Best Diet for Breastfeeding Mothers

Mother breastfeeding her baby. 

A breastfeeding diet that includes enough of the right foods and nutrients can help a new mom support her breastfed baby and her own weight loss goals. While it can be a frustrating challenge, it’s definitely possible to lose fat with the right diet. 

Here are some tips that can help you achieve your weight loss goals while ensuring that your baby is getting all the nutrients they need without affecting your breast milk supply.

First things first though, don’t rush into it!

It’s important to give your body time to recover after childbirth. Your body needs to heal and establish a good milk supply, so it’s not a good idea to start drastically cutting calories right away. 

There is no set time before you can begin but be sure to wait at least 4-6 weeks until your milk supply is established. If you jump in too quickly and cut your calories too much, your supply will tank. You will notice this in exclusively breastfed children who are still hungry after finishing “a meal” and yet there doesn’t appear to be any more milk!

How can I lose weight without losing my milk supply?

Eat a balanced diet, focused on nutrient-dense foods. 

It’s important to eat nutrient rich diet while breastfeeding. We call these foods “whole foods” In my fitness and nutrition coaching program. Basically, this means eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.

These foods provide the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs to produce milk and keep you and your baby healthy. If it comes from the ground or has a mother, it’s fair game!

Many mothers come to me after years of avoiding carbohydrates. Please, do not be afraid of carbs! Your body needs them especially when you are nursing.

I want my clients to have about 40-50% of their calories coming from carbohydrates. Another 30% should be from fat and about 20-30% should come from protien!

A common mistake for many new moms is that they forget to consume extra calories. Undereating is a stressor on the body. Lack of sleep is another stressor. With all the hormonal changes going thanks to pregnancy and postpartum hormones, this combination may lead to imbalanced hormones and a sub-optimally functioning thyroid making it difficult to lose weight. This is why some women struggle to lose belly fat while nursing because of the stress hormones.

The key to weight loss is eating ENOUGH of the right foods not depriving oneself. 

*Want me to do the work for you? No problem. As a fitness and nutrition coach, I’m happy to help. Get on the wait list here!

Increase your calorie intake by about 300 calories.

You’ve probably heard women say that breastfeeding melted off their excess baby weight. Most of us aren’t so lucky however, we do burn an extra 300-500 calories while breastfeeding, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough to support milk production. As a fitness and nutrition coach, I have a calculator I use to help my clients find the exact calorie goal that will maintain milk supply while also helping the client lose fat.

If you use MyFitnessPal, set your target weight loss goal to be “lose .5 lb a week.” If you are a FASTer Way client, select one activity level HIGHER than what you identify with! Send me a DM on Instagram if you’re not sure. 

For reference at 145 lbs, 5’5 at 6 months postpartum, I ate 1900 calories to lose 8 lbs in 6 weeks! So for me to lose weight without breastfeeding, my goal would be around 1600 so to lose weight while breastfeeding my goal should be around 1900 calories! Not all calories are created equal so be sure to follow the macro split mentioned above and that calories are coming from real food!

What foods should breastfeeding mothers be eating?

Make sure you’re eating foods to get enough calcuim and vitamin D.

Calcium and vitamin D are important for bone health, and they’re especially important during breastfeeding. Aim for 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day. Good sources of calcium include dairy products like greek yogurt, leafy greens like kale, spinach and collard greens, and fortified foods. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish such a salmon, fortified foods and exposure to sunlight.

Kale and spinach are also rich in iron, another nutrient important for breastfeeding women. I like to add these to my smoothies with a protein powder like Orgain Simple that doesn’t have any weight chemicals!

Oats are another a good source of iron and fiber, and they also contain compounds that may help stimulate milk production. Try incorporating oatmeal into your breakfast routine, or snack on granola bars made with oats.

Whole grains, such as brown rice and quinoa are good sources of complex carbohydrates and fiber, which can provide sustained energy to support breastfeeding.

Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, cashews, and flaxseeds, are good sources of healthy fats and protein. They can also provide a boost of energy when you need a quick snack.

Salmon is not only good source of vitamin D but also of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for both you and your baby’s brain development.

Avoid crash diets or extreme calorie restriction

This can and will affect your milk supply. It will also cause stress on your already stressed out body from all the hormones and will make it HARDER to lose weight and will slow down your metabolism. You’re already sleep deprived and this will make you even more tired.

Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water is important for milk production and can also help with weight loss. Aim for at least half your body weight in ounces of water a day.

