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Good Foods to Eat While Breastfeeding- Snacks and Meals!

Breastfeeding is a JOURNEY and comes with its fair share of anxieties. It’s completely normal to worry about things like maintaining your milk supply, how your diet might affect baby’s digestion, and when are you even supposed to find time to make food AND eat it?

mom breastfeeding in chair

Whether you’re already breastfeeding, or you’re getting ready to start – you’re doing something amazing.

We all want to do the best we can for our babies. Taking our own nutrition seriously is part of that. In this post you’ll learn the best foods to eat while breastfeeding.

Your body is working extremely hard to take care of a baby and build/maintain a milk supply, so make sure to listen to your hunger cues!

Breastfeeding is not a time to specifically focus on weight loss- although some will naturally happen after birth. It’s unwise to overly restrict calories or start a new fad diet. 

The bottom line (yes, I’m starting with the bottom line): adequate milk supply requires adequate intake.

I want to give you some information on what your diet should look like. And, I have LOTS of ideas for how to make sure you’re fueling yourself well for breastfeeding! 

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. 

Breastfeeding nutrition guidelines

I’m going to get into the nitty gritty here on what the *formal* recommendations are for nutrition during breastfeeding. But I want to make sure you hear one thing first: these are just guidelines.

These are not hard and fast rules. 

I do NOT want you to stress too much about calorie numbers. These numbers can be a helpful guide if you need a ballpark of where to start. But the most important cues are your internal hunger and fullness cues on this journey.

Those cues will always trump what the calorie guidelines are. No two bodies are the exact same, so no guidelines can really be universal!

Don’t view a calorie number as the maximum allowed. You don’t need to feel badly about the number of calories you are consuming!

Note: if you are gaining or losing weight more rapidly than 1-2 lbs per week on a consistent basis (after the first 6-8 weeks postpartum) that’s a sign something is off you should check in with your doctor! 

mom nursing baby

What should I eat while breastfeeding?

The CDC basically gives a starting recommendation of a few hundred extra additional calories per day. 

“An additional 330 to 400 kilocalories (kcal) per day is recommended for well-nourished breastfeeding mothers, compared with the amount they were consuming before pregnancy (approximately 2,000 to 2,800 kcal per day for breastfeeding women verses 1,600 to 2,400 kcal per day for moderately active, non-pregnant women who are not breastfeeding). The number of additional calories needed for an individual breastfeeding woman is also affected by her age, body mass index, activity level, and extent of breastfeeding (exclusively breastfeeding versus breastfeeding and formula feeding).”

They also give the clarification that those additional recommended calories won’t land you on a specific number. Rather, it’s relative to what you were consuming before.

Calories Needed While Breastfeeding

If you need a crash course on determining that range based on your lifestyle and activity level, here is what the Dietary Guidelines for Americans says for women ages 19-50: 

  • Sedentary: 1,800 to 2,000 calories per day
  • Moderately active: 2,000 to 2,200 calories per day
  • Active: 2,200 to 2,400 calories per day

The NIH says, “the increased caloric need for women who are breastfeeding is about 450 to 500 calories per day.”

Like I said, not hard and fast rules. The range is somewhere from 300-500ish extra calories per day. 

But that range is going to depend largely on what your baseline is/was. It also changes if you’re active and resuming a workout regimen.

And, it changes if you have multiples (calorie recommendations are almost double for twins!).

It can change based on your body size, etc, etc, etc.

The point I’m trying to drive home is that there is no one size fits all number of calories you should be eating during breastfeeding.

Deciding a number of calories you should eat is NOT what I recommend you do. Because chances are, you are going to pick a number that is lower than what your body needs!

What are good foods to eat while breastfeeding?

There are certain nutrients that need to increase during breastfeeding.

The CDC has an informative page about maternal diet where they answer some frequently asked questions like this one. 

In regards to particular nutrients of concern, they say, “a mother’s need for iodine and choline increases during lactation. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that lactating parents consume 290 mcg of iodine and 550 mg of choline daily throughout the first year postpartum.”

If you’re like, “OK great. So, what’s iodine and what’s choline?” Don’t worry. Iodine can be found in dairy products, eggs, seafood, or in iodized table salt. Choline can be found in dairy and protein foods, like eggs, meats, some seafood, beans, peas, and lentils.

So, iodine and choline. Check.

I’d like to add a few more that I think are also really important: iron and B12.

You want to keep an eye on iron intake as maternal iron stores are often low after about the first 6 months. Iron is relatively easy to find in foods, as it’s in most meat- beef, chicken, turkey, and even meat substitutes like tofu and lentils. 

