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What to Eat When You’re Breastfeeding

If you’ve ever noticed your baby seems disinterested in feeding after you’ve eaten a spicy meal, it’s no coincidence. Your diet and breast milk are closely intertwined, and what you put into your body can directly affect your milk supply along with your baby’s feeding patterns. We’ve rounded up the best postpartum eating habits to adopt now, to help you consume (as well as provide) necessary nutrients throughout your breastfeeding journey.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Nursing moms need additional calories –to the tune of 450-500 extra calories a day. Although a handful of cookies or a donut could easily have you hitting your calorie quota, nutritious foods are more beneficial to you and your baby. Healthy, high-calorie foods like nut butter, eggs, bananas, whole wheat bread, salmon, nuts, oats, and olive oil, are a few ways to easily get calorie-dense foods into your system. Studies suggest eating a healthy diet now will also help to establish good eating habits for your little one as they grow and learn from you. 

Staying Hydrated

Adequate hydration is important to breastfeeding and your postpartum recovery. Water is the most effective and affordable way to stay hydrated, it also helps to curb your risk of developing mastitis while simultaneously boosting your milk supply and energy levels. Other drinks that increase hydration while breastfeeding include:

  • Coconut water
  • Sports drinks
  • Green smoothies
  • Watermelon juice
  • Bone broth
  • Non-fat cow’s milk 
  • Tea

Lactation Foods

There are many nutritious galactagogues –foods believed to increase milk production– available at your local grocery store. Although studies are mixed regarding any one food item and its ability to increase lactation, many of the following foods are recommended by nursing mamas to help boost milk production:

Thankfully, many of these suggestions are already part of a well-balanced diet. Eating nutritious, calorie-dense meals and snacks will naturally help with your milk production.

Lactation Supplements

Herbal galactagogues contained in many lactation supplements are believed to increase milk production. With the growing interest in these beneficial herbs, lactation supplements are now available in capsules, lozenges, drink mixes, and teas. If you’re concerned about the amount of breastmilk you’re producing, leaning into a supplement can provide you with some peace of mind. The herbs most commonly touted for their breast milk-boosting capabilities are:

  • Milk Thistle 
  • Fennel 
  • Fenugreek 
  • Alfalfa
  • Anise
  • Marshmallow Root

Some women report having diarrhea, nausea, and other gastrointestinal issues when taking supplements containing Fenugreek. If you’ve attempted to use a supplement with Fenugreek and experienced similar symptoms, our Total Lactation Fenugreek Free is an excellent alternative. 

What Foods Should I Limit?

While some food items can improve your milk supply, others can impair it. We recommend cutting out, or at least limiting, your consumption of the following items:

Caffeine- Caffeine can be transmitted through your breastmilk leading to fussiness, and irritability, and can even disrupt your baby’s sleep (in large doses). Many caffeinated beverages, like coffee, have dehydrating factors and can reduce your milk output as well.

Alcohol- Like caffeine, alcohol is also transmitted through breast milk. There is no known safe amount of alcohol for breastfeeding mothers. Alcohol is also a diuretic that increases urination and contributes to the loss of vital fluids and electrolytes. 

Overly spicy foods- The food you eat while pregnant can change the taste and smell of your amniotic fluid. In utero, your baby will swallow the amniotic fluid through breathing motions. If you eat a variety of spicy foods there’s a chance your baby will develop a taste for the spicier side of things, however, if your baby experiences colic, gas, or diarrhea after nursing, your spicy meal could be the culprit. 

Peppermint, Parsley, and Sage- Although full of flavor, these herbs can curb lactation and cut your milk supply. Some women even opt to sub out the mint in common kinds of toothpaste and mouthwashes while breastfeeding as a result of this sensitivity. 

Fish with higher mercury levels- Fish like salmon, trout, and tilapia are excellent sources of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids. Just be careful when it comes to fish with higher known levels of mercury such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel. 

Gassy foods- If your baby has excessive gas or colic after feeding, the common offenders are things like broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and beans. However, don’t cut them out of your diet unless there’s a clear connection between eating them and your baby’s feelings of discomfort. They’re all prime sources of essential nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber. 

To learn more ways you can support your body and mind throughout your breastfeeding journey we recommend: 

10 Reasons You May Have a Low Milk Supply

6 Breastfeeding Secrets Every New Mom Should Know

Six Common Breastfeeding Worries for New Moms

Breastfeeding Positions for Mom and Baby