Breastfeeding Diet

Breastfeeding women should eat a varied, balanced diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. In general, there is no need for a special diet, though there are topics to consider.

How Much Do I Need to Eat While Breastfeeding?

If you are exclusively breastfeeding, you will need an extra 400-500 calories per day above what was needed to maintain your pre-pregnancy weight. During the first few months, your body will be able to use the fat you stored during pregnancy to meet part of this requirement. Rather than focusing on how many calories you are eating, let your body be your guide, and eat when you are hungry.

What Should I Eat While Breastfeeding?

What you eat is as important as how much you eat. Be sure to fill up on nutrient-dense foods. Your baby will get all the necessary nutrients from your breast milk, but you want to make sure there are enough nutrients left for you to use too. If you do not consume enough calcium, for instance, your body will take it from your bones, increasing your risk of osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor before you take any vitamin D or calcium supplements.

Key Nutrients for Breastfeeding Women

Nutrient Good Sources
Vitamin A Red, orange, and green vegetables; dairy products
Vitamin C Broccoli, bell peppers, potatoes, citrus fruit, berries
Vitamin D Fortified milk and milk products; sunlight
Calcium Dairy products, sardines, canned salmon, tofu, green leafy vegetables
Iron Meat, poultry, fish, legumes, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit
Folic acid Fortified cereal, wheat bread, citrus fruit, green leafy vegetables

Balanced Diet Eating Guide

The following guide is based on the United States food guide, Choose My Plate. To make sure you get all the nutrients you need, eat a variety of foods from all of the different food groups.
Food Group Daily Amount* Key Suggestions
Grains 7 ounces (1 ounce = 1 slice bread, 1/4 bakery-style bagel, 1/2 cup cooked pasta or rice, or 3 cups popcorn) Consume at least 1/2 of your grains as whole grains. Whole grains include:
  • Whole wheat products
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Popcorn
Vegetables 3 cups (1 cup = 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables, 2 cups raw leafy vegetables) Eat a variety of different vegetables every day. Eat more of the following types of vegetables:
  • Dark green like broccoli, spinach, bok choy, or romaine lettuce
  • Orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash
  • Dry beans and peas like chickpeas, black beans, lentils, split peas, kidney beans, or tofu)
Fruits 2 cups (1 cup = 1 cup fresh fruit, 1 cup fruit juice, 1/2 cup dried fruit) Eat a variety of fruit. Choose fresh fruit over fruit juices.
Milk 3 cups (1 cup = 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1.5 ounces natural cheese) Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Milk alternatives include calcium-rich or calcium-fortified foods and beverages.
Meats and Beans 6 ounces (1 ounce = 1 ounce meat, fish, or poultry; 1/4 cup cooked, dry beans; 1 egg; 1 tablespoon peanut butter; 1/2 ounce nuts) Choose lean meats and poultry. Eat more fish and vegetarian sources of protein, such as beans, peas, nuts and seeds.
Fats and Sweets <270 calories Limit or avoid solid fats such butter, stick margarine, lard, and shortening. Limit foods high in added sugar or solid fats.
*Based on a 2,200 calorie diet

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