You can also supplement iron in pill form if you and your doctor determine that its appropriate for you. 

I also mentioned vitamin B12. This one is especially important to monitor if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. It’s mostly found in eggs, fish, and dairy, but can also be supplemented if necessary.

foods with heart-healthy fats

Do I need a multivitamin while breastfeeding?

It’s a good idea to either continue with a prenatal vitamin while you are breastfeeding, or switch to a postnatal specific vitamin.

You can always go with what your OB recommends! I personally like this one and this one.

What should I avoid while breastfeeding?

If you’ve grown weary of all the dietary don’ts during pregnancy, you’ll be happy to know that they’re pretty much all alleviated in the postpartum period. Go get yourself a poke bowl!

Besides alcohol (which requires a strategic approach during the breastfeeding period), there aren’t really many things you need to avoid. (Many people still choose to abstain entirely from alcohol during breastfeeding and that’s a fine choice!)

I do recommend a low to moderate caffeine intake of about 300 mg or less per day.

For reference:

  • 8 oz cup of coffee = 90 mg caffeine
  • 12 oz can of Diet Coke = 46 mg caffeine
  • 8 oz of green tea you brew at home = 30-50 mg caffeine
  • Grande Starbucks latte = 150 mg caffeine

Most babies aren’t sensitive to the miniscule amounts of caffeine that make it into breast milk from a low to moderate maternal consumption. However, if you think your caffeine intake is negatively affecting your infant’s temperament or their sleep- I recommend talking to a lactation consultant.

And, if your baby is born prematurely, discuss your caffeine intake with the pediatrician. They may want you to reduce it further.

coffee and tea

The optimal breastfeeding diet

The main focus during breastfeeding- especially during the early stages- is making sure you eat ENOUGH. Quantity and adequacy is going to go a long way in supporting a healthy milk supply. 

Secondly, we want to focus on nutrient-dense foods. Quantity doesn’t just mean eating a lot of one food, but rather eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods.

By nutrient-dense, I mean foods that contain a variety of the macronutrients- carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Think about incorporating foods from multiple food groups in each meal (and snack, if you can!). 

We don’t want to be skimping on one macronutrient or food group at this point. That means low-carb or low-fat diets would not be indicated. 

Remember, you actually need MORE not LESS in this time period. So cutting back on particular food groups likely won’t help you feel full, satisfied, and able to maintain a strong milk supply.

Breastfeeding meals

I want to give you some practical examples of what balanced meals might look like in the postpartum period. 

Now trust me, I KNOW there is no time to be standing over the stove and preparing meals while you’re healing from birth and trying to take care of (and feed) a brand new baby- nor should you be! 

These are the types of things you can ask friends and family to help with, set up a meal train for, ask partners to keep on hand, etc. When someone asks what they can do to help, send them the link to your meal train!

Plus, I’ll give you a list of some of my favorite things to keep in the fridge/freezer for nights when you need to have dinner ready ASAP. 

mom eating good foods to eat while breastfeeding

Good breakfasts to eat while breastfeeding

  1. Egg sandwich

This can look however you like! Scrambled eggs, fried eggs, whole wheat bread, English muffin, avocado, cheese, spinach, hot sauce, a slice of ham, etc. 

The possibilities are endless! Eggs cook up super quick; you can actually even make them on a sheet pan or in a casserole dish ahead of time and freeze them like these

Want to prep before baby is born? Make the sheet pan eggs and add a patty to an english muffin with a slice of cheese, then wrap up in plastic wrap and freeze. Or, scramble up a big batch of eggs, and scoop onto a tortilla with shredded cheese, fold like a burrito, wrap in plastic and freeze!

  1. Smoothie/smoothie bowl

I love smoothies because they’re an easy way to pack nutrients into an-easy-to-eat (or drink, rather) meal. My favorite add-ins to boost the nutritional value of my smoothies are whole/soy milk, plain Greek yogurt, chia seeds or hemp seeds, avocado, spinach, even frozen veggies like cauliflower and zucchini go great in some smoothies! Check out these smoothie ideas; you can easily make some swaps/additions to some of them make them a little more adult nutrient-dense. 

  1. Protein pancakes/waffles

I LOVE this sheet pan protein pancake recipe!

Top with nuts, nut butter, berries, yogurt, or anything else you like for a balanced breakfast.

Or just grab some frozen waffles to keep in the freezer. These are my top picks!

