Breastfeeding Diet 101: What to Eat While Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding Mom
Breastfeeding places extra nutritional demands on a mother's body. The food we as mothers eat is the fuel our body will use to produce breastmilk for our babies. Following a balanced, nutrient-rich, and clean diet is vital to properly nourish both yourself and your little one. In this article, we'll cover the key diet considerations for breastfeeding mothers.

Load Up On Nutrient-Dense Foods

Breastmilk provides complete nutrition for babies, so the nutrients you take in directly impact your breastmilk quality. Focus on getting adequate amounts of key ingredients like protein, calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, C, D, B6 and B12.

Good protein sources include poultry, eggs, Greek yogurt, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and soy products like tofu or edamame. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, leafy greens, fortified non-dairy milks and canned fish with bones. Iron is plentiful in red meat, poultry, seafood, spinach, beans, pumpkin seeds and iron-fortified cereals.

Eat frequent small meals and snacks incorporating these nourishing foods. Prepare dishes with plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein. Take a daily multivitamin as an insurance policy to cover any nutritional gaps. Staying well fed ensures you feel energized and support your milk supply.

While eating a varied diet should provide sufficient nutrition, taking a daily prenatal or breastfeeding specific multivitamin can help fill any gaps. Key supplements to consider include vitamin D for bone health, DHA omega-3s for brain development, and probiotics for immunity and digestion. Discuss supplement needs with your doctor.

Proper Hydration is Essential

Drinking enough fluids is tremendously important while breastfeeding. When lactating, a mother's fluid requirements increase substantially. Dehydration can decrease your milk supply, so make sure to consume plenty of water and other unsweetened beverages.

Signs of dehydration include dark yellow urine, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, fatigue and headaches. Aim for around 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total fluids per day. Water should make up the bulk of your intake, but milk, herbal tea, broth-based soups and fresh juicing count too. Coconut water is a good option as well since it provides electrolytes.

Limit Your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine consumed through drinks, foods and medications passes through breastmilk to your baby. While small amounts are considered safe, excessive caffeine intake can cause infant restlessness, irritability and poor sleep.

The general recommendation is to cap your caffeine consumption at around 200mg per day while nursing. That's typically equal to about 2 cups of coffee. Wean yourself down slowly if needed by substituting decaf or half-caf drinks. Also limit chocolate and high-caffeine sodas.

More information on infant intake: Can Babies Drink Water During Breastfeeding?

Be Cautious with Fish Consumption and Allergic Foods

Fish provides beneficial omega-3 fatty acids like DHA that are great for breastfeeding mothers and baby's brain development. However, due to mercury content, it's important to choose low mercury seafood options during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The top recommended fish choices with low mercury levels include salmon, shrimp, pollock, light canned tuna, tilapia, catfish, cod, sardines, and anchovies. Limit higher mercury picks like albacore or white tuna to just once per week.

Avoid tilefish, swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and marlin completely. Check updated seafood guides put out by health organizations for the most current recommendations.

When preparing fish, opt for healthier cooking methods like baking, broiling or grilling over deep frying. Consume 8 to 12 ounces per week for optimal omega-3 intake. If you don't eat fish, taking a DHA supplement can provide an alternative.

Besides mercury concerns, it's also important to watch for potential food allergies or sensitivities if you notice gassiness, fussiness or symptoms in your baby after eating certain foods. Common allergic triggers to be aware of include cow's milk, eggs, soy, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish and citrus fruits.

If you suspect a food allergy, eliminate the potential irritant completely for 2-3 weeks and monitor changes in your baby's comfort and symptoms, then slowly reintroduce it and watch for reactions. Breastfeeding moms may also choose to avoid the top allergens entirely to be extra cautious. Discuss any suspected allergies with your pediatrician and they can provide customized guidance for your situation.



Eat a Diverse Diet and Listen to Your Body

Eating a wide variety of nutritious foods ensures you get a range of vitamins, minerals and nutrients to optimize your breastmilk. Different foods also introduce different flavors to your milk, which benefits baby.

