Breastfeeding Diet

Breastfeeding is super healthy for your baby only, but did you know that breastfeeding has benefits for your health as well? It may help reduce your risk of developing certain medical conditions later in life, including heart disease and diabetes. It may also relieve stress and help you feel more connected to your new baby. All good things. Also, breast milk is full of nourishing nutrients and protective compounds that are essential for your baby’s development. This is why breast milk is known as the 'gold standard' for infant nutrition and is often referred to as liquid gold. It takes a lot of energy to produce this liquid gold and your needs for many nutrients increase to meet these demands. This article explains everything you need to know about eating a healthy diet while breastfeeding.

Breast Milk Basics

It is so important that you should follow a healthy, nutrient-dense diet while breastfeeding. In addition to promoting your overall health, a healthy diet is essential for ensuring that your baby is getting all the nutrients they need to thrive. With the exception of vitamin D, breast milk contains everything your baby needs for proper development during the first 6 months. But if your overall diet does not provide sufficient nutrients, it can affect both the quality of your breast milk and your own health.

Research shows that breast milk is made up of 87 percent water, 3.8 percent fat, 1.0 percent protein, and 7 percent carbohydrate and provides 60 to 75 kcal/100ml. At the beginning of a feeding, the milk is more watery and usually quenches the baby’s thirst. The milk that comes later (hind-milk) is thicker, higher in fat and more nutritious. Breast milk contains everything a baby needs for the first 6 months of life. Additionally, the fat and calorie content of breast milk changes both during a feeding and over time to accommodate your baby’s needs.

Breastfeeding Nutrient Foods

Creating breast milk is demanding on the body and requires extra overall calories, as well as higher levels of specific nutrients. That is why your hunger levels may be at an all-time high when breastfeeding your new baby. It is estimated that your energy needs during breastfeeding increase by about 500 calories per day. The need for specific nutrients, including protein, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, B12, selenium, and zinc go up as well. This is why eating a variety of nutrient-dense, whole foods is so important for your health and your baby’s health. Choosing foods rich in the above nutrients can help ensure that you get all the macros and micro-nutrients you and your little one need. Here are some nutritious and delicious food choices to prioritize when breastfeeding:

  • Fish and seafood: salmon, seaweed, shellfish, sardines
  • Meat and poultry: chicken, beef, lamb, pork, organ meats (such as liver)
  • Fruits and vegetables: berries, tomatoes, bell peppers, cabbage, kale, garlic, broccoli
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds
  • Healthy fats: avocados, olive oil, coconut, eggs, full-fat yogurt
  • Fiber-rich starches: potatoes, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, oats, quinoa, buckwheat
  • Other foods: tofu, dark chocolate, kimchi, sauerkraut

It is best to reduce your intake of processed foods like fast food and sugary breakfast cereals as much as possible. Instead, choose more nutritious options. For example, if you are used to starting your day with a big bowl of brightly colored breakfast cereal, try swapping it with a bowl of oats topped with berries, unsweetened coconut, and nut butter for a filling and healthy fuel source.

Breastfeeding Diet & Nutrient Groups

Let us dive a little deeper into why it is important to pay special attention to specific vitamins and minerals, too. The nutrients in breast milk can be categorized into two groups, depending on the extent to which they are secreted into your milk.

If you are depleted of any group 1 nutrients, they will not secrete into your breast milk as readily. So, supplementing with these nutrients can give a little boost to their concentration in breast milk and enhance the health of your baby as a result. On the other hand, the concentration of group 2 nutrients in breast milk does not depend on how much mom takes in, so supplementing will not increase your breast milk nutrient concentration. Even so, these can still improve maternal health by replenishing nutrient stores.Here’s the bottom line: getting enough group 1 nutrients is important for both you and your baby, while getting enough group 2 nutrients is mostly just important for you.

