The Willow Guide to Nutrition for Breastfeeding Moms

Easy breakfast, lunch, dinner (and snack!) ideas.

Finding time to breathe might feel impossible as a new breastfeeding mama—let alone carving out a few minutes to eat. But, you have to take care of your body, especially while breastfeeding. After all, your baby gets their nourishment from you.

While you’re making sure your baby has a full and happy tummy, you gotta do the same for yourself. Hopefully, the tips and simple meal options found here will help.

How Many Calories Do You Need When You’re Breastfeeding?

Your baby is getting the vitamins, minerals and calories they need to grow from you. So, you must take in more calories to meet your nutritional needs. According to the CDC, breastfeeding moms should be eating between 450-500 more kilocalories (kcal) each day.

Most moderately active, non-pregnant women should take in 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day for a healthy diet. So, a breastfeeding mama should expect to take in around 2,300 to 2,500 healthy calories each day to provide for herself and her baby.

What Breastfeeding Mothers Should Eat

While increasing your calorie intake is important for nourishing your body, so is choosing the right foods. A healthy diet will give you the nutrients you and your baby need, the energy to get through the long days and may even help boost your milk supply.


Protein is important for the production of breast milk. And it’s recommended that you eat an extra 25 grams a day while breastfeeding. Eat protein-rich foods such as lean meat, eggs, nuts, cheese, yogurtand for the plant-based, tofu. Examples of lean meat include skinless chicken, turkey and pork. Boiled eggs and pre-packaged nuts and cheese are easy to grab on your way to a nursing session. Drinkable yogurt is also a simple solution that only requires one hand after it’s poured.


The recommended amount of calcium for breastfeeding moms is 1,300 milligrams each day, or about 5 and a half cups. You can get calcium from foods such as yogurt, milk, hard cheeses and calcium-fortified tofu. This one is especially important for long term health. If your diet falls short of calcium, your body will pull calcium directly from your bones which can lead to low bone density in the futrue. Consider calcium supplements if you are in doubt after checking with your health care provider.

If you’re lactose intolerant or trying to avoid dairy, you can choose fortified almond or soy milk, greens, fortified cereals and oranges.


Iron is essential for your baby’s development. It supports proper neurological development as they grow. This means iron should be high on your food priority list. Iron-rich foods include meat, poultry, dried fruit, egg yolks and dried beans.

Vitamin C

It’s recommended that nursing moms take in around 120 mg a day of Vitamin C. It helps your baby grow healthy bones, produce collagen and supports neurodevelopment. Fruits and veggies are high in Vitamin C, especially peppers, strawberries, oranges, broccoli, papaya and kale.

Leafy Greens and Veggies

Leafy greens are a great source of all kinds of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, E and K. They also include antioxidants that can help protect your cells. Examples of leafy greens include collard greens, chard, spinach and kale.

Other vegetables that are good for breastfeeding include carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and red sweet peppers. These veggies are high in potassium and Vitamin A.

Whole Grains and Complex Carbohydrates

Whole grains and complex carbohydrates such as bread, brown rice, and oatmeal are good sources of B vitamins, minerals and fiber. And, yes, they also help with production, too.

High-Fat Foods

You’ll want to avoid saturated and trans fats such as processed foods and opt for foods high in healthy fats such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. This includes fish, chia seeds, beans and nuts.

Postnatal Vitamins

We know that finding time in your day to eat a healthy and balanced meal may seem like a luxury right now. That’s why it’s important to take a postnatal vitamin to ensure you and your baby are taking in the nutrients you both need for your health.

You’ll want to find a vitamin that includes nutrients such as iron, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Choline and DHA. When in doubt, ask your doctor about postnatal vitamins that can best support you.


You should try and drink around 16 cups of water a day as you nurse. This helps to compensate for the water you lose by making milk for your baby.

Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding


Caffeine can show up quickly in your breast milk and may affect your baby. It’s best to keep caffeine to a minimum while you breastfeed, around 300 to 500 mg or 1 to 2 cups of coffee per day.

