What is a good diet for breastfeeding? 6 Tips to Healthy Eating from Breastfeeding Nutrition Coach

Breastfeeding can be intimidating and breastfeeding nutrition even moreso. Most women are so tired during those first few weeks, eating a balanced diet seems as realistic as aliens invading. They can’t imagine being able to maintain a healthy diet while breastfeeding. Others have concerns about how their own nutritional needs may impact the quality and quantity of their breast milk. Some women may worry that certain foods or beverages they consume could cause their baby discomfort or harm, such as spicy foods, caffeine, or alcohol. 

All of these are legitimate concerns.

Before reading any further, we want you to breathe. If you’re breastfeeding now, you’re probably doing great. Breastfeeding doesn’t require a highly specialized diet, instead an overall healthy, balanced one. And it’s important to not put too much pressure on achieving a perfect diet. (A perfect diet doesn’t exist). Breastfeeding can be demanding and time-consuming, so the key is to prioritize your health and wellbeing. 

As women, as mothers, and as lactation dietitian nutritionists, here are some tips to eat a balanced diet to support breastfeeding during the blur of those first few months after your baby is born.

  1. Prepare meals before your baby comes. So much emphasis is put on the baby room, the crib, getting the right diapers, it’s easy to forget about new parents. Before baby is born, freeze individual and couple-sized meals: lasagna, soup, casserole, lentils, and non-spicy chili are all great options to prepare ahead of time. And don’t forget the magic of frozen vegetables and fruits. They have the same amount of nutrients as their fresh counterparts and are quick and easy to prepare.
  2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It’s super important to keep hydrated while breastfeeding. Always have a glass of water next to you. Keep water in the fridge with lemon slices or pomegranate seeds to flavor it up. Set a timer to remind you to drink. Steer clear of sweet juices and limit caffeinated drinks to two or three servings (16 – 24 ounces) a day. (Yes! You can have your morning coffee fix!)
  3. Lean proteins. Remember the magic of the egg – almost a perfect protein, high in choline to support your baby’s brain development. Make omelets with spinach, veggies (get those frozen medley packs), and cheese, topped with a dollop of plain or greek yogurt for a full meal prepared in ten minutes. Other great proteins include lean meats like chicken breast, fish filets, beans, and lentils. Protein supports postpartum healing.
  4. Get the calories you need. Your body needs extra calories during breastfeeding. For one baby, between 300 – 400 calories more/day. For twins, between 400 – 500 more calories/day. Opt for nutrient-dense snacks. Bananas, yogurt parfaits with a drizzle of honey, apples with peanut butter, baked pita bread with hummus, and baked tortilla chips with guacamole. 
  5. Avoid certain foods. Limit alcohol intake. There’s no level of alcohol intake that’s considered safe for breastfeeding. If you do have a glass of wine, wait a few hours before feeding, or pump-and-dump. Keep caffeine to two or three cups/day. Fish is a great source of lean protein, but steer clear of high-mercury fish while breastfeeding (swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish). 
  6. Set a food alarm. Staying nourished during those first few weeks is especially difficult. Set a food alarm, and have ready-made snacks (apples and peanut butter, guacamole, hummus, and cut-up carrots) that are easy and fast. Don’t complicate things.

Breastfeeding is not easy for many. Contact a prenatal nutritionist or a breastfeeding nutrition coach to get the support you need during this beautiful, and sometimes terrifying, time in your life.