Table of Contents
- A list of important vitamins and nutrients for breastfeeding mothers
- The 10 best "superfoods" for breastfeeding mothers
- Do I need to take any supplements while breastfeeding?
- Should I Avoid any foods while breastfeeding?
- Should I eat more while breastfeeding?
- How much water should I drink while breastfeeding?
- Do certain foods cause gas in babies via the breast milk?
Here we discuss the best foods to eat when breastfeeding to support a mother’s nutritional needs and, improve the quality of her breast milk.
A mother does not need a special breastfeeding diet, but the foods she eats will affect her health and will change the composition of her breast milk. The macro-nutrients in breast milk, such as fat, carbs, and protein are not likely to change much, but micro-nutrients will vary greatly according to the foods she eats.
Before we dive into the top 10 foods, let's discuss a few important points:
Important Vitamins and Nutrients While Breastfeeding
Your milk will only contain the following nutrients if you consume them...
You need to ensure that your diet contains enough:
- Vitamin B1 (found in nuts and seeds)
- B2 (found in almonds and other nuts)
- B6 (found in seeds, nuts, and dried fruit)
- B12 (taken as a supplement)
- Choline (found in peanuts, broccoli, and sprouts)
- Vitamin A (Sweet potato, carrots, and dark leafy vegetables)
- Vitamin D (mushrooms, tofu, orange juice, and fortified soy milk) Read more about Vitamin D needs of breastfeeding mothers.
- Selenium (brazil nuts, whole wheat, and seeds)
- Iodine (seaweed and iodized salt)
The following nutrients are even more important to include in your diet because if you don’t, your body will leach your bones and tissue stores and still provide them to your baby in your breast milk. Therefore, making you deficient. When your body chooses between leaving nutrients for yourself or making milk for your baby, your baby wins hands-down every time.
- Folate (beans, lentils, leafy greens, and avocado.)
- Calcium (leafy greens and legumes)
- Iron (Beans, leafy greens and dried fruit)
- Copper (whole grains, nuts, and potato)
- Zinc (Beans and nuts)
The 10 Best Breastfeeding Superfoods
#1 Green Leafy Vegetables
Leafy greens are nutrient powerhouses. These include spinach, kale, microgreens, collard greens, beet greens, cabbage, and many others. Not only do leafy greens contain most of the nutrients you need to improve your and your baby’s health, but they also encourage milk production.
Seaweed is a leafy green of the sea. It’s not actually a vegetable, but algae. You can add seaweed to soups, salads, stews, stir-fries, you can eat it as a snack or with sushi. Seaweed has notable nutrients and contains more minerals than any other food. We can find these minerals in the ocean and human blood. Many use seaweed as a lactogenic food.
#3. Barley Grass or Barley Water
Barley will improve the quality of your breast milk by making it creamier and more nutrient-rich. Studies show that the beta-glucan in barley increases Prolactin levels (lactation hormone). You can add barley to stews, rice, soups, and bread. You can sprout your own barley greens and eat them in salads.
Fat, protein, and fiber are abundant in nuts. They also contain Tryptophan, which is converted into Serotonin. Serotonin will boost your mood and your milk supply. These healthy fats in nuts are transferred to your baby via your breast milk.
Raw almonds are especially powerful and full of calcium. Your breast milk is sweeter, creamier and more enticing to babies when almonds are consumed. Many people around the world have used almonds for generations as a lactogenic food around the world.
Nuts are high in iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin K, B and are a potent source of fatty acids.
#5. Beans and Legumes
- Ancient Egyptians used Chickpeas as a galactagogue for many centuries.
- Soybeans have the highest Phytoestrogen (lactogenic property) content of all beans.
Eating a variety of beans in your diet will boost your iron levels, your energy levels and promote a healthy, full milk supply.
Flaxseeds are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids. For you to benefit from these little powerhouses of essential fatty acids, you need to grind them before you eat them; our bodies struggle to digest flaxseed in their whole form. Flaxseed oil is a sweet oil that tastes great with vegetables and can be added to smoothies too. Flaxseed contains Estrogenic properties that boost milk supply. They also improve the quality of breast milk by adding extra healthy fats to your milk; this promotes healthy brain development.
- Hemp seed
Like flaxseed, hemp seeds is also seen as a “superfood” because of its high Omega-3 content and dense nutrient content. Hemp seeds are a complete protein because they contain a 3:1 ratio of omega-3 and 6 (which is perfect for human needs). The high iron and zinc content is essential for infant growth and development.
- Chia seed
Chia seeds are high in protein, calcium, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Sesame Seeds
Also, high in estrogen-like properties, therefore great at increasing supply.
#7. Ginger and Garlic
Fresh ginger can boost milk production and the flow of milk (improve your let-down reflex)
Garlic is also a lactogenic food and is used by many to improve the taste of breastmilk. Studies have shown that babies breastfeed for longer periods when their mothers eat garlic.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties that help breastfeeding mothers prevent and treat mastitis and the symptoms associated with engorgement. In Asia, Turmeric is often given to mothers to boost their immune symptoms and to prevent colds - these benefits are transferred to the baby too.
Oatmeal is rich in beat-glucans, phytochemicals, and iron. If you struggle with low milk supply issues, oatmeal is an excellent choice.
#10. Red and Orange, Root Vegetables
These vegetables have been believed by the Chinese to nourish the mother and child while breastfeeding. These brightly colored lactogenic foods are high in nutrients and Phytoestrogens.
Mothers Need to Ensure That They Consume Plenty of the Following:
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Whole grains or other starchy foods such as potato, couscous or quinoa.
- Good protein sources such as lentils, tofu, and beans.
- Healthy fats found in coconut oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
If you are wondering why I didn’t list any animal products, it is because I don’t believe they are healthy and cannot, with a good conscience, recommend that you eat them. If you would like to know why, please read: The China Study summary
Are There Any Supplements You Need to Take While Breastfeeding?
- You should take Vitamin D if you do not get enough sun exposure.
- Take a calcium supplement or include nuts, tofu, sesame seeds, and leafy greens into your diet.
Are There Foods You Should Avoid While Breastfeeding?
Caffeine and alcohol are okay in moderation. Breastfeeding mothers should avoid oily fish as much as possible. But, other than these things, you can eat anything, unless you are allergic to something. Recent studies suggest that a mother should eat nuts as early as possible while breastfeeding and introduce them into her child’s diet within the first year to avoid sensitivities.
Do Breastfeeding Mothers Need More Calories?
breastfeeding calorie calculator. After this, you can calculate whether you need to eat extra calories. Work out how many extra calories you need per day with our calorie calculator.
Do You Need to Drink More Water When Breastfeeding?
Learn more about breastfeeding and hydration here.
Can Certain Foods Give My Baby Gas?
It’s very unlikely that something in your diet would cause your baby’s discomfort. In fact, research suggests that only 2 - 6% of infants are allergic to something in their mother’s milk. Cow’s milk, egg, corn, and soy proteins are usually accountable for most sensitivities.
Signs of an allergic reaction include:
- Projectile vomiting
- A rash
- Blood in stools
- You may also notice fussiness, reflux, and explosive stools.