Nursing a newborn is a labor of love, one that requires a mother’s body to produce a wholesome, fully nourishing and protective substance called breast milk. 

Many mothers wonder what special nutritional requirements they might need to follow to produce adequate milk. Other mothers wonder if certain parts of their diet might enhance their milk production or cause symptoms in their infant if they eat the wrong thing. With this blog, we’ll provide you with information about nutritional requirements for a nursing mother, as well as foods that may contribute to a healthy milk supply. For more discussion on this topic, plan to attend the Lompoc Valley Medical Center (LVMC) Breastfeeding Mothers Support Group on Friday, Oct 4 at 10 a. in the LVMC board room. LVMC Director of Food and Nutrition Services Lindsey Arevalos, MHA, MS, will lead the discussion on eating well as a nursing mother.

For nursing mothers, these guidelines are important:

  • Eat a Well-Balanced Diet with Adequate Calories – The key to having good nutrition while nursing is to pick foods from a variety of food groups and to aim for good balance in your diet. Most moms need a minimum of 1,800 calories daily to produce milk, however some moms may require higher amounts and others may get by with a little less. Listen to your body and eat to hunger. Your diet does not have to be perfect and 100 percent healthy to make nutritious milk, however the better your food choices are, the better you will feel while caring for your infant.
  • Avoid Fad Diets While Breastfeeding – Many current diets may suggest limiting or eliminating certain food groups such as carbohydrates. Nursing mothers, however, should plan to choose foods from all food groups, including complex carbohydrates. Plan to fill your diet with proteins, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Carbohydrates are important for meeting your energy needs while producing breast milk and nursing, in general, is not a time for a restrictive diet plan.
  • There are No Specific Foods Which Nursing Mothers Must Avoid – You may have heard that eating certain foods such as beans, dairy, broccoli, or spicy foods can cause your baby to become fussy or gassy. Breast milk is made from a mother’s blood, not her stomach contents. Although food sensitivities can occur, it is very rare that an infant has an intolerance to a food in mother’s diet. What you eat does change the flavor of your milk, however, and may help your infant be more open to a variety of tastes when they start solid foods.
  • There Are No Magic Cookies or Pills Which Will Increase Your Milk Supply – Lately there are a large variety of products on the market which claim to support a healthy breast milk supply. While the studies are limited on the effectiveness of these products called galactagogues, the basic science of good milk production remains supply and demand. A mother must empty her breasts frequently, at least eight times in 24 hours and often more, in order to produce the milk her baby needs. Follow your baby’s cues and plan to feed on demand to establish and maintain a good milk supply.
  • There are Foods Which Have Traditionally Been Offered to Nursing Mothers that May Support Healthy Milk Supply – While no food or diet can take the place of good and effective nursing, there are foods that have been traditionally eaten by mothers that many believe support a healthy milk supply. These foods include oats, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, bean and lentils, almonds and garlic. Plan to “eat the rainbow” and enjoy frequent snacks between nursing to meet your energy needs. Snacks that contain some protein between meals can help you to feel better while enduring sleep deprivation. Keep snacks around that you can eat with one hand such as granola bars, apples and nut butter, cheese sticks and bean burritos. Enjoy this special season of life with your little one and plan to eat healthy and often!
About the Author

Author: Haley Hayes, RN, Lactation Coordinator

Haley S. Hays graduated from Washburn University with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in 2007. She has spent the past 12 years working as a maternity nurse in a variety of settings. In 2011 Haley became certified as an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. She currently coordinates the lactation program at LVMC.

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