Congratulations on becoming a mother and bringing home your little bundle of joy! One of the first things that you’ll be introduced to when you become a mother is breastfeeding. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all babies should be exclusively breastfed during the first six months of their life, as there are many benefits of breastfeeding - both for the mother and the child.

Now you might have a number of questions about what you should eat during this phase, as your diet is crucial for regaining your strength after pregnancy and delivery and for breastfeeding. For example, you might want to know how what you are eating affects your breast milk and how to increase your breast milk production. You might also want to know if you should avoid any foods while you’re breastfeeding.

The first thing you need to understand about breastfeeding is that it’s a natural process. And the earlier you start breastfeeding, the more milk you will be able to produce - unless you have a health issue that interferes with breastfeeding and lactation.

Next, you need to know that while there’s no hard-and-fast diet for breastfeeding, there are still a number of foods that you must eat and others that you should avoid. If you eat right, and your fluid intake is also proper, you will be able to maintain good health for yourself and your baby too. A lot of new mothers are worried about shedding their pregnancy weight, and might want to eat less.

While wanting to lose weight is perfectly normal, you should not deprive yourself of vital nutrients, because that will affect your health as well as that of your baby. Further, it’s normal for new mothers to be prescribed a few supplements to get adequate vitamins and minerals in the body. Read on to find out everything you need to know about your diet while you’re breastfeeding.

  1. Do you need extra calories while breastfeeding?
  2. What to drink and how much to drink during breastfeeding
  3. Foods to eat during breastfeeding
  4. Foods to avoid during breastfeeding
  5. Vitamins and minerals during breastfeeding
  6. Breastfeeding diet for a colicky baby
  7. Takeaways for diet for breastfeeding mothers
Doctors for Diet for Breastfeeding Mothers

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breastfeeding mothers need an additional 450 kilocalories to 500 kilocalories of healthy food every day compared to the number of calories they were consuming before their pregnancy. This means that if you were consuming 2,000 kilocalories every day before you got pregnant, you should now eat about 2,500 kilocalories per day. 

The CDC, however, points out that this additional calorie count can be affected by the age, body mass index, exercise and fitness levels of the breastfeeding mother. Hence, it is best to consult your obstetrician if you need to increase your food intake at all.

Body mass index is the ratio of weight to height. It should normally be in the range of 18.5 to 24.9 in healthy individuals, irrespective of gender.

myUpchar doctors after many years of research have created myUpchar Ayurveda Urjas Capsule by using 100% original and pure herbs of Ayurveda. This ayurvedic medicine has been recommended by our doctors to lakhs of people for sex problems with good results.
Long Time Capsule
₹719  ₹799  10% OFF

The idea that breastfeeding can lead to major dehydration and cause health problems for both the mother and the child is a myth. Studies among Western women have shown that moderate dehydration during breastfeeding can happen, but it does not affect the mother’s ability to produce breast milk. Corresponding studies on Indian women or South Asian women are needed to look into any link between breastfeeding and dehydration in women in this part of the world.

A study published in the American Journal of Human Biology does, however, show that breastfeeding promotes a thirst stimulus in the lactating mother and can lead to a 12-16% increase in fluid intake. This thirst stimulus may be related to the shooting up of hormones like prolactin and oxytocin in the mother’s body.

It is, therefore, natural for breastfeeding mothers to feel thirsty, especially while breastfeeding. You should drink plenty of water throughout the day, and even keep a glass or bottle of water handy while breastfeeding your baby.

Eating an overall healthy diet which includes carbohydrates, fruitsvegetables, proteins, nuts and seeds, etc., should be enough while you’re breastfeeding. However, since you’re nursing as well as trying to regain your strength after fulfilling the many demands of pregnancy and delivery on your body, you might want to include a few superfoods that are nutrient-dense while also reducing unhealthy cravings. The following are some of the superfoods you should include in your diet while breastfeeding.

  • Whole grains: Brown rice, barley, millets, oats, quinoa, etc., are types of whole grains that are rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Most whole grains are also exceptionally rich in fiber, vitamin B and iron - all of which help in milk production. These are also complex carbohydrates that can help you stay full for longer. 
  • Fish: Certain types of fish, like salmon, sardine, trout and mackerel are excellent sources of protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Both salmon and sardines help with the production of breast milk, and can also help ward off postpartum depression.
  • Eggs: Rich in protein, choline, lutein, riboflavin, folate and vitamins B12 and D, eggs are also cheap and easily available. Eat whole eggs to get maximum nutrition while you’re breastfeeding.
  • Green leafy vegetables: Veggies like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, fenugreek, etc., are full of iron, calcium and phosphorus. They’re also full of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K, and are packed with fiber and antioxidants as well.
  • Legumes and lentils: Chickpeas, kidney beans and all types of dal are rich in protein, iron, fiber and phytochemicals. A lot of people are worried about gas due to legume and lentil consumption, and if you do have this trouble, eat less of these foods.
  • Nuts and seeds: All nuts and seeds are packed with protein, fiber, healthy carbs and fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These also have substantial amounts of calcium, which breastfeeding mothers need more of.
  • Yoghurt: While you might want to keep away from some dairy products because they can cause bloating and gas, you should definitely eat yoghurt. Not only is the plain old dahi full of protein and calcium, but you can also rely on its probiotic properties to improve your digestion during breastfeeding.
myUpchar doctors after many years of research have created myUpchar Ayurveda Kesh Art Hair Oil by using 100% original and pure herbs of Ayurveda. This Ayurvedic medicine has been recommended by our doctors to more than 1 lakh people for multiple hair problems (hair fall, gray hair, and dandruff) with good results.
Bhringraj Hair Oil
₹599  ₹850  29% OFF

While the general rule is that you can eat anything while you’re breastfeeding, you should make sure that everything that goes into your body is healthy and does not adversely affect lactation. By this standard, there are a number of foods that you should limit or avoid while you’re breastfeeding. The following are some such foods.

