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Diet for Lactating Moms: What to Eat and Avoid while Breastfeeding

Mothers who choose to breastfeed their infants genuinely make the best decision for their child's healthy nutrition. Are you also a lactating mother? If yes, hold on for a moment and appreciate your choice of providing your child with the perfect food!


a mom holding her infant in hands
A Mom holding her Infant in her hands

Infants perk a lot from drinking breast milk which keeps them healthy and protects them from many diseases and infections. Breast milk is rich in nutrients like vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats required for a baby's healthy development.

Your baby is fit but now it comes if you're fit enough to lactate. What is the diet for lactating mother? How many nutrients do they need? Don't worry we will take you through what lactating mothers should eat and what they need to avoid to maintain their health in this article. So let's dive into it without any further ado!


What is the Diet for Lactating Moms?

Your child is now getting his best food and growing healthy, but what about a mother's diet and nutrition when breastfeeding? You might be reflecting on, Do breastfeeding for a mother demands a special diet? But the answer is, No! Diet for lactating moms is no different at all.


You don't need to plan a special diet while lactating. However, the food you eat should be nutrient-dense. It should be healthy and diverse so that you and your child could get enough benefits.

Nursing a child requires diligence and self-assurance, and consuming highly nutritious food undoubtedly upholds that. You only have to make sure that you're consuming enough calories and nutrition to not take a risk on your breastfeeding and your health.


Do mothers need extra calories while lactating?


a mom ingesting calories to lactate better
Women cutting a cutlet with a fork

Yes! A nursing mother does need extra energy to produce a sufficient quantity of milk when breastfeeding her infant. The mother requires about 500 extra kilocalories (kcal) per day above her daily requirement for the first six months of lactation. To fulfill this energy requirement, you can consume an extra 330 to 400 kilocalories (kcal) per day to get nourished. The rest of the calories will be supplied by the fat that you have accumulated during pregnancy. Most lactating mothers need a total of 1800 to 2200 kilocalories (kcal) per day to maintain their milk supply throughout lactation. If you're lactating your child, ensure to meet your energy needs.


Remember, low-calorie intake may cause low milk production putting your lactation process at risk.


What lactating mother should eat?


As we mentioned above, there is no need to plan a particular diet when breastfeeding. However, eating nutritionally balanced food during lactation is an absolute necessity! Why should well-balanced food be a priority for lactating mothers? It's because healthy food promotes healthy nutrition, which is crucial to produce an adequate supply of breast milk. So, it's necessary to consume a nutrient-dense food which could be done by eating an ample amount of nutrients.


a mom selecting food to lactate better
A Mom selecting food

Following are the nutrients that a lactating mother needs in her diet to nourish breast milk production.


  1. Energy Nutrients

  2. Vitamins

  3. Minerals

  4. Water


1. Energy Nutrients


Energy nutrients are a great source of energy for breastfeeding mothers. These nutrients include: Proteins Fats Carbohydrates

Proteins

To meet your protein requirements as a lactating mom, you should include 2-3 protein Fats servings in your diet. Opt for protein-rich foods such as eggs, lean meat, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and dairy products.

Fats

Fats yield approximately 50-65% of the total energy of breast milk. Coconut, eggs, olive oil, vegetable oils, full-fat yogurt, walnuts, and almonds are good sources of fats for lactating mothers.

Carbohydrates

Now comes the third energy nutrient, carbohydrates. Eating carbohydrates provide energy to promote the baby's growth and development during breastfeeding. The rich sources of carbs include whole grains, fruits & veggies.


2. Vitamins


chopped fruits and vegetables for lactating moms
Chopped Fruits and Vegetables

Do you know? Vitamins contribute to the mother's health & wellness. Furthermore, they also play a vital part in the baby's development. Vitamins that are needed while nursing an infant include: Vitamin A Vitamin B6 Vitamin C Vitamin D

Vitamin A

Vitamin A assists you in fighting against infections, maintains normal vision, and keeps your immune system healthy. A mother's healthy immune system helps the child to stay healthy. Rich sources of VitA are oranges, yellow & orange vegetables (such as carrots and sweet potatoes), and green leafy vegetables such as spinach.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 plays a vital role in red blood cell formation and maintains proper brain functioning. Adding VitB6 to your diet will also fulfill your infant's needs through nursing. Good sources of VitB6 are bananas, whole grains, poultry, and fortified cereals.