Sheet Pan Pancakes with Chocolate Chips
  1. Oatmeal bowl

I love an oatmeal bowl because it’s a real choose-your-own-adventure breakfast. You can make it with milk instead of water, add whatever toppings your heart desires, or even cook it with an egg mixed in for a nutritious, protein-packed breakfast.

  1. Overnight oats or Mush

Lately I’ve been a HUGE fan of mush! To make it more filling, add some chopped walnuts, and I like it with a splash of milk. It’s also great with berries on top!

mush overnight oats in a bowl with walnuts and milk

Good lunches to eat while breastfeeding

For lunches, I like to keep it super simple. Lunch doesn’t need to be a time you whip something up from scratch. Just use leftovers or easy-to-grab components to create a satisfying meal! 

Some good lunch ideas might be:

  1. Deli meat and cheese roll-ups with a piece of fruit
  2. A peanut butter (or any nut butter) and jam/fruit sandwich
  3. Dinner leftovers
  4. A snack tray of veggies, hummus, cheese, crackers, meat, etc.
  5. A pita pocket filled with meat, veggies, any fillings of your choice
  6. Canned tuna or salmon salad on a green salad
variety of fruits and vegetables

Good dinners to eat while breastfeeding

The thought of preparing 3 elements of a meal is sometimes overwhelming, so it’s okay if your dinner looks a little simpler than before you had a newborn!

Here are some ideas that are easy to throw together!

  1. Salsa chicken in the crockpot or instant pot with avocado or pre-made guacamole, microwave rice, and microwave frozen corn
  2. Toaster oven salmon (rub on pre-made pesto and cook at 400F for 12-15 minutes), spaghetti, simple arugula salad
  3. Beans and rice – yes it’s basic but it gets the job done!! I would eat this with cheese and avocado on top!
  4. Hamburger/veggie burger, baby carrots and cucumbers on the side
  5. Ground turkey tacos and microwave broccoli

Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated or flashy to be delicious or nutritious. Sometimes a grilled chicken breast topped with some store bought sauce, a side of brown rice, and your favorite veggie hits the spot. 

Easy pre-made dinners for breastfeeding

Here are some of my favorite things to stock the freezer/fridge/pantry with!

  • Trader Joe’s premade/frozen dinners
    • I like a couple different types of their frozen gnocchi, enchiladas, hamburgers/veggie burgers, vegetable medleys 
  • Amy’s Mexican casserole bowl
  • Amy’s black bean burritos 
  • Banza pizzas
    • I love these for their ease and for their added fiber/protein content over most frozen pizzas
  • Tasty Bite microwave meals
    • Shelf stable and easy to keep in the pantry. I like the madras lentils paired with some instant rice or microwaved sweet potato!
  • Kevin’s Thai coconut chicken and rice
  • Microwavable veggies for convenience
    • I find that buying fresh produce and preparing it before it goes bad can be tricky any time- especially postpartum. Keeping frozen veggies on hand that can be easily steamed microwaved is a great way to ensure you can get veggies in! 
good foods to eat while breastfeeding dinner edition

A note on breastfeeding meals

You don’t have to stick to 3 meals a day! You can absolutely add a 4th! 

When you’re breastfeeding, your body uses more calories at night than it did previously. I personally remember feeling weird about feeling hungry enough for a second dinner! But if that happens, it’s your body telling you that it simply needs more fuel. It’s okay to give it more! 

I often ate a turkey and cheese sandwich before getting into bed. Or I would bring a peanut butter sandwich to bed with me to eat around 10 or 11 pm when I woke up to feed or if I woke up hungry.

I also want to link a couple helpful resources here to help with some meal ideas for those early days. Lily Nichols is an RD (like me!) and has a great book about food during pregnancy that is a little beyond the scope of this post, BUT she also has this super informative post about postpartum meals! 

I also like this informational cookbook about the first 40 days postpartum. It has some great tips and recipe ideas for really nourishing meals during the early postpartum period.

Hydration during breastfeeding

glass of water

We focus a lot on what to eat postpartum, but sometimes skim over how much we also actually need to be drinking!

Now breastmilk isn’t made from water in a 1:1 sort of ratio, so staying super hydrated doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically have as much milk output as water input. However, being adequately hydrated IS vital for milk production, so we want to stay on top of it as much as possible.

What does that mean?

Well, 16 cups of water a day is a good goal to aim for

I know it can get repetitive just chugging plain water all day and visiting the restroom 100x. If you find you’re getting bored of plain water but still need to increase or maintain your intake, here are a few tips:

  • Add some sparkling water into the rotation
  • Flavor your water with fruits like lemon, strawberry, or orange, or with a refreshing veggie like cucumber
  • Try Hint water
  • Swap in a couple cups of your favorite tea (be mindful of caffeine!) – I like herbal tea
  • Get a fun water bottle you’re excited to use and refill; my all-time favorite is this Simple Modern water bottle – let’s be water bottle twins!

