How Does Mom’s Diet Affect Breast Milk Production?

It is very common for women to learn about eating a healthy diet during pregnancy.  But when it comes to diet and breastfeeding, the information can be a bit more confusing.  Many different cultures have theories about specific foods that should be avoided or restricted while breastfeeding.

Mothers may feel limited in what foods they are allowed to eat or concerned about certain foods affecting the quality of their milk.  Women can feel overwhelmed by the thought of trying to eat a perfect diet while breastfeeding and caring for a newborn baby.  In reality the bottom line is: eating a general healthy and balanced diet is what is best for a mom and her baby.

When a woman is lactating, her body naturally makes the best milk she possibly can.  Whether her diet is super healthy or full of junk food (not recommended!), the quality of her milk will meet the nutrient needs of her baby.  A general healthy diet is recommended to keep a mom healthy so that she is able to care for her child.  A good rule of thumb for breastfeeding moms is to eat when they are hungry and drink when they are thirsty.  It is not necessary for lactating moms to count calories (unless there is concern for weight maintenance).

In some instances milk production can be affected if a mom follows a very restricted calorie diet.  But generally speaking a woman’s body is designed to support a baby’s needs even through physical hardships such as famine or drought.  Vitamin and mineral supplements may be used, but are not necessary if the mother is eating a healthy diet with a variety of foods.

Caffeinated beverages, if consumed, should be done so in moderation.  Alcohol can also be consumed occasionally if the mother is able to plan accordingly with feeding her baby.  Generally speaking, there are no foods that need to be completely eliminated in a lactating woman’s diet.  Her body is automatically able to make the very best food for her baby: breast milk.

By Kelly Martin, MCD, RD, CLE

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