4 Goals Of A Healthy Breastfeeding Diet

By Bonnie Hershey. Last updated January 19, 2014.

Tags: , , , ,


Fruits and vegetables in season are always a good option for healthy meals.

A healthy breastfeeding diet doesn’t look a whole lot different from a healthy pregnancy diet except for the volume of food that you eat. Once your baby is born, your nutritional needs as a mother increase even beyond when you were pregnant. Your baby is growing bigger and still relying on you as their sole source of sustenance.

While you are breastfeeding is not the time to focus on a super-restrictive diet (perhaps in the hope of losing weight faster). Dieting and breastfeeding need to be handled with great care and wisdom. The caloric demands on your body grow, not diminish, once you have your baby. But it’s the type of calories that you intake that will make all the difference for you and your growing baby.

“If you come up short on your calories or nutrients, your breast milk is usually still sufficient for supporting your baby’s proper growth and development. Unless you are severely malnourished, your breast milk will provide what the infant requires. However, this will be at the expense of your own nutrient reserves.” ~ Kimberly A. Tessmer, R.D., L.D. 1

A healthy balanced diet is key to providing for all the nutrients both your baby and your own body needs during this time. The goal is to eat a nutrition-packed diet.

Here are four guidelines for a healthy breastfeeding diet. Use these to see how your current eating habits might be tweaked.

1. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal.

The fresher the produce, the better. That’s always a good rule of thumb. This could be a mixed green salad, a fresh fruit salad, 1/2 a grapefruit with your sandwich, some steamed vegetables, etc. Use lots of variety and have fun with it! Eating with the seasons can be helpful in giving your body lots of variety, and it’s easier on your pocketbook as well.

2. Keep prepackaged snack foods to a minimum…perhaps only once/week.

Prepackaged snacks are typically high in ingredients that your body does not need and lower in nutrients (a higher percentage of “empty calories”). Instead, if you feel “snacky”, choose a nutrient-dense snack. This could be a favorite nut mix, an apple with some peanut butter, some low-fat cottage cheese with fruit, or some fresh popcorn popped over the stove. The absolute best way to insure that you don’t get snacky on nutrient-deficient foods is to not even bring them home.

3. Don’t eat past bedtime.

Make your healthy evening meal or a small evening snack the last food of the day. Avoid snacking during midnight feedings. If you have been in the habit of eating late into the night, your body will fight against the change…but not forever. You can retrain your brain and your stomach to not expect this anymore. And these extra nighttime calories are not really needed at all as long as you are getting adequate calorie intake throughout the day.

4. Reduce sugary beverages to 1/day.

Ok, this is a big one for some folks. Sugary drinks like sodas, sweetened lattes, and fruit juice are the largest contributors of added sugar in today’s American Diet.2 Your body (and your baby) get almost zero nutritional benefit from these liquid calories. You are both better off when you just drink water when you are thirsty.

These nutritional habits are great not just for breastfeeding, but for a lifetime of excellent health. Use your lactation season to become consciously aware of what a healthy breastfeeding diet looks like. Then, when your breastfeeding time is done, you will have some healthy dieting habits that will serve you long into the future!

Note: As always, if you are on a special diet that has been recommended by your doctor for specific health reasons, then be careful not to change things without his/her approval.


Bonnie Hershey is a family health coach, practical nutrition advisor, and mother of three breastfed children. At Proven Nutrition For Kids, Bonnie shares research-based information and experience to help moms find targeted nutritional solutions to common health problems. You can also connect with Bonnie on Twitter {@bonniehershey}, GooglePlus {google.com/+BonnieHershey} and on Facebook {fb.com/ProvenNutritionForKids}.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Tessmer, Kimberly A., R.D., L.D. “Nutrient Needs of The Breastfeeding Mom.” http://www.netplaces.com/pregnancy-nutrition/feeding-your-infant/nutrient-needs-of-the-breastfeeding-mom.htm.
  2. Liebman, Bonnie. “Sugar Belly: How Much Is Too Much?”. Nutrition Action Healthletter, April 2012, 3.