Food and Breastfeeding: What to Eat, What to Avoid

You have spent your entire pregnancy trying to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Now your baby is here and you are breastfeeding! Not only is it important to continue to eat healthy for yourself, but for your baby as well.

When eating while breastfeeding you want to make sure you are eating about an extra 500 calories a day. It is important to make sure you do not cut too many calories, otherwise you will see the effects in your breast milk production. On the other hand, you do not want to over eat just because you are breastfeeding.

A lot of breastfeeding women use that as an excuse to eat way more calories then needed, and they quickly see the weight pack on. A good rule of thumb is to eat when you’re hungry and eat healthy. Listen to your body and keep an eye on your breast milk supply.

Don’t Diet While Breastfeeding

Another topic that may come up is dieting. If you are breastfeeding you do not want to diet. A lot of new mothers are worried about getting rid of their baby weight, but the most important thing is to make sure you and your breastfed baby is receiving the right amounts of vitamins and minerals. If you eat healthy and a well-balanced diet, you will slowly see the extra weight fall off.

You begin taking a prenatal vitamin when you are pregnant, but it is highly recommended continuing taking your parental vitamin as a supplement when breastfeeding. Even though we all strive to eat a balance diet, becoming a new mother can be exhausting and eating healthy all the time does not always happen. Continuing to take a prenatal vitamin is a great way to ensure you are still receiving some main important vitamins and minerals.

Things To Keep In Mind While Breastfeeding

Here are some basics to keep in mind about food and your nutrition while breastfeeding.

Not only do you want to be eating healthy while breastfeeding, but also choosing some foods that help promote and build your milk supply is great! Galactagogues are substances that are herbal, medication, food, etc. that help promote the increase of milk production in breastfeeding women.

Although galactagogues have not been scientifically proven to increase milk production, generations and generations of breastfeeding women have passed down this knowledge and strongly believe that these supplements helped their supplies.

Foods You Should Eat While Breastfeeding

Here are some great foods you should include in your diet while breastfeeding.

  1. Water – Water is extremely important all the time whether you are breastfeeding or not, but if you are not hydrated this can affect your breast milk supply. Also, your body is still recovering from giving birth and water will assist in that healing. You should always aim for 8 glasses a day, but drinking more is great! A lot or breastfeeding women keep a glass of water near where they will be breastfeeding. Drink a glass every time you breastfeed, it will help you stay hydrated.
  2. Foods rich in iron – Foods rich in iron include lentils, whole grain products, and dark leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli, and dried fruit.
  3. Foods rich in protein – Eggs and dairy products are a great way to get a lot of protein, but if you have to cut out dairy you may want to try legumes, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
  4. Foods rich in calcium – Dairy products and dark green vegetables are rich in calcium. Again, if you have to cut dairy out of your diet, there are plenty of milk alternatives available that are high in calcium as well.
  5. Oatmeal – If you are trying to build your supply, eat a bowl of oatmeal every morning for breakfast!
  6. Garlic – Garlic may be on the list of foods to avoid, but it also can boost your supply. Give it a try and see how your baby reacts. You never know he or she may like it!
  7. Carrots – Snacking on carrots is a great way to add carbohydrates to your diet. When you are breastfeeding beta-carotene is needed. Eating carrots helps with that!
  8. Fennel – Fennel is great to add to salads and stews.
  9. Nuts – Cashew, macadamia, and almonds are great nuts to help with your breast milk supply. It is also an easy snack to grab and eat for a new mom.
  10. Brewer’s yeast – Brewer’s yeast has been known to increase breast milk supply. Grab a beer!
  11. Ginger – Drinking a glass of ginger tea is a great idea while breastfeeding. Ginger promotes and supports breast milk production.
  12. Papaya – Papaya is rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Papaya is highly recommended for breastfeeding moms all over Asia. Eat up!
  13. Spices – Spices, such as fennel seeds, turmeric, and cumin seeds are great for promoting breast milk production. Add these to some of your dishes!

A lot of breastfeeding women enjoy baking lactation cookies using oatmeal and brewer’s yeast. You can use all of these ingredients to create a healthy breast milk boosting meal!

Foods To Avoid While Breastfeeding

Foods can affect babies and moms different. Here is a list of common things to avoid, but keep an eye on yourself and baby, because they may be okay for both of you!

