Foods to Eat While Breastfeeding

If you’re a breastfeeding or chestfeeding parent, incorporating these nutritious superfoods into your diet can benefit both you and your baby by ensuring you get the essential nutrients required.

As a parent providing breast milk throughout the day, your body is consistently working to produce milk, leading to increased calorie expenditure. Many breastfeeding parents often experience persistent hunger due to these extra caloric needs. It is crucial to consume nutrient-dense foods to replenish your body.

Wondering what foods are best for breastfeeding? Explore this curated list, derived from Alicia C. Simpson’s “Boost Your Breast Milk: An All-In-One Guide for Nursing Mothers to Build a Healthy Milk Supply.” The list comprises foods that may enhance milk supply, support nursing success, and more.

While these foods haven’t undergone clinical validation as lactogenic or galactagogue, they have been relied upon globally for centuries, offering breastfeeding parents a rich blend of healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants.

1. Avocados

Avocados stand out as a nutritional powerhouse for nursing parents. The early breastfeeding period often brings on persistent hunger, compounded by the limited time parents have for meal preparation.

Avocados, with their nearly 80% fat content, contribute to a feeling of fullness and supply heart-healthy fats. They are also rich in B vitamins, vitamin K, folate, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

2. Oats

Widely consumed by breastfeeding parents, oats not only potentially support milk supply but also offer various benefits. They provide essential carbohydrates, fiber, and a range of vitamins and minerals.

Oats can alleviate constipation, regulate blood sugar levels, and contribute to satiety.

3. Nuts

Nuts are another nutritional powerhouse, packed with essential minerals like iron, calcium, and zinc, along with vitamin K and B vitamins. They are a valuable source of essential fatty acids and protein.

While not clinically proven as lactogenic, nuts have a reputation for supporting breast milk production in many cultures. Almonds, in particular, are highlighted in Ayurvedic medicine for their lactogenic properties, making them a widely recognized choice worldwide.

4. Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are excellent sources of protein, vitamins, minerals, and phytoestrogens. Chickpeas, in particular, have been used as a galactagogue, meaning they can boost breast milk supply, since ancient Egyptian times. They are a dietary staple in North African, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisine, making them easily accessible as galactagogues.

While chickpeas are the most traditionally recognized lactogenic legume, there’s no need to limit yourself to just one type. For example, soybeans have the highest phytoestrogen content among all beans. Including a variety of beans and legumes in your diet is not only beneficial for overall health but can also contribute to maintaining a healthy milk supply.

5. Mushrooms

While mushrooms are not commonly associated with lactogenic properties, certain types contain beta-glucan, a polysaccharide believed to be the key lactogenic agent in barley and oats. Since barley and oats have established lactogenic benefits, it’s reasonable to assume that other beta-glucan-rich foods, like certain mushrooms, may have similar effects.

In clinical practice, increasing intake of beta-glucan-rich foods such as oats, barley, specific mushrooms (reishi, shiitake, maitake, shimeji, and oyster), yeast, and algae/seaweed has shown to enhance milk production among lactating parents.

6. Green Leafy Vegetables

In Thailand, consuming vegetables is seen as a primary defense against low milk supply. Although there isn’t current published research on the lactogenic properties of green leafy vegetables, their consumption has positive health benefits for both you and your baby.

Green leafy vegetables contain phytoestrogens, which have demonstrated a positive impact on milk production. Contrary to concerns, consuming vegetables like broccoli or cabbage does not lead to increased gas or fussiness in infants, as the gas-inducing carbohydrates don’t transfer into breast milk.

7. Red and Orange Root Vegetables

While there hasn’t been specific research on the galactagogue properties of red and orange vegetables, they have been used as lactogenic foods in various cultures for centuries. Vegetables such as carrots and yams are integral to the traditional Chinese zuoyuezi diet, believed to nourish both the birthing person and the child by enhancing the quality and quantity of breast milk.

The potential lactogenic properties of red and orange root vegetables are likely similar to those of green leafy vegetables, with phytoestrogens and high-nutrient density potentially playing a role in improving breast milk.

8. Seeds

Seeds are nature’s nutritional powerhouse, representing the starting point of life for every plant on Earth. They pack a concentrated mix of nutrients found in mature plants, along with the essential elements needed for a tiny seed to blossom into a flourishing plant. Rich in protein and vital minerals such as iron, zinc, and calcium, seeds also provide healthy fats.

Although not clinically proven as lactogenic, seeds have been a trusted resource for breastfeeding parents for centuries due to their robust vitamin and mineral content. Each seed variety offers a unique nutritional profile, so consider including a range like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds in your diet.

9. Chia Seeds

Despite their recent surge in popularity, chia seeds have been a dietary staple for centuries, having been consumed by Aztecs and Mayans. Chia seeds boast a wealth of fiber, protein, calcium, and magnesium, along with a high content of omega-3 fatty acids.

Thanks to their fiber and protein concentration and favorable fatty acid profile, chia seeds contribute to a prolonged feeling of satisfaction after meals. Additionally, chia oil serves as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids with a neutral and pleasant flavor.

10. Hemp Seeds

Joining the superfood ranks, hemp seeds earn their place due to their abundant omega-3 fatty acids and balanced nutrient composition. With an omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of 3:1, hemp seeds are a complete protein, providing all essential amino acids in ideal proportions for the human body.

Beyond their richness in various vitamins and minerals, hemp seeds stand out for their high levels of iron and zinc, crucial for both infant growth and maternal health. They emerge as one of the top choices for breastfeeding parents.

11. Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are a nutritional powerhouse, rich in protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. To reap their benefits, it’s crucial to grind them as whole flaxseeds pass through the body undigested and are expelled unchanged.

Flax oil, with its sweet and light taste, is another excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. It pairs well with vegetables and seamlessly blends into smoothies. The studied health advantages of flaxseeds span a wide range, including weight loss, blood glucose control, and a decreased risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and inflammation.

12. Turmeric

While turmeric is commonly used worldwide by breastfeeding parents as a galactagogue, there is no clinical evidence supporting its ability to increase breast milk volume.

Nevertheless, clinical studies highlight the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric, which play a crucial role in the health and well-being of breastfeeding parents. Turmeric is shown to prevent and treat mastitis and alleviate symptoms associated with breast engorgement. In various Asian communities, turmeric is also believed to enhance the immune systems of both parents and babies, providing protection against coughs and colds.

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