Naturopathic Kitchen: What to Eat (& Avoid) When Breastfeeding

A mother breastfeeding her baby in bed

When breastfeeding, your body requires more energy and nutrients than usual in order to nourish both yourself and your baby. This means that you should be consuming more calories, vitamins, and minerals during breastfeeding. 1 Focus on eating a variety of whole ingredients and follow this quick guide to learn which foods to add more of and which ones to avoid.

Add More of These to Your Diet

Wild-Caught Fatty Fish

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are essential for any healthy diet, but are especially recommended for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. 2 Research shows that omega-3s are important especially for brain development. 3 Make sure that you choose wild-caught fish, as farmed fish can contain pesticide residue, dyes, and have a lower fatty-acid content.

Fish to Choose

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Trout
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Herring

Leafy Greens

Organic leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard, and spinach are a good source of folate and calcium, both of which are vital for those who are breastfeeding. 4 5 6 A diet rich in leafy greens is also associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, obesity, and high blood pressure. 7

Leafy Greens to Choose

  • Kale
  • Beet greens
  • Swiss chard
  • Collard greens
  • Spinach
  • Turnip greens
  • Arugula

Dairy Products

Consuming dairy products is an effective way to get the calcium needed when breastfeeding. Just one cup of whole milk contains 123 mg of calcium. 8 Cow milk can also be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, but it is important to note that milk from grass-fed cows can have up to 92% more omega-3 content than milk from conventionally-raised cows. 9 Always choose organic, grass-fed dairy products when possible.

Dairy Products to Choose

  • Whole milk
  • Full-fat Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheese

Beans & Legumes

Beans and other legumes are packed with nutrients that support breastfeeding, including protein, fiber, calcium, iron, B vitamins, and folate. 10 A diet high in beans may help to reduce blood pressure and inflammation, as well as lower your risk of heart disease. 11 12

Beans & Legumes to Choose

  • Pinto beans
  • Cannellini beans
  • Lentils
  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans

Supplements

If there are certain important nutrients that are difficult for you to get from your diet while breastfeeding, you might want to consider taking supplements. The following nutritional supplements are often recommended to people who are breastfeeding.

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

If you are interested in taking any supplements while breastfeeding, consult a naturopathic doctor first. An ND will help you determine which, if any, supplements are right for you and can also help you develop a nutritional dietary plan to support breastfeeding.

Avoid These

While adding more whole, nutritional foods to your diet when breastfeeding is important, it is just as crucial to limit other foods that contain potentially harmful ingredients. Here are the top foods and drinks to avoid when breastfeeding.

Caffeine

  • Coffee
  • Black teas
  • Energy drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Cola

Alcohol

  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Cider
  • Hard liquor

Processed Foods

  • Fast food such as hamburgers and french fries
  • Potato chips
  • White bread
  • Sliced cheese
  • Soda
  • Sugary breakfast cereals

Certain Herbal Supplements

The following herbal supplements should be avoided by people who are breastfeeding. This list is not comprehensive, please consult a naturopathic doctor before taking any herbal supplements while breastfeeding.

  • Black cohosh
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Echinacea
  • Melatonin

This brief guide is meant to help you gain a basic understanding of what foods you should eat and avoid when breastfeeding. Additionally, pay attention to how your baby responds after you have consumed certain foods. Look for connections to rashes, fussiness and diaper changes in relation to your food prior to breastfeeding. For an in-depth breastfeeding nutrition plan, speak to a naturopathic doctor.

 

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