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10 Best Foods to Promote Healthy Breastfeeding

As a new mom, it’s crucial to understand how your diet affects breastfeeding. We’ve put together 10 tips and food suggestions to help you and your baby have the healthiest possible breastfeeding experience.

Being a new parent can be an overwhelming job. With so many responsibilities involved in taking care of your baby, parenting can get confusing very quickly. At Top Nutrition Coaching, we support every family’s right to decide on the best way to feed their children. Whether that’s breast milk, formula, or a combination approach, you know your baby best and will ensure that they get all the nutrients they need.

If you’d like to discuss proper postnatal and breastfeeding nutrition, consider working with a registered dietitian. Our team includes qualified experts on women’s nutrition, pregnancy nutrition, and pediatric nutrition who can create a personalized nutrition plan to ensure you and your baby each get the nutrients you need during infancy, toddlerhood, and beyond.

Of course, there are many benefits to breastfeeding, and if that is your feeding choice, we completely support that decision. We’ve put together a list of suggested foods and dietary tips to help you be as healthy as possible while nursing your little one.

Top 10 Foods and Tips for Healthy Breastfeeding

Working with a licensed nutritionist or dietitian is a useful way to keep track of what you eat while breastfeeding and how it affects your baby. However, even without professional guidance, you can make positive nutrition decisions and promote healthy breastfeeding by incorporating these 10 dietary suggestions into your daily routine and eating habits.

1. Eat More Whole Grains

Complex carbohydrates such as those found in brown rice and whole wheat pasta help you feel fuller for longer and prevent energy dips. Whole grains are a crucial source of fiber, minerals, and B vitamins. Fiber helps your body digest food and can help keep your blood sugar levels steady. New mothers are regularly advised to include oats in their diet, as they are high in fiber and iron and may even aid in milk production.

2. Cut Down on Caffeine Consumption

Although it’s probably not necessary to follow a completely caffeine-free diet, cutting down on caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks may result in better sleep and less fussiness for your baby.

It is generally recommended to limit your intake of caffeine to around 300 mg per day when breastfeeding, as some of your caffeine intake will eventually end up in your breast milk. However, it's worth noting that some babies are more affected by caffeine than others. Caffeine sensitivity may be greater in newborns than in older babies.

3. Limit Highly Processed Foods 

Avoiding highly processed foods (such as cookies, crackers, sugary cereal, pizza, and hot dogs) is sound nutrition advice for everyone. Although you’re unlikely to be able to remove all processed foods from your diet, try to swap them out for whole foods that are low in added sugar, saturated fats, and sodium.

Processed foods tend to be low in essential nutrients, so despite being full of calories, they likely won’t provide you with the vitamins and minerals you need. You may even impact your child’s future dietary preferences by eating an excessive amount of processed foods while nursing.

4. Eat Plenty of Oily Fish (Especially Salmon)

Salmon is a fantastic source of protein and is high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12. It also has natural vitamin D, which many women are deficient in. Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 may also play a role in limiting your risk of postpartum depression.

Salmon is great for nursing moms because it has a lot of DHA, a type of fat that is important for the development of a baby's nervous system. Furthermore, there is some evidence that salmon and sardines may help boost the production of breast milk. Whether wild-caught, farm-raised, or canned, salmon is widely regarded as a healthy choice for nursing moms, as long as you don’t consume it in excessive quantities.

5. Consume Red Meat in Moderation

Red meat (like lean beef) is a source of high-quality protein and is rich in minerals such as zinc and iron, as well as B vitamins, which are all essential for nursing mothers. A diet that includes a moderate amount of red meat may help you maintain your energy levels, which is especially important when looking after a new baby.

Whenever possible, choose grass-fed, lean beef due to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids and lack of added antibiotics and hormones. However, be mindful that long-term consumption of large amounts of red meat may lead to health problems such as high cholesterol and heart disease.

6. Fill Your Plate with Leafy Green Vegetables

Leafy greens are a good source of calcium, fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. Additionally, you can eat them all day without worrying about your calorie intake. Aim for no less than one serving every day. Be imaginative by including nutrient-dense leafy greens in salads, stir-fries, omelets, smoothies, casseroles, and other dishes. Spinach is abundant in iron, while broccoli and Swiss chard are nutrient-dense and high in calcium. 

7. Chomp Away on Nuts and Seeds

You’ll find plenty of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated healthy fats in nuts and seeds. These nutrient-dense foods are thought to be beneficial for your skin and good for your heart. Almonds are often recommended as a non-dairy source of calcium, making them ideal for nursing mothers, who should consume 1,000 mg of calcium each day.

Try eating almonds by the handful, or add them to pasta dishes, casseroles, and snacks, and be sure you have nut butter on hand when you open the box of crackers. Unless you have an allergy yourself, it’s also a good idea to incorporate a reasonable amount of nuts into your diet, as this may help your child avoid allergies later in life. 

