Why Food Matters for Breastfeeding
Eating is so common, so everyday, that we often forget how important it really is. What we eat and drink and when we eat or drink is the major determiner for how much we weigh, how healthy we are and how much energy we have. Food contributes to what diseases we get or avoid and how long we’ll live. Given all that, it’s not much of a surprise that the food we choose to eat while breastfeeding can have a huge impact on the quality and quantity of breast milk.
What Food For Breastfeeding Should You Avoid?
In general, any properly prepared food or drink, when enjoyed in moderation, is safe for you and your breastfeeding little one. There are two exceptions to that rule:
- When a breastfeeding baby continues to cry after her needs are met (fed, clean diaper, rested, and receiving quality parent time.) In this case the breastfeeding baby may be sensitive or allergic to a food or foods you are eating.
- Food that can decrease your breast milk production.
Babies are born with immature digestive systems so it is fairly common that a breastfeeding baby will be can be sensitive or allergic to a food you are eating for a time. Here are some foods & drinks that typically bother breastfeeding babies:
- Food & drink that contains caffeine: Coffee, tea, chocolate, soda, energy drinks, and “daytime” medicine can contain caffeine that make a breastfeeding baby unhappy.
- Dairy: Milk, cheeses, and ice cream can upset the tummy of a breastfeeding baby.
- Spicy food: Hot sauce, peppers, garlic and other spicy food can cause painful gas in a breastfeeding baby.
- Citrus food like oranges, lemons and grapefruit can lead to diaper rash and discomfort in breastfeeding babies.
Use caution with food that any blood relatives of you are your spouse are allergic. Most common are peanuts and shellfish but be aware of any food allergies that existing in your family tree.
Finally enjoy fish and alcohol in moderation. Fish often contains mercury and you should avoid more than 6 ounces of fish per week. Avoid more than 2 alcoholic drinks per week and time those drinks for the longest intervals between breastfeeding sessions, usually immediately after baby goes to sleep for the evening.
If your breastfeeding baby is fussy or upset it could be due to the food you are eating. If one of the above food categories jumps out as something you’ve been eating a lot of, try cutting it out for several days and see how your baby responds. If she continues to be fussy or if none of the food categories stands out to you, you can try going to an oatmeal-only diet. If a type of food is making your breastfeeding baby it should clear up quickly on an oatmeal-only diet. If baby is content on an oatmeal-only diet, slow add back one food type at a time and watch how baby responds. When baby become upset you’ll likely have found the cause.
Finally, if milk production is at all a concern for you, there is certain food you should avoid for breastfeeding because it has been linked to lowering milk production. Please see our article on the specific foods that can lower breast milk production.
If You Want To Increase Milk Production, What is the Best Food For Breastfeeding?
There are certainly foods that can help increase breast milk production, but first, a word of warning. Even if you eat 6 bowls of oatmeal a day and take all the recommended herbs your milk supply won’t change one bit if your supply problem is caused by an unresolved hormone issue. So be sure you have tried to identify and resolve the cause of your lower milk supply. We’ve written a helpful series of articles that can point the way. See the 27 causes of low milk supply to get started.
Once you have investigated and started working on solving the cause of your low milk production then it’s time for the three powerful foods for breastfeeding! These are the three foods that seem to really help increase milk production. They are:
- Oats (oatmeal)
- Brewer’s yeast
- Fenugreek powder.
The more of these three you can weave into your diet, the bigger the boost to your milk supply. Customers who order Lactiful Supply Max get an electronic copy of Milk Up! by Kathryn Wright. Chapter 8 of this book is the Milk Up! Meal Plan which contains a week full of tasty recipes that are rich in these three power foods for breastfeeding as well as other foods that are believed to support breastfeeding.
There are many other foods that are believed to support breastfeeding. They are:
- Protein: lean meats, chicken, turkey and soy.
- Nuts: Almonds, almond butter, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
- Whole grains: breads, crackers and cereals. whole-wheat waffles & pitas, brown rice
- Garlic, cinnamon
- Apricots, peaches, carrots
- Dark leafy greens such as baby spinach or romaine
- Healthy fats such as in olive oil and ground flaxseed
If you are concerned about low milk production and can plan a menu that maximizes the three power foods for breastfeeding with this list of foods that support breastfeeding, you’ll have uncovered the best food for breastfeeding.