Group 1 nutrients

Here are the group 1 nutrients and how to find them in some common food sources:

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): fish, pork, seeds, nuts, beans
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): cheese, almonds, nuts, red meat, oily fish, eggs
  • Vitamin B6: chickpeas, nuts, fish, poultry, potatoes, bananas, dried fruit
  • Vitamin B12: shellfish, liver, yogurt, oily fish, nutritional yeast, eggs, crab, shrimp
  • Choline: eggs, beef liver, chicken liver, fish, peanuts
  • Vitamin A: sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, organ meats, eggs
  • Vitamin D: cod liver oil, oily fish, some mushrooms, fortified foods
  • Selenium: Brazil nuts, seafood, turkey, whole wheat, seeds
  • Iodine: dried seaweed, cod, milk, iodized salt

Group 2 nutrients

Here are the group 2 nutrients and some common food sources:

  • Folate: beans, lentils, leafy greens, asparagus, avocados
  • Calcium: milk, yogurt, cheese, leafy greens, legumes
  • Iron: red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, beans, green vegetables, dried fruit
  • Copper: shellfish, whole grains, nuts, beans, organ meats, potatoes
  • Zinc: oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, dairy
As we touched on earlier, the concentration of group 2 nutrients in breast milk are relatively unaffected by your dietary intake or body stores.

So, if your intake is low, your body will take these nutrients from your own bone and tissue stores in order to secrete them into your breast milk. Your baby will always get the right amount, but your body stores will become depleted if you do not get adequate amounts from your diet. To avoid becoming deficient, these nutrients must come from your diet or supplements.

Consider Supplements

Although a healthy diet is the most important factor when it comes to nutrition during breastfeeding, there is no question that taking certain supplements can help replenish your stores of certain vitamins and minerals. There are a number of reasons why new moms may be low in certain nutrients, including not eating the right foods and the increased energy demands of breast milk production, along with looking after your baby. Taking supplements can help boost your intake of important nutrients. But it is important to be weary when choosing supplements, since many contain herbs and other additives that are not safe for breastfeeding moms. We have rounded up a list of important supplements for breastfeeding moms and promoting postpartum recovery in general. Always be sure to purchase products from reputable brands that undergo testing by third-party organizations, like NSF or USP.


A multivitamin can be a great choice for increasing your intake of important vitamins and minerals. It is common for women to be deficient in vitamins and minerals after delivery and research shows that deficiencies do not discriminate, affecting moms in both high- and low-income settings. For this reason, it may be a good idea to pop a daily multivitamin, especially if you do not think you are getting enough vitamins and minerals through your diet alone. 

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is a super important water-soluble vitamin that is essential for your baby’s health, as well as your own health, during breastfeeding. Plus, many women especially those following mostly plant-based diets, those who’ve had gastric bypass surgery, and women who are on certain medications are already at an increased risk of having low B-12 levels. If you fit into one of these categories, or if you feel that you do not eat enough B-12 rich foods like fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and fortified foods, then taking a B-complex or B-12 supplement is a good idea. Keep in mind that a most high-quality multivitamin and prenatal vitamins contain enough B-12 to cover your needs.

Omega-3 (DHA)

Omega-3 fats are all the rage nowadays, and for good reason. These fats, naturally found in fatty fish and algae, play essential roles in both maternal and fetal health. For example, the omega-3 fat DHA is critical for the development of your baby’s nervous system, skin, and eyes. Plus, concentration of this important fat in breast milk largely depends on your intake levels.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is only found in a few foods, like fatty fish, fish liver oils, and fortified products. Your body can also produce it from sunlight exposure, though it depends on many factors, like skin color and where you live. It plays many important roles in your body and is essential for immune function and bone health. Vitamin D is usually only present in low amounts in breast milk, especially when sun exposure is limited. Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common amongst breastfeeding women. And deficiency can lead to negative health outcomes, including an increased risk of postpartum depression. That is why supplementing with this vitamin is recommended.