Some Supplements

Some supplements can decrease your milk supply, which is a no-go for breastfeeding mamas. These supplements include sage and peppermint as well as supplements containing black walnut, lemon balm and thyme. It’s best to speak to your doctor about any supplements you currently take to ensure they’re safe as you breastfeed.


According to the CDC, the best course of action is to avoid alcohol until you finish breastfeeding. However, one drink per day is not known to be harmful to breastfeeding babies.

Tips to Create a Healthy Breastfeeding Meal Plan

Creating a breastfeeding meal plan is a great way to stay on track toward keeping you and your baby happy and healthy. As you think about your plan, here are some tips:

  • Opt for smaller meals throughout the day: Can’t find time to sit down for a full meal? Try eating 4-6 smaller meals throughout your day to get those calories in.

  • Jot down a quick meal plan for the week: Take a few minutes on Sunday to figure out a quick plan for each day in the new week. This can also help you determine what you need to pick up at the store to have on hand.

  • Prepare freezer meals ahead of time: Some moms choose to put together some easy and healthy freezer meals while pregnant to prepare for the long days and nights. Just throw the meal in your oven or crockpot and you’re good to go.

  • Keep healthy snacks close: Keep a handful of healthy snacks to munch on near your common breastfeeding areas such as your baby’s nursery or beside your bed. Easy snacks may include nuts, granola bars or whole-grain crackers.

  • Drink a glass of water every time you breastfeed or pump: The best way to get your water in? Drink a cold glass of water during every breastfeeding or pumping session.

Easy Breakfast Ideas for Breastfeeding Moms

  • Acai bowls: Yummy and healthy acai mixed with coconut, berries, banana and granola? Sign us up! Plus, it’s easy to throw together for a quick and filling breakfast any day of the week. Try this recipe.

  • Oatmeal with fruit: Oatmeal isn’t only filling, but it’s also a great source of fiber and grains. Add in some yummy fruit and nuts and you’ve got a great meal to get your day started. This recipe includes walnuts, sea salt and maple syrup for added fun.

  • Omelet: Eggs are great for protein, iron and other nutrients. Try this omelet recipe that even includes mozzarella cheese for added calcium and flavor. Or, simply scramble some eggs and throw in a few veggies for an even simpler dish.

Easy Lunch Ideas for Breastfeeding Moms

  • Taco bowl: Perfect for Taco Tuesday! Try adding leftover hamburger meat, quinoa, cheese, lettuce and all your other favorite fixings to a bowl and chow down.

  • BLT salad: Going gluten-free? Get all the nutrients you need with an easy BLT salad. It includes tasty bacon and iron-rich leafy greens.

  • Hummus wrap: Hummus is a great source of protein, perfect for breastfeeding moms. Throw it onto a tortilla with some veggies and you’ve got an easy and quick wrap for lunch.

Easy Dinner Ideas for Breastfeeding Moms

  • Salmon and veggies: There’s nothing simpler than salmon with your favorite vegetables. This recipe shows you how to throw it all in a pan together to make it even easier.

  • Parmesan chicken and kale: Chicken is a lean meat full of protein and kale includes antioxidants and fiber for you and your baby. Not to mention, they’re delicious together. Try this recipe.

  • Vegetable soup: This veggie soup is a delicious way to get all the A, C, E and K vitamins your baby needs for healthy growth.

Snack Attack: Options When You Need Food ASAP

When you’re breastfeeding or pumping, it’s best to keep snacks nearby. Here are some options that are quick to prepare and easy for on-the-go snacking:

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Raw veggies with ranch dip
  • Greek yogurt
  • Sliced fruit and berries
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Bananas
  • Apples with peanut or almond butter
  • Trail mix with nuts
  • Air-popped popcorn

Want to Learn Even More About Breastfeeding?

There’s so much info out there about breastfeeding it can be overwhelming. Not to worry—Willow is here to help support you through your breastfeeding journey. Check out our blog to find more tips and tricks or join our Instagram community.

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The content provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of medical professionals. It should not be used to diagnose or treat medical conditions or problems. Please contact your healthcare provider with questions or concerns.
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