Breastfeeding Community

Breastfeeding Tips: Transitioning from Your Pregnancy Diet

Sarah McIlvaine
Author | Shield HealthCare
07/28/16  11:24 AM PST
Nutrition and Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding nutrition recommendations are more relaxed than those you followed in the nine months before your baby was born- and this is welcome news to many mothers! But there are still recommendations when it comes to eating and drinking that a breastfeeding mom may want to follow. There are differences of opinion everywhere you look on this topic. Some sources recommend changing little from your pregnancy diet, while other sources seem to imply that anything goes.

To make it easier, we decided to check the nutrition guidelines provided by the most reputable sources on pediatric care. These breastfeeding nutrition recommendations come from the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the United States Department of Agriculture to name a few.

Do I need to consume extra calories while breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding burns calories. Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA) recommends eating an additional 200-500 calories per day, the size of a small meal… so feel free to eat a little extra.

Can I diet while breastfeeding?

While it likely won’t be an issue, be sure to always speak with your doctor before beginning any weight loss plan. You are encouraged to wait until your baby is six to eight weeks old to begin any diet, and eat healthy foods throughout. Talk to your doctor and visit this page on the CHLA website for more information on healthy dieting post-partum.

Do my foods really change the taste of my milk?

Yes! According to the Mayo Clinic, “Eating a variety of different foods while breast-feeding will change the flavor of your breast milk. This will expose your baby to different tastes, which might help him or her more easily accept solid foods down the road.” Varying the food you eat ensures you and your baby receive a balance of vitamins and minerals, and evidence suggests it will make your child a less picky eater. So you may want to eat plenty of fruits, grains and vegetables- and remember to wash them well to reduce exposure to pesticides and germs.

Can I eat sushi while breastfeeding?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that nursing mothers not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish because of their high mercury content. However, seafood has a lot of health benefits for mothers and infants. Unlike pregnant mothers, breastfeeding moms do not generally need to avoid raw seafood like sushi. This is because the risk of bacterial infection is much lower postpartum. Always check with your doctor if you have any concerns about eating raw seafood or other nutrition concerns while breastfeeding. Some examples of healthy seafood choices that are low in mercury:

  • Shrimp
  • Pollock
  • Catfish
  • Canned light tuna
  • Salmon

Can I have an alcoholic beverage?

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, alcohol does not stay in your milk after it has been metabolized out of your system. When the alcohol has left your system, it has left your milk as well. Remember to always consult your doctor on any questions related to your nutrition while breastfeeding, including alcohol consumption.

Here are some tips on how you might continue to breastfeed and have an occasional alcoholic beverage. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia advises breastfeeding mothers to consume alcohol in moderation if they’re going to drink, and to follow these guidelines:

  • Wait until your baby has a routine breastfeeding pattern, at least 3 months of age.
  • If you wish to drink alcohol, wait 2-3 hours after each serving (12 oz. beer, 6 oz. wine, 1.5 oz. liquor) before breastfeeding/pumping.
  • Or, express breast milk before having a drink and use it to feed your infant later.
  • If you are feeling the effects of alcohol and your breasts are full, you can pump and discard the milk.

Can I drink caffeine?

As with alcohol, caffeine does pass into your milk. Generally, it will not bother your baby when consumed in moderation. However, if your baby isn’t sleeping well or is irritable, you may want to limit or avoid caffeine. Newborns may be more sensitive to caffeine than older babies, as they are smaller and need to breastfeed more often. As with alcohol, when the caffeine leaves your system it also leaves your milk.

Should I take supplements?

Vitamins and minerals are present in the foods you eat. While the nutrients consumed in a healthy diet cannot be replaced by supplements, it might be helpful to boost your supply while you are eating for two. Ask your doctor about what supplements are right for you. Always follow your doctor’s instructions and be sure to inform them of any supplements you are already taking to be sure you aren’t getting too much.

According to UCSF Medical Center, breastfeeding nutrition guidelines often require some sort of daily multivitamin. Many moms continue taking their prenatal vitamin, which is fine, but if they are causing stomach upset, a vitamin that contains less iron (but still fulfills 100 percent of the recommended dietary allowance) may be preferable.

If I drink more water, will it help my milk production?

No. Drinking more than the recommended amount of water per day will not increase supply according to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. You should follow the normal guidelines for fluid intake: 8 or more 8-ounce glasses of water per day, and drink when you are thirsty. Remember that exercise or heat will cause you to need more fluid to stay hydrated.

How do I know if my child is allergic to something I ate?

According to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, food allergies in breastfeeding babies is rare. Colic and reflux are common in babies and are not necessarily a sign of a food allergy. The most common symptom of a food allergy is a green, mucus-like and slightly bloody stool. If your child is having symptoms, you do not need to discontinue breastfeeding. As long as your baby is growing and not showing signs of anemia, there is no need for concern. The most common foods that cause allergies are dairy, soy, wheat and eggs.

You can consult a registered dietitian if you are experiencing problems with food allergies. To help identify the problem food, you will often be directed to keep a food diary with symptoms your baby experiences. After removing the food from your diet (check ingredient labels carefully), remember that it may take 4-6 weeks for your baby’s symptoms to disappear.


The Mayo Clinic

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

University of San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital

Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA)

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)


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