Nutrition for Breastfeeding Moms: Basics & Beyond

Written by GHBY Team on Wed, 27 March 2024

Key Highlights

  • Breastfeeding is a challenging task. To keep you and your baby nourished and healthy, your body demands more calories and nutrients.
  • If you don't consume enough calories or nutrient-dense foods, the quality of your breast milk will suffer. It might also be hazardous to your health.
  • Eating a range of healthful, nutritious foods while limiting processed foods is more vital than ever. To keep your infant healthy, avoid excessive coffee and alcohol usage and stick to the recommended intakes.
  • If necessary, include supplements such as vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids in your daily regimen.
  • Finally, practice patience with your body. Take it one day at a time and remind yourself how amazing you are on a daily basis.

One of the most effective strategies to protect a child's health and survival is to breastfeed them. However, nearly two out of every three infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months, according to WHO, a number that has not changed in two decades. Breastmilk is the best nourishment for your child, provided you follow a healthy diet plan for new moms. It is safe, hygienic, and includes antibodies that help protect children against a variety of ailments.

Breastmilk provides all of the energy and nutrients that an infant requires during the first few months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child's nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one-third of a child's nutritional needs during the second year.

Breastfed children score higher on IQ tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese as adults, and are less likely to develop diabetes later in life. Breastfeeding mothers had a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Breast Milk And Nutrients

Breast Milk And Nutrients

Breast milk is the ultimate nutrition for your newborn, as it contains all of the proteins, lipids, carbs, and nearly all the vitamins he or she requires to flourish. In fact, for the first six months of life, babies require nothing but their mother's milk, except vitamin D. Breast milk also contains a variety of nutritional nutrients and protective chemicals that are important for your baby's development. Breast milk is commonly referred to as "liquid gold" since it is the "gold standard" for baby nutrition.

Your body must be nourished to make the most of your milk - not only does it need to provide nutrition to your baby, but it also has to provide nutrients to you to keep you healthy and strong.

Nutritional Requirements For Breastfeeding Mothers

Breastfeeding mothers require more calories than non-breastfeeding mothers to meet their nutritional demands. Breastfeeding mothers who are well-nourished should consume an extra 330 to 400 kilocalories (kcal) per day compared to their pre-pregnancy intake (approximately 2,000 to 2,800 kcal per day for breastfeeding women versus 1,600 to 2,400 kcal per day for moderately active, non-pregnant women who are not breastfeeding). The number of additional calories required by a lactating woman is also influenced by her age, BMI, activity level, and breastfeeding duration (exclusively breastfeeding versus breastfeeding and formula feeding). You can consult a nutritionist to determine your calorie requirements according to your gender, age, height, weight, activity level, and breastfeeding status.

It's always vital to have a nutritious diet, but it's especially important if you're breastfeeding. Breastfeeding consumes a significant amount of energy and nutrients. Your diet must include proteins, calcium, iron, iodine, vitamin D, and other vitamins that you'll need during breastfeeding. These nutrients are necessary for your health and well-being. Make an effort to eat regularly and to consume a diverse range of nutritious meals.

What To Eat When You Are Breastfeeding Your Baby?

What To Eat When You Are Breastfeeding Your Baby?

When breastfeeding, here is a diet plan for new moms:

  • Fish and seafood such as salmon, seaweed, shellfish, sardines
  • Meat and poultry including, chicken, beef, lamb, pork, and organ meats (such as liver)
  • Fruits and vegetables mainly, berries, tomatoes, bell peppers, cabbage, kale, garlic, broccoli
  • Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds
  • Healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, coconut, eggs, full-fat yogurt
  • Fiber-rich starches like potatoes, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, oats, quinoa, buckwheat
  • Other nourishing foods like tofu, dark chocolate, kimchi, sauerkraut

Essential Vitamins And Minerals

Daily, proteins, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, B12, selenium, and zinc are among the nutrients in high demand. This is why eating a range of nutrient-dense, whole meals are critical for your health and the health of your child. Choosing foods high in the above nutrients can help you and your child acquire all of the macro and micronutrients you require.

So, now that you know why eating nutrient-dense meals is so crucial when nursing, let's dig a bit more into why it's also so vital to pay attention to specific vitamins and minerals. 
The nutrients in breast milk are divided into two categories based on how much of them are secreted into your milk.

