Nutrition and breastfeeding

by Kaiser Permanente |
Young parents eating breakfast outside with new baby.

A nutrient-rich diet helps you provide the best milk for your baby. Most people need about 500 extra calories a day to make enough milk in the first few months and by 4 months up to 800 calories.

A nutritious diet can also help you recover from childbirth, lose weight, and keep your energy levels high. Your clinician may suggest that you continue daily prenatal vitamins and calcium supplements.

Nutrition tips for breastfeeding/chestfeeding parents

Your diet should include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, fats, and proteins. Eating a variety of healthy foods and drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day helps boost your health.

It’s important to balance calories by not overeating and avoiding oversized portions. Try to make at least half your plate vegetables and fruits. At the same time, it is essential to get a steady source of calories for milk production so try not to skip meals either.

Lean meats like chicken or fish are generally better for you. However, you should avoid fish containing high mercury levels. This includes shark, swordfish, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, bigeye tuna, and tilefish. Instead, choose salmon, canned light tuna, pollock, or catfish. Shrimp is a great seafood option.

Foods that boost your supply of milk

There are certain foods, known as galactagogues, that may increase your breast/chest milk supply. These commonly include:

  • Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale
  • Beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes
  • Whole grains like oats, brown rice, and barley
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Nuts like walnuts and cashews

A bonus: all these foods are full of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that your body needs to stay healthy.

Foods to limit

Limit your consumption of alcohol and caffeine. Both these substances can be passed to your baby through your milk. If you have any questions about whether something is safe to take while feeding your baby human milk, a lactation consultant is a great resource.

Choose foods with lower sodium content. Canned soup, frozen meals, and many breads can be high in sodium.

Ask your clinician about any supplements you plan to take. This includes vitamins, minerals, herbal supplements, or other dietary products. Your clinician can let you know if these products are safe to take while breastfeeding. While some herbs are used to boost milk production, more is not always better. It is best to have a lactation consultant or clinician answer any questions you have about supplements.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.