Many women want to know how their nutritional needs change during lactation.
Can what I eat affect my milk supply? What foods should I eat to produce quality milk for my
baby? Do I need to take any supplements to keep my supply up? I hope to answer most of
these questions in this post.
For mothers that chose to exclusively breastfeed, they are providing their baby with all of the
nutrient requirements during the first six months after delivery. Eating a diet rich in nutrient
dense foods, while you are breastfeeding, is important not only because you are supplying your
infant with all of their energy needs, but additionally, your body is working to heal from delivery
and replenish any lacking nutrient stores as well as keeping up with the demands of having a
The nutrition requirements for breastfeeding are similar to those for pregnancy. Since your body
is producing breast milk for your baby, your calorie needs do increase by about 200-500 extra
calories per day. This is equivalent to an extra 1-3 snacks a day, with each snack at about
150-200 calories. When mom is feeling her best, the more energy she will have to take care of
her baby and heal more quickly after delivery.
Milk supply is mainly based on supply and demand, how much baby is eating is how much your
body will produce, not necessarily from the types or amounts of foods you are eating.
Occasionally, a mother’s calorie or fluid intake can affect milk production. In general, you should
simply listen to your body. It is not necessary to force fluids. Drinking to satisfy thirst is sufficient
for most mothers to stay hydrated. Pay attention to your body’s signals. Busy mothers often
forget to take care of themselves and ignore thirst and hunger cues. Try to keep a drink near
where you usually breastfeed baby or at your desk at work. Signs that you are not getting
enough fluids include concentrated urine and constipation. The main message on calories and
fluids — Listen to your body and eat when you are hungry & drink when you are thirsty.
For the most part, a lactating woman will produce milk that meets the needs of her baby
nutritionally, by pulling from her stores, regardless of the mom’s diet. However, there are some
components of breastmilk that can be altered simply by changing what mom is eating.
One nutrient that is dependent on the type mom consumes that is transferred to the baby, is fat.
The more healthy fats, including omega 3 fatty acids, like DHA, that a nursing mom consumes,
the more her milk will contain this kind of fat and transfer this to baby. So eating foods like fatty
fish, especially salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring, meat, eggs, nuts & seeds, algae,
avocado, dairy or supplementation can be beneficial for baby. Remember DHA is important for
brain and visual development of babies.
Another important nutrient that a nursing mom can focus on is vitamin D. Breast milk tends not
to have a large amount of vitamin D, so make sure you are eating enough or
supplementing can ensure sure that baby gets what he or she needs. Vitamin D is critical to
infants in order to maintain the skeletal integrity and is key in the maintenance of baby’s immune
system. Vitamin D is found in foods such as sunflower seeds, pistachios, fish, poultry, pork,
dried fruit, lean beef, bananas, avocados, and spinach.
Eating a variety of different foods while breastfeeding will not only provide you with a balance of
nutrients, but it will also change the flavor of your breast milk. This will expose your baby to
different tastes, which might help him or her more easily accept solid foods down the road.
- Listen to your body’s hunger and thirst cues
- You need to eat an extra 200-500 calories (1-3 snacks) per day to replenish energy that is lost through breastfeeding
- Drink to thirst
- Energy is essential for a new mom, so eat regularly to increase your food intake and meet all your nutritional needs
- Keep your intake of empty-calorie foods to the minimum and eat more nutrient-dense foods
- Eat a variety of foods from all food groups to ensure you are getting essential
- nutrients for healing and normal body functions
- Choose more healthy fat options like omega 3 fatty acids, specifically DHA to boost supply in milk for
- Pay attention to vitamin D intake
- Eating a variety of foods will give you a balance of nutrients as well as exposing your baby to different flavors!