Fruits and vegetables -- Vitamin C, fiber, and a host of other nutrients -- should be the building blocks of a breastfeeding diet
Fill your basket with fresh produce for a well-balanced breastfeeding diet
Oatmeal is the perfect comfort food for a breastfeeding mama: warming and packed with iron
Talk to your local butcher or farmer to learn more about how your food is sourced and produced
Whole foods: produce, whole grains, and fresh, organic meats should be the staples of a breastfeeding diet
Fenugreek, fennel, ginger, and sesame seeds have all been known to increase breastmilk supply in nursing mothers
Dehydration is the enemy of milk supply!  Keep a glass or stainless steel water bottle with you at all times

Well Woman Wednesday: The Best Breastfeeding Foods

Phyllis Timoll

I’ve always questioned the saying during pregnancy that “you’re eating for two.” I mean, technically you are, but one has to consider that Person #2 is about 1/8 your size and even smaller during the majority of your pregnancy. So do you really need to eat for two? Not quite. The number of extra calories you consume varies for each trimester but none equals the equivalent of eating for two. Actually, it isn’t until you are breastfeeding that you really need to ramp up your calorie intake — and even then you only need 500 extra calories per day per child (i.e. feeding twins equals 1000 extra calories per day). 

The truth is I am not a calorie counter. I’ve had my days of counting calories, adding up points, etc. and I’ve learned that really isn’t for me now that I’m a mom. Instead, I believe in quality over quantity and stand strongly behind building a diet based on the right foods. Whole foods are the trick! What do I mean by “whole foods”? Vegetables and fruits, fish and lean protein, legumes and whole grains or seeds. All the good stuff you find in the perimeter of the grocery store, not stuffed down the middle aisles. Choosing these foods is even more important when you are pregnant and/or are breastfeeding. 

Honestly, I could go on and on about what foods to eat, but today, I want to focus specifically on my top food choices for you mamas during your breastfeeding journey. In no particular order, they are: 

1. Oatmeal 

I am a huge believer, breastfeeding or not, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Oatmeal is not only satisfying but it is a great comfort food which may help you relax a bit more, thus create more milk supply (amazing how much of this is psychological, no?). Oatmeal has other nutritional benefits as well. Oatmeal is high in iron which can help increase milk supply, particularly since many moms have maternal anemia, a low iron state known to decrease milk supply. Oatmeal is also known to lower cholesterol, and some other milk-producing herbs that lower cholesterol increase milk supply simultaneously. Opt for the good old fashioned oats as opposed to the quick instant kind. 

2. Garlic 

All types of theories are out there that babies like the garlic flavor in breast milk, but it has been known for decades that garlic helps to increase your milk supply. Can’t stand the taste? You can always take a high quality supplement from your local health food store. 

3. Fennel 

Known to increase milk supply, fennel is easy to incorporate into your cooking.  Simply sauté, stew, or toss some in your favorite salad. It’s as easy as that! 

4. Complex Carbohydrates 

No I’m not suggesting just any carbs so don’t get excited about that piece of pizza. I’m talking about complex carbs: Vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers, squash, and beans; Fruits such as apples, berries, plums, oranges, peaches, and melons; and Whole Grains such as whole-wheat bread, rye bread, and brown rice (for extra nutritional intake, opt for grains and seeds that are sprouted). Most of these also have plenty of vitamin C which is important during breastfeeding.

5. Nuts 

This is one of the easiest snacks to grab and go on the run or with your infant in one arm. Cashews, almonds, and macadamia nuts are the best for lactation. An added bonus is that they are packed with protein which is essential while breastfeeding. It is suggested breastfeeding moms get an extra 20 grams of protein per day (one cup of dry beans has about 16g of protein). 

6. Water 

No surprise here: we can’t survive without water. It is essential to our health and well-being and plays an integral part in keeping the body lubricated to help all of your organs function properly, including those that are responsible for your breast milk production. My suggestion: if you don’t have one already, buy a large glass or stainless steel water bottle and keep it next to you at all times to sip on throughout the day. 

If you are still looking for more ways to up your milk supply, ginger, fenugreek, and sesame seeds have all been shown to help. There are also different lactation cookies you can make and some suggest drinking mother’s milk tea as well. 

The most important things to remember are to eat a healthy nutritional diet overall AND be sure to rest and relax. As a mother, it is SO very important to take care of yourself both inside and out. That is exactly why I created Well Woman: to help mother’s look and feel their best through simple dietary and lifestyle changes. Check me out and come back next month for the next edition of Well Woman Wednesday. 

Laura Kudritzki Photography
Hair & Make-up: Justin Lee, Cinta Aveda Institute
Shot on location at
Real Food Company Fillmore Street, San Francisco

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