- Lactating people have higher calorie, protein, micronutrient, and hydration needs than the general population.
- While breastfeeding, focus on eating whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables while limiting or avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and high-mercury fish.
- Enlist help from family and friends for food preparation, or rely on low-effort recipes that yield lots of leftovers, like slow cooker meals.
It can be incredibly challenging to nourish your body when you’re nursing your newborn around the clock. Nutritional needs change during the transition from pregnancy to postpartum, and it’s important to be aware of these changes so you and your baby stay healthy.
Continue reading for a comprehensive guide to breastfeeding nutrition and a free seven-day breastfeeding meal plan to help you feel your best.
Breastfeeding Basics: Getting Started
Whether breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, or combo feeding, you provide your baby with the nutrition and hydration they need. While lactating, you have increased nutritional needs for your body to be able to create breast milk.
Talk to a registered dietitian for specific recommendations for you, but in general, breastfeeding people need:
- Around 500 extra calories daily.
- At least 70 grams of protein daily.
- At least 16 cups of water daily.
- 290 mcg iodine.
- 550 mg choline.
What to Eat While Breastfeeding
While lactating, focus on eating balanced meals and snacks consisting of whole, minimally processed foods from each food group:
- Lean proteins, like poultry, low-mercury fish, tofu, legumes, and dairy.
- Whole grains, including oats, brown rice, and quinoa.
- Healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, and olive oil.
- A wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
Avoid or Limit While Breastfeeding
You generally don’t need to avoid specific foods while breastfeeding besides certain kinds of fish and seafood. If your baby has an allergy or food sensitivity, you may be instructed to follow a more restrictive diet.
Because fish contains mercury that can be passed to an infant through breast milk, it’s important to choose fish from the “best choices” category of this FDA chart, and limit your consumption to two to three 4-ounce servings per week.
High intakes of caffeine can pass into breast milk and may lead to increased fussiness and irritability in the infant.
Talk to your doctor about whether it’s safe for you to consume caffeine while nursing. Less than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day (2-3 cups of coffee) is generally considered safe.
Experts recommend limiting or avoiding alcohol while nursing because it can enter the breast milk in small amounts.
Your doctor may allow you to drink an alcoholic beverage as long as you wait at least two to four hours after drinking before breastfeeding your baby.
Lactation supplements and foods are heavily marketed to breastfeeding individuals, but research does not support the effectiveness of many of these. In some cases, these supplements can harm your milk supply.
You may want to continue your prenatal vitamins during your breastfeeding journey, especially if you have dietary restrictions that impact your ability to eat from a variety of food groups.
Talk to your doctor, certified lactation consultant, and/or registered dietitian for evidence-based information on supplements.
Meal Plan for Breastfeeding
Below you’ll find a seven-day breastfeeding meal plan with low-preparation options to make your postpartum time as easy as possible. While it includes different ideas for each day, you may find making a few meals each week and planning for leftovers easier.
The following plan is not intended to replace medical advice.
Talk to a registered dietitian with Nourish for individualized guidance on portion sizes that meet your calorie and protein needs.
Overnight oats made with old-fashioned oats, milk, Greek yogurt or protein powder, and frozen fruit. Top with chopped nuts.
Tip: Prepare 3-5 days of overnight oats in advance and store in the refrigerator.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread with grapes and sugar snap peas.
Sheet pan salmon, green beans, and potatoes.
Cottage cheese with whole wheat crackers.
Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit.
Greek yogurt with granola and fruit.
Bean, rice, and cheese burrito. Add your favorite veggies to your burrito, or serve them fresh on the side with dip.
Tip: Prepare a batch of burritos, individually wrap in foil, and store in the freezer for an easy meal.
Instant pot chili mac (mac n cheese with chili beans and spices) with a side of steamed broccoli.
Energy balls made with peanut butter, honey, oats, and chocolate chips.
Apple with a cheese stick.
Egg bites made in a muffin tin with eggs, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, cooked quinoa, and cheese.
Grilled cheese sandwich with a cup of tomato soup.
Slow cooker shredded chicken tacos topped with salsa, black beans, and avocado.
Smoothie made with Greek yogurt, banana, peanut butter, cocoa powder, and milk.
Hummus with carrot sticks.
Muesli soaked overnight with Greek yogurt and a grated apple.
Tuna salad sandwich with whole grain bread. Add cucumber slices and an apple on the side.
Slow cooker pot roast with potatoes and carrots.
Banana with peanut butter.
Hard-boiled eggs with whole wheat crackers.
Smoothie made with frozen berries, spinach, avocado, milk of choice, almond butter, and dry oats.
Turkey, cheese, spinach, and avocado wrap on a whole wheat tortilla.
Loaded veggie lasagna with zucchini, mushrooms, and spinach.
Greek yogurt with strawberries.
Wrap made with a whole wheat tortilla, peanut butter, thinly sliced apples, raisins, and granola.
Snack lunch with lunch meat, cheese, whole wheat crackers, carrot sticks, and fresh berries.
White chicken chili made with rotisserie chicken.
Guacamole and baked tortilla chips.
Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana slices.
Cold soba noodles with peanut sauce, shredded carrots, edamame, and green onions.
Tip: Cook enough soba noodles and prepare vegetables for multiple days. Keep peanut sauce separate and mix together at the time of serving.
Burrito bowl with taco meat, pinto beans, brown rice, cheddar cheese, salsa, and avocado.
Popcorn with parmesan cheese.
Celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins.
Tips for Meal Preparation
The number one thing you can do to make feeding yourself easier while nursing is to ask for and accept help with food preparation. Have a friend set up a meal train, or enlist your partner to bring you water and a snack every time you nurse.
Babywearing can be a great way to keep your baby happy (and even nurse) while cooking or eating.
Try to batch-cook while your baby is calm, so you can quickly reheat leftovers later. Rely on meals that involve minimal preparation, such as:
- Slow cooker recipes.
- Instant pot or pressure cooker recipes.
- Sheet pan meals.
- One pot meals.
- Sandwiches and wraps.
Stock your nursing station with shelf-stable snacks that are easy to eat with one hand, like bars, trail mix, and popcorn.
Consider a meal delivery service in the short term to take the load off of cooking if you have minimal support at home.
A balanced breastfeeding diet includes a variety of foods from different food groups, emphasizing protein and calories to support breast milk production.
Talk to your doctor for guidance on caffeine, alcohol, high-mercury fish, and lactation supplements, as these can either pass into breast milk or negatively impact milk supply.
Focus on easy-to-prep meals that you can reheat for a few days at a time. Try babywearing while preparing food and eating to keep everyone happy.
Seeing a Dietitian For Breastfeeding Nutrition
Whether you need breastfeeding-friendly meal and snack ideas or have questions about your nutritional needs while lactating, a registered dietitian can help create a realistic eating plan to keep you and your baby healthy.
Book an online consultation with a registered dietitian through Nourish. We help you use your insurance benefits, with most patients paying $0 out of pocket for appointments.
Frequently Asked Questions
See a Registered Dietitian with Nourish
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