Vitamin C


Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps cure cold symptoms and inflammation in lactating mothers. The requirement of VitC could be met by having ordinary foods like citrus fruits, strawberries, spinach, tomatoes, cabbage, and leafy vegetables.


Vitamin C

Vitamin D is crucial for absorbing and regulating calcium amounts in the mother's body. You can meet your Vit D requirements by adding fortified orange juice, fortified milk, egg yolks, and red meat to your daily diet.


3. Minerals

Just like vitamins and energy nutrients, minerals should also be a part of your everyday diet while breastfeeding. Here are the two vital minerals you need while nursing your baby.

Iron Calcium

Iron

Iron is essential for new mothers to rebuild the iron stores in their bodies right after birth. It could be done by consuming iron-rich foods like red meat, chicken, nuts & dry fruits, green leafy vegetables, and cereals. Furthermore, some iron supplements are also prescribed to lactating mothers to normalize their depleted iron levels lost during vaginal bleeding.

Calcium

Calcium is a must-have mineral for a breastfeeding mother's diet to boost teeth and bone health. It contributes to the nervous, circulatory, and muscular systems as well. Milk, yogurt, spinach, calcium-fortified cereals & juices are the best calcium sources.


4. Water


best diet for lactating mothers
A woman pouring water into the glass

As a lactating mother, you should never compromise your daily water intake. You might be thinking, Why do breastfeeding mothers need more water? Because the lactation process demands extra water to produce an ample milk supply, about 87-90% of breast milk is composed of water. Consequently, to meet the baby's breastfeeding requirement, the water intake for the mother increases. Make sure to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water daily. It's wise to take a glass of water, milk, or juice every time you nurse the infant. Some other drinks that provide sufficient fluid include cow milk, nuts milk, coconut water, and herbal tea. There are also some foods like cucumber, watermelon, tomatoes, and oranges that keep you hydrated!


What foods should breastfeeding mothers avoid?


Curious are there any foods to avoid when lactating? Know one thing, there is no strict rule for breastfeeding mothers to avoid any food wholly. You can eat whatever is nutritious for you. However, there are certain foods or drinks you should limit and avoid in your diet. It's because the remains of what you consume transit to your breastmilk and change its flavor, which may irritate some babies. Following are some foods you should limit in your everyday intake.


  1. Caffeine

  2. Spicy foods

  3. Some particular components


best diet for Brest feeding moms and what to avoid
A Mom holding her infant in her hands

Caffeine

Most people think that caffeine is found only in coffee and tea. But some other foods also contain caffeine. It's present in soft drinks, energy drinks, and chocolates (milk chocolates, dark chocolates). Mothers are encouraged to avoid caffeine while nursing as it may agitate a baby and can interfere with their sleep cycle. Still, if you carve for it, avoid having more than 2-3 cups (up to 200-300 mg) a day.


Spicy foods

As a lactating mom, you should prefer limiting hot and spicy flavors (such as garlic). The reason is that spicy & strong-flavored foods alter the taste of mothers' breast milk. And some infants may get annoyed by changed milk flavor and taste. So, if you're nursing your baby, always pick mild foods over spicy and strong-flavored ones!


Some other particular foods to avoid!

Exclude cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts from your diet because these foods are the most common cause of allergic reactions in infants.

Avoid fish high in mercury since mercury is a toxic metal, especially for babies. Even acute mercury exposure badly affects the infant's nervous system and brain.


Conclusion

Breastfeeding is a journey that requires you to be extra careful about your diet. However, you don't need a specially planned diet, what you eat should be well-balanced and consist of healthy choices. You are lactating your baby and providing the infant with healthy nutrients through breast milk. That's why opting for an adequate diet should be your priority. An unhealthy diet hinders the milk supply and negatively impacts the mother and baby's health too!

The more nutrient-dense your diet is, the more you and your child will flourish!

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