Living Well

Best (and worst) foods to eat while breastfeeding

Best (and worst) foods to eat while breastfeeding

One of the most common questions breastfeeding mothers ask is about diet and nutrition.

  • What foods should I be eating?
  • Are there foods I should avoid?
  • Which foods help with milk production?

The good news is that your breast milk will be a good source of nutrition, no matter what you eat.

You don't have to eat a special diet to make enough milk for your baby, but your body needs fuel to make breast milk. While breastfeeding is not an excuse to eat and drink everything, there's also no reason to avoid your favorite foods either.

Be sure to eat a variety of foods, including plenty of vegetables and whole foods.

Healthy diet for the new mother

A healthy diet is recommended for all women and offers many benefits to the new mother. Choosing a variety of healthy foods creates a pattern for the entire family.

Women who are breastfeeding need about 500 extra calories per day. Some women might need more, while others might need less. When choosing foods, use the nutrition chart below as a guide.

Bread, cereal, rice, and pasta

Vegetables

Fruit

Milk, yogurt, and cheese

Meat, poultry, fish,

dry beans, eggs, and nuts

Fats, oils, and sweets

(use sparingly)

What’s good for you?

woman holding newborn while eating fruit and granola

Here are some things to do:

  • Breastfeeding women need to drink when they feel thirsty. There is no specific amount of water you need to drink to make enough milk.

  • Follow healthy eating guidelines.

  • Snack on fruit or low-fat dairy products if you’re hungry between meals.

  • If your healthcare provider recommends it, keep taking prenatal vitamins.

What’s not good for you?

woman drinking coffee while working from home holding newborn

Here are other things to consider:

  • Limit fatty foods and foods that are high in sugar (cookies, cakes).

  • Be aware that what enters your body may pass into your breast milk. Limit caffeine. It is not just in coffee. It is also in cola, tea, and chocolate.

  • Limit the amount of fish that may contain mercury, such as shark and swordfish.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider before taking any medicines. It is important to let your healthcare provider know that you are nursing. Some medicines are not safe with breastfeeding.

  • Remember: Alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs also affect your breast milk and your baby. Talk with your healthcare provider.

West Jefferson Medical Center Family Birth Place Lactation Consultant, Lila Luster-Stipe, also adds that an "intake of diary products has been known to cause Colic symptoms in some newborns such as gassiness, bloated abdomen, and reflux."

Breastfeeding support from our lactation consultants

Breastfeeding is a natural way to connect with your baby and provide your baby with the nutrition they need. But just because it's natural doesn't mean it always comes easy.

Many women have trouble getting their babies to breastfeed, which is why we have experienced lactation specialists on hand at our Family Birth Place who offer breastfeeding classes to help you with positioning your baby, latching techniques, one-on-one appointments, and more.

More breastfeeding resources:

Getting Started Guide to Breastfeeding

5 Common Questions about Breastfeeding

Best equipment for expressing breast milk

Meet West Jefferson Medical Center Family Birth Place Lactation Consultant, Lila Luster-Stipe, RN, BSN, IBCLC

Lila was born in New Orleans, La. She is a graduate of McDonogh #35 Senior High School and attended University of New Orleans and Southern University at New Orleans. Upon completion of core classes with and interest in healthcare, she relocated to Atlanta, Georgia to pursue a nursing degree at Georgia Baptist College of Nursing. While in nursing school, Lila worked as a nurse tech in the maternity area, igniting her interest in the field. Graduating from Georgia Baptist in 1994, she was hired by DeKalb Medical Center as a staff nurse on the Mother/Baby unit and was promoted as the maternity unit’s Nurse Educator shortly after. With the desire to relocate to her hometown, she secured a job in the Family Birth Place at West Jefferson Medical Center as a staff nurse in Labor & Delivery and Postpartum, but worked in the Nursery and NICU immediately, focusing on lactation assistance when needed. Six years into employment with West Jefferson, Lila was promoted as the unit’s Lactation Consultant after passing the International Board Certification for Lactation Consultants, and is currently Lead Consultant. In 2019, Lila was named one of the “Great 100 Nurses” of Louisiana.