What foods should you avoid when you are breastfeeding?

1. Limit caffeine and alcohol

Aim to stay below 200 milligrams of caffeine per day (about 2 6-ounce cups of coffee), and keep alcohol to 4 drinks a week if you want to lose weight. I’m not saying this because it passes through the breastmilk, I love Emily Oster and did not shy away from a glass of wine while nursing, but I’m trying to keep your hormones balanced so that you can lose weight!! Honestly, check out Emily Oster if you’d like to learn more about alcohol passing through breastmilk.

2. Limit fish with high levels of levels of mercury.

Fish with high levels of mercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, can be harmful to your baby’s developing nervous system. Choose fish that are low in mercury, such as salmon, shrimp, canned light tuna, and catfish.

3. Certain foods may cause gas or upset stomach!

Some babies may be sensitive to certain foods that their mothers eat. These foods may include spicy foods, onions, garlic, citrus fruits, and caffeine. Pay attention to your baby’s reactions to different foods and adjust your diet as needed.

4. Allergenic foods can also be harmful to baby!

If you have a family history of food allergies or your baby has shown signs of a food allergy, you may want to avoid certain allergenic foods while breastfeeding. These foods may also include peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, gluten, soy, wheat, and eggs. However, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before eliminating any foods from your diet, as it’s important to ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need. In the FASTer Way, our meal plans are all gluten and dairy free to many mom’s find this refreshing as they embark on this new nursing friendly diet!

What supplements should you consider taking?

If all this information didn’t overwhelm you, congrats! It may be easier to just eat freely and take a supplement to not worry so much about being perfect every day! Many breastfeeding mothers need to take a supplement to ensure they’re getting all the nutrients they need. Some of my favorite brands include Mega Food, New Chapter, Garden of Life and Ritual. I did not religiously remember to take any of these but I did attempt to!

  1. Prenatal multivitamin – A prenatal or postnatal multivitamin can help ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need to support your baby’s growth and development. Look for a multivitamin that contains iron, folic acid, and other important vitamins and minerals. This Baby + Me Multivitamin from Mega Food is great for pre and postpartum!
  2. Vitamin D – Vitamin D is important for bone health and may also have other health benefits. Breastfeeding mothers should aim for 600-800 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day. If you’re not getting enough vitamin D from sunlight or food, you may need to take a supplement. This is often included in your prenatal!
  3. Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain and eye development in babies. Breastfeeding mothers should aim for at least 200-300 milligrams of omega-3s per day. Good sources as mentioned above include fatty fish, like salmon and sardines, but for most of us a fish oil supplement is easiest. I also take fish oil to help with my brain fog! This is what I currently take by New Chapter.
  4. Probiotics – Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help support gut health. Some research suggests that probiotics may also help reduce the risk of certain health conditions in breastfed babies, such as eczema and colic. Look for a probiotic supplement that contains Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium strains. I buy mine in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods but it also comes in a version that does not need to be refrigerated. Here is a link to that one!
  5. Iron – Breastfeeding mothers may need extra iron to support milk production and prevent iron-deficiency anemia. I aim to add leafy grains to my daily smoothies and choose supplements that have some iron in them!

Get enough sleep to lose weight postpartum!

Sleep is important for weight loss and overall health. Lack of sleep can affect your hormone levels and make it harder to lose weight. Aim for at least 6.5+ hours of sleep a night. Ideally we wanna hit 7 but I know you don’t have a lot of control here!

Don’t compare yourself to others

Remember that everyone’s weight loss journey is different, and it’s important not to compare yourself to others. Focus on your own progress and celebrate small victories along the way.

Losing weight while breastfeeding can be challenging, but with the right approach, it’s definitely possible. By following these tips, you can achieve your weight loss goals while ensuring that your baby is getting all the nutrients they need.

If you’re ready to ready for one on one support, join me for my next 6 week FASTer Way round with fitness and nutrition coaching.

Here’s the deal, I’ll teach you how to implement a few key nutrition strategies that can spike your metabolism, allow you to burn fat for fuel, and help you build lean muscle.

Here’s how:

  • Daily coaching (1 email a week and 1 group training, daily via text or Facebook)
  • Customized macros 
  • Weekly meal guides & grocery lists (vegan and regular)
  • Access to our FASTer Way app (equipped w/ all the materials you need to be successful)
  • Daily 30-minute effective workouts
  • Small group accountability and community

Want to try it out for a week? Sign up here for a free of what the workouts and meals look like. FASTer Way

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