Breast milk provides all the nutrients a baby needs, but it can seem confusing for what provides all the nutrients for new moms that are breastfeeding. The best foods for breastfeeding generally entail following a balanced diet made up of primarily unprocessed foods. However, certain foods may have an advantage for new moms by providing a lot of needed nutrients while breastfeeding.
Wondering what to eat after having a baby? Learn more about what foods are best for breastfeeding and what to grab for a healthy, efficient postpartum snack.
Best Foods for Breastfeeding
Women who are breastfeeding have unique nutritional needs. They require an additional 500 calories per day and need an additional 25 grams of daily protein. On top of this, vitamin and mineral needs increase while lactating which is why taking a prenatal vitamin is often recommended.
True, single food provides all needed nutrients for a breastfeeding mom (or anyone else for that matter). However, the following foods merit emphasis during breastfeeding. They not only help provide nutrients needed for baby and mom but also may help encourage milk production.
Oats are a good source of so many needed nutrients postpartum such as fiber, protein, iron, calcium, B vitamins, and magnesium. They are also thought to be good for increasing milk production.
According to the University of Wisconsin Integrative Health, oats may be a key component to increasing milk supply because of their high iron content. When the mother has low iron levels, milk production can go down.
Brewer's yeast is traditionally used primarily in making beer and sometimes used for making bread. While more research is needed, brewer's yeast is generally considered a food that can help milk production. Because of this, it is often used as an ingredient in commercially made lactation snacks to promote milk production during breastfeeding.
Brewer's yeast is a good source of iron, potassium, protein, and fiber. Two tablespoons is considered a serving, and it can be sprinkled on foods, added in drinks, or added to baked goods.
Choline requirements increase during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as this is an important nutrient needed for babies' brain development. However, pregnant and lactating women are at an increased risk for inadequate choline intake.
Therefore, it is important for lactating women to get foods with choline. Eggs are a good source of choline as well as protein, which makes them considered one of the best foods for breastfeeding.
Eating a handful of nuts or seeds can be an easy, healthy snack for new moms. Eating nuts and seeds can be an efficient way to meet calorie and nutrient needs during breastfeeding.
Nuts and seeds are great sources of magnesium, antioxidants, iron, protein, and healthy fats. Sesame seeds, almonds, and hazelnuts are also good plant sources of calcium.
Another good reason to focus on dried fruit, as they are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Leafy greens can be a nutritious food for anyone, but new moms may want to especially add these to their diet. Leafy greens are thought to also encourage milk production, and leafy greens are a good source of many vitamins and minerals.
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables can also help contribute to overall fluid intake, as they are high in water content. Bumping up fluid intake and eating high water content foods is yet another important nutritional consideration for breastfeeding.
10 Postpartum Snacks
Ideal postpartum snacks provide a variety of nutrients that are needed for mama and baby. However, they also need to be easy to grab, as nursing mothers have limited time!
The following 10 postpartum snacks are efficient ways to get nourished quickly while breastfeeding.
1. Chia Seed Pudding
Chia seeds have many health benefits for breastfeeding moms including being a good source of omega 3's, protein, iron, and fiber. Chia seed pudding can be made quickly and stored in the refrigerator for when a healthy, efficient snack is needed. It can serve as a blank slate for adding other desired toppings like fruit, jam, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, or nut butter.
2. Overnight Oats
Same with chia seed pudding, overnight oats can be made quickly and stored in the refrigerator for when a quick, nutritious snack is needed. Overnight oats are a convenient, tasty way to enjoy the breastfeeding benefits oats can provide.
3. Trail Mix
A mix of dried fruit and nuts that trail mix provides is a convenient snack that combines the nutritional benefits of nuts and dried fruit. Trail mix can also serve as a portable snack that can be put in a container and stored in the diaper bag when a snack is needed on the go and easy to eat!
4. Yogurt with Dried Fruit
Raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dates, or dried apricots can easily be added to plain Greek yogurt to provide a postpartum snack that is high protein and a good source of minerals. Nuts or nut butter can also easily be added in for a heartier snack that also provides a good source of healthy fats.
5. Fruit with Nut Butter
An easy, nutritious go-to snack while breastfeeding can be as simple as pairing a banana or apple with nut butter. This provides energy from fruit's carbohydrates and satiety from protein and fat from the nut butter.
6. Energy Balls
Energy balls are an easy way to combine many of the best breastfeeding foods, including oats, dried fruit, and nuts or nut butter. In fact, specific lactation energy balls can be primarily just these ingredients: dates, ground flaxseed, nut butter, and oats.
7. Avocado Whole Grain Toast
Besides nut butter, a nutrient-packed, easy snack option for spreading on whole-grain toast can be avocados. Avocados are packed with healthy fats, antioxidants, and fiber making them an ideal postpartum snack choice.
8. Lactation Cookies
What makes these lactation cookies special for breastfeeding besides having oats, eggs, and nut butter? They also have brewer's yeast making them extra helpful for breastfeeding new moms.
9. Hard-Boiled Eggs
Hard-boiled eggs can be an easy postpartum snack that gives, of course, the breastfeeding benefit of choline. They can also be added to avocado whole-grain toast for a more filling snack or meal choice.
Smoothies can be an easy, nutritious way to sneak in some leafy greens while breastfeeding. Smoothies also provide fluids which are important for new moms.
Simple smoothies can be made from frozen fruit, a liquid of choice (water, coconut water, dairy or non-dairy milk), a handful of leafy greens, and optional add-ins like nut butter, oats, or hemp seeds. This green lactation smoothie was made especially for breastfeeding moms.
The Bottom Line
Postpartum nutrition is important for both the mother and baby. However, it does not have to be complicated. Breastfeeding women can follow a healthy, balanced diet with an additional 500 calories and 25 grams of protein per day to get nutrient needs. Taking a prenatal vitamin is usually recommended as well.
While breastfeeding, focus on incorporating the best breastfeeding foods to help encourage milk production and provide important nutrients needed for breast milk. Postpartum snacks can easily include foods from oats, brewers yeast, nuts/seeds, eggs, dried fruit, and leafy greens.
Breastfeeding superfoods for moms. Sanford Health News. Published August 11, 2020. https://news.sanfordhealth.org/womens/top-10-breastfeeding-superfoods/.
Kominiarek MA, Rajan P. Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation. Med Clin North Am. 2016;100(6):1199-1215. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2016.06.004.
UW Integrative Health Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. Supplement Sampler, Natural Galactogogues. https://www.fammed.wisc.edu/files/webfm-uploads/documents/outreach/im/ss_galactogogues.pdf.