The Best Foods for Nursing Mothers
If you’re a nursing mother, you know that whatever you’re putting into your body through diet is going to go to your newborn too. And while it may be tempting to devour a greasy cheeseburger and French fries or thick, chocolate chip milkshake after childbirth, it’s better to resist the urge and stock up on the best foods for nursing mothers instead, so your child gets the greatest nutrition in breast milk as possible.
The best foods for breastfeeding will include those with higher antioxidant content, good fats like omega-3 fatty acids in particular, as well as essential vitamins and minerals, such as folate, iron, calcium, vitamins B and D and more! Lactation foods are typically healthy and nutritionally dense—so don’t expect to see refined carbs and junk food, like sugary, processed snacks and desserts, on this list.
Plus, beyond knowing the go-to foods to eat while breastfeeding, you’ll also want to know which foods to avoid while breastfeeding too so you can either save those for little indulgences or to cut out cold turkey.
In general, most foods don’t need to be avoided as a whole but are rather less healthy so should be eaten in moderation when a craving strikes—think fried foods, greasy chips and pastries, for example. Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about which foods are okay for eating in moderation and which might need to be completely off limits while you’re lactating.
Here’s what the diet for nursing mothers should resemble, as well as the best foods you can pile on your plate in order to promote adequate daily intake for both yourself, as new mom, and your newborn child, too.
Calcium-Rich Cheese, Milk and Yogurt
Foods that are high in bone-building calcium are important for both mom and baby, especially after you’ve taxed your body and its bones and joints through both pregnancy and delivery and your baby is beginning to develop.
You can eat cheese, dairy milk (or soy milk, if you are plant-based, since soy has greater calcium content than other milks like almond or oat), and probiotic rich Greek yogurt or skyr, the latter, which will also promote better gut health and higher immunity so you both can prevent sickness.
You can also have soft cheeses, but if they cause any adverse side effects, then eat those in more moderate doses and favor other cheeses instead. Lastly, plain yogurt is best for nursing mothers instead of sugary picks, since sugar isn’t healthy and you want to make sure you aren’t introducing excess sugar into your child’s diet.
Leafy Greens and Cruciferous Green Vegetables
These green veggies not only have high fiber and folate content, the latter which is needed for the baby’s brain development in particular, but also it’s high in calcium too.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, this is an excellent way to get your daily dose of all micronutrients. You can also supplement if you think you might be at risk of deficiency too.
Speak to your doc when going over your diet as a nursing mother—they’ll let you know where supplementation could aid in bulking up breast milk’s nutritional value. The best veggies for breastfeeding include broccoli, spinach and romaine, Brussels sprouts, kale and more.
High in omega-3’s, walnuts contain good heart-healthy fats to better both yours and your child’s, so it’s a staple for a nursing mother’s diet and is also versatile, where you can enjoy it on yogurt and oat bowls, in smoothies and more.
Beyond the fat content, it is also a great plant protein option for vegan or vegetarian mothers who need plant sources, and it also happens to have magnesium, fiber and other beneficial properties to improve immunity and digestion, too.
You can also find omega-3 in fortified, grass-fed eggs, olive oil, and salmon, which is lower in mercury than other fish like tuna and will contribute towards improving your child’s cognitive and heart health.
Oats happen to help you naturally produce more breast milk, so they should definitely be part of your diet when breastfeeding.
Plus, they have a hearty dose of fiber, which offers several benefits—fiber improves gut health and digestion, boosts the immune system to prevent illness and infection, and enhances satiety in between meals and snacks, where you feel fuller for longer.
You can enjoy oats in a bowl of oatmeal or in a snack or protein bar. Increase nutritional value by choosing a bar that also contains healthy fats—fill your oat bar with almond or peanut butter so it’s stuffed with the good stuff for a richer texture, extra nutrition and even more flavor.
You can increase lactation naturally by adding fennel to your diet. Another lactation food, meaning it helps promote breast milk production, is fennel, so feel free to enjoy it lightly grilled or roasted with some olive oil, spices and herbs and crumbled cheese, such as goat or feta or parmesan.
Plus, you can even enjoy its licorice-like flavor in a cup of tea—a cup of fennel tea after a meal can help soothe digestion and it’s help you get cozy at night if consumed right before bedtime.