Breastfeeding has a lot of benefits, for both the mother and baby. Breast milk is nutritious and provides most of the nutrients required by the baby. It contains antibodies that help the baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Hence, it is quite important to eat healthy and have a good diet for breastfeeding mothers.
Many mothers wonder if the breastfeeding diet they follow is going to affect their baby. Also, if food for a new mother includes the correct amount of nutrients, carbs and fluids. And, whether there are certain foods for breastfeeding mothers that they should avoid in order to avoid digestive issues or allergies in babies. Another concern and discomfort for breastfeeding mothers is sore nipples that may cause pain and problems while feeding the baby. The problem of sore nipples can also be solved with good intake of fluids and consuming the best food for feeding mothers, that is, a diet rich in nutrients & vitamins.
Let’s take a look at the ideal diet for breastfeeding mothers to increase milk, how to combat sore nipples, along with some important Do’s and Don’ts to be followed while nursing your baby.
Diet for Breastfeeding Mother
It’s important to incorporate a balanced diet for breastfeeding mothers that has foods rich in protein, calcium, fiber, iron, minerals and vitamins to ensure your body gets adequate nutrients. Here’s a look at the important food groups you should include in your diet for feeding mom:
Food such as rice, bread, potato, wholewheat rotis, oats, semolina (suji) and pasta is good in starch content. Choose wholegrain or multigrain varieties of cereal-based starchy food for added nutrients and fiber in your breastfeeding diet.
Dairy products like milk, curd or yogurt provide you with necessary fat content and are a rich source of calcium. Talk to your doctor about what to eat if you are lactose intolerant.
Proteins are referred to as building blocks of the body and hence are a vital part of the breastfeeding mother’s diet. They are required for cell regeneration, cell repair and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. Right amount of proteins can help the growth and development of the baby and the mother’s body.Lentils, pulses, sprouts, eggs, fish, and lean meat are packed with the proteins.
Plenty of fruits and vegetables
Make sure to eat fresh, local produce and avoid packaged food. Here’s a list of how certain fruits and vegetables help with body function:
- Citrus fruits like oranges boost immunity and increase milk production.
- Vegetables like bottle gourd are good for heart
- Avocados are nutritional powerhouse, carrots filled with Vitamin A.
- Ashwagandha and Shatavari increase milk production.
- Cucumber provides plenty of fluids .
- Green leafy vegetables are fiber and vitamin sources.
- Fruits like papaya, cantaloupe, banana, figs, and berries are rich sources of vitamins like A, E, B, C and minerals like zinc, selenium and potassium.
- Fruits and vegetables in a diet for feeding mothers is important.
KhichdiMost breastfeeding moms’ diets include the traditional high-calorie khichdi diet with loads of ghee and dried fruits. It is easy to digest and has a perfect blend of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
They are healthy and loaded with nutrients, vitamins and fibers, hence used in many traditional confinement foods and make the best food for feeding mothers. You can put dry fruits in your porridge or include them in your salad. Dry fruits can also be consumed as a light snack.
Ghee-laden healthy foods
Panjeeri, a nutritional supplement cooked in Punjab (India), helps in improving the breastfeeding mother’s metabolism. Its ingredients help the mother regain her strength and provide her with nutrients essential for a breastfeeding diet.
Essential Nutrients that should be included in the diet
There are many essential nutrients that should be included in the diet for breastfeeding mothers:
- Iron: Doctors may recommend iron supplements depending on the body needs of breastfeeding mother, but it is also essential to keep up the iron level from natural sources:
Vegetarian sources (called non-haem iron) include pulses, sprouts, dry fruits, and green leafy vegetables
Non-vegetarian sources (called haem iron) such as lean red meat, fish and poultry. Eggs are also a good source of iron.
- Calcium: Cheese, yogurt, seeds such as Chia seeds, beans and lentils are good sources of Calcium.
- Vitamin D: Good food sources of Cheese, egg yolks, mushrooms, salmon and foods fortified with Vitamin D. Natural sunlight is the best source of Vitamin D.
- Vitamin C: Green and red peppers, spinach, cabbage, tomato, sweet potato and fruits such as kiwis, oranges and papayas are good sources of Vitamin C.
Water and fluids
Staying well hydrated is important in a diet for breastfeeding mothers. Dehydration can cause dry skin which elevates problems like sore nipples during breastfeeding. Adding coconut water, fruit juices and a few extra glasses of buttermilk keeps the breastfeeding mother energized and replenishes the fluids needed in the breastfeeding diet.
Supplements if needed
Consult your doctor and find out if you need any dietary supplements to add nutrients to your diet for feeding mothers.
Eating healthy, fresh and balanced is important in a breastfeeding mother’s diet, as the baby is completely dependent on breastfeed to get the required nourishment.