  1. Caffeine – As a new mom, you may feel that you NEED caffeine to make it through the day. It is okay to consume small amounts, but not too much. Caffeine can work its way to into your breast milk. Hold off on your caffeine until after you have nursed and your baby is asleep, because your baby may not enjoy that caffeine as much as you.
  2. Fish – Just like when you were pregnant, you still want to try and avoid fish high in mercury. Mercury can make its way into your breast milk also. You do not need to cut it out entirely, but watch your intake.
  3. Chocolate – The main reason to avoid chocolate is because it contains caffeine. But, in some women and babies caffeine may not gave any effect on them at all, so test it out. Chocolate can also cause a laxative effect. If your baby seems to have a much runnier poop after you have had chocolate, you may need to cut back.
  4. Parsley and peppermint – These two herbs are common in teas. Although there are a lot of great teas available for breastfeeding moms, teas with these two ingredients should be avoided. Parsley and peppermint can reduce your breast milk supply. Go ahead and try it out, but keep an eye on the effects it may have on your body.
  5. Dairy – This is a common issue with babies. Each mom and baby may react different to dairy, so if issues to arise with your baby, taking a look at your dairy intake may be a great place to start. To rule out a dairy problem, you cannot consume dairy for a few weeks, which can be very difficult.
  6. Alcohol – Alcohol is a common subject when it comes to breastfeeding! You are able to have a glass of wine at dinner or a beer and you do not need to pump and dump. As long as you feel “okay”, then you are okay to breastfeed your baby. Of course, if you have had too much to drink and feel intoxicated you need to pump and dump and not nurse until you are better.
  7. Citrus – Citrusy fruits such as lemons, oranges, grapefruit, limes, etc. may need to be avoided. If you notice diaper rashes, spitting up, or fussiness after you have ate or drank something citrusy, you may want to cut back. Babies GI tracts are not fully developed yet and citrus can be pretty rough on them.
  8. Garlic – Too much garlic may cause your baby not want to breastfeed due to the smell. Your baby is not used to the smell and taste of garlic and may need some time to get used to it.
  9. Wheat – Just like in adult’s wheat can cause some damage to a baby’s tummy. If you are seeing lots of bloody stools and fussiness, they may be having a reaction to the wheat you are eating. The best way to determine whether wheat is the issue is to eliminate it from your diet entirely for a few weeks. If the issue subsides, you know that wheat may be the problem.
  10. Spicy foods – Spicy foods and hot sauces may need to be avoided. Just like with everyone, some people can handle spicy and hot foods and some cannot handle it. It depends on your baby. If you notice loose stools and fussiness after eating relatively spicy meal, you know maybe to cut back.

When eating food and breastfeeding it can be a little challenging. Not only are you listening and paying attention to your body, but also you need to pay attention to your baby’s body and how he or she reacts to everything. Some breastfeeding moms have it very easy and do not encounter any issues while eating food and breastfeeding.

On the other hand, some breastfeeding moms have babies that are extremely sensitive to a lot of things. It is important to keep an eye on rashes, stool changes, fussiness, etc. when eating certain foods. If you pay attention to the foods you eat while breastfeeding, you can make changes that allow your baby to be happier.


  1. Is it okay to drink alcohol while breastfeeding?

No, it is not recommended to drink alcohol while breastfeeding. Alcohol can decrease milk production and transfer to the baby through breast milk, which can be harmful to the baby’s health.

  1. Can caffeine affect my milk production?

Yes, caffeine can affect milk production and also cause digestive discomfort in babies. It is recommended to limit caffeine intake to less than 300 milligrams per day, or to switch to decaf options.

  1. Are there any herbs that can decrease milk production?

Yes, some herbs, such as sage and thyme, have been shown to decrease milk production. It is best to avoid these herbs or speak with a healthcare provider before incorporating them into your diet.

  1. Is it okay to eat processed foods while breastfeeding?

No, it is not recommended to consume processed foods while breastfeeding. Processed foods are often high in added sugars and unhealthy fats, which can negatively impact the health of both the mother and baby.

  1. What kind of fish should I avoid while breastfeeding?

It is best to avoid fish with high levels of mercury, such as swordfish and shark, as these can be harmful to both the mother and baby. Low-mercury options, such as salmon and tilapia, are safe to consume while breastfeeding.