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6 Foods to Eat When Breastfeeding, According to a Dietitian

Bottled breast milk and a pacifier.

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August is National Breastfeeding Month—a time, established in 2011, focused on empowering people on their breastfeeding journeys to support their baby's overall health and wellness.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months of an infant’s life. At 6 months, parents can continue offering breast milk along with complementary foods until a year, or until mutually desired (between the infant and the breastfeeding parent).

Breastfeeding can offer a slew of health benefits for both mom and baby.

For the infant, the potential benefits are plenty and include:

  • Reduced risk of asthma
  • Reduced incidence of ear infection
  • Supports a strong immune system

And for the mother, breastfeeding can potentially reduce their risk of developing breast cancer or high blood pressure.

Despite what the internet says, there are no sure-fire magical foods that will increase milk supply nor are there any foods that a breastfeeding mom must avoid But the levels of certain nutrients—like vitamins and fatty acids—found in breastmilk can be influenced by what a mom eats.

Here are six foods that are chock-full of lactation-friendly nutrients and should be a major part of any breastfeeding diet. 

Chicken

Chicken may be known as a versatile protein source that is loved by many. But this meat is also rich in breastfeeding-friendly nutrients.

One 3.5 ounce serving of roasted dark meat chicken contains 0.32 micrograms of vitamin B12, or 11% of the recommended daily need for women who are lactating. Mom’s intake and status of this key nutrient impacts the levels found in breastmilk. So if a mom isn’t taking in enough of this nutrient, the breastmilk may contain insufficient levels too.

And deficiency of vitamin B12 during infancy is linked to a cluster of neurologic symptoms and developmental regression.

Chicken also contains choline, a nutrient that is important for a baby’s brain development. Plus, in young children, choline inadequacy can lead to stunting, which suggests that adequate amounts of choline in breast milk may be necessary for proper growth.

A 3.5 ounce roasted skinless chicken breast is a good source of choline, providing 85 milligrams per serving, or about 15% of daily needs for lactating women.

Proteins From Milk

What new mom doesn’t want to feel the strong inside? Fortunately, proteins from milk—think whey, casein, and milk protein isolates and concentrates—deliver all nine essential amino acids your body needs to keep up with the new demands of motherhood.

According to the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nursing mothers need two to three servings, or at least 65 grams, of protein per day. While that may sound simple, between feeding the baby and being sleep-deprived, some new moms may struggle to meet their needs.

Leaning on convenient foods that contain high-quality and complete proteins from milk can help bridge that gap.

So, whether you are adding a scoop of casein and/or whey protein powder to a quick smoothie or grabbing a nutrition bar made with proteins from milk, you will be fueling your body with important nutrients in a simple way. 

Walnuts 

Walnuts are one of the best snacks for new moms to grab during a long breastfeeding session thanks to their plant-based protein, healthy fats, and fiber.

In fact, a study published in Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism shows that walnut consumption can decrease feelings of hunger and appetite.

And in terms of nutrients, just 1 ounce of these nuts, or 14 halves, contain 0.15 milligrams of vitamin B6. In infants, vitamin B-6 deficiency can lead to neurological and behavioral abnormalities, including irritability, increased startle response, and even seizures.

Maternal vitamin B-6 consumption strongly influences how much of the vitamin is found in breast milk. 

100% Orange Juice

Mom’s thiamin intake can increase breast milk thiamin concentrations. Maintaining a positive thiamine status is important during lactation because deficiency of thiamin is a leading cause of infant mortality.

Enjoying a glass of 100% orange juice can fuel your body with a natural source of thiamin. Plus, this juice is a good source of hydration—a factor that is critical during lactation too. 

Just make sure to choose juice that contains no added sugars and is made from real oranges—not orange-flavored “drinks”—to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need. 

Salmon

Salmon is a breastfeeding superfood. Not only is it a source of high-quality protein, but it is one of the best sources of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, a nutrient that supports a baby’s eye and brain development.

Plus, salmon contains selenium, a nutrient that plays a role in thyroid hormone metabolism, which is critical for early-life development.

Salmon also contains iodine, another nutrient found in breastmilk affected by mom’s status. This nutrient plays a role in a baby’s brain health.

Mushrooms

When it comes to lactation, eating mushrooms can offer up some important nutrients. 

One of these nutrients is riboflavin. Deficiency of riboflavin affects some metabolic pathways and can result in outcomes like poor growth and impaired iron absorption in infants. Riboflavin in breast milk is dependent on how much a mom consumes, so tossing a serving of mushrooms in the mix can help you meet your needs.

Mushrooms are also high in other B vitamins including pantothenic acid and niacin. 

Oats

Breastfeeding people often swear by oats, claiming that it promotes milk supply. And while there are no clinical studies supporting the idea that eating oats makes breast milk volume increase, there are factors that may indirectly play a role. 

Oats contain calories and are a “comfort food.” The combination of supplying the body with nutrition while supporting relaxation may help in the lactation department. 

Plus, oats contain avenanthramide, a phytonutrient that increases nitric oxide production, which may, in turn, increase blood flow in the mammary glands. 

Oats also contain key nutrients and complex carbs to help give moms sustainable energy in a natural way. 

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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