Breastfeeding moms may benefit from taking multivitamins, vitamin B-12, omega-3s, and vitamin D supplements.

Drink Water

You may feel thirstier as well while breastfeeding. When your baby latches onto your breast, your oxytocin levels increase. This causes your milk to start flowing. This also stimulates thirst and helps ensure that you stay properly hydrated while feeding your baby. It is important to note that your hydration needs will vary depending on factors like activity levels and dietary intake. There is no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to how much fluid you need during breastfeeding. As a rule of thumb, you should always drink when you are thirsty and until you have quenched your thirst. But if you feel very tired, faint, or as if your milk production is decreasing, you may need to drink more water. The best way to tell if you are drinking enough water is the color and smell of your urine. If it is dark yellow and has a strong smell, that’s a sign that you’re dehydrated and need to drink more water.

Avoid While Breastfeeding

Most foods and drinks are safe during breastfeeding, but there are a few that should be limited or avoided. If you think something may be impacting your baby negatively, ask your healthcare provider for advice.


About 1 percent of the caffeine you consume is transferred to breast milk, and research says it takes babies much longer to metabolize caffeine. Drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee have not been shown to cause harm, but they may affect the baby’s sleep. Therefore, it is recommended that breastfeeding women limit their coffee intake to about 2 to 3 cups per day.


Alcohol can also make its way into breast milk. The concentration resembles the amount found in the mother’s blood. However, babies metabolize alcohol at only half the rate of adults. Nursing after drinking just 1 to 2 drinks can decrease your baby’s milk intake by up to 23 percent and cause agitation and poor sleep. Because alcohol intake too close to breastfeeding can negatively impact your baby’s healthy. Although it is perfectly find to enjoy an alcoholic beverage as a breastfeeding mom, it is best to wait at least 2 hours after drinking to breastfeed your baby.

Cow’s milk

Some babies may be allergic to cow’s milk. And if your baby has a cow’s milk allergy, it is important that you exclude all dairy products from your diet. Up to 1 percent of breastfed infants are allergic to cow’s milk protein from their mother’s diet, and may develop rashes, eczema, diarrhea, bloody stools, vomiting or baby colic. Your healthcare provider can give you advice on how long to exclude dairy from your diet for, and when it’s safe to reintroduce dairy.

Breastfeeding & Weight Loss

You might be tempted to lose weight quickly after delivery, but weight loss takes time and it is important to be kind to your body during this transition. With the many hormonal changes that take place during breastfeeding and the calorie demands of making breast milk, you may have a bigger appetite during breastfeeding. Restricting calories too much, especially during the first few months of breastfeeding, may decrease your milk supply and much-needed energy levels.Fortunately, breastfeeding alone has been shown to promote weight loss, especially when continued for 6 months or longer. All breastfeeding women, no matter their weight, should consume adequate calories. But if you are underweight, it is likely that you will be more sensitive to calorie restriction. For this reason, it’s essential that women with less body weight consume more calories to avoid a reduction in milk supply. The most important thing to remember when trying to lose pregnancy weight is that restrictive diets are not good for overall health and don’t work for long-term weight loss. Following a nutritious diet, adding exercise into your daily routine, and getting enough sleep are the best ways to promote healthy weight loss.


Breastfeeding is hard work! Your body requires more calories and nutrients to keep you and your baby nourished and healthy. If you are not eating enough calories or nutrient-rich foods, this can negatively affect the quality of your breast milk. It can also be detrimental for your own health. If you need to, be sure to add supplements into your routine, like vitamin D and omega-3s. And finally, be patient with your body. Take it one day at a time and remind yourself daily how awesome you are.

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  1. Movinga leaves, and sprouted green gram are the best for breastmilk

  2. This is another effort. Good work done.

  3. Amazing blog and very informative

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  5. Detailed explanation! Thanks a lot for thie

  6. Exactly! Eating right is more important than eating for 2 while breastfeeding

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