What to Eat While Breastfeeding

A few posts back I wrote about Healthy Pregnancy Snacks and some general guidelines of what and how much to eat during pregnancy based on recommendations from Health Canada and Registered Dieticians.

In response to that post, I was asked to create a followup post on what to eat while breastfeeding. Like pregnancy, lactation requires increased calories + nutrients to support milk production. Since I am planning to breastfeed Baby K I thought this would be a great opportunity to share some insight on how I plan to stay nourished while lactating.

How Long Should I Breastfeed?

First, off Dieticians of Canada recommends that breastmilk alone be given until six months of age and then in concert with other foods till at least 12 months of age (although Health Canada and the World Health Organization recommend breastfeeding until age 2). As mom is the primary food source for at least the first six months it is imperative that her diet contains an adequate amount of calcium, healthful fat, fibre, fruits, vegetables, and water. No matter what type of diet one is on, such as vegan it is still possible to fortify the body with these nutrients. If you are having trouble planning an adequate diet be sure to speak to a Registered Dietician. EatRight Ontario is a great place to get started in contacting a dietician or to ask a question by email.

You may not be aware of this but breastfed babies also require a daily vitamin D supplement in order to prevent a deficiency which could lead to rickets. Formula fed babies are exempt from this recommendation because their food is fortified with this vitamin. Vitamin D drops for infants can be found in the vitamin section of the pharmacy.

What Should I Eat While Breastfeeding?

One recommendation for lactating mothers is to consume about 500 more calories per day than pre-pregnancy. Although for some women this may be too much or insufficient. One’s caloric intake depends on how active they are and how much body fat is present.

As more calories are consumed more nutrients are provided to the body. Furthermore as one breastfeeds the metabolism becomes more efficient. Plus the extra pounds on a new mom will also be used to supply nutrients while breastfeeding.

Overall eating a balanced and varied diet is essential to providing one’s body with the proper nutrients.

Balanced diet: eating an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrate + fat, each macronutrient plays a different role in the body, brain, and metabolism.

Protein: meat, fish, eggs

Protein can increase metabolism and is needed for neurotransmitters in the brain

Carbohydrate: fruit + vegetables

Carbohydrates provide quick energy by raising blood sugar levels

Fat: olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds

Fats keep us full, help with brain function and impair carbohydrates from entering the bloodstream too quickly. 

Varied diet: eating different types of food or trying a new food each week

Try these easy substitutions to add more variety to your diet:

  • using quinoa in a casserole instead of rice

  • making lasagne with zucchini strips instead of pasta

  • subbing in roasted sweet potato for regular potatoes

  • making muffins with half whole wheat flour and half regular flour

  • trying plain yogurt in your smoothie over flavoured

What if I’m not Eating Enough?

The milk produced for baby is made from nutrients within the mother’s body and the food she consumes. If for some reason the mother is not well nourished her body will provide the needed nutrients to produce milk for the infant. In fact in scenarios where mothers were close to malnutrition the milk produced was adequate enough to supply the child and allow proper growth.

Furthermore feeding when baby initially shows signs of hunger (rooting, rapid eye movement, flexing arms or closed fists, sucking on hand) or feeding on cue is imperative to establishing not only an adequate milk supply but to give baby enough food throughout the day. However, each baby is different and as time goes on parents will begin to recognize their own child’s feeding cues.

Crying is a late sign of hunger and could make latching more difficult.

Are There Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding?

Besides the obvious of alcohol and smoking, there are not any specific foods to avoid.

Caffeine intake may or may not affect the baby. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding notes that “the amount of caffeine in five or fewer five-ounce cups of coffee (less than 750 ml) will not cause a problem for most mothers and babies.”  One must also consider the size of their mug (8oz or 12 oz) and all sources of caffeine such as carbonated drinks, some pain medication, some cold medication and other medications.

A baby that is alert, wide-eyed or fussy may be overstimulated by caffeine. However, in about one cup of coffee, the amount of caffeine transferred to the breastmilk is about 1%. Although it is important to note caffeine does accumulate in the baby.

Breastfeeding moms shouldn’t feel pressure to eat certain foods for their nutrient content. Other foods will also contain the same nutrients.

Additionally, milk consumption in the mother is not essential to producing milk. In fact, calcium can be received from many other sources. Such as chicken broth, where the chicken is cooked for an extended time to soften the bones. Other sources include canned fish (salmon or mackerel) that contain the softened bones due to processing, whole grains,  green leafy vegetable, tahini, almonds.

How Much Fluid Should I Consume?

According to La Leche Leauge drinking till thirst is a good guideline to follow. Most new moms find it helpful to have a water bottle nearby while feeding. As long as one’s urine is light coloured fluid intake is sufficient.

Furthermore drinking more than needed or drinking herbs does not help increase milk supply. Only the baby fully emptying the breast regularly and on cue will tell the body to produce more milk.

I’m Vegetarian or Vegan is My Baby Still Getting Enough Nutrients?

A vegetarian diet containing some animal products like eggs or dairy is usually adequate. although when these foods are eliminated as in the case of a vegan diet vitamin B12 must be incorporated somehow, usually through a supplement.

One benefit of eating a vegetarian diet is lower levels of PCB’s (environmental contaminants) within the body as these are stored in the fatty tissue. Vegetarians tend to consume less fatty foods than an animal product based diet.

What About Losing Weight, Is it Safe to Diet?

Generally, it can take up to a year to lose the extra weight accumulated during pregnancy. Part of the weight gained during pregnancy is used to meet the nutrient and calorie needs of breastfeeding. Therefore it is recommended to wait at least 2 months before trying to lose weight. During these first few months, the milk supply is established and the mom’s body is healing from birth. Finally, weight loss should be gradual, about 1-2 pounds per week.


For more information on breastfeeding in general and tips and advice on breastfeeding be sure to check out the La Leche League Website or the book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (I found this to be really helpful in preparing to breastfeed).


Breast-Feeding Success. (2017). Todaysdietitian.com. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/100112p52.shtml

Canada, P. (2014). Breastfeeding & Infant Nutrition – Canada.caCanada.ca. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/childhood-adolescence/stages-childhood/infancy-birth-two-years/breastfeeding-infant-nutrition.html

LLLI | NB Maternal Nutrition during Breastfeeding. (2016). Llli.org. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from http://www.llli.org/nb/nbmarapr04p44.html

LLLI | What effect does the mother’s consumption of caffeine have on the breastfeeding infant?. (2016). Llli.org. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from http://www.llli.org/faq/caffeine.html

PFC Balanced Eating Part 1: What is PFC? – Dietitian Cassie. (2014). Dietitian Cassie. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from https://www.dietitiancassie.com/pfc-balanced-eating-part-1-what-is-pfc/

Breastfeeding can be challenging for any new mom especially when you're sleep deprived. One thing that shouldn't be confusing is what to eat while nursing.


To read more pregnancy updates check out the following posts:

2nd Trimester Update (21W2D)
3rd Trimester Update
Everything No One Tells You About Your First Pregnancy (Part 1)
Everything No One Tells You About You’re First Pregnancy (Part 2)
Baby K’s Birth Story + Baby K’s Birth Story Part 2
Everything No One Told Me About Postpartum
What to Eat While Breastfeeding

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