Lactogenic Foods That Increase Breast Milk
Your nutrient needs are greater while breastfeeding, to fulfill both your baby’s needs and yours. The amount of some nutrients in the breastfeeding diet directly affects their presence in breast milk. Certain food items are known as galactogogues which help induce, maintain or increase milk production in breastfeeding moms. Certain food items can also act as galactogogues.The lactogenic foods to incorporate in the diet for breastfeeding mothers to increase milk are:
Found in asian and middle eastern recipes, fenugreek seeds have proven to increase the breast milk supply. It can easily be included in a breastfeeding diet in the form of fenugreek seed tea, cookies, smoothies and curries. A simple way of consuming them is to overnight soak a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in a glass of water and drink it in the morning.
It is a traditional galactagogue. Fennel seeds have natural estrogen like properties, and are known to increase prolactin levels needed for boosting breast milk production. Fennel Seeds can be added in tea, or soaked in water, or a teaspoon can be eaten directly.
Garlic stimulates breast milk production as it is a milk boosting ingredient. Also it has a high concentration of antioxidants which help improve immunity. When garlic is included in the diet for feeding mothers the smell of garlic can be transferred to the breast milk which can make the infant drink more milk due to the aroma.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables have phytoestrogens that boost milk production. Spinach, kale, lettuce, and fenugreek are excellent foods for breastfeeding mothers.
It is enriched with iron which is important for lactating mothers. Cumin seeds help improve digestion, stimulate bowel movements and provide relief from gastric issues. Including cumin seeds in a breastfeeding mother’s diet enhances breast milk supply.
It has estrogen-like properties that stimulate milk production making it the best food for feeding mothers. It is a rich source of essential fatty acids like omega 3s and 6s.
Also known as tulsi, holy basil is packed with antioxidants and provides nutrients like thiamine, vitamin K and iron. It helps strengthen the immune system of the mother and the baby, and increases breast milk supply.
Oatmeal has beta-glucan which helps increase prolactin levels. Prolactin hormone boosts milk production, hence oatmeal should be added in the diet for feeding mothers. Oatmeal also helps maintain healthy skin and keep sore nipples at bay.
It is an oxytocin promoting food. Avocado assists in oxytocin secretion which enhances breast milk supply in a lactating mother.
An oxytocin promoting food for new mothers, unripe papaya can be consumed like a salad, or a curry, or in the pickle form.
Rich sources of beta-carotene and vitamin A, carrots help with milk secretion. A cup of carrot juice before a meal significantly increases the breast milk output for post meal breastfeeding.
It is one of the richest sources of beta-glucan, a polysaccharide that raises prolactin hormone levels responsible for lactation.
It is a well-known hormone stimulant, making it the best food for feeding mothers. Brown rice is easy to digest, filling, and provides high energy, all that a new mom needs the most. Soaking the rice overnight helps in breast milk production.
An ancient milk promoting magical potion, asparagus is packed with vitamin A and K. Asparagus stimulates the secretion of lactation hormones prolactin and oxytocin making it a key ingredient to include in the diet for breastfeeding mothers.
These are rich sources of phytoestrogens which balance the lactation hormones. Apricots are high in fiber, Vitamin A, C, potassium and calcium, and sun-dried apricots also have Vitamin D.
Salmon is high in DHA which is important for the development of a baby’s nervous system. Salmon and sardines promote oxytocin production which enhance breast milk secretion.
“Bitter but better”, bitter gourd helps increase breast milk production. It is a rich source of vitamin K, lycopene, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. It can be consumed in the form of juice or can be simply fried to make a healthy snack.
It’s a power packed food for breastfeeding mothers. Along with increasing Oxytocin levels, it is rich in vitamin A, potassium and carbohydrates. Sweet potato and its leaves help boost breast milk supply.
Almonds effectively improve the quality and quantity of breast milk, as it stimulates oxytocin secretion. High content of linoleic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids in almonds get easily transferred to the baby through breast milk. Also the breast milk tastes much better when you include almonds in the breastfeeding mother’s diet. Almonds also moisturize the lactating mother’s skin which helps fight sore nipples.
Dill seeds and dill leaves are both good sources of dietary fibers, riboflavin, vitamin A, K, C, minerals and antioxidants. It also helps in iron absorption and promotes lactation hormone secretion, increasing breast milk supply.
Drumsticks or Moringa
It improves blood circulation and stimulates mammary glands to pump more breast milk. Having half a cup of moringa leaves juice everyday significantly increases the breast milk quantity. Every diet for breastfeeding mothers must include moringa.
To include soybeans in the diet for breastfeeding mothers, it can be consumed in the form of soya milk, tofu (soya paneer), or soyabean nuggets. It contains Isoflavones which are similar to phytoestrogens, hence help increase breast milk supply.
High in fiber and water content, watermelons add to the quantity of breast milk supply. Watermelons promote oxytocin secretion, and have fructose which gives the breast milk a sweetish taste. It also helps reduce sore nipples providing adequate hydration to the mother’s skin.
Curry leaves boost melamine, improve blood circulation, promote hair growth and are packed with iron and calcium. Eating curry leaves everyday enhances breast milk quantity, making it the best food for breastfeeding mothers. Curry leaves have natural wound healing properties that help soothe sore nipples.
