Best Foods For Lactating Mothers
By Emily Berger | April 01, 2021
What to Eat and Foods to Avoid When Breastfeeding
Welcome to motherhood.The hardest part is over… or so you thought. Yes, pregnancy and delivery was a lot. But now it’s time to breastfeed, which comes with a new set of rules.
What does your breastfeeding diet look like? What foods promote lactation and what foods make your baby gassy? Are you eating enough food to maintain our milk supply? And is your last meal making your baby gassy?
Here are a few tips to help sort out the do’s and don’ts of your breastfeeding menu.
Increase Supply: Foods to Eat While Breastfeeding
Foods that help increase your milk supply and promote breastfeeding aren’t all that different from those you enjoy when eating a healthy diet (and we all are, right?). Whole grains, seeds, nuts, and leafy greens offer a range of healthy proteins, fats, and calcium - all of which provide a healthy foundation, and should be included in the list of foods to eat while breastfeeding.
Additional foods considered to be galactagogues (meaning they are thought to boost your production of breast milk) include chickpeas, ginger, fennel and garlic (although the flavor of garlic may pass into breast milk).
Am I Eating Enough Food to Make Breastmilk?
According to the CDC, an additional 450 to 500 calories per day is recommended for well-nourished breastfeeding mothers, compared to the amount they were consuming before pregnancy. It’s normal to find that you are hungry more often or that it takes a little more to stay satisfied. Be sure not to skip meals and respect your body’s hunger cues.
While it’s totally natural to want to shed baby weight, this isn’t the time to cut back on food intake. Wait at least two months for your milk supply to be established prior to actively trying to lose weight. The goal is gradual weight loss (no more than 4-5 pounds/month) because drastically cutting calories or rapidly losing weight can impact your milk supply negatively.
Lactation Supplements and Boosters
When it comes to how to increase milk supply, special herbs, lactation teas, medications, and even cookies and bars are available at grocery stores and online. Many moms use these as a means to increase their breast milk production.
As with any herb, medication, or supplement, we recommend running it by your healthcare provider in advance. Also, it’s important to remember that most mothers don’t need lactation enhancers to initiate, build, and maintain their breast milk supply if they are following a healthy diet.
While some moms swear by a popular cookie or a certain lactation tea, others have little success with them. But if you’re up for it, give this popular Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookie Recipe a try and let us know what you think. Whether it helps or not, it tastes great!
Foods to Avoid When Breastfeeding
There’s actually not a lot to stress about when it comes to foods that you need to avoid when breastfeeding.In fact, there aren’t any foods that breastfeeding mothers should expressly avoid - .
Some foods to limit include:
Alcohol: According to the CDC - “Not drinking alcohol is the safest option for breastfeeding mothers. Generally, moderate alcohol consumption by a breastfeeding mother (up to 1 standard drink per day) is not known to be harmful to the infant, especially if the mother waits at least 2 hours after a single drink before nursing.”
Caffeine: While things containing caffeine don’t need to be avoided while breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to enjoy your coffee or tea after nursing. Like alcohol, caffeine passes into your bloodstream and into your breast milk, so having too much could make some babies jittery.
Some herbs: Certain herbs (like peppermint, sage and parsley), when consumed in large amounts, are considered anti-galactagogues (meaning they decrease milk supply). Although you’d have to consume A LOT of these herbs to have that effect, if you notice a decrease in your supply and you happen to enjoy an herb-filled diet (tabouleh anyone?), consider cutting back.
Still Have Low Milk Supply?
Working on making your diet breastfeeding friendly is a fantastic best practice in general, and a good area to look at if you feel you aren’t producing enough milk. If you are eating right, however, and still worried about your supply, you may want to work with a lactation consultant.
An IBCLC or Certified Lactation Consultant can help you with different approaches and strategies to build and maintain your milk supply. Most times, lactation support visits are covered by insurance at no cost to you!
About the Author
As a Medical Documentation Specialist at 1 Natural Way, Emily Berger works with doctors' offices on moms' behalf to get prescriptions for breast pumps, pump supplies and other insurance-covered products. A few years ago, as she prepared to welcome her second child, Emily joined online communities of moms to discuss the joys and challenges of breastfeeding. Grateful for the information and support she received, she decided to pay it forward in posts. In her spare time, Emily enjoys baking and spending time with her family.