Don't worry if all of that seems a little perplexing. The basic line is that having enough group 1 nutrients is critical for both you and your baby, whereas getting enough group 2 nutrients is mostly for you.

1. Group I Nutrients

Group I Nutrients

The following are the nutrients in group 1 and where to get them in common foods:

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): fish, pork, seeds, nuts, beans
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): cheese, almonds, nuts, red meat, oily fish, eggs
  • Vitamin B6: chickpeas, nuts, fish, poultry, potatoes, bananas, dried fruit
  • Vitamin B12: shellfish, liver, yogurt, oily fish, nutritional yeast, eggs, crab, shrimp
  • Choline: eggs, beef liver, chicken liver, fish, peanuts
  • Vitamin A: sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, organ meats, eggs
  • Vitamin D: cod liver oil, oily fish, some mushrooms, fortified foods
  • Selenium: Brazil nuts, seafood, turkey, whole wheat, seeds
  • Iodine: dried seaweed, cod, milk, iodized salt

If you're lacking in any of the group 1 nutrients, they won't secrete as readily into your breast milk. Supplementing with these nutrients can help elevate their concentration in breast milk and, as a result, improve your baby's health.

2. Group II Nutrients

Group II Nutrients

The following are the nutrients in group II and where to get them in common foods:

  • Folate: beans, lentils, leafy greens, asparagus, avocados
  • Calcium: milk, yogurt, cheese, leafy greens, legumes
  • Iron: red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, beans, green vegetables, dried fruit
  • Copper: shellfish, whole grains, nuts, beans, organ meats, potatoes
  • Zinc: oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, dairy

If you don't get enough of these nutrients, your body will extract them from your bone and tissue stores and secrete them into your breast milk. Supplementing, on the other hand, will not raise the nutrient content in your breast milk because the concentration of group 2 nutrients in breast milk is unaffected by how much mom eats. Even so, replenishing nutrient storage can help promote maternal health.

Nutrition Supplements:

A multivitamin is an excellent way to supplement your diet with essential vitamins and minerals. After childbirth, it's normal for women to be vitamin and mineral deficient, and research shows that deficiencies don't distinguish, affecting mothers in both high- and low-income situations.

As a result, taking a daily multivitamin may be a good idea, especially if you don't think you're receiving enough vitamins and minerals from your food alone.

Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin critical for your baby's and your health while nursing. Furthermore, many women are already at a higher risk of having low B-12 levels, particularly those who eat largely plant-based diets, those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery, and women who use specific medications (such as acid reflux meds).

If you fall into one of these groups, or if you don't get enough B-12 from meals like fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and fortified foods, you should consider taking a B-complex or B-12 supplement. Keep in mind that the best multivitamins and prenatal vitamins will provide you with enough B-12 to meet your demands.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found naturally in fatty fish and algae, and they are important for both maternal and fetal health. The omega-3 fatty acid DHA, for example, is essential for your baby's nervous system, skin, and eyes to develop properly. Furthermore, the amount of this essential fat in your breast milk is mostly determined by your dietary consumption. Furthermore, studies demonstrate that newborns who are fed high-DHA breast milk had improved vision and neurodevelopment outcomes. DHA and EPA, another vital omega-3 lipid, should be consumed by nursing women in amounts of 250 to 375 mg per day.

Vitamin D is found in a few selected foods, such as fatty fish, fish liver oils, and fortified meals. It can also be produced by your body when exposed to sunshine, though this is dependent on several factors, such as skin color and where you reside.

According to research, it serves a variety of critical roles in the body and is necessary for immunological function and bone health. Vitamin D levels in breast milk are often low, especially when sun exposure is limited. As a result, supplementing with 400 IU of vitamin D per day, starting during the first few days of life and continuing until they are 12 months old, is recommended for breast-fed babies and babies who consume less than 1 liter of formula per day.

Breastfeeding mothers are more susceptible to vitamin D insufficiency. Deficiency can also have significant health consequences, such as an increased risk of heart disease. Postpartum depression information from a reputable source. As a result, taking this vitamin as a supplement is advised. Inquire about particular dose recommendations depending on your current vitamin D levels with your healthcare practitioner.