Your water bottle is always magically out of reach as soon as you sit down to nurse! One of my favorite postpartum and breastfeeding hacks is keeping this repurposed “art cart” stocked with all your breastfeeding supplies, including your water bottle, so it’s always within arms reach of wherever you sit down to feed! 

Best snacks for breastfeeding moms

Now, on to a really important part: snacks! 

You’ll likely find that you need a good number of snacks to tide you over between meals. But they’re not *just* for tiding you over; they can also contribute to your overall nutrition in a really important way.

Just like with meals, I want you to focus on nutrient-density. You want snacks that will actually keep you full and feeling nourished and energized!

Here are some of my favorites: 

  • Trail mix
  • Handful of mixed nuts
  • Nut butter packets
  • Banana or apple and nut butter
  • Toast with avocado and hemp seeds
  • Cheese and crackers – I love Simple Mills crackers!
  • Unsweetened dried mango
  • Smoothies
  • Banana muffins
  • Overnight oats
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Vanilla Greek yogurt with frozen blueberries or fresh raspberries
  • Tortilla with cheddar cheese slice, toasted in the toaster oven
  • chocolate rice cakes with cashew butter
  • leftover pancakes microwaved and spread with peanut butter
  • White cheddar Hippeas when I want a crunch

Foods for milk supply

If you have social media, you’re probably getting targeted for ads with products that claim to boost milk supply- nursing teas, lactation lattes, etc. 

Milk supply is largely a supply and demand equation, and nutritional intake and adequacy do the most to increase milk supply. But there are some foods that are *thought* to promote milk supply.

These food are called “lactogenic” foods. And although there isn’t much research to substantiate their effectiveness, here are some common items/ingredients you might see touted as ways to increase milk supply

  • Whole grains
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Fennel
  • Brewers yeast

As a reminder, there really isn’t a “magic bullet” here. A balanced and adequate diet will do far more than any single food can do for milk supply.

Sugar cravings during breastfeeding

Okay, this section isn’t just for breastfeeding moms. It’s for all moms.

We know that lack of sleep can trigger cravings for sugar. Sleep deprivation can make the brain crave higher calorie foods, can interfere with the hormonal processes that dictate hunger/fullness, and have effects on blood glucose and mood- which in turn, dictate what we reach for. 

If you find that you’re constantly craving sugar after those sleepless nights (weeks, months), you’re not alone. And also, I’m not the sugar police who is going to tell you never to indulge! I just want to help you feel your best during a really demanding season. 

The Costco-sized bag of chocolate covered almonds that I worked my way through when Emilia was a newborn left me feeling sluggish and not any more energized or satisfied.

If you’re craving something sweet, try to think of a way to make it as nutrient-dense as possible. 

Maybe a chocolate and peanut butter smoothie (made with Greek yogurt and hemp seeds) will hit the spot. Top your morning yogurt bowl or oatmeal with chocolate chips and strawberries for a chocolate-covered-strawberry moment. Or throw your favorite dark chocolate into a mix of some dried fruit and nuts for a nutrient-dense trail mix.

Sugar isn’t the enemy. But sugar alone won’t actually help you feel nourished or energized, so finding ways to satisfy the cravings while also nourishing your body is key here!

mom feeding baby

Nourishing yourself postpartum

Whether you’re a first time parent or not, whether you breastfeed for a week or a year, whether you have a great sleeper or a not-so-great-sleeper (solidarity!), focusing on nourishing yourself postpartum is so important.

Not only is it important for milk supply, it’s also important for your own postpartum recovery, mental health, physical health, and to help you get back to feeling some semblance of normalcy. 

This is a really challenging period, and you’re making so many sacrifices for this new little life. I promise that time will pass and the intensity will lessen. But I also can promise that taking care of yourself now through nutrition and self-care can go a long way in easing the physical and mental load of the newborn/infant days!

And while we’re here: in just a few months, your baby will probably be starting solids! Check out my Simply Solids Guide to help with that transition and give you the peace of mind to know that you’re nourishing your child well every step of the way!


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Kacie Barnes holding an apple
Hi, I’m Kacie!

I’m a mom of two and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. I offer e-guides and e-books (go to my Shop page), workshops, brand partnerships, and nutrition counseling. Check out my blog for nutrition and feeding tips for your little ones.


This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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