Breastfeeding Nutrition – The Dos and Don’ts

You’re a new mom and have devoted the last 9 months to creating a beautiful, baby human. You’ve given your heart, soul, and body to this little bundle of joy, and covered it in all your affection.

Now, it’s time for some serious bonding and nurturing, the kind where you get to express your unconditional love. But in order to give, you must get. Feeding yourself with proper nutrition and emphasizing self-care is necessary for producing high-quality, nutrient-rich breastmilk. Here are the essentials of breastfeeding nutrition.

Friendly disclaimer: The content in this app is never intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition including pre and postnatal care.

breastfeeding nutrition cooking couple baby

Nutritional needs while breastfeeding

Ladies, here’s a bonus point for those happy to trim down: breastfeeding burns calories! The production of milk is a metabolic process, meaning it revs up your metabolism. When you regularly breastfeed, it can require the use of up to 670 kcal per day!

Be mindful though: It’s important to shed that baby weight by eating healthy, getting enough rest, and staying active. It’s recommended that the extra 450-500 kcal per day ideally comes from particularly nourishing foods, for both you and your baby’s health.

Even if you’re really trying to lose weight, don’t go extreme and starve yourself. Decreasing calories too drastically will have a negative effect on your milk supply and your weight. If you feel hungry or deprive yourself, your body will keep its reserve instead of letting go of the additional fat.

The best way to keep the right balance is to trust your instincts and eat delicious (and nutritious) foods that you enjoy. This will keep things stable by eliminating cravings and the restrict/binge cycle which hinders long-term results.

Something to keep in mind is to make sure you accompany carbohydrates (fruits, grains, etc.) with protein or a serving of healthy fats to keep you satisfied. Fill your diet with quality foods, think whole grains, veggies, lean protein and dairy products – pure goodness!

If you’re using the 8ft app, you don’t have to worry about this, since your meal plan will only generate healthy meals for you. The calories in your meal plan are calculated according to your goal, gender, age, weight, height and physical activity level. So, if you’re breastfeeding, don’t hesitate to contact support and we will personally update your meal plan to meet your breastfeeding needs.

breastfeeding nutrition meal plan

Foods to eat when breastfeeding

We’ve discussed calories, but let’s not focus on that too much. The right nutrition for breastfeeding moms is essential to help you maintain your energy levels and replenish your nutrient stores. Here’s how:

  • Opt for protein-rich foods such as eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy, and fish
  • Choose a variety of whole grains such as brown rice, oats, buckwheat, and whole-wheat bread, pasta, or crackers
  • Aim for lots of different and colorful fruits and vegetables such as berries, citrus fruits, apples, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes and bell peppers

Pro tips:

  • Limit your exposure to harmful pesticides by aiming for a variety of fruits and vegetables and washing them before eating.
  • Not sure what’s best to buy organic and what to avoid in order to save your dollars? Check out the dirty dozen and clean fifteen list created by the Environmental Working Group.

Plant life

If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, it’s particularly important to focus on choosing foods rich in iron, protein, and calcium. Add vitamin C rich foods (strawberries, orange, lemon) to help increase the absorption of iron. As always, follow the advice of your primary physician. They may recommend continuing with a prenatal vitamin for the time being.

Stay hydrated

Nutrition for breastfeeding moms is not only about the food. Think about all that liquid you’re using to create your breastmilk. Keeping hydrated with water will keep you feeling full and help curb weight gain, helping you feel satisfied and preventing nibbles. Replenish your liquids by aiming to have at least 1 extra cup of water every time you breastfeed. As a rule of thumb, drink water until your urine becomes as clear as possible (realistically, a pale shade of yellow).

Breastfeeding meal plan and meal prep tips

Breastfeeding nutrition can be as easy as adding some extra produce and a couple of wholesome snacks. Having 3 meals, plus 2 to 3 snacks per day will assure that your body stays stocked with the vital nutrients needed to make breastmilk. Your energy level will remain more consistent throughout the day and you will increase your metabolism by fueling it with the right stuff. Here are some other useful tips from 8fit Coach and mom Amé:

  • When your baby is on nap time, prepare multiple meals and keep them in the fridge for up to 3-4 days
  • Focus on small steps — make a grocery list, cut and prep vegetables, decide one meal base (such as chicken) and use it for multiple meals
  • Find the recipes you enjoy and the meal pattern that works best for you
  • If you are using the 8fit app, choose the meal prep feature

What foods to avoid while breastfeeding

You are what you eat: substances can travel from your bloodstream to your breastmilk. Eating a variety of different foods can change the flavor of your breastmilk and expose your baby to different tastes. Which can help them more easily accept solid foods down the road.

However, certain strongly-flavored foods can cause your baby to have an aversion to the taste. If your baby gets fussy when being fed, or doesn’t do well after you eat a certain food, experiment by avoiding the food for a few days and then retrying to see if you get the same response. It can either be a dislike of the taste or due to a possible allergy.

Foods to avoid:

  • Caffeine: Too much caffeine can interfere with your baby’s sleep and energy levels. Aim for no more than 1-2 cups per day of caffeine-containing drinks.
  • Alcohol: Having more than one drink will lead to alcohol in your breastmilk. You should wait at least two hours before nursing.
  • Limit mercury-containing fish: Seafood can be very healthy, providing brain-protecting omega-3, but beware of its mercury content. It can become very dangerous for your baby’s brain. Limit fish to twice per week and avoid fish with high mercury levels (shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish).

Breastfeeding healthy lifestyle tips

We know it’s easier said than done, but get as much sleep as you can. Sleep is very important in general, but particularly when you have a goal of losing body fat. Sleep acts as a regulator for the hunger hormone (ghrelin) and satiety hormone (leptin) and leads to low blood sugar, which can up your cravings for sweet and processed foods. So give yourself and your body time to recover and heal without stress by getting enough sleep.

On top of nutrition, movement is also important. So try to move your body every day, even if you are tired. You’ll find that exercise actually helps improve your attitude, and can make you feel better overall. Start with moderate exercise, like walks, swimming and biking (making sure to always consult your physician!). When you feel more rested, go for short and intense workouts that are efficient – it’s much easier to fit into the life of a new mom than long sessions. Exercise for the fun of it, for the endorphins and for the energy. Endorphins are instant gratification and will help you rock your new (and fulfilling) full-time job.

Be good to yourself

Eat the healthiest way possible, exercise as much as you can, sleep whenever possible and don’t worry too much about it! Remember, there’s no need to go on an extreme diet (in fact it can be dangerous) while you’re breastfeeding. Simply focus on trusting your instincts and creating a healthy environment for you and your baby.