Mom’s Diet while Breastfeeding

Dr. Greene answers the most commonly asked questions about mom's diet while breastfeeding: supplementation needs, total calories, water consumption & more.

Mom’s diet while breastfeeding can change the composition of her breast milk. It’s no wonder nursing mothers have questions about what they should and shouldn’t eat.

Here’s a quick overview of the most commonly asked questions about mom’s diet while breastfeeding.

How Many Calories Do Mom’s Need while Breastfeeding?

One rule of thumb is to take in about (15 x your current weight) + 500 calories a day. So for a woman who weighs 125 pounds, this would be about 2375 calories a day. But this is just a rule of thumb. Choosing healthy foods, following your appetite, and paying attention to your own body can keep mothers’ calories on track.

In the first months, breast milk supply doesn’t correlate that closely with how many calories a mom takes in. Not taking in enough affects a mom’s energy and bones more than it affects her breast milk.

Do Breastfeeding Mom’s Need to  Supplement Baby’s Diet with Any Vitamins?

Historically babies got their vitamin D from the sun, so breast milk has relatively low levels of vitamin D. Today most babies spend most of the day indoors – and wear sunscreen outside. Babies who are breastfed or partially breastfed often need extra vitamin D.

Historically, babies got much of their iron from allowing the umbilical cord to pulse before it was cut. Breast milk has relatively low levels of iron. Babies who are exclusively breastfed may need extra iron when they are several months old.

Otherwise, breast milk contains plenty of the vitamins and minerals babies need. It’s phenomenally good food for babies.

Are There Any Supplements that Should be Added to Mom’s Diet while Breastfeeding to Increase Milk Supply?

Fenugreek has been shown to help increase supply in some women. Blessed thistle may also help. Some lactation consultants are reporting good results with an herbal supplement called GoLacta.

What Can Pass through Breast Milk to Baby?

Dr. Greene: Almost anything you eat or drink (including both nutrients and hints of flavors) and at least some of almost any drug or supplement you take. Usually, the amounts are very small.

Are there Foods that Should be Avoided in Mom’s Diet while Breastfeeding?

There are no foods that must be generally avoided for breast-feeding moms of healthy babies. Some babies, though, do act fussier after their mothers have eaten certain foods. If they do, the offending food can vary from baby to baby. Cow’s milk in mother’s diet is one of the most common of these. Along with peanuts and nuts.

You’ll hear stories that avoiding beans, onions, cabbage, broccoli, spices, citrus or chocolate, etc., may help. And it may. But this has been hard to confirm when studied.

Caffeine will affect most babies if the mother gets enough. It may take a nursing mom drinking the amount of caffeine in five five-ounce cups of coffee before her baby is visibly affected.

How many Glasses of Water Per Day should Mom’s include in Their Diet While Breastfeeding?

Most women are thirstier when breastfeeding than at other times of life. You might start by following your thirst or by following a rule of thumb such as 6 to 8 glasses a day.

But pay attention to your urine and stool. You want light-colored urine and soft stools. When the urine is dark or there is constipation, it’s wise to increase the amount of water.

Published on: July 20, 2015
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Can you give me the source of your statement that checking hemoglobin and treating with iron is not effective