  • Caffeine: According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, caffeine can seep into breast milk. Infants have more difficulty processing caffeine because their stomachs don’t produce as many gastric juices as an adult’s stomach does. So, you should limit your caffeine consumption while breastfeeding. You should also beware of caffeine in other products like tea, soda, energy drinks and chocolate.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol does seep into breast milk easily. While it’s best to avoid alcohol if you’re lactating, you can drink a glass of wine six to eight hours before breastfeeding for a special occasion. Try to avoid alcohol consumption for six to nine months at least after giving birth.
  • Seafood: Some seafood varieties are high in mercury, and should be avoided while you’re breastfeeding. These include tuna, swordfish, marlin, lobster and shark.

If you eat a balanced diet with healthy foods, you shouldn’t need any dietary supplements at all. However, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or unable to get proper nutrition via food for any reason, you should supplement your diet with a few vitamins and minerals while you are lactating. You must consult your doctor and he or she will prescribe the exact supplements and dosage you need. The following dietary supplements may be required during breastfeeding.

  • Vitamin B12: Infants need this nutrient to produce healthy red blood cells and for brain development. If your infant has vitamin B12 deficiency, it can lead to deficiency and brain damage.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps with bone development and prevents rickets. Vitamin D deficiency in infants can lead to the development of weak or deformed bones. 
  • Calcium: Calcium is needed for proper bone and teeth development, and a calcium deficiency in infancy can lead to lifelong problems.
  • Iodine: Adequate iodine intake is needed to regulate two thyroid hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Iodine deficiency can impair your baby’s growth as well as neurological development.
  • Selenium: Adequate amounts of selenium are needed to regulate the baby’s thyroid hormone metabolism and to improve immune function. Selenium deficiency can impair the proper growth of your baby.

If your baby has colic, he or she will have regular episodes of intense crying and will not be soothed very easily. Colic seems to start three to six weeks after birth and can naturally peter out once the baby is 12 weeks old.

A colic baby is one who cries for three or more hours a day, for three or more days a week, for at least three weeks.

The exact cause of colic in infants is not known. However, many believe that one reason for it could be that the breastfeeding mother is eating something which the baby cannot yet digest. This irritates the baby’s digestive system, and causes him or her to cry.

This is just conjecture, but you should eliminate certain foods from your diet if your baby is colicky and observe if it helps. The following are some foods that might cause gas or are too strong in taste/pungency. Try taking these out of your diet for a few weeks and observe if it helps to reduce your baby's crying:

Remember that these foods are otherwise wholesome for breastfeeding moms. If you do find an improvement in your baby's colic symptoms when you remove these items from your diet, do talk to your doctor about vitamin and mineral supplements you need to take in their stead.

Remember also that gripe water is bad for the baby - do not give it to your child, even if he or she is colicky.

myUpchar doctors after many years of research have created myUpchar Ayurveda Urjas Energy & Power Capsule by using 100% original and pure herbs of Ayurveda. This Ayurvedic medicine has been recommended by our doctors to lakhs of people for problems like physical and sexual weakness and fatigue, with good results.
Power Capsule For Men
₹719  ₹799  10% OFF

New mothers need to pay attention to their diet because the nutrition they get from food is passed on to their babies via breast milk. Women who are exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months need to be more careful about their diet, and remember the following:

  • Include nutrient-dense healthy foods in your diet.
  • You don’t need to consume extra calories unless your doctor says so.
  • Drink plenty of water, but avoid coffee, soda and energy drinks.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and seafood rich in mercury.
  • You might need to take some dietary supplements to make sure your baby doesn’t have any nutrient deficiencies during this crucial phase of growth.
  • Always consult your doctor about supplements and which foods you should absolutely avoid.
Dr. Arpan Kundu

Dr. Arpan Kundu

Obstetrics & Gynaecology
7 Years of Experience

Dr Sujata Sinha

Dr Sujata Sinha

Obstetrics & Gynaecology
30 Years of Experience

Dr. Pratik Shikare

Dr. Pratik Shikare

Obstetrics & Gynaecology
5 Years of Experience

Dr. Payal Bajaj

Dr. Payal Bajaj

Obstetrics & Gynaecology
20 Years of Experience


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Maternal Diet
  2. National Health Service [Internet]. Hertfordshire. UK; Breastfeeding and diet
  3. La Leche League [Internet]. North Carolina, United States; Breastfeeding and a Mother’s Diet: Myths and Facts.
  4. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Nutritional Status During Pregnancy and Lactation. 9, Meeting Maternal Nutrient Needs During Lactation.. Nutrition During Lactation. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1991.
  5. Jeong, Goun. et al. Maternal food restrictions during breastfeeding. Korean J Pediatr. 2017 Mar; 60(3): 70–76. PMID: 28392822
  6. Kominiarek, Michelle A. Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation. Med Clin North Am. 2016 Nov; 100(6): 1199–1215. PMID: 27745590
  7. Bentley, GR. Hydration as a Limiting Factor in Lactation. Am J Hum Biol , 10 (2), 151-161. PMID: 28561446
  8. Berlin, CM. et al. Disposition of Dietary Caffeine in Milk, Saliva, and Plasma of Lactating Women. Pediatrics , 73 (1), 59-63. PMID: 6691042
Read on app