Last updated on January 28th, 2020
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Food For Breastfeeding: Which Foods to Avoid & What Foods to Eat

Why Food Matters for Breastfeeding

The food you choose to eat while breastfeeding can have a huge impact on the quality and quantity of breast milk you produce. But eating is so common, so everyday, that we often forget how important it really is. As moms, and especially new moms, our needs tend to get set aside as we take care of others and sometimes we forget to eat all together! 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 one of the number one queries we get at Lactiful is “Tell Me About Food For Breastfeeding.”

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Food that can decrease your breast milk production.

Foods for Breastfeeding That can Cause Sensitivities:

Babies are born with immature digestive systems. It is fairly common that a breastfeeding baby will be sensitive or allergic to a food you are eating for a time. Often times they will outgrow this sensitivity. Here are some foods & drinks that sometimes 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. To learn more, read Breastfeeding and Caffeine.

   Dairy: Milk, cheeses, ice cream and even butter, 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.

If you or your spouse have a blood relative with a food allergy, use caution with that food for breastfeeding. Most common are peanuts and shellfish but be aware of any food allergies that exist in your family tree. Talk with your pediatrician. Some new research suggests that exposing an infant to small amounts of that food through breastfeeding may help to prevent that allergy later in life when the child is exposed directly to the food. But talk with your doctor about what they recommend for your family and that specific food for breastfeeding.

Finally enjoy fish and alcohol in moderation. Fish often contains mercury and you should avoid more than 6 ounces of certain types 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. For more information see our article Alcohol and Breastfeeding – All Questions Answered.

What to Do if You Suspect Your Baby May Have a Sensitivity to a Food Through Breastfeeding:

After all of your baby’s needs are met, if your breastfeeding baby is still 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 that food is the culprit, baby’s mood should improve.

However, 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. That’s one way to determine if a food you’re eating is the source of baby’s fussiness – just eliminate everything else! When a type of food is affecting your breastfeeding baby it should clear up quickly on an oatmeal-only diet. If baby is content on an oatmeal-only diet, slowly add back one food type at a time and watch how baby responds. When baby becomes upset you’ll likely have found the cause.

Of course, if your baby is experiencing any symptoms of an allergic reaction to a food for breastfeeding, other than fussiness, you should definitely consult with your doctor or pediatrician.

Foods For Breastfeeding That Can Decrease Your Milk Production:

If milk production is at all a concern for you, there are certain foods 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.

Is It True That Breastfeeding Mothers Need More Food For Breastfeeding?

Yes! A breastfeeding mother requires 500 additional calories per day to maintain a healthy milk supply. That’s 200 calories more than a pregnant mother requires!

What is the Best Food For Breastfeeding If You Want To Increase Milk Production?

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 likely won’t change if your supply problem is caused by an unresolved hormone issue. So be sure to try 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!

The Three Most Powerful Foods for Breastfeeding:

These are the three foods that seem to really help increase milk production. The more of these three you can weave into your diet, the bigger the boost to your milk supply.

  • Oats (oatmeal)

   Eat Oatmeal for breakfast every day. As long as you aren’t using oatmeal to eliminate everything else from your diet, you can feel free to add any flavorings you wish to mix it up. Try cinnamon and apples; peanut butter and raisins; or brown sugar and milk.

   You can add some rolled oats to a bowl of vanilla yogurt with fresh fruit as a snack, or lunch.

  • Brewer’s yeast

   Add 1-2 Tablespoons to a beverage to drink every day.

   Try adding a bit to your baked goods.

   Try blending it into a smoothie.

  • Fenugreek powder

   Search for recipes that use it as a spice. Often Indian food and curry recipes work well with Fenugreek.

   Use it in a spice blend or dry rub.

   Sprinkle a pinch over yogurt, or cooked greens.

   If you can find the leaves, they can be used in salads.

Mom and Baby in Chef's hats, showing Healthy Foods For Breastfeeding
What are Healthy Foods for Breastfeeding?

Other Foods for 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 – but be careful with these ones, they can fall into that spicy food category that we talked about above that some babies are sensitive to.
  • Beans
  • 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.

Image of Bottle of Lactiful Supply Max and The Lactiful Method for Increasing Milk Supply
Lactiful Supply Max is Guaranteed to Increase Breastmilk in 14 Days or Your Money Back!

Finally, if you are concerned about your milk supply, try Lactiful Supply Max. It’s guaranteed to increase your milk supply in 14 days, or your money back!

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