31-03-2021 / Gynecology and Motherhood

Food requirement for lactating Mother | Diet for Breastfeeding Mother

Breast milk is filled with protective compounds and nourishing nutrients essential for the healthy development of your baby. As a mother, your requirements for nutrients increase for nutrient-dense and nourishing foods to aid your breast milk production.

Diet for breastfeeding mother
Mazia AhmedMazia Ahmed
Mazia Ahmed
MSc Nutrition Science, Ph.D. Scholar
Medically Cited
Fact Checked

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  • Breast milk is filled with protective compounds and nourishing nutrients essential for the healthy development of your baby. This is why breast milk is also called the "gold standard" for newborns' nutrition. Moreover, breastfeeding may reduce the risk of developing specific medical issues later in your life, including heart diseases and diabetes. It can also relieve your stress and will help you to feel more connected to your newborn child. 

  • Research suggests that human breast milk is a perplexing matrix having an overall composition of 3.8% fat, 7% lactose, 87% water, and 1.0% of protein. Lactose and fat provide 40% and 50% of the total energy of the milk. However, human breast milk composition changes over time; it adapts itself to the growing baby's shifting needs.

  • During the early lactation, protein content in the human milk varies from 1.4–1.6 g per 100 ml to 0.8–1.0 g per 100 ml after 3 to 4 months of lactation, to 0.7–0.8 g per 100 ml after six months. The fat content fluctuates noticeably with the mother's diet and is also entirely related to weight gain during the pregnancy.

  • Breast milk is essential for a growing baby, and indeed this process consumes a lot of energy from mothers to produce milk. As a mother, your requirements for many nutrients increase to fulfill these demands. Hence, It's crucial to choose the nutrient-dense and nourishing foods to aid your breast milk production. Also, eating healthy foods help you to feel better after delivery both physically and mentally. This article will explain everything you must know about having a healthy diet while lactating.

    Breastfeeding percentage around the world

How many nutrient servings do you need while breastfeeding?

Eating adequately when you are nursing means consuming a variety of nutritious diets. Since a diversified diet can change the smell and taste of your milk, it will introduce your baby to several different flavors. Usually, obstetricians and gynaecologists recommend consuming each day to ensure you are receiving the nutrients you require and giving your baby an early taste of the healthy foods: 

nutrient servings do you need while breastfeeding
  • Protein : 3 servings.

  • Calcium: 5 servings or between 1000 - 1500 mg, essential since breastfeeding consumes your calcium resources.

  • Iron-rich foods: 1 or more servings.

  • Vitamin C: 2 servings.

  • Leafy green and yellow foods. 

  • Vegetables/fruits: 3 to 4 servings.

  • Other fruits and veggies: 1 or more servings.

  • Whole grains and carbohydrates: 3 or more servings.

  • High-fat foods: Small amounts.

  • Omega 3s: Two to three servings a week to promote brain growth of the baby 

  • Prenatal vitamin: Daily.

12 Best Foods for Nursing Mothers

1. Avocados

Avocados are a nutritional powerhouse for lactating moms. A common complaint that we hear from nursing mothers is that they often feel very hungry due to caloric demands. Avocados are approximately 80 % fat and make you feel full; Avocados are enriched with B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin E.

2. Nuts

Nuts are filled with essential minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin K, and B vitamins. They are also abundant in proteins and fatty acids. Apart from their nutritional benefits, nuts are also considered lactogenic foods in various parts of the world.

Fruits and Nuts

3. Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are known as excellent sources of minerals, vitamins, proteins, and phytoestrogens. Since ancient times, chickpeas have been used as a galactagogue, which makes them one of the most highly convenient galactagogues.

Soybeans also contain the highest phytoestrogen among all the beans. Eating a variety of legumes and beans is suitable for your general health and ensures that you have a healthy milk supply.

4. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are not generally considered lactogenic foods, but certain types of mushrooms are good sources of the polysaccharide beta-glucan, a principle lactogenic agent accountable for the galactagogue properties of both oats and barley. They can help in boosting milk production.

