Woman kissing her newborn baby

How to Eat Right for a Healthy Breastfeeding Experience

Throughout the duration of your pregnancy, it’s essential that you follow healthy guidelines regarding food, vitamins, and beverage choices. There are things that you should absolutely avoid, certain things you need to limit, and other healthy options that doctors recommend prioritizing. This is the best way to support healthy fetal development and reduce potential complications. When you give birth, these recommendations don’t just go away. What you consume is still shared with your baby through your breast milk, so there are still going to be some restrictions. To help you be fully prepared, here’s how to eat right for a healthy breastfeeding experience.

10 Tips for a Healthy Breastfeeding Experience

The most basic, yet important, tip is to eat for nutrition. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein sources, and essential fats. Try to avoid fried foods and sugary snacks. While you’re not eating for two (usually), these are still the best things to put into your body when it comes to supporting a healthy pregnancy and breastfeeding experience. For more information, here are 10 tips for a healthy breastfeeding experience.

  1. Consume Plenty of Whole Fruits and Vegetables

    Whole fruits and veggies should be your primary source of calories for a healthy breastfeeding experience. They are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and other beneficial nutrients that support the hormones involved in lactation. Fruits and vegetables are also a great way to make sure that your baby is getting the vitamins and nutrients they need for healthy development through your breast milk.

    Try incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables and aim to "eat the rainbow" throughout the week. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins like B1, B2, B6, vitamin C, fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin A, and more. All of these are essential for healthy milk production, improved energy levels, and strengthened immunity.


  2. Fill Up on Lean Protein

    Try to avoid any foods that have high saturated fat content such as red meat and pork. Instead, opt for leaner meats like turkey breast, low-fat Greek yogurt, chicken, or eggs. To get the most out of your lean protein, try to eat seafood a few times a week. This provides you with great sources of energy, a variety of cooking options, and can help you get your pre-baby body back on track.


  3. Stick to Whole Grains

    Carbohydrates should not be feared. They're essential to energy production and help your body produce enough milk. However, all carbohydrates are not considered the same. Whole grains are a great source of unprocessed fiber, but you should avoid processed wheat or flour.  Foods that are considered sources of whole grains include oats, brown rice, barley, and wheat. Fiber is an essential nutrient for healthy digestion and elimination. It also helps to regulate blood sugar levels. If you're not producing enough milk, whole grains can help you boost your milk production and gain the energy you need to support your growing baby.


  4. Don’t Forget Healthy Fats

    Some fats can clog your arteries and create an unhealthy imbalance in your diet, but not all fats are created equal. Opt for healthy fats from avocados and nuts as these provide you with great sources of omega-3 and omega-6, antioxidants, and vitamin E. These vitamins help support a healthy breastfeeding diet but don't consume too many healthy fats in one day. High levels of omega-6 can increase your blood pressure and cause water retention. Stick to a handful of nuts a day or a few slices of avocado to garnish a salad.


  5. Drink Plenty of Water

    Our bodies are made up of 60% water, so it’s essential that we stay hydrated at all times. If you don’t get enough water on a daily basis, your body will release stress hormones into your system. This can hinder milk production and cause a chain reaction throughout our bodies. Avoid dehydration by consuming at least 8 cups of water every day, more if you're active.


  6. Increase Calcium Intake

    Breastfeeding can decrease your body's calcium supply, so focus on eating foods that are naturally high in this micronutrient.  An easy way to do this is by buying calcium-fortified products. Milk and yogurt are great sources of calcium, as are dark leafy greens like spinach and kale. To supplement your diet, talk to your doctor about adding a calcium supplement between 1,000 and 1,500 milligrams every day during breastfeeding.


  7. Consider an Iron Supplement

    Women are already more prone to iron deficiencies than men, but during breastfeeding your iron content can become increasingly diluted. Iron is important because it helps your body transport, store, and use oxygen while improving immunity and overall energy.  The recommended daily dosage for a healthy breastfeeding mother is 9 milligrams per day. If you want to get this through food, include plenty of poultry, seafood, egg yolks, and beef in your diet. If you're experiencing fatigue, talk to your doctor about taking an iron supplement once or twice a day with meals or a multivitamin that's been infused with iron.


  8. Be Prepared

    It's easy to let life get ahead of you. To increase the likelihood that you make healthy decisions throughout the day, consider doing some meal prep and always keep healthy snacks readily available. Some great options for pre-made healthy snacks include hard-boiled eggs, carrot sticks and hummus, fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, or low-sugar protein bars. You should also spend some time understanding how to navigate the realities of breastfeeding in public to make sure you’re prepared.


  9. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol Intake

    If you can't function without caffeine, replace coffee with green tea. Green tea contains powerful antioxidants called polyphenols that have been linked to breast milk production. However, too much caffeine has been proven to be harmful in large amounts for babies. For mothers who need their daily dose of coffee, try to plan around breastfeeding times. Have a cup of coffee immediately following nursing so that your body has time to process the caffeine and avoid transference to your baby. When you consume excessive caffeine and it's passed onto your baby, they can become more irritable, sleepless, and even jittery.

    The same rule applies to alcohol. If you're going to indulge in a glass of wine, a beer, or a cocktail, do so right after nursing and make sure that you have some pre-pumped milk available to feed your baby if they become hungry shortly after you've consumed your last drink. Pumping and dumping is similar to the mentality of having a cup of coffee to sober you up—your body needs time to fully process the alcohol and until that time has passed, your breast milk will have traces of alcohol in it.


  10. Consider a Multivitamin

There is varying advice regarding multivitamins and breastfeeding. If you're not getting the proper nutrients, talk to your doctor about adding a multivitamin into your regimen. However, the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need is through food intake and a reduction in processed foods. Many moms also choose to take a standard prenatal vitamin throughout the course of breastfeeding, while others prefer not to. As always, consult with your doctor if you have specific concerns or questions.

Watch for Allergies in Babies

Since your baby is going to be consuming everything you do through your breast milk, it's important to watch for any signs of allergies.  Babies who are sensitive to a particular food or drink will show signs of colic, fussiness, or in more serious instances, hives and rashes. The best way to avoid allergic reactions is to cut any offending foods out of your diet to see if the problem goes away. Try eliminating dairy products, eggs, nuts, gluten, and grains, and keep a food diary of symptoms as you begin to reintroduce them into your diet. Start by eliminating one of the above so that you can definitively pinpoint the cause of irritation in your baby.

Getting the Most Out of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a wonderful time for you to bond with your new baby. The skin-to-skin contact alongside nutritionally dense breast milk improves emotional, physical, and mental development while strengthening your baby’s immune system. While many new mothers exclusively nurse for the first few weeks of their baby’s life, doing so for the first year can get increasingly difficult. Luckily, you don’t have to choose between your baby’s health, work, or your free time. By supplementing nursing sessions with bottle feedings using pre-pumped breast milk, you’ll continue to give your baby what they need regardless of where you are. Breast pumps offer several benefits to parents and allow mothers to build up their milk supply.

Byram Healthcare offers a variety of insurance-covered breast pumps to new and expecting mothers to help support them on their journey into parenthood. Browse our selection of breast pumps and get started with our easy, three-step ordering process today.