In addition to requiring extra vitamins and minerals, nursing moms need more calories than usual. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nursing moms should consume an additional 450 to 500 calories per day. To meet these nutritional requirements, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests following a well-balanced diet with lots of protein, water, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy. But when it comes to a breast-feeding-appropriate diet, some eats are better than others. Lucky for you, we’ve done all the legwork and rounded up the top foods nursing moms should reach for.
Nosh on whole grains by enjoying a warm cup of oatmeal for breakfast. For less than 200 calories, one cup of the hearty oats can provide around 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber — a satiating, energy-boosting combo. As for stimulating milk production, iron is the key influencer here. (Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, one cup of cooked oatmeal provides 77 percent of the daily value of iron.)
Mother’s Milk Tea
Sipping Mother’s Milk tea can also help lactating moms produce more milk. The powerful ingredient at play here is fenugreek, which is a plant that can be used as an herb or a spice. Not only does fenugreek help nursing mothers provide their babies with milk, but it contains antioxidant properties that can help reduce swelling in moms. Mother’s Milk Tea is versatile: Consume it hot, iced, or mixed with juice.
This fish is widely hailed as a superfood for overall health, so it’s probably not surprising that it also features as a top food for nursing moms. With healthy fats like omega-3, salmon is good for Mom because it can help her retain muscle mass while nursing, and some studies suggest it’s good for Baby’s brain, too. The Food and Drug Administration recommends pregnant and breast-feeding mothers eat no more than 12 ounces (2 to 3 servings of low-mercury fish per week. Excessive mercury intake can offset the benefits the fish provides, the group warns.
Stock your refrigerator with this dark, leafy green to absorb its slew of benefits for you and Baby, including folate, calcium, iron and vitamin K. Studies suggest having a deficiency in folate specifically may increase the risk of altering babies’ brain development during pregnancy and postnatal life.
Pro tip: Cook spinach instead of eating it raw to minimize risk of potential foodborne illness to nursing mothers and their baby.
Staying hydrated is a good health choice for anyone, but for breast-feeding moms, it’s crucial, as feeding can increase the risk of dehydration. Stay hydrated with regular water or try coconut water, which can help replenish lost electrolytes naturally. Coconut water also contains magnesium and antioxidants, which are beneficial for overall health.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.