5. Green Leafy Vegetables

Green leafy vegetables encompass phytoestrogens, which have been shown to have a precise effect on milk production. Many mothers worry that eating green leafy vegetables such as cabbage or broccoli will increase their babies' fussiness and gassiness. However, this is not the truth: The gas caused by the carbohydrate portion of these vegetables does not transfer into the breast milk.

Green Leafy Vegitables

6. Red and Orange Root Vegetables

While more studies are needed on red and orange vegetables to detect their galactagogue properties, they have been used as lactogenic diets in many nations around the world for hundreds of years. Any lactogenic properties that orange and red root vegetables might comprise are potentially identical to green leafy vegetables. The phytoestrogens found in these plants and providing high-nutrient density may also play a role in boosting breast milk.

7. Seeds

  • Seeds are a nutritional gift from nature. They are the very origin of life for each plant growing on the earth. They deliver a centralized source of all types of nutrients found in a mature plant as well as the nutrients that are needed to produce the fragile seed into a delightful blooming plant; seeds are high in essential minerals and proteins such as calcium, iron, and zinc, as well as the healthy fats.

  • Similar to nuts, seeds are also not clinically ascertained to retain lactogenic properties. Still, they are in use for centuries to help lactating mothers due to their rich mineral and vitamin content. Every seed has its distinct nutritional composition so that you can choose a combination, including sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

8. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are a rich source of protein, magnesium, calcium, and fiber and contain a high omega-3 fatty acid. Because of their high protein and fiber content, as well as their sufficient fatty acid concentration, these seeds help you to feel fuller and satisfied longer after a meal. Chia oil is also considered a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have a pleasant and neutral flavor.

9. Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds also come in this list of superfoods for lactating women due to their high concentration of healthy nutrient composition and omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp seeds retain an adequate ratio of 3:1 of omega-3 to omega-6. They are known as complete protein packages, meaning they comprise all of the necessary amino acids in perfect proportions required by the human body. Along with being high in many minerals and vitamins, they are especially high in zinc and iron, which are crucial for the growth of an infant and your maternal health.

Chia & Hemp Seef

10. Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, fibers, and proteins, but to indeed receive their benefits, they must be taken in grounded form; this is so because whole flaxseeds cannot be digested in the body properly. You can also have flax oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids. This is light and sweet in taste that goes well with the veggies and seamlessly blends into smoothies. The researched health benefits of flax seeds are mind-blowing, from weight-loss and control of blood glucose to decreased risk of several types of cancer, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease.

11. Turmeric

Although turmeric has been used throughout the globe by nursing mothers as a galactagogue, there is no clinical proof that can support the fact that this herb has a positive effect on the volume of breast milk produced by a mother. However, some anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric have been ascertained in lab studies to be valuable for the well-being of breastfeeding mothers, prevention and healing of mastitis, and to ease the signs related to breast engorgement. In several nations throughout Asia, it is also believed that turmeric helps boost the mother and their baby's immune system to prevent colds and coughs.

12. Ashwagandha

  • Ashwagandha is a popular herb in use traditionally in ayurvedic practices known by many other names, such as winter cherry and Indian ginseng. Ashwagandha is contemplated as a multipurpose herb that functions on different body systems at once, including the immune, reproductive systems, neurologic, and endocrine. Though it has not been shown to have any particular lactogenic properties, it helps lactating mothers suffering from stress.

  • According to clinical studies, taking 300 mg of ashwagandha extract twice a day can significantly reduce stress. The study participants were observed to feel more significant relief from their overall stress and improved quality of life after taking ashwagandha as directed. Their cortisol levels were seen to be significantly lower. Ashwagandha also seems to show effects on energy and endurance, although the reasons for this are still unknown.

Word of Wisdom

The best source of nutrition for practically all infants is mother's milk. Beyond physical growth, breast milk as a biologic fluid has many other benefits, including immune ontogeny, modulation of postnatal intestinal function, and brain development. In the early nursing stage, many women are not able to produce an adequate amount of milk for the baby, but with time the situation gets normal. In this case, several foods can help a new mother to boost milk production. Follow the diet mentioned above to get the best benefits of nutrients for yourself and your baby. 

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