Observe how the foods you eat affect your energy levels, milk supply and baby's reactions. Some babies are sensitive to certain proteins passing through breastmilk that may cause fussiness or intestinal discomfort. Notice if gassiness or reflux improve when you eliminate common irritants like dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, nuts or corn.

A Sample Meal Plan for Mother's Reference

Here is a sample 2-day meal plan emphasizing nutrient-dense foods to nourish a breastfeeding mother:

Meal Day 1 Food Items Day 2 Food Items
Breakfast Avocado toast on whole grain bread, poached egg, fruit smoothie Yogurt parfait with Greek yogurt, berries, chopped nuts and granola
Snack Hummus with carrot and celery sticks String cheese and whole wheat crackers
Lunch Grilled chicken wrap with lettuce, tomato and cheddar. Side of melon. Lentil vegetable soup, whole grain bread, apple slices
Snack Trail mix with nuts, seeds and dried fruit Boiled eggs, orange slices
Dinner Baked salmon, quinoa pilaf, side salad with vinaigrette Turkey meatballs with marinara sauce, zucchini noodles, side salad

This sample plan provides balanced nutrition including lean protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables and calcium. Tailor your own meal plan based on your dietary preferences and needs.

Related: The Secret to Stress-Free Cooking: 5 Super Easy, Nutritious Freezer Meals For New Moms

The Key Takeaway

What you eat during breastfeeding directly impacts the quality and quantity of milk available to nourish your baby. Focus on getting plenty of essential nutrients, proper hydration, limiting caffeine and eating a diverse diet. Listen to your body's cues and your baby's responses to identify optimal foods. Consulting a doctor or dietitian can help customize the ideal breastfeeding eating plan just for you. With the right diet, you can feel your best and provide the precious gift of breastmilk for your little bundle of joy.

Two FAQs on Breastfeeding Food Eating

1. Can Breastfeeding Mother Eat Sushi?

In general, sushi with raw fish should be limited or avoided entirely while breastfeeding due to potential infection risks.

  • Raw fish in sushi carries a higher risk of parasitic and bacterial infections, so it is generally not recommended while breastfeeding. The pathogens could pass to the baby through breastmilk.
  • Cooked sushi containing fish like shrimp, eel or crab is a safer option. The high cooking temperatures destroy harmful bacteria and parasites.
  • Vegetarian sushi with ingredients like avocado, cucumber, pickled vegetables, etc is also safe to eat without concern.
  • Some guidelines suggest limiting sushi with raw fish to no more than 1-2 times per month while breastfeeding. Stick to reputable restaurants with high food safety standards.
  • Opt for low mercury fish like salmon and avoid risky high mercury options like tuna when choosing sushi.
  • Be cautious with sushi containing roe (fish eggs) as it can contain higher mercury levels.
  • Pay attention to any allergic reactions in your baby after eating fish or seafood. Discontinue if you suspect a food sensitivity.

2. Is There any Food to Aviod while Breastfeeding?

Yes, there are some key foods that are generally recommended to avoid or limit when breastfeeding.

Here are the list:

  • Alcohol - Can pass to baby through breastmilk. Moderate alcohol intake in limited amounts is considered safe by some guidelines, but avoiding completely is safest.
  • High-mercury fish - Including swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, shark. Can accumulate in breastmilk.
  • Raw/undercooked meat, fish, eggs - Risk of foodborne illnesses. Cook fully to destroy harmful bacteria.
  • Unpasteurized dairy - Can contain dangerous bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, listeria. Choose pasteurized products.
  • Caffeine - Limit to 200mg or less per day as caffeine passes through breastmilk and can cause baby restlessness.
  • Honey - Risk of infant botulism due to bacteria spores. Don't give to babies under 1 year.
  • High-mercury fruits - Papaya, pineapple, mango. Can accumulate in breastmilk in excess amounts.
  • Herbal supplements - Little data on safety. Stick to vitamins/herbs known to be compatible with breastfeeding.
  • Food allergens - If baby has a suspected or known food allergy, avoid that food. Common allergens are dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, fish.

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