It is a rich source of naringenin, a flavonoid which protects against oxidative stress. This enhances the quality of breast milk along with increasing the breast milk quantity. It elevates the total antioxidant capacity of milk. This makes grapefruit the best food for feeding mothers.
Breast milk secretion is a game of demand and supply. Increasing breast milk production enhances its supply for the baby which in turn increases the baby’s demand for milk. This helps in better growth and development of the baby. Hence including and consuming these lactogenic food in the diet for breastfeeding mothers is important.
Foods and drinks to avoid while breastfeeding
The general rule is, you can eat anything in moderation. But there are certain flavors in food products that may affect a baby’s digestion and cause allergies. Here is a list of certain foods that you should consume in moderation when following a good regime for breastfeeding mother’s diet.
Caffeine is passed into breast milk, but it doesn’t harm the baby in most cases. Moderate amounts of tea, coffee or caffeinated beverages do not cause any harm but may affect the baby’s sleep. So if your child isn’t sleeping well or is irritable, you may want to limit or avoid caffeine intake from your diet.
Alcohol also makes its way into the milk. The concentration resembles the amount found in the mother’s blood. However, babies metabolize alcohol at only half the rate of adults. On average, it takes your body about 1-2 hours to clear each unit of alcohol. Therefore, you’ll have to wait a few hours for each drink you’ve consumed before breastfeeding your baby. It is advisable to ban alcohol from the breastfeeding mother’s diet plan.
Most babies tolerate the usual spice levels in breast milk, but some babies can not handle it. Spicy foods may cause digestion problems in the baby like colics and diarrhea. So it is better to avoid spicy foods like red paprika, chilly flakes, jalapenos, etc when on the diet for breastfeeding moms.
Parsley and peppermint
Parsley has properties that can curb lactation and peppermint may reduce breast milk supply. Hence do not consume these in large quantities while you are struggling to increase breast milk production.
Some sea foods have high mercury content that is harmful and life threatening for babies. Sea foods like Swordfish, King Mackerel, Marlin, shark, Orange Roughy, and Tilefish are high in mercury. Many people are allergic to sea-foods, and you don’t want to test any allergy on your baby, so better exclude these sea foods from your diet for breastfeeding mothers. If you want to eat seafood when on a breastfeeding mother’s diet, the safer fish options during breastfeeding are salmon, mullet, capelin, char, shrimp and Atlantic Mackerel.
There can be cravings for foods that were an integral part of your normal diet before pregnancy. But avoiding some foods when on a breastfeeding mother’s diet is important to protect your baby from any side effects or harmful effects of certain foods. Understanding that the diet for feeding mothers is a short phase of life is important.
Other breastfeeding concerns like plugged milk ducts, breast engorgement and cracked and sore nipples can also be managed with simple methods like increasing the daily consumption of water and fluids.
You can also try nipple creams to massage your breasts to relieve yourself from breastfeeding problems, as massage helps in detoxification and improves blood circulation.
The Moms Co. recommends best nipple cream for sore nipples which is completely natural, chemical-free, paraben-free and sulfate-free:
NATURAL NIPPLE BUTTER
The Natural Nipple Butter is completely safe as it is made of all natural ingredients, is lanolin-free and fragrance-free. It is enriched with the goodness of kokum butter and coconut oil, hence do not worry to wash it off before breastfeeding.
Could my diet cause my baby to be fussy or have an allergic reaction?
A baby could develop allergies to any food that you eat. The most common foods that cause allergies in babies are dairy products, soy products, wheat, and eggs. Less common foods that cause allergies are corn, fish or peanuts.
It is seen that approximately 2-6% of babies are allergic to cow’s milk which passes from their mother’s diet, and may cause allergies, rashes, eczema, diarrhea, etc. If the symptoms go after a few weeks and don’t return, then the mother may continue taking the protein from Cow’s milk. But if the symptoms still persist for weeks or return after a few weeks, then the only option for the mother is to stop the intake of cow’s milk and instead take supplements for calcium loss.
How many calories do you need when you’re breastfeeding?
Your energy needs are increased by about 500 calories during breastfeeding. If you still have baby weight post-pregnancy, these extra calories will be naturally used for your milk. If you have lost your baby weight, then you will require extra calories of about 500-600 cal per day. However after 6 months, when your little one starts eating other food, you can cut down on your calorie intake.
Does mother’s diet affect breast milk?
Breast milk is the perfect nutrition source for an infant for 6 months of his life. Consequently, your need for most nutrients is increased in order to meet your baby’s requirements. Whatever the mother eats is transferred to the baby during breastfeeding. Hence the mother’s diet does affect breast milk significantly. So choosing the best foods for breastfeeding mothers is important.
Eat foods that suit your body type. If you’re not getting enough from your diet, then this can negatively affect the quality of your breast milk. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to eat a variety of healthy nutritious food specially in a diet for breastfeeding mothers.