The Ultimate Breastfeeding Diet for New Moms

Congratulations, you’re about to be or have recently become a new mom and decided to breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding is a very personal decision, and each family has to choose what is best for them. However, if you’ve decided to breastfeed, it is essential you continue to take care of yourself and your nutrition as you did when you were pregnant.

While there is a little bit more wiggle room in what you can and cannot eat while breastfeeding compared to pregnancy, there are still guidelines new moms should follow. 

Breastfeeding is still, essentially, eat for two. That doesn’t mean you’re consuming double the amount of calories but eating healthy, nutrient-filled foods. While breastfeeding, you will need an additional 300-500 calories a day, so it is vital to make them count!

Foods Back on the Menu

During pregnancy, there were many foods that you were restricted from eating; breastfeeding, thankfully, isn’t quite as stringent. However, there are still a few foods to consume in moderation or not at all.

Foods in moderating while breastfeeding

Caffeine: Avoid excessive caffeine. During pregnancy, you were limited to 200 mg; for breastfeeding, experts say 300 mg or less per day is the max. The FDA caps non-pregnant/non-nursing adults at 400 mg. 

  • 12-ounce home-brewed coffee – 100 mg
  • 12-ounce  Starbucks coffee – 235 mg
  • 12-ounce Dunkin Donuts coffee – 210 mg
  • 16-ounce Carmel Machiatto at Starbucks – 175 mg
  • 10-ounce Caramel Machiatto at Dunkin Donuts – 237 mg
  • One shot of espresso – 150 mg
  • 12-ounce Decaf – 25 mg
  • 16-ounce Cold Brew at Starbucks – 200 mg

High-Mercury FIsh: While sushi is ok, you should avoid swordfish, marlin, tuna, tilefish, and king mackerel. Tuna can be consumed but limit it to 8-12 ounces of canned light tuna.

Herbal Supplements and Some Medications: You shouldn’t take any supplements or medications without speaking to your doctor first. While the list of approved medications during breastfeeding is larger than during pregnancy, some supplements and medicines can pass through breastmilk. Additionally, some medications that were safe during pregnancy may not be safe when breastfeeding. So avoid assumptions and speak with your physician. 

Foods that are OK again!

  • Sushi (avoiding the high-mercury fish mentioned above)
  • Raw shellfish
  • Unpasteurized cheese
  • Deli meat
  • Alcohol in small amounts. Aim to have your glass of wine or drink right after nursing. That gives your body enough time to process the alcohol before you need to nurse again. Limit yourself to only a few drinks per week. 

Foods to which your baby might be sensitive 

Some babies have sensitive tummies and palates from the start, and what you eat could affect how they feel. Start a food journal if you notice your baby is fussy or excessively gassy regularly 2-6 hours after eating.

The most common food babies react to is soy—however, garlic and other strong spices, cow milk, and other dairy products can cause reactions.

While rare, it is also possible for a nursing infant to have food allergies. The most common food allergies are tree nuts, cow’s milk, soy, eggs, wheat, and other nuts.

Signs your baby is potentially allergic:

  • Loose, watery stools
  • Stools tinged with blood or that have mucus
  • Occasional or frequent vomiting after eating (more than typical baby spit-up)
  • Failure to gain weight
  • Hives, wheezing, eczema, nasal discharge, or difficulty breathing

If you suspect a food allergy or you, your spouse, or your child’s sibling have food allergies speak with your pediatrician on how to proceed.

What Should I Eat While Nursing?

Other than the foods listed as off limits or to eat in moderation, you can technically eat any food you’d like. However, your body needs healthy, nutrient-dense foods to produce enough healthy breastmilk and to maintain the stamina required of new parents. 

You should aim for food rich in vitamins and nutrients as well as a variety of flavors. Flavors pass through breastmilk, so the wider variety of foods you consume, the wider variety of tastes you’ll expose your baby to!

  • Protein-filled foods. Lean proteins like chicken breast, ground turkey, tofu, beans, low-mercury fish, eggs, lentils, and nut butter are best.
  • Whole grains. Fill up on fiber-filled complex carbohydrates like oatmeal, brown rice, and barley daily.
  • Vegetables and fruits. Aim for a minimum of 5 servings daily and eat the rainbow. Rich, leafy greens are an excellent iron source.
  • Healthy High-fat foods. Avocados, low-mercury fish like salmon, nuts, and seeds are good fats and should be eaten daily. 

Consume foods that contain the following nutrients:

  • Folate or Folic Acid. Folic acid is essential during pregnancy, and it continues to be important when nursing. Adult women need between 400-1000 mcg daily. Leafy green vegetables, citrus fruit, melons, strawberries, and fortified cereals are all excellent sources of folate. 
  • Calcium. 1,000 to 1,500 mg daily is the goal. Breastfeeding depletes your calcium reserves, so you need to make sure you continue to fill the tank! 
  • Vitamin C. Fruits and veggies like bell peppers, citrus, broccoli, and berries are all excellent joists. A glass of 100% orange juice or grapefruit juice in the morning is a great option, too, especially if it is fortified with Vitamin D and Calcium.
  • Omega-3s. Two to three servings of omega-3 fatty acids per week to promote your baby’s brain growth. Salmon, trout, oysters, shrimp, seaweed, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and soybeans. And walnuts are all excellent sources!
  • Iron. You should have at least one or more servings of iron-rich foods each day. These include beef, buts, dried fruit, eggs, beans, leafy greens, and fortified cereals.

It is also vital that you stay well hydrated when breastfeeding. A good rule of thumb is to have one glass of water with each nursing session. In addition, you should aim to drink between 64-128 ounces daily, depending on your activity levels, the weather, and how often you’re breastfeeding.

Maintaining a healthy diet should be a daily goal regardless if you’re breastfeeding or not. But, when someone else is counting on you for their nutrition, it benefits them and you to make healthy choices and eat a well-rounded diet. In addition, eating well ensures you’ll have the energy you need to take care of both you and your little one!

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