A breastfeeding woman burns about 650 calories each day producing the milk necessary to feed an infant – usually about 24 ounces each day. The extra caloric requirements to produce this milk means that a breastfeeding woman should eat about 500 calories more each day than her normal. The extra 150 calories will come from the fat stores that you produced during pregnancy – this should help you lose some of the weight you gained during pregnancy. A healthy breastfeeding diet will provide the nutrition you and your baby need. Read on to learn what you should eat and avoid while breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding Diet

Guiding Principle

The most important guiding principle for a healthy breastfeeding diet is to have a well balanced diet that contains moderate amounts of all the food groups.

  • In the bread group, be sure to choose wholegrain breads and rice since they will provide more nutrients and fiber.
  • Fruits and vegetables will provide plenty of vitamins and anti-oxidants. Choose brightly colored foods and eat them raw when possible to get the most nutritional value.
  • Fish, lean meat, beans and eggs will provide the protein you need. Be sure to eat fish rich in the omega-3 fatty acids (salmon and other oily fish).
  • Vitamin fortified low-fat milk or yogurt are great sources of vitamins and minerals.

Foods to Eat While Breastfeeding

Some foods are particularly good to add to a breastfeeding diet include the following:


Why Is It Recommended for Breastfeeding



Salmon contains the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, which also occurs naturally in breast milk. Eating salmon or other cold water fish such as halibut ensures that you will have plenty of DHA in your breast milk. A wonderful effect of eating fatty fish is that DHA may actually help prevent postpartum depression! The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you limit your intake of fish to only two servings each week to avoid too much exposure to mercury that might be in the fish. 

Lean Beef


Lean beef contains a lot of iron and very little fat. During pregnancy, your iron stores may have been depleted so now is a good time to build up those energy stores by eating extra lean beef. The Vitamin B12 in lean beef will also help keep your energy levels high during breastfeeding.



Dark legumes including kidney beans and black beans are another great source of protein. If you are a vegetarian or cannot tolerate animal proteins, be sure to add plenty of dark beans to your diet to ensure you are eating enough protein.



Blueberries are a great source of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and carbohydrates that will help keep your energy levels high during breastfeeding. They can be added to your wholegrain cereal to add flavor and nutrition.

Brown Rice


Brown rice, particularly when fortified with vitamins, is a wonderful source of the carbohydrates you need to continue producing milk for breastfeeding. Although you want to lose the baby weight you put on during your pregnancy, you need high quality carbohydrates to continue breastfeeding. Be sure to eat brown rice instead of more refined white rice that will add “empty” calories to your diet.



The vitamin C in oranges and other fruits is a great supplement in a breastfeeding diet! In addition to the vitamin C, oranges provide simple carbohydrates that will give you a boost of energy during your day. While the whole fruit is the best option, vitamin and calcium fortified orange juice is a good way to get lots of vitamin C and calcium that a breastfeeding mother needs.

Whole- Wheat Bread


Your healthcare provider no doubt talked about folic acid during your pregnancy and its importance in preventing neural tube defects. Once the baby is born, your baby still needs this important nutrient – and you need it for your own health! Fortified whole wheat bread is full of folic acid and the iron and fiber you need to keep your body healthy while you are breastfeeding.

Whole Grain Cereal


If you are one of those people who cannot imagine starting your day without a bowl of cereal, be sure to choose a fortified whole grain cereal. The vitamins and fiber added to these cereals will ensure that you have plenty of energy for breastfeeding and taking care of your newborn. During and after pregnancy, constipation can be a big problem and the added fiber in whole grains will help keep you comfortable during breastfeeding.



Another good source of protein, eggs can add variety to your breastfeeding diet. If you can find eggs fortified with DHA, use those since this fatty acid is critical for a healthy mother and child. If you fry your eggs, be sure to use oil that is healthy.

Foods to Avoid while Breastfeeding

A breastfeeding woman should also be aware that there are some foods to avoid while breastfeeding. Most of these foods will be those that somehow have a negative effect on your baby. The good news is that if you were eating a healthy diet during your pregnancy, you probably will NOT have to change your diet while breastfeeding. When your baby becomes gassy or fussy after being breastfeed, think about what you have eaten in the last six hours. Once you understand what food gives your baby symptoms, you can simply avoid the food while you are breastfeeding.

Some of the common foods that cause negative reactions in babies include:

  • Strong spices such as chili peppers, garlic and curry, citrus fruits
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower that may lead to gas.
  • Caffeine in drinks and food can disrupt your baby’s sleep so take caffeine in moderation.
  • Alcohol should be avoided. Limited amounts of alcohol (that is, one drink a day) can be taken AFTER you finish breastfeeding for the day.

If you child develops a rash after breastfeeding, consult your healthcare provider. The rash may be a result of something you have eaten but may just as easily be due to contact with something in the environment.

Special Notes on Vitamins 

Your healthcare provider will probably recommend that you continue your prenatal vitamins while you begin breastfeeding. Talk to your provider about when you should switch to a regular multivitamin. Be sure your supplements contain enough calcium, vitamin D and DHA. As you already know, DHA is important for the breastfed baby. In a balanced breastfeeding diet that contains at least 3 servings of calcium rich food, you probably will not need a calcium supplement. However, if you do not drink milk or other dairy products, you should consider adding up to 1000 milligrams of calcium to your diet while you are breastfeeding. Vitamin D is necessary for your bones – and to ensure that your body can use the calcium from your diet. Your healthcare provider may want to check your vitamin D level and may prescribe additional vitamin D as a supplement. Your baby’s doctor may also recommend a vitamin D supplement for the child.