What Should Moms Eat While Breastfeeding?

January 12, 2021
While breastfeeding, women's need for energy and macronutrients increase. In addition, they must make sure they drink enough water.

Breastfeeding occurs during the first periods of life, and it lasts for several months. During these months, mothers feed their babies only with their breastmilk. Therefore, during this period, it’s important to take the mother and the baby’s needs into account. So, what should moms eat while breastfeeding?

What should moms eat while breastfeeding?

What Should Moms Eat While Breastfeeding?

Nutritional requirements of lactating mothers

Energy requirement

During pregnancy women should add more calories to their diet. Even though it’s not the amount required per day, producing 33 ounces of milk takes about 700 kcal. Therefore, it’s recommended for women to add 500 kcal a day to the diet they followed before getting pregnant.

Carbohydrates

Regarding carbohydrates, women should have enough of them, in order to increase energy consumption. A recommended amount would be 12 ounces a day, avoiding simple sugars.

Fats

As for lipids, the recommended amount is 3 ounces a day, and they must come from foods that contain essential fatty acids, like fish and extra virgin olive oil. This is because breast milk has a great amount of them.

Proteins

The amount of proteins must be higher than the amount consumed during pregnancy: approximately 3.5 ounces a day.

Minerals

Calcium was a necessary element during pregnancy for the formation of the fetus’ bones. In addition to that, it’s essential for milk production during breastfeeding. Therefore, professionals recommend consuming a similar amount.

A varied and balanced diet produces enough phosphorus. On the contrary, mothers have to make the effort of consuming foods rich in iron, because the amount of iron milk contains is proportional to the amount of iron women consume. 

During breastfeeding, the baby uses the iron that has accumulated during the fetal phase. However, in case the baby’s reserve isn’t enough, the iron in the breastmilk may be of help.

More nutritional requirements of lactating mothers

Vitamins 

During lactation, the needs for water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins increase. In order to satisfy this demand, we recommend different foods, such as:

What Should Moms Eat While Breastfeeding?

  • Dairy products (vitamin A and D).
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables (vitamin C and provitamin A).
  • While-grains, meat, nuts, legumes (vitamin B).

Water

The most important component of the breast milk produced during breastfeeding is water. Therefore, fluid intake is very important. In fact, in comparison to the stage of pregnancy, it should increase from 16 ounces to 25 ounces a day. 

Remember that you don’t have to drink just water. You can have milk, non-stimulating infusions (for example chamomile tea), homemade vegetables broth, soups, etc. And, try to avoid coffee, strong teas, cola drinks, and above all, avoid alcohol.

Should moms avoid certain foods during breastfeeding?

Generally speaking, there isn’t any food that moms should avoid. However, it might be good to reduce the intake of certain foods, such as:

  • Bluefish, especially swordfish, red tuna, shark and northern pike, because of the amount of mercury they contain.
  • Caffeine, alcohol and dark chocolate, because they’re stimulating.
  • Sweets and ultra-processed foods, because they’re not healthy.

Finally, certain foods change the taste of milk (garlic, onion, asparagus, artichokes, spices, etc.). However, they don’t modify the way the baby eats. If after eating a certain food, your baby gets nervous, they may not like it. Thus, if you want to, you can avoid eating that again.

  • Alimentación y nutrición. Ediciones Roble, S.L
  • Cervera, P., Clapés, J., & Rigolfas, R. (2001). Alimentación. McGraw-Hill. Interamericana.
  • Del Ciampo, L. A., & Del Ciampo, I. (2018). Breastfeeding and the Benefits of Lactation for Women’s Health. Aleitamento materno e seus benefícios para a saúde da mulher. Revista brasileira de ginecologia e obstetricia : revista da Federacao Brasileira das Sociedades de Ginecologia e Obstetricia40(6), 354–359. doi:10.1055/s-0038-1657766