Chapter 4 Preview: Breastfeeding Nutrition

By Carly Hill

After nine months of food restrictions, food aversions and food cravings, by the time you give birth, you’re probably yearning for some normalcy to return to your diet. The good news is, now you can – even if you’re breastfeeding. You don’t have to keep nearly as close of an eye on your diet after you give birth as you did while your baby was in utero. In addition, you have a whole lot more wiggle room to indulge in luxuries like soft cheeses, wine and sushi. That being said, while you are breastfeeding, you do need to keep in mind that certain things you put into your body do pass through to your breast milk and can even affect your supply. Healthy breastfeeding nutrition is of the utmost importance for new moms.

What SHOULD I Be Eating?

Putting parameters on a breastfeeding diet can get a little complicated. Planning is great, but once you have your baby, your world changes. Here’s a quick list to stick to when in doubt.

Choose Organic Options Whenever Possible

Whether it is medicine, alcohol, or pesticides – any types of contaminants will pass through to your breast milk, having an effect on you and your baby. The best thing you can do to avoid contaminants is to eat organically, as much as possible. If you’re unable to drop the extra bucks it takes to maintain an exclusively organic diet, just make sure that your diet is varied.


When it comes to alcohol, it’s all about timing. If you’re going to have a drink, you’ll want to do it right after a nursing session, then, to be on the safe side, you’ll want to “pump and dump” as they say. For your baby’s next feeding, offer a bottle of previously pumped breast milk, and instead of nursing the baby, pump that milk (which probably still has traces of alcohol in it) and dump it down the drain.


According to La Leche League, you can down up to five 5-ounce cups (less than 750 ml) of coffee a day with no effect on your baby. Keep other sources of caffeine in mind: teas, sodas, chocolate and many medications can contain caffeine and if you are overdoing your intake, you’ll notice your infant jacked up on the drug too – “wide-eyed, active, alert, and perhaps fussy.”


Eating fish is good for you and your baby, as along as it’s the right kind of fish and the right serving size. That being said, you’ll still want to avoid high-mercury fish such as tilefish, shark, swordfish, king mackerel, fresh tuna, sea bass, mahi-mahi, grouper, amberjack, and of course, fish from contaminated waters. When it comes to canned tuna or any other type of canned fish, you’ll want to limit yourself to 6 ounces per week.

What About Medications? 

When breastfeeding, you need to be mindful, just as you were during pregnancy. There are certain medications that are fine to take during pregnancy and others that are not. If you are medicating yourself and feeding your baby exclusively breastfed milk, your baby is getting traces of the medication you’re taking. So, don’t take any medication without asking your doctors and/or pharmacist if the medication you’ve been prescribed is safe to take while breastfeeding.

What SHOULDN’T I Be Eating?

As Always, Avoid Processed Foods

Just as you always should, stay away from pre-packaged , processed, or fast food. Eating meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will provide you with all the nourishment you need to survive the boot camp-like experience it is to live with a newborn baby.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

The good news is, even if you’re not getting all the nutrients you need, your baby will be well-fed because your breast milk is going to provide your baby with all he or she needs, no matter what you’re putting in (or not putting in) your body. Following “The breastfeeding diet” is just as much about taking care of your baby as it is about taking care of yourself.

Breastfeeding and Weight Loss

Now is Not The Time for Counting Calories

Women’s Health Magazine claims that breastfeeding after you give birth can burn about 350-500 calories per day. That’s like one really intense spinning class or a 5-mile run right there – all done from the comfort of your own rocking chair while bonding with your precious new baby. Amazing, isn’t it?

Some women get frustrated after they give birth. They hear the talk of breastfeeding burning calories and wonder why it’s not working for them. Just like any exercise program, you need to follow a healthy diet as well.

Crash Dieting = Bad Idea

While your body will produce nutritious breast milk for your baby despite variations in your diet, if you are not eating enough, your milk supply could be affected – meaning, your body may not produce enough milk to feed your baby. Similarly, if your diet is heavy on one food group, completely leaving out the others, that can affect your breast milk quality and quantity as well.

Thirsty as a Camel!

Given the amount of fluid your body is exporting on a daily basis, it is totally normal for you to be extra-thirsty. Make sure you’ve always got a drink by your side, as you could get dehydrated quickly if you don’t drink enough water.

Make Healthy Foods “Grabbable”

Grabbable snacks are a new mom’s best friend. You will have so much feeding and pumping and laundry and changing diapers to do, it will be very tempting to grab whatever food is around, but usually, the most grabbable foods are not the most healthy or nourishing.

Have your loved ones help you out by cutting up raw veggies, fruits, nuts, and cheese sticks and putting them into zip lock bags or Tupperware containers that you can easily grab out of the fridge. Foods that are healthy AND “grabbable” are a new mom’s best bet.

The Bottom Line

Eat what your body needs, relax, and enjoy this short time you get to spend holding your baby in your arms while you nourish him with your own body. It’s amazing, really.

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About Mary @ SmartMom

Mary is the Community Manager of SmartMom. She is a new mom to a bubbly little boy who has fire red hair and loves to smile. She loves to walk her dog, Bob, and watch Chicago sports with her husband. Go Cubs Go!