12 Nutrition Tips for Breastfeeding Moms
Posted by Tori Schmitt, MS, RDN, LD on Apr 5th 2023
After a new baby arrives, it can be easy for a new mom to focus all of her attention on caring for the sweet little one. Extra attention focused on baby’s nutrition can be a good thing since the first 1000 days of development are critical to a child’s long-term well-being. 1-3 Yet, just as it is important to care for a new child – it’s critical that new moms, including mothers who breastfeed, do the same for themselves.
The truth is, if a woman is breastfeeding, her needs for energy and some vitamins and minerals are higher than what they were during pregnancy! 4 Yet, with the focus all on baby coupled with the demands of motherhood, making sure moms get enough of and the right kind of nutrition can be a challenge.
Here are the nutrition tips we find to be most important for mothers who breastfeed.
Breastfeeding Nutrition Tip 1: Take regular food breaks to fuel up!
Just like a new mom will be listening in to her child’s cues for when it’s time to be fed (their baby’s hand will come to its mouth, the baby will smack its lips, and the baby will root around), it is also important that a new mom listens in to her own internal cues to eat too – and to honor hunger when it hits. Breastfeeding moms need, on average, an extra 450-500 calories a day to help power breastfeeding.5 New moms should be sure to fuel their bodies regularly with nutrient-rich meals and snacks.
Breastfeeding Nutrition Tip 2: Choose quick, handheld nutritious meals and snacks.
Whenever a person is busy with their baby, it can seem like a challenge to prepare a well-balanced meal. But, eating healthfully doesn’t have to be complicated! Before the baby arrives – or if baby is already here— stock the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry with grab-and-go nutrient-rich choices like fresh whole fruits, chopped vegetables, nut and seed-based trail mixes or energy bars, and Mom’s Only™ Prenatal Support Nutritional Shake. Not only are these foods and beverages a nutritious choice, they’re also items that can be prepared and eaten with one hand, which is important if a new parent is carrying their baby around the house or if a new mom is snuggled up on the couch nursing her baby.
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Breastfeeding Nutrition Tip 3: Enjoy a variety of flavors.
Flavorful food is important for all ages! What’s really great about food while breastfeeding is that the flavors a breastfeeding mom eats can impact what her child prefers later in life! Flavors like garlic, mint, vanilla, and carrot transfer to the amniotic fluid while pregnant and to breastmilk while nursing, and this can positively impact a child’s acceptance to those flavors in infancy and childhood. 6 Choosing foods with a variety of flavors often means a person will be getting a variety of nutrients, too.
Breastfeeding Nutrition Tip 4: Power up with protein.
Eating protein can help a breastfeeding mom maintain her muscle tissue, and it can also provide the protein needed for breastmilk. Protein is found in foods like meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, eggs, beans, lentils, green peas, whole grains, nuts, and some seeds.
Breastfeeding Nutrition Tip 5: Get omega-3 DHA.
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid, and research suggests that it helps support a baby’s brain and eyes. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages breastfeeding mothers include 200 to 300 mg of DHA each day to ensure that breastmilk delivers adequate concentrations of DHA to the baby.5 That amount of DHA is the equivalent of about 1 to 2 servings of oily fish like skipjack tuna or salmon each week. If a breastfeeding mom doesn’t eat fish regularly or wants to be certain she’s getting enough DHA, she can talk to her doctor about a supplemental source of DHA, and ideally one that is produced without the use of hexane, a known neurotoxin.
Breastfeeding Nutrition Tip 6: Stay hydrated!
Breastfeeding moms need to be hydrated to help accommodate for fluid loss through breastmilk. 4, 7-8 But, it can be difficult for new moms to drink enough water each day. However, small changes to get more water can make a big difference. Tips like drinking a glass of water with each meal, eating water-rich foods like vegetables and fruits, and placing a water bottle near the bedside to drink during middle-of-the-night feedings can be helpful for moms who nurse their babies.
Breastfeeding Nutrition Tip 7: Seek out sources of choline.
