Breastfeeding Nutrition: What's on Mom's Plate?

We know that whatever mom eats will be transformed into energy (protein, fat, carbohydrate) and immunoglobulins (the chemicals that support the immune system to fight infection) in breastmilk. That’s pretty clear. What isn’t clear? The kinds of foods that create the best breastmilk for baby! 

As a nutritionist, I get asked about this all the time. So I’ve written down my top tips...from reading nutrition labels to building a healthy plate. Because hey, breastfeeding makes us hungry. And momma’s gotta eat.

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Step one? Always look at the back of the box! 

Breastfeeding moms should eat foods with as few ingredients as possible (my rule of thumb is if you can’t read it, don’t eat it). Keep these 3 handy nutrition label tips in mind next time you grocery shop: 

Sugar 

Choose foods with 6 grams or less per a serving

Fiber 

Choose foods with 3 grams or more (no more than about 8) per serving if it’s grain-based

Sodium 

Choose foods that have a sodium level that is less than double the calorie level. For example: If a product has 100 calories, ideally the sodium level is 200 mg or less. Low sodium is not needed unless there was pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.


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Next, try to balance your plate with each meal:

  • ½ full of non-starchy colored vegetables – cauliflower counts!
  • ¼ protein – about 3-4 ounces of flesh protein (ideally organic, but at least hormone-antibiotic free).  If vegetarian, have about 20 grams protein from tbeans, organic tofu, or veggie burgers (not made from soy protein isolate).
  • ¼ starch – whole grains such as quinoa, millet, or root vegetables such as potatoes or winter squash
  • 1-3 tsp fat – grass fed butter, ghee, olive and avocado or grapeseed oils

 

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Snack, snack, snack. 

Snacks are so important while breastfeeding because you and baby are using a lot of energy for growth! I love these protein and carb-fueled options:

  • Apple and almond butter
  • Cottage cheese with sliced banana
  • Organic, seeded crackers with black bean dip
  • Kind Nut Bars (look for ones with lower sugar))

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What does a day’s menu for a breastfeeding mom look like?

Breakfast 

2 eggs, an Ezekiel English muffin with a pat of butter, ¼ avocado, a handful of grape tomatoes, and green tea

Morning snack 

Baked apple with almond butter and cinnamon

Lunch 

½ package of organic turkey breast diced over salad (or into a bowl of Amy’s Vegetable Soup) with simple oil + vinegar dressing, olives, and 1-2 servings of organic crackers

Afternoon snack 

Grass fed plain yogurt (or Kite Hill plain almond Greek yogurt) with ½ cup Cheerios or Puffins cereal and crushed walnuts

Dinner 

4 ounces of organic, grass fed and finished steak (or 1 cup black beans), a medium baked sweet potato with a pat of butter, and oven-roasted green beans in oil

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Ask away, mommas.

Here are the most common questions I get as a nutritionist from moms:

Why am I so thirsty?

Fluids make up most of your breastmilk, so do not forget to hydrate! Drink fluids mostly in between meals and about ½ cup with meals. This preserves your digestive enzymes for the meal and prevents excessive bloating. 

What’s the deal with fruits? 

While fruit is healthy, remember it is very sugary (with about 15 grams in a 4 ounce serving).  Limit fruits to 1-3 servings per day depending on your tolerance for sugar. Fructose (the sugar in fruits) can be challenging for some. 

What happens when the fructose intake is high or metabolism is impaired?

Inflammation! It leads to many of the chronic diseases we face as a country. Not to mention, inflammation can increase the risk for dangerous reactions to COVID-19. Read more about inflammation here: Research at the Stony Brook University Cancer Center .   

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I know this is a lot to put on your plate (pun intended). But really, the key to a happy and healthy baby + mom is balance.  Please reach out to me with any questions that you may have! 

In health, 

Julie

About the author

Julie Freeman is a licensed integrative nutritionist with graduate education in psychology, counseling and education. Post-graduate concentration has been in functional medicine, with completion and certification in this discipline. She has over 40 years of experience in the field of nutrition, counseling and health promotion. Additionally, she is certified in Mind-Body Medicine, Yoga and Reiki. She has authored two cookbooks. One with a focus on balanced meals and the other full of healthy, low glycemic desserts and snacks. Julie has a passion and knack for creating meals that are eye-appealing, delicious and healthy. Her third book, Sunflowers, Sapphires and Seraphim, is her personal story of transformation – an opportunity to share and inspire hope for others faced with life’s challenges.

Question? Email us at hello@mykudos.com

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