Nutrition Plays a very Important Role in Breastmilk Production
The average woman may have a 2000 calorie diet to sustain typical bodily energy and function. However, breastfeeding can burn around 400 to 500 calories per day, which is why it’s super important that moms who breastfeed or pump milk, eat a healthy diet and take into account their extra caloric needs to help establish and maintain their milk supply. Also that’s probably why, breastfeeding and pumping moms may feel hungry quite frequently - so it’s important to listen to your body and nourish it with the nutrients it needs.
What does 500 calories look like?
Some examples could be:
- 5 bananas
- 5 apples
- 4 slices of bacon
- a plain bagel with cream cheese
- a 5oz lean steak
- half a dozen eggs
- 3oz of salmon, a cup of vegetables and grains
Also, a bit of important vocabulary to talk about a balanced diet for breastmilk production and postpartum health in general.
Nutrients are chemicals in foods that are used by the body for growth, maintenance, and energy. Macronutrients are required by the body in relatively large amounts; micronutrients are needed in minute amounts. The macronutrients your body needs are: carbohydrates, proteins, fats and cholesterol, fiber, and water below.
The term phytonutrients is a broad name for a wide variety of compounds produced by plants (from the word phyto in greek, which means plant). They’re found in fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, and other plants.
Ideally, the options chosen during the postpartum period will be more macronutrient dense to be able to provide optimal breastmilk composition for baby. Instead of the additional 500 calories to be consumed in snacks, a better option would be a few smaller meals with lean proteins, healthy fats, phytonutrient dense fruits and vegetables as well as a variety of grains.
Here are some phytonutrient dense fruits and vegetables that you can have plenty of while breastfeeding.
- Red, orange and yellow vegetables and fruit (such as carrots, peppers, tomatoes, mangos, melons, peaches).
- Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, bok choy, Swiss chard for instance)
- Garlic, onions, chives and leeks
- Whole grain products (such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, barley, wheat berries, and whole wheat whole grain breads and whole grain cereals)
- Nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, sunflower, sesame and flax seeds, so always great for a quick, healthy snack)
- Legumes (think beans, peas, lentils and soy products)
- Dark chocolate (yum!)
Maybe you’ve also heard of galactagogues. These are various food items, herbs or supplements that are believed to help increase the milk supply. Examples of these include: oats, millet, barley, brewers yeast, fenugreek and nettle. Disappointingly, the research for natural galactagogues is not extensive enough and the little research that’s been done is inconclusive, but when incorporated into a well balanced diet, consuming these items in moderation may be useful.
Eating a well balanced diet with sufficient caloric intake will certainly benefit your milk supply. Listen to your body for hunger and thirst queues, worry about the postpartum weight loss later and enjoy this special time with the baby.
This post was written in collaboration with Jennifer Jolorte Doro is a Nutritionist and Postpartum Chef who focuses primarily on providing nutritious meals to families postpartum, breastfeeding counseling, and helping families navigate the transition to solid food and beyond. Jennifer’s focus is, on whole, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients while providing healthier alternatives to some of life’s favorite foods. She is a mother of a one year old boy, based in NYC and the Hudson Valley. Her training includes an MS in Clinical Nutrition and Integrative Health, Certified Breastfeeding Counselor, Birth Doula and Pre/Postnatal Yoga Instructor.
Photo credit of macaroons: @jennaraecakes