If there’s one thing that breastfeeding does (apart from feeding your baby, that is), it makes you hungry. All the time. But being hangry can lead to poor food choices, and if you’re nursing, you’ll especially want to ensure that what goes into your body is good for both you and baby. If you’re wondering what to eat while breastfeeding, these are the foods that will give you the fuel you need, and taste good, too.
There really isn’t one food that you should stick to in order to make the most of your breastfeeding journey. In fact, it’s going to be a rainbow of foods that you’ll find help boost your milk supply, keep you healthy, and provide the best nutrition while you’re nursing.
“Generally speaking, a nursing person will want to eat a healthy diet of whole foods that make them feel good,” Leigh Anne O’Connor, IBCLC, LCCE, a lactation consultant, tells Romper. “If a person eats a healthy diet, they will have more energy and they are modeling good eating habits for their child.”
Just like during pregnancy, you should try to stay away from overly processed foods, which add a lot of calories but little nutritional value, advises Andrea Tran, RN, IBCLC, a registered nurse tells Romper. “Moms should eat the same things during breastfeeding as they do any other time to stay healthy,” says Tran. “A combination of protein, healthy carbs and fats, fruits and vegetables of different colors are the best options.” And as for how much more you should be eating, your goal should be to consume an extra 450 to 500 extra calories daily while breastfeeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ready to dig right in? These nutrient-dense whole foods will make mealtime a lot more delicious and balanced for Baby and you.
When you’re searching for something to snack on, you can’t beat a handful of nuts. They’re heart healthy, and beneficial when you’re breastfeeding. “Nuts are full of healthy fat, essential omega-3 fatty acids, essential minerals and protein,” says Shapiro. “Nuts are also considered lactogenic in many cultures.” Case in point: cooked, unripe peanuts are consumed in both Africa and Asia as a galactagogue, something that is used to boost lactation, according to a PubMed study.
The next time you’re toasting up some bread for breakfast, skip the butter and slather on some sliced avocado instead. Says Shapiro: “Full of healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins, avocado is an ideal choice for nursing parents.” Avocado is easy to incorporate into meals, since you can add it into salads, stuffed with healthy proteins, or even just seasoned with some salt and pepper.
When you need something to satiate your hunger, a bowl of oatmeal creates instant comfort — and healthy breastfeeding benefits. “Oats are filling and full of iron,” says Shapiro. “They’re also known to many to be lactogenic or to increase milk supply.” If you think that your supply is a little shaky, you can always safely incorporate oatmeal into your overall diet to reap the health benefits and also boost your production.
Leafy Green Veggies
You just can’t go wrong with adding green leafy veggies into your diet. From spinach to watercress, collard greens to kale, all of these are healthy for both you and your breastfed baby. “Rich in vitamins A, C, E, K and fiber, green leafy veggies contain antioxidants and minerals including calcium,” says Shapiro. “They’ll help keep your bowel movements healthy, too.” And here’s another benefit: by exposing your baby to healthy foods early (like during breastfeeding), there’s a much greater chance that they’ll like the flavors of these foods as they get older and start eating solids, another study found.
Sure, they might make you stinky, but beans are an excellent option when it comes to breastfeeding. “Fiber-rich, and a great source of iron and protein, beans are a great food for nursing parents,” says Shapiro. “Chickpeas have long been thought to increase milk supply, as well.” But why do beans make you fart? Well, it comes down to raffinose, a type of carb that the body has a hard time breaking down, which can cause gassiness, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Fiber can not only help with digestion, but it helps with breastfeeding as well, Melanie Silverman, Chief Clinical Officer, Pacify tells Romper. “Fresh fruits and vegetables have fiber, which is important for digestion,” says Silverman. “Fiber can also come from whole grain foods like quinoa, oats, brown rice, or whole-grain pastas, breads and cereals.”
Although it’s definitely important to stay hydrated while you’re nursing, drinking too much H2O isn’t going to make more milk. “There's a common misconception that drinking more water will lead to more breastmilk production, but really, nursing and pumping is the mechanism that supports the body to produce the milk needed for a baby,” says Silverman. “The bottom line with hydration is that breastfeeding parents should drink to thirst and choose water most often.”
Looking for something sweet? Grab a piece of fruit, Harland Adkins, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, advises. “Fruits are a rich source of many nutrients,” says Adkins. “They may also help relieve constipation, which some people experience after giving birth.” Aim for about two cups of fruits per day, which should include a wide variety of different fruits like apple, banana, oranges, watermelon, or mangoes, all of which have vitamins and minerals and can help keep you hydrated, too.
There has never been a better time to fill your plate with veggies, since they’re good for both you and Baby. “Vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,” says Adkins. “Consuming a sufficient quantity will help the body to replenish the nutrients it needs to make milk.” In addition to the leafy greens mentioned above, include root vegetables like sweet potato, carrots, and others like tomatoes and pumpkins into your daily diet.
To get the most from your grains, make sure that they’re brown, and not white. “Grains offer vital vitamins, minerals, fiber, especially whole grains such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread,” Adkins explains. “These grains are high in calcium, include sprouted grain in your diet as it is rich in vitamins, calcium, and iron.”
While good nutrition is pivotal during pregnancy and postpartum, it’s especially important if you’re going to be nursing. So the next time you roast a chicken, be sure to save the bones and make a broth from them. “My suggestion to my clients during this period is to eat lots of bone broths, soups, and stews, because these foods are both warming and easy to digest,” Alexis Diaz Commodore, RN, BSN, CPEN, a childbirth and lactation educator tells Romper. “They are also high in collagen and minerals which helps the body heal from the stress and trauma of birth.” Add some leafy green veggies into the soup and you’ll have a meal that’s full of iron, magnesium, and heart-healthy goodness.
Especially in the early days of breastfeeding, you might find yourself indoors more frequently. So in order to get that vitamin D that you could get from soaking up some sunshine, just crack open an egg or two. “To get adequate vitamin D, focus on vitamin D rich foods such as eggs, in addition to aiming for 15 to 20 minutes of sunshine,” lactation consultant Ashley Georgakopoulos, Motif Lactation Director & IBCLC, tells Romper. “Research shows this can eliminate the need to supplement baby with additional vitamin D when the mother gets enough through diet and vitamin supplementation and then breastfeeds or pumps for the baby.”
Eating well should extend well past pregnancy and into your postpartum months, particularly if you’re nursing. Not only can it improve your diet, but encourage your baby to be a better eater in the future, too. These foods will all go a long way in making you healthier and stronger as you feed your child — but, you know, the occasional cookie can’t hurt, either.
Mennella, J., Daniels, L., Reiter, A. “Learning to like vegetables during breastfeeding: a randomized clinical trial of lactating mothers and infants” 2017.
Leigh Anne O’Connor, IBCLC, LCCE, a lactation consultant
Andrea Tran, RN, IBCLC, a registered nurse
Jada Shapiro, lactation counselor and founder of boober
Melanie Silverman, Chief Clinical Officer, Pacify
Harland Adkins, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist
Alexis Diaz Commodore, RN, BSN, CPEN, a childbirth and lactation educator
Ashley Georgakopoulos, Motif Lactation Director & IBCLC, a lactation consultant