Food Choices While Breastfeeding

BFandDietPhotoBy Doraine Bailey, MA, IBCLC, RLC

You are probably getting a lot of advice on foods to eat and avoid while breastfeeding. Here is the 411!

  • Drink when you are thirsty. A variety of beverages is good, but water is best. More than one serving of a caffeinated drink (coffee or soda) can make your baby jittery. Too many drinks with artificial colors could actually color your milk. You do not need to drink milk to make milk.
  • Eat a lot of foods with fiber. ‘Soluble’ fiber helps you avoid constipation, helps you ‘move’ regularly, can increase your milk supply and can help you lose the baby fat. These foods include: whole grains (oatmeal, popcorn, brown rice and whole wheat bread), beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
  • Continue taking your prenatal vitamin.
  • Choose foods you can prepare and eat with one hand. Chances are you will be holding the baby with the other one! Stock up on foods that are cut up into bite-sized pieces, like melon, baby carrots, pineapple, pea pods, celery sticks, berries and nuts. Consider soups you can drink from a cup. Try pieces of cold cooked meats or deli slices that can be rolled up. Add a scoop of protein powder to skim milk, water or diluted juice. Low-fat popcorn, whole-grain breakfast cereal and whole grain crackers could also help.
  • Have a snack and drink each time you breastfeed. It is easy to lose track of time, so plan to have something to drink and eat close at hand when you are sitting down to breastfeed your baby.
  • Limit processed or fatty foods. They tend to have a lot of salt and calories, which can interfere with weight loss. Chips, soda, processed meats, french fries, candy and cookies can be convenient, but will not give you the kind of long-term energy you need as a busy mom.

What about?

  • Will beans or broccoli make my baby gassy? No, your intestines make the gas and this does not get into your milk.
  • Can my baby be allergic to my milk? Probably not. However, some babies who projectile vomit (not just spit up) consistently after breastfeeding may be having an allergic reaction to something in mom’s diet. Your pediatrician can give you more guidance.
  • Can I drink beer or wine? Yes, in small amounts after your baby is 3 months old. Wait 4 hours after having a drink before breastfeeding.
  • Can I go on a diet to lose weight? Breastfeeding moms use about 500 calories a day to make milk. So, you might not need to restrict your calories in order to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight. Following the suggestions above and exclusively breastfeeding for at least 3 months can help you shed pounds without needing to do anything else.

Helpful websites: Choose MyPlate: Pregnancy and Breastfeeding.

Doraine Bailey, MA, IBCLC, is the Breastfeeding Support Services Program Coordinator at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. Contact her at (859) 288-2348 or