A Word About Fluids:

A Word About Fluids

Your oxytocin levels rise when your baby latches onto your breast. Your milk will begin to flow as a result of this. This also increases thirst, which aids in keeping you hydrated when nursing your kid.

It's crucial to remember that your hydration requirements will change depending on your exercise level and nutritional intake. When it comes to how much hydration you need during lactating, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Breast milk production necessitates a lot of water; 8-10 glasses per day is recommended. Juice, milk (or milk substitutes such as soymilk or rice milk), herbal teas, and broths or soups will also suffice. Alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages, and caffeinated beverages should all be avoided. Drinking a glass of water, juice, or tea with each meal is one approach to ensure that you're getting enough fluids.

Nutritional and health Tips For Breastfeeding Mothers

  • To acquire the most nutrition from your foods, eat a wide variety of them.
  • Choose high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables over low-fiber items like white bread, white rice, or pastries.
  • Drink plenty of water (About 2 liters daily).
  • Every day, eat three to five meals and snacks.
  • Don't consume alcoholic beverages. Alcohol will pass into your breast milk to your infant.
  • Please don't smoke. Even if you only smoke once in a while, smoking and secondhand smoke are harmful to you and your new child. Smoking might also impair your milk supply if you are a heavy smoker.
  • Maintain your health by exercising. Exercise improves your mood, reduces stress, and improves your sleep. Exercise delivers many of the same health benefits as a healthy diet, such as lowering your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

What Should You Avoid While Breastfeeding?

What Should You Avoid While Breastfeeding?

You don't have to give up your favorite foods, but you should restrict some foods.

  • Certain seafood: Mercury is harmful to both you and your nursing baby. Too much mercury can affect brain and nervous system development, resulting in problems with speech, coordination, attention, memory, and learning. Salmon & Herring are a safe bet though.
  • Deep-fried foods and processed, fatty meats high in saturated/trans fats and salt: While you're breastfeeding, they don't provide you with the nutrients you require. Choose chicken, turkey, low-mercury fish, and lean meat instead of bacon, sausage, deep-fried dishes, and cold cuts.
  • Candy, pastries, and desserts are high in sugar. These are empty calories that can cause weight gain, diabetes, and exhaustion. Snack on fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and yogurt.
  • Alcohol: There is no such thing as a safe level of alcohol in breast milk for a newborn. If you drink, wait until the alcohol has completely cleared your breast milk before breastfeeding. Depending on your body weight, this can take anywhere from two to three hours for 355ml of 5% beer, 150ml of 11% wine, or 45ml of 40% liquor. Consider pumping milk to give your baby later before you drink alcohol.
  • Caffeine can pass through breastmilk and damage a baby. Limit yourself to one or two cups per day (about 300mg of caffeine total). Caffeine may be particularly sensitive in pre-term infants, so avoid it or talk to your doctor about safe doses.

Weight Loss After Childbirth

You shouldn't be concerned about losing weight for the first four to six weeks following your delivery. Also, if you're breastfeeding, don't lose too much weight too quickly by dieting. Your milk supply may be affected if you lose more than 1.8 to 2.5 kilograms per month after your baby is born. Breastfeeding naturally aids weight loss. The first 4.5 kgs of weight loss after giving birth is frequently followed by another 4.5 kgs or so of fluid weight loss in the first one to two weeks after delivery. If calorie intake is reasonable, any leftover weight is lost gradually (approximately 250 gms/wk). Breastfeeding mothers can regain their pre-pregnancy weight four to six months after giving birth.


After reading this article, we hope you've grasped the importance of good nutrition for new mothers. To keep up with your health and properly nourish your young one, you need to follow a diet plan for new moms.

An adequate amount of micronutrients with healthy caloric intake is the guideline for proper nutrition for new mothers and lactating mothers! So follow a proper diet to have a happy pregnancy and postpartum period!




GHBY Team comprises content writers and content editors who specialise in health and lifestyle writing. Always on the lookout for new trends in the health and lifestyle space, Team GHBY follows an audience-first approach. This ensures they bring the latest in the health space to your fingertips, so you can stay ahead in your wellness game. 

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Our team of experts frequently monitors developments in the health and wellness field, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

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Mar, 27 2024

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