By Kathryn Peck / Medically reviewed by Dr. Samantha Ball, DO
One thing first-time moms – myself included – don’t often get warned about? Breastfeeding is hard. It can be painful at first, emotionally stressful, and physically draining. There are so many questions and uncertainties. Am I doing it right? Am I producing enough milk? How can my baby be hungry again when I just fed them?
Once you get the hang of it (and you will!), consuming nutrient-rich foods to help replenish your body, satisfy your hunger, and support your body’s milk production is essential. Don’t be consumed with popular myths about a mother’s diet during breastfeeding, as they can often become a barrier to successful breastfeeding and lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions. Here’s a quick list of breastfeeding superfoods to stock up on at your next visit to the grocery store. New moms have enough to worry about, and “diet rules” shouldn’t be one of them.
Don’t be consumed with popular myths about a mother’s diet during breastfeeding, as they can often become a barrier to successful breastfeeding and lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions.
Avocados. They’re all the rage lately, but they’re also a nutritional powerhouse for nursing moms. Avocados are nearly 80 percent fat (the good kind, my husband always reminds me…), and they help sustain that feeling of fullness. Loaded with fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins B, K, C, and E, try spreading some over toast for an easy breakfast or snack.
Green leafy vegetables. It’s been said that eating certain vegetables like broccoli or cabbage can increase gassiness and fussiness in babies, but that’s not altogether true. The verdict is still out on this one. According to doctors, the carbohydrate portion of these vegetables, which causes gassiness, isn’t necessarily passed into the breast milk. So, dig in. The benefits may, in fact, outweigh a few nights of fussiness which may, or may not, be gas. Green leafy vegetables are packed with essential vitamins and minerals, and some say may, in fact, help promote milk production. An easy way to include them in your diet is to add them to omelets or smoothies.
Seeds. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds; they’re all high in fiber, protein, and key minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium, as well as healthy fats. Toss them into a salad, on top of yogurt, or make a trail mix (this is where you can add the chocolate!) for a quick one-handed snack while passing through the kitchen.
Whole wheat pasta. Chock full of complex carbohydrates, which makes you feel full longer, whole wheat pasta is high in fiber, iron, and other important vitamins and minerals for milk production and nutrition. Other complex carbohydrates that fit into this category are brown rice, whole grain breads and cereals, and oats. Hearty greens – like broccoli rabe, chard, arugula, kale, and beet greens – work well to balance the nutty flavor of whole wheat pasta. Sauté with olive oil, top with a sprinkle of cheese, and you’ve got two groups covered for the day.
Milk. Calcium is important for breastfeeding moms, because studies show that if you aren’t getting enough in your diet as is, your body will take it from the storage in your bones for your baby. Just one glass a day will help.
And of course, don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Making sure there’s a water bottle nearby in the nursery for each feeding is a great reminder.
Please note: This is for educational and informational purposes only and is not meant to substitute individual medical advice. For specific and individual advice, always talk to your doctor.
About the author: Kathryn is the owner of Bicycle Pie and mom of 4 little ones. Also a writer, editor, and former owner of one of Boston's premiere baby boutiques, she continues to write about motherhood, children's products, family life, and all other things that test our skills and patience as parents.
About the reviewer: Dr. Samantha Ball, DO, is a pediatrician, cat mom, and advocate for children’s overall health and wellness. She is continually focused on supporting families through all stages in a realistic and evidence-based way. In addition to practicing medicine in Georgia, she shares experiences and her perspectives on topics including parenting tips, mental and physical health, and how to navigate the unexpected challenges that come about when raising kids.
Photo credit: iStock.com/SDI Productions