Choline is a nutrient that is critical to optimal early brain development. Yet, most pregnant and breastfeeding women don’t get enough choline each day. Because choline levels in breastmilk are impacted by a mother’s diet, adding foods rich in choline into a mom’s meal and snack choices could be beneficial. Choline is found in foods like liver, eggs, salmon, meat, milk, and – as a plant-based option – Lima beans.9 Mom’s Only™ Prenatal Support Nutritional Shake offers choline in each serving. Add your email address here to be notified when Mom’s Only™ Prenatal Support Nutritional Shake is back in stock!
Breastfeeding Nutrition Tip 8: Include iodine, vitamin A, and vitamin D.
The amount of these three nutrients in a mom’s diet impacts how much appears in her breastmilk.
Breastfed infants rely upon the iodine in breastmilk to meet their own needs for the mineral, which supports thyroid health and neurodevelopment. Because of this, the American Thyroid Association recommends that all pregnant and breastfeeding women take a supplement which includes 150 micrograms of iodine per day to reduce the risk of iodine deficiency disorders in infants.10-11
Vitamin A and vitamin D are important for supporting immune health and bone health, respectively. But, if a breastfeeding mom doesn’t get enough in her diet, her breastmilk won’t offer as much either. 12 Sources of vitamin A include salmon, leafy green vegetables, orange fruits and vegetables, and dairy products. Some vitamin D needs can be met with exposure to sunlight, while additional vitamin D can be obtained through food. Food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (like salmon and tuna), egg yolks, fortified milk, and plant-based milk alternatives. However, getting adequate vitamin D through food alone can be tough! That’s why, just like iodine, it is important for a breastfeeding mother to ask her doctor if a supplemental source of vitamin D might also be recommended.
Breastfeeding Nutrition Tip 9: Get personalized nutrition recommendations.
You are unique, and your nutrition recommendations can be too. Now, you can get personalized nutrition recommendations by getting your genetic information tested. Tests like Genate help moms understand how their genes impact how certain nutrients are metabolized. With this information, moms can better tailor their diet and supplements to meet their nutrition needs according to their DNA, and this can impact mom's health and the health of baby. Studies suggest that personalized nutrition interventions, like those based upon genetics, can improve nutrition behaviors.13
The Genate test is the first comprehensive genetic test to help mom optimize her nutrition while pregnant and/or breastfeeding. Interested in learning more about your nutrition needs according to your own DNA? Use code Genate10 to save $30! Click here to learn more.
Breastfeeding Nutrition Tip 10: Ask your doctor about supplemental nutrition.
Extra support for a breastfeeding mom to meet her nutrition needs can come from fortified foods and beverages and from dietary supplements. Especially if she finds it a challenge to eat well at every meal, or if she has particular dietary preferences, her doctor may recommend fortified foods like Mom’s Only™ Prenatal Support Nutritional Shake or other vitamins and minerals. Based upon the personalized results of genetic testing like Genate, moms may also be advised to consume specific forms or amounts of certain nutrients, like folate and choline.
Because breastmilk is very low in vitamin D, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that breastfed babies receive a vitamin D supplement soon after birth.14 As always, consultation with healthcare providers is recommended to ensure both mom and baby receive adequate nutrition.
Breastfeeding Nutrition Tip 11: Keep purity top of mind.
Research demonstrates that even breastmilk can contain contaminants. 15 Because of this, parents may wish to consider the contribution of contaminants within their own foods and environment.16 Choosing organic foods can be one way a breastfeeding mom can limit her exposure to contaminants and choosing products that have received the Clean Label Project’s Purity Award can help a new mom go one step further to ensure the quality of the product. Nature’s One is committed to purity, and that's why earning the Purity Award is so important for all products offered by Nature’s One.
Breastfeeding Nutrition Tip 12: Find support for nutrition.
Remember the phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child”? Just like it takes a community to raise a baby, we believe it can also take a village to keep a mom healthy, too! Of course, support can and should come from mom and baby’s healthcare providers, who can help ensure optimal nutrition.
Support for keeping mom healthy can come from family and friends. Breastfeeding moms may want to pair up with a family member, friend, or neighbor for a meal share: each of you can make one large recipe each week and share it with the other – so you cook one meal, enjoy two!
