rested to have more energy and stay healthy. She added that what is interesting about breast milk is that it changes to meet the baby's needs. 

To maximize the effects of breast milk, moms should eat good food. Doctors, dietitians, and nurses share some advice on the best foods to eat while nursing and how much a mom should eat. 

See also: Breastfed Baby Poop: Normal Color, Texture, and Frequency

Breastfeeding Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid
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How much should a breastfeeding mom eat

Nursing moms should eat 300 to 500 more calories compared to when they were pregnant. A slightly active mom weighing 140 pounds and with the height of 5-foot 4-inches should consume 2,200 calories a day when nursing. The calculation is based on the MyPlate food plan calculator. 

The 2,200-calorie diet applies to exclusively breastfeeding mom, but if she mixes feeds with formula milk, she needs to eat 2,000 calories per day. A CareMount Medical in Carmel, New York, OB-GYN, Jyothy Parapurath, MD., suggests that nursing moms should eat a healthy diet. She explained that they need more calories than non-nursing mothers. 

See also: When to Stop Breastfeeding: 5 Reasons for Moms to Stop Nursing

Foods to eat

A pediatrician in Fort Worth, Texas, Lisa Lewis, MD, said mothers should aim for a well-rounded diet. She notes that they should eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, dairy, and healthy fats. She noted that if moms eat more protein, they will produce more milk. 

Make sure to eat a variety of what is indicated in the food list. They include all the needed vitamins and nutrients that nursing mothers need. 

Fruits

  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Mangoes 
  • Melon

Eat your vegetables 

  • Brewer's yeast
  • Carrots 
  • Fennel
  • Fenugreek
  • Green leafy veggies
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash
Breastfeeding Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid
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Choose whole grains

  • Barley
  • Fortified, low-sugar, whole-grain cereals
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Whole-wheat bread

Dairy goods

  • Fortified milk substitutes
  • Milk
  • Regular yogurt
  • Greek yogurt
  • Kefir

Protein

  • Beans
  • Chicken
  • Fish with high omega-3 fatty acids
  • Lean beef
  • Pork 
  • Salmon

Healthy fats 

  • Avocados
  • Chia seeds
  • Grape seed oil
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil
Breastfeeding Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid
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Parapurath said that if you do not eat meat, you could take a multivitamin that has vitamin B12. The CDC stated that if moms do not get enough B12, the nursing baby will become deficient with the vitamin too. Make sure to drink water every time you nurse to keep your cells hydrated. 

Foods to avoid

The old wives' tale suggests that breastfeeding moms should avoid eating spicy or gassy foods, but based on Korean research, they are safe to eat when nursing. Caffeine becomes problematic only when taken in large doses, about five cups a day. 

A registered nurse at the School of Nursing at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kelley Baumgartel, Ph.D., RN, shared her thoughts. She said that some babies react to certain foods because it changes the taste of breast milk. 

Lewis said that usually, nursing moms should avoid foods much like pregnant women. These are the following:

  • Raw or undercooked meat and seafood
  • High-mercury fish
  • Alcohol
  • Beverages with high fructose corn syrup

See also: Alcohol and Breastfeeding: Effects on the Nursing Baby

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