8. Don’t Forget the Yogurt

To help build strong bones and teeth, consume low-fat or Greek yogurt. In addition to helping you meet the daily 1,000-mg calcium requirement, yogurt contains a significant amount of protein as well as probiotic nutrients and vitamin B12.

You’re likely to find plenty of flavors to choose from, though try to look for plain or low-sugar options. For an even more delicious take on yogurt, add fruit or granola. Just be aware that dairy products like yogurt shouldn't be a part of your breastfeeding diet if your infant has been identified as having a cow's milk protein sensitivity.

9. Get Plant-Based Protein from Legumes and Beans 

Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, it’s a good idea to make legumes and beans part of your diet as they are excellent providers of protein, iron, and fiber. They are low in calories but include numerous vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are thought to limit the effects of environmental toxins, help boost the immune system, promote DNA repair, and reduce oxidative damage to cells.

Legumes such as lentils, peas, and soybeans, and beans such as chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans are easy to source, store, and prepare. As an inexpensive plant-based alternative to meat, legumes and beans are an essential part of any vegetarian and vegan diet.

10. Add Sweet Potatoes to Your Plate

Sweet potatoes are low in fat yet are a great source of numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are particularly good sources of potassium, manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin A. For mothers who are breastfeeding, one medium sweet potato provides the recommended amount of vitamin A for the day. Vision, bone development, immune system health, and cell specialization all depend on vitamin A. Notably, breastfed infants are rarely deficient in vitamin A, which they receive through breastmilk.

Why Does Diet Matter for Breastfeeding Moms?

The foods you eat can affect the flavor and, to a lesser extent, the composition of your breast milk. Your overall health and stress levels can also impact your milk quality and supply (though other factors affect this, as well).

Additionally, your diet may contain specific food items that could result in an allergic reaction in your breastfeeding infant. For example, a small proportion of infants are sensitive to soy, gluten, and dairy products, so if you notice that your little one seems constipated or gassy when you consume foods such as milk or cheese, you may want to eliminate these foods from your diet while breastfeeding. A good rule of thumb is to remove the potential trigger from your diet for a week and see if symptoms improve.

Foods that are overly spicy or have a strong flavor, like garlic, may cause your baby to become fussy. However, it's usually a good idea to expose your infant to a wide range of tastes and food sources through your breast milk.

Although there isn’t just one "best diet for breastfeeding" that all nursing mothers should follow, consuming certain unhealthy foods and beverages, such as alcohol or too many sugary or fatty foods, can be detrimental to both your health and your baby’s. Overall, the best way to give your breastfeeding infant a promising start in life is to concentrate on making healthy food and drink choices for yourself.

How Top Nutrition Coaching Can Help

When you are dealing with the stressful early days of breastfeeding, it can be difficult to decide what foods to incorporate into your diet. Every diet will be different because all mothers and children are unique. To ensure that you and your child get the most nutrition out of your diet, consider working with a pregnancy nutritionist or dietitian at Top Nutrition Coaching, who can create a personalized plan to help you maintain healthy eating habits.

Top Nutrition Coaching has a straightforward process that makes it easy to find the ideal nutritionist for your needs. After completing a brief online quiz, you’ll speak with our matching specialist to determine which nutritionist is likely to be the best fit for you based on their qualifications, experience, and special training. 


Whether you are currently nursing or are still early in your pregnancy, you may be wondering about the best breastfeeding diet for you and your child. Although there is no specific diet that all nursing mothers must follow, there are certain foods and food groups that offer a wide range of health benefits.

A registered nutritionist from Top Nutrition Coaching can help you come up with a balanced and nutritious diet that aligns with your lifestyle, health goals, and food preferences, giving you the best chance of successfully breastfeeding your baby for as long as you choose.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still unsure about the most nutritious foods for breastfeeding mothers? Here are a few answers to common breastfeeding-related questions to help you navigate this tricky period. 

What foods should I avoid while breastfeeding?

It’s generally recommended to avoid fish with high levels of mercury, certain herbal supplements, alcohol, caffeine, and highly processed foods. While some mothers choose to consume limited amounts while breastfeeding, others prefer to avoid these foods and beverages altogether.

Can I go on a weight-loss diet while breastfeeding?

Women require additional calories when nursing (though the precise amount depends on a variety of factors), so heavily restricting your caloric intake is not recommended while nursing. When breastfeeding, you need to consume more calories than usual so that you and your baby have the proper nutrients. However, you can still follow a healthy diet for gradual weight loss while breastfeeding. You can also incorporate moderate exercise into your daily routine once your doctor approves this during a postnatal visit. 

How can I naturally increase my breast milk supply?

One of the best ways to naturally increase breast milk production is by nursing your baby frequently. You might also consider gently massaging your breasts before and during feedings and using relaxation techniques to reduce stress and promote the flow of milk. Following healthy eating habits is another way to give your body the best possible chance of maintaining a stable milk supply.

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About the author

Nicolette Star Maggiolo, RD, LDN
I'm a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with education from Boston University and clinical training from both Brigham & Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. I specialize in helping the military and non-military individuals embrace nutrition as a partner in both their mental and physical health.

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