You might also consider following social media accounts that feature nutrient-rich recipes and tips for postpartum moms, like those from the registered dietitians behind the accounts @postpartumnutritionist and @laurenlovesnutrition. The Office on Women’s Health, which features helpful information on breastfeeding on their website, also offers an informative OWH Facebook page to follow.
Of course, we encourage you to follow us @natures_one, too for more information to help moms and babies get a better start…for life®!
Do you have questions about postpartum nutrition? Email our Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at email@example.com.
- Fox SE, Levitt P, Nelson CA 3rd. How the timing and quality of early experiences influence the development of brain architecture. Child Dev. 2010 Jan-Feb;81(1):28-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01380.x. PMID: 20331653; PMCID: PMC2846084.
- Georgieff MK, Brunette KE, Tran PV. Early life nutrition and neural plasticity. Dev Psychopathol. 2015 May;27(2):411-23. doi: 10.1017/S0954579415000061. PMID: 25997762; PMCID: PMC4443711.
- Moreno Villares JM. Los mil primeros días de vida y la prevención de la enfermedad en el adulto [Nutrition in early life and the programming of adult disease: the first 1000 days]. Nutr Hosp. 2016 Jul 12;33(Suppl 4):337. Spanish. doi: 10.20960/nh.337. PMID: 27571856.
- Dietary Reference Intakes. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, national Academies. Accessed November 3 2021 from https://www.nal.usda.gov/sites/default/files/fnic_uploads/recommended_intakes_individuals.pdf
- Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Section on Breastfeeding. Pediatrics. 2012 March;129(3)e827-e841. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-3552
- Spahn JM, Callahan EH, Spill MK, et al. Influence of maternal diet on flavor transfer to amniotic fluid and breast milk and children's responses: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Mar 1;109(Suppl_7):1003S-1026S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy240. PMID: 30982867.
- Bardosono S, Morin C, Guelinchkx I, Pohan R. Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women: Drinking for Two? Ann Nutr Metab 2017;70(suppl1):13-17. DOI: 10.1159/000462998
- Zhou Y, Zhu X, Qin Y, et al. Association between total water intake and dietary intake of pregnant and breastfeeding women in China: a cross-sectional survey. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019;19(1):172. Published 2019 May 15. doi:10.1186/s12884-019-2301-z
- Zeisel SH. The supply of choline is important for fetal progenitor cells. Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2011 Aug;22(6):624-8. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2011.06.002. Epub 2011 Jun 12. PMID: 21693194; PMCID: PMC3188336.
- Dror DK, Allen LH. Iodine in Human Milk: A Systematic Review. Adv Nutr. 2018;9(suppl_1):347S-357S. doi:10.1093/advances/nmy020
- Public Health Committee of the American Thyroid Association, Becker DV, Braverman LE, Delange F, Dunn JT, Franklyn JA, Hollowell JG, Lamm SH, Mitchell ML, Pearce E, Robbins J, Rovet JF. Iodine supplementation for pregnancy and lactation-United States and Canada: recommendations of the American Thyroid Association. Thyroid. 2006 Oct;16(10):949-51. doi: 10.1089/thy.2006.16.949. PMID: 17042677.
- Ares Segura S, Arena Ansótegui J, Díaz-Gómez NM; en representación del Comité de Lactancia Materna de la Asociación Española de Pediatría. La importancia de la nutrición materna durante la lactancia, ¿necesitan las madres lactantes suplementos nutricionales? [The importance of maternal nutrition during breastfeeding: Do breastfeeding mothers need nutritional supplements?]. An Pediatr (Barc). 2016 Jun;84(6):347.e1-7. Spanish. doi: 10.1016/j.anpedi.2015.07.024. Epub 2015 Sep 14. PMID: 26383056.
- Jinnette R, Narita A, Manning B, McNaughton SA, Mathers JC, Livingstone KM. Does Personalized Nutrition Advice Improve Dietary Intake in Healthy Adults? A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Adv Nutr. 2021;12(3):657-669. doi:10.1093/advances/nmaa144
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
- Soloman GM, Weiss PM. Chemical Contaminants in Breast Milk: Time Trends and Regional Variability. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2002 June;110(6):A339-A347.
- Reproductive Health and the Workplace. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 28 Oct 2019. Accessed 9 Sept 2